Much of the New Testament conveys the Lord Jesus Christ through the imagery of light contrasted with darkness. We find this image in the Gospels as Old Testament prophecies find their fulfillment in the coming of the Son of Righteousness (cf. Matthew 4:16). Even as an infant, Simeon spoke of Christ at the Temple in this way, “[He is] a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32 ESV).
Jesus said concerning Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) The light of Christ is like a torch, and as we are united to Christ the very light of heaven reflects off us to the wider darkness known simply as “the world”. We are not only drawn to the light, but the light of heaven comes into our very souls, and we are forever transformed.
What sorts of changes happen as the light of Christ comes within us? Firstly, we can see the darkness of our own hearts, which leads to godly sorrow leading to repentance. Secondly, we can see the grace of God, which is found in Jesus Christ, which leads to our faith, hope, and love in Him. Thirdly, we can see the hopelessness of sin by seeing it for what it is, which is a barren, empty series of promises. Fourthly, we can recognize the pitiable estate of every heart that is far from God, which leads to our desire to share the message of Christ Jesus with everyone. In short, we are entirely different.
Why must this necessarily be the case? Just as a torch causes the surrounding darkness to flee, so the light of Christ inherently transforms every heart wherever it is found. The Lord Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46 ESV)
Jesus came to pluck us from darkness. Not just literal darkness, but true spiritual darkness; the sort of darkness that leads to our shame, and guilt. This sort of darkness produces death, and will only lead us further from God.
When the Apostle Paul considered the words of Christ he wrote this warning to the Ephesians church, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11 ESV) Paul does not mean that we must build Christian colonies away from non-believers. Nor does he imagine that Christians must only interact with fellow believers. Instead, he taught that Christians must “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness”. What does that mean?
Paul was emphasizing the wicked acts more than the wicked individuals. As such, Christians cannot be regular participants in acts of wickedness. We cannot celebrate them. We cannot consent to them. We cannot participate in them.
What are the works of darkness? The Apostle provided an example in a vice list we find in Galatians 5:16-17, 19-21. These acts are “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” (ESV) Quite clearly these actions are inconsistent with a Christian profession of faith.
If we are regularly entertaining wicked actions like these or others, then we need to really pause and ask ourselves if we are truly Christian. Do we have the Spirit of God in us, if we are content to live in utter darkness?
Even more than that, we are called by the Apostle Paul to “expose them.” (Eph. 5:11 ESV) This is a clear biblical command to refute the lies proclaimed by those in darkness. Notice that Paul does not simply address the leaders of the churches but every Christian. This task to expose the darkness is the responsibility of the congregation as a whole and is an act of love.
Most simply then, you have been tasked by God to shine the light of Christ on the darkness which shrouds our world. You, O Christian, have a responsibility to open your mouth and speak up for Christ. You have a responsibility in love to confront the spiritual darkness wherever it is found. What does this exposing look like? Charles Hodge paints it clearly for us, “[to expose means] to convince by evidence.” It is to speak the truth.
You don’t expose the darkness by simply picketing and protesting. You are called to be persuasive. You are called to give a reasonable argument for the hope that is in every Christ as the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15. This is how God plucks people out of the darkness. The Word of God erupts from the lips of His people and the light of Christ shines into their darkened hearts. By virtue of the Word and Spirit of Christ, sinners, who were once ensnared to the pits of darkness are freed and enabled to love God, and the most wonderful part of this dynamic is that you and I get to play a role in this. But only if we’ll speak the truth.
You have a responsibility to reflect the character of Christ to those enslaved to darkness. Darkness may come in many forms, but light banishes every sort. As Christ spoke and confronted lost sinners in love so must you. May the Lord lead you to share His light with others, with boldness and courage.