by Mike Ratliff
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
Probably the quickest way for a Christian to discover the truth of the incredible depth and breadth of spiritual darkness in this present world is to stand firm on God’s Truth, and within that firm stand, tell that truth boldly to professing Christians. It will not take very long for those who hold to a version of Christianity that is apostate to make the reality of their spiritual darkness known in ways accompanied by fiery darts from our enemy. However, we are commanded by our Saviour to let our ‘light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’ The believer who cowers from this or backs away from the firm stand to be that light, φως, is revealing the reality that they are ashamed of the Gospel. So how are we to be this φως in this present σκοτια (darkness)?
We can only do this because of who our Saviour really is and what He has already done.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)
4εν αυτω ζωη ην και η ζωη ην το φως των ανθρωπων 5και το φως εν τη σκοτια φαινει και η σκοτια αυτο ου κατελαβεν (John 1:4-5 WHNU)
In (εν) him (αυτω) life (ζωη) was (ην), and (και) the (η) life (ζωη) was (ην) the (το) light (φως) of the (των) men (ανθρωπων); and (και) the (το) light (φως) in (εν) the (τη) dark (σκοτια) shines (φαινει), and (και) the (η) dark (σκοτια) it (αυτο) not (ου) overtook (κατελαβεν). (John 1:4-5 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The “him” in v4 is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is what? In Him was ζωη, or zōē, which refers to the principle of life in the spirit and soul. This is spiritual life not biological life. Here ην is a future participle in imperfect tense and indicative mood. This means that the spiritual life in Christ, God the Son, existed in Him continuously in some past time, which of course was referring to that period of His incarnation. This is in no way says that that life is not in Him now or before His incarnation. This is simply describing that as He walked this earth as a man, spiritual life was in Him. This spiritual life was the φως των ανθρωπων, the light of men.
What does this mean? What did Jesus bring into this dark world? He brought the world true knowledge, moral purity, and revealed the very presence of God (cf. John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). In v5 John also tells us that this φως εν τη σκοτια φαινει, light in the dark shines. What does this mean? This is telling the truth of God to those in darkness. This is shining His pure light of truth into a world blinded by what is not the truth. The hearts of the men who have had this φως shone into their hearts, which had been full of σκοτια, were brought from death to life, from darkness to light. The way John stated this here lets it be known that those whom God delivers from darkness are not subject to having that darkness κατελαβεν, overtake, them again. They are delivered from it.
Because of this, we are called to be φως in this σκοτια world. Notice, I did not say, nor are told anywhere in Scripture, that we are the source of this φως nor the ζωη from which it comes. No, the ζωη, spiritual life, which we have, is from Christ. We are unworthy sinners and we are in Him through no work or merit of our own (Ephesians 2:1-10). No, He had mercy on us and we are, in turn, to be His instruments of grace in this darkened world to shine His light of life into to that He may be merciful to others.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
12ωστε αγαπητοι μου καθως παντοτε υπηκουσατε μη [ως] εν τη παρουσια μου μονον αλλα νυν πολλω μαλλον εν τη απουσια μου μετα φοβου και τρομου την εαυτων σωτηριαν κατεργαζεσθε 13θεος γαρ εστιν ο ενεργων εν υμιν και το θελειν και το ενεργειν υπερ της ευδοκιας (Philippians 2:12-13 WHNU)
Paul encourages the Philippians (and us) that just as they have παντοτε υπηκουσατε faithfully obeyed divine commands, that he commands them ‘with (μετα) fear (φοβου) and (και) trembling (τρομου) your (την) own (εαυτων) deliverance (σωτηριαν) work thoroughly (κατεργαζεσθε).’ The verb κατεργαζεσθε is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. That means that this is a command to do something in the future which involves continuous or repeated action. Therefore, κατεργαζεσθε means “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” We know that Paul is not commanding Christians to earn their salvation by works; therefore, Paul is referring to our responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification. Never forget my brethren, we do not earn or deserve our justification. That was forged by God and was bought by Him at the Cross. However, our sanctification, our deliverance from the reality of σκοτια from which His φως delivered us unto His ζωη, is ongoing. What does it mean that we do this μετα φοβου και τρομου, with fear and trembling? This is describing the attitude with which we are to pursue our sanctification. We fear offending God and have a righteous awe and respect for Him (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Isaiah 66:1,2).
We have our encouragement, which enables us to do this, in v13, “God (θεος) for (γαρ) is (εστιν) the one (ο) operating (ενεργων) in (εν) you (υμιν) both (και) the (το) to want (θελειν) and (και) the (το) to operate (ενεργειν) on behalf of (υπερ) the (της) good-pleasure (ευδοκιας).” Our responsibility is to κατεργαζεσθε our σωτηριαν with φοβου και τρομου. However, the Lord actually produces the good works (fruit) in our lives (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12”6). He works through us by His indwelling Spirit (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20; Galatians 3:3). What does it mean that God works in us και το θελειν και το ενεργειν, both the to want and the to operate? He empowers or energizes both our desires and His own actions with a studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. He changes us. I know He has done this with me and I have heard and read many of your testimonies in which we know that we were changed drastically by His working in us.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
14παντα ποιειτε χωρις γογγυσμων και διαλογισμων 15ινα γενησθε αμεμπτοι και ακεραιοι τεκνα θεου αμωμα μεσον γενεας σκολιας και διεστραμμενης εν οις φαινεσθε ως φωστηρες εν κοσμω 16λογον ζωης επεχοντες εις καυχημα εμοι εις ημεραν χριστου οτι ουκ εις κενον εδραμον ουδε εις κενον εκοπιασα (Philippians 2:14-16 WHNU)
As we μετα φοβου και τρομου την εαυτων σωτηριαν κατεργαζεσθε, with fear and trembling work out our own deliverance, we must do so χωρις γογγυσμων και διαλογισμων, without grumblings and reasonings or questionings. What does this mean? Another way to say this is to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and without complaining and disputing. The word translated here as “grumblings”, γογγυσμων, is pronounced, “goggusmon.” It actually sounds like what it means, a muttering or grumbling in a low tone of voice. Look at your own reactions to being put in circumstances not of your choosing and to be obedient to God is an “inconvenience.” How do we react? We grumble and this is an emotional rejection of God’s providence and will within those circumstances. On the other hand, the word for reasonings or questionings, διαλογισμων, refers to an intellectual, critical attitude directed negatively toward God.
If we are to correctly μετα φοβου και τρομου την εαυτων σωτηριαν κατεργαζεσθε then we must not allow these negative reactions to take root. If we walk in humble repentance as we do this then we will be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, ινα γενησθε αμεμπτοι και ακεραιοι τεκνα θεου αμωμα μεσον γενεας σκολιας και διεστραμμενης . We will be above reproach before God as we walk and minister within a darkness that is resident in a world that is ignorant of God and His ways. They may even claim to be Christians and to know God and the Son, but by their words, actions, and attitudes, we see that they are in darkness, not light. As we stand firm and refuse to compromise with those who have been consumed by the various herumenutics that kill the Spirit and Life from God’s Word, muting its light, we will be used by God to reflect His light into that darkness. This does not mean that we will avoid suffering at their hands. We will be insulted and attacked and misrepresented and ridiculed and even rejected by professing Christians who are spiriutually blind.
To be light in a dark world means that we will suffer at some level. We will not be universally loved and revered. No, we will be looked at as uncompromising, legalistic, or even heretical. To stand firm and tell the truth in this world is to shine God’s light of truth into a very dark darkness and the world does not like it. However, this is what we are called to do.
Who’s with me?
Soli Deo Gloria!