Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.
Have you ever been deceived before, whether it is by purchasing something or buying into something that someone has said? It’s not a good feeling when you realize you have been deceived and often times, there’s nothing you can do to undo it. You are left feeling jaded and disappointed at what has happened. Once you have been deceived by a particular person or company, you learn not to associate with them again, for fear of being deceived in the future.
As we look at our text today, that is the warning that St. Paul gives to the Ephesians. The old Adam in sinful man will try to deceive us with “empty words,” those things that we may want to hear or that sound good to our itching ears, but are none the less false and deceiving, going against God and His Word. These arguments will not hold up before God’s final judgment. Paul’s message is clear for all: “do not associate with them.” The reason is because in associating with them comes the danger that we too will fall into the lies and deception and fall away from God and revert to our pagan ways.
Paul’s call for us Christians is clear: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light….” This is both good and bad, for it reminds the Ephesians just what kind of people they used to be. Not only were they misled and under the influence of wicked paganism, they themselves were a bad influence. They were the darkness that misled others to practice and even enjoy gross immorality and wickedness.
What a sad and unfortunate time it must have been for the Ephesians before they came to know Christ. They were led to believe and practice the popular things of the day, without questioning as to whether or not this was God-pleasing. They were deceived into thinking that what they were doing was ok and that there were no consequences to their actions. However, St. Paul knew better. He knew from his own life that his actions indeed had consequences, and they weren’t earthly consequences. He knew that because of who he was and what it was that he was doing, he was separated from Christ and His forgiveness and glory. He knew that eternal death was his when his eyes were opened on the Damascus Road. He did not want the Ephesians to face the same eternal spiritual consequences that he was going to face. Because of this, St. Paul set out to make sure that the Ephesians knew Christ and knew Him to the fullest extent possible.
The Ephesians were not only enlightened by knowing Christ; they themselves have become light. Not only were they influenced by the Gospel of Christ, but they themselves are now the influence that builds up their brothers in the church and wins new converts for Christ.
Lest we get too far ahead of ourselves, these words ring true for us as well. At one time in our lives, we were the ones who were both deceived and doing the deceiving. Before we became God’s children through Holy Baptism, we were deceived by the father of lies, Satan. We brought into his lies that it didn’t matter what we did, that there would be no consequences. However, there are eternal consequences to our actions, namely death. St. Paul writes to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death.” You and I are sinners in the darkness. We deserve nothing but death, but because of what Christ has done for us, we have been redeemed.
Because of what Christ has done for us, we are able to “walk as children of light.” The light that we reflect is that light of Jesus Christ. By virtue of being light, God’s people are both a positive influence toward those things that please God and also a strong deterrent against those things that do not please God, namely, the unfruitful works of darkness.
So that we might know the truth about sin, God gave us His Law. The Ten Commandments reveal that because of sin we become idolaters, counting other things as more important than the one true God. Because of sin, we use God’s name only to condemn others or justify ourselves. Because of sin, we ignore, even despise, God’s Word and do not worship Him as we should. Because of sin, our relationships with others – mother and father, wife and husband, enemies and friends, coworkers and strangers – all these are disrupted and destroyed.
We live in a world still entangled and deceived, enslaved by sin. For as many ways as people have tried to redefine it, excuse it, redecorate or hide it, the fact of the matter is sin is still at the bottom of what makes life and relationships difficult, breakable, sick and dying. It is that sin that separates us from one another and from God, but it is Christ that unites us with our Father.
Because of the slavery of sin and our inability to free ourselves, God in His infinite mercy determined to save us. His mercy shone line a bright beacon of light, of hope, just as He had promised to Adam and Eve a Savior from sin. This light of salvation burned as hope in God’s people through the centuries until “the Word became flesh.”
Jesus said of His followers, “You are the light of the world.” By our Baptism into Christ, He lives in us, enlightening the eyes of our hearts, awakening us to be able to walk in newness of life. And so Paul is now able to say in our text, “Now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
Suddenly, we see things in a whole new way. We see God for who He really is: not distant, way up in heaven, disinterested in or irrelevant to our lives, but here, present, eager to have a relationship with each one of us. That’s what Jesus lets us see in His light. God is not angry and keeping score on how well we keep His Commandments, but rather is forgiving, not counting our sins against us, because Jesus took them upon Himself on the cross. That’s what we see as children of light.
As children of light, we are to avoid sin and evil. However, that is hard to do since we are sinful to the core. Even as children of light, our sins become exposed. When it is exposed in us, we return to the promise of our Baptism in daily repentance and faith. When sin is exposed around us in others, then we have the opportunity to extend the same forgiveness and salvation we ourselves have received from God.
Walking in the light of Christ is to walk as children of God with purpose; it is the walk of repentance and faith. We live in the forgiveness of all our deeds done in darkness, with no wholesome purpose, and we invite the world to the glorious light of salvation in Jesus Christ, just as we have received. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.