Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 5:8-14

This post contains Father Callan’s brief introduction to chapter 5 of Ephesians followed by his notes on verses 8-14.


A Summary of Ephesians 5:1-21~This Chapter continues the thought of the preceding Chapter, and verses 1-2 here really belong at the end of Chapter 4, with which they are so intimately connected. The Apostle has just been saying that his readers, in forgiving one another, should imitate God who has pardoned them for the sake of Christ; and now he continues that thought, and makes the further plea that in their relations with one another they should imitate the charity of Christ who gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for us all.

Verses 1-21 here, apparently having in view pagan pleasures and festivities, contain five commands mainly for self-guidance regarding Christian love, light, wisdom, gladness and submission, as Chapter 4:25-32, contained five prohibitions regarding others.

8. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.

The Apostle now gives other reasons to show why the faithful ought to avoid the sins mentioned above (in verses 3-5). Before their conversion they were “darkness,” i.e., the very embodiment of moral ignorance and corruption; but now as Christians they embody “light,” possessing the truth of Him and living in union with Him who said: “I am the light of the world, etc.” (John 8:12 ff.). Their lives, therefore, ought to be in conformity with the knowledge and grace they have received. This and the two following verses constitute a parenthesis in which the Apostle is again contrasting (as in Eph 2:11-22 and Eph 4:17-24) the new condition of his readers with their old condition.

9. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth;

Fruit of the light. The Textus Receptus and some other lesser MSS. have: “fruit of the Spirit,” which is certainly not the best reading, as the context shows. It was doubtless introduced from Gal 5:22.

Is in, etc., i.e., consists in, etc.

Goodness is the quality by which a person Is good in himself and shows himself benevolent to others: it is opposed to anger (Eph 4:31).

Justice, as here used and in general, is the rectitude of moral acts, and in particular it is understood as the virtue which regulates our dealings with our neighbor; it is opposed to avarice (verse3).

Truth is the supreme rule of life, governing our obligations to ourselves, our neighbor, and God; it is opposed to lying (Eph 4:25). This verse is a parenthesis within the parenthesis of ver. 8-10. Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

10. Proving what is well pleasing to God:

Proving, etc., i.e., testing all things by the touchstone of God’s will and good pleasure, and conforming in our actions to the results thus ascertained.

To God should be “to the Lord,” according to the Greek, Thus, our Lord is here supposed to be God, because He is made the judge and norm of our actions: the judgment of the Lord is the judgment of God. The parenthesis closes with this verse, and the thought goes back to that of verse 7.

11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Here the Christians are warned not only to have no part in the sinful works of the pagans, but by their own good lives and example they are to register their disapproval of them. Perhaps their disapproval is to be expressed also in words, if necessary; but from the following verse it seems they are not even to speak of those works, if this can be avoided. The sinful practices of the pagans are said to be “unfruitful,” as being devoid of all merit for eternal life and deserving of eternal damnation; they are the opposite of the fruits of the light (ver. 9).

12. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.

The dark deeds here referred to are mentioned in Rom 8:13, St. Paul is alluding to certain nocturnal feasts and mysteries which the pagans celebrated with an idolatry and an immorality that were unspeakable,

13. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light.

The Apostle is telling his readers that, whereas they were formerly moral darkness because of their sins, they are now moral light in the Lord (ver. 8), and that the spiritual radiance now emanating from their good lives and example is able to convert the moral darkness of the gross paganism around them into moral light like themselves. Nothing can resist the influence and light of a truly holy life; spiritual light makes manifest sin and works of darkness, and turns them from darkness to light ; everything that is thus made manifest becomes light in its turn.

14. Wherefore he saith: Rise thou that steepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee.

Wherefore he saith. Who saith? It is difficult to determine. Many moderns think the Apostle is here referring to some ancient hymn or baptismal formula of the early Church, which was well known to the faithful. Others think he is citing some apocryphal work. With greater probability still others hold that we have here a free citation of Isa 60:: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, etc.” The application is clear: Let those who are asleep and dead in sin, arise, and they shall be enlightened by Christ, and thus enabled in their turn to shed their light on the pagan darkness around them.

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