The Unfruitful Works of Darkness vs the Fruit of Light

by Mike Ratliff

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:6-11 ESV)

In the passage above is the the word “fruit.” It is a translation of the Greek word καρπὸς or karpos. This word appears some sixty-six times in the New Testament. In most cases, it is used in reference to the the fruit of plants as in Matthew 21:19 or the produce of the earth (James 5:7, 18). However, its extended meaning in the New Testament is one in which we should pay special attention as well as to its opposite, ἀκάρποις or akarpois, which is translated in this passage as “unfruitful.” In this form, ἀκάρποις is the dative, plural of ἄκαρπος or akarpos. The dative plural simply means that this part of the phrase is an indirect object of the action of the sentence. In any case, this may be more significant than it first appears.

Μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς ἀπατάτω κενοῖς λόγοις· διὰ ταῦτα γὰρ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας. μὴ οὖν γίνεσθε συμμέτοχοι αὐτῶν. ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος, νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν Κυρίῳ· ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε· ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐν πάσῃ ἀγαθωσύνῃ καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· δοκιμάζοντες τί ἐστιν εὐάρεστον τῷ Κυρίῳ. καὶ μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε. (Ephesians 5:6-11 GNT)

Here is my word for word translation of this passage: No one you let deceive in empty words; through these for comes the anger of the God upon the sons of the disobedience. Not then become co-partakers of them; you were from then dark, now but light in Lord; as children of light walk! The for fruit of the light in all goodness and rightness and truth – proving what is is well-pleasing to the Lord, and not be co-partner in the works the fruitless of the dark, more but also rebuke.

The usage of  καρπὸς when referring to its extended meaning, not literal fruit, expressly indicates that it is not a question of deliberate, self-determined action on man’s part. Instead, it is that ‘fruit-bearing’ which follows from a believer turning to God and the power of the Holy Spirit working in him or her. I have three Pear Trees, one Crab Apple Tree, two Maple Trees, and one Oak tree in my yard. Their fruitfulness is unique to their nature. In the same way, spiritual fruit is automatic in the Christian. We do not  produce fruit because of our effort, but because of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. God has changed our nature from what we were before regeneration to what we are now. This is why our Lord said in Matthew 7: 20:

Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 ESV)

Now let’s look at unfruitfulness. I am sure that you noticed that ἄκαρπος, “unfruitful” is the same word as καρπὸς, “fruitful” or “fruit,” with a ἄ prefix. This the same thing we do in English by putting a prefix of “a” on a word to make it mean the exact opposite. So, if we put the “alpha-negative” on the front of καρπὸς, which means fruitful, we have a word that means “unfruitful, fruitless, barren, or unproductive,” and that is exactly how ἄκαρπος is used in the New Testament. It is found eight times in the New Testament. In the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 it refers to the “thorny ground hearer.” In the book of Jude it is used to refer to apostates who are “clouds…without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots…”

So, as I stated above that a believer’s fruitfulness is part of their nature, so is the unfruitfulness part of the nature of the unbeliever, especially those who think they are Christians, but are only deceived. These are the ones who wreak havoc in the visible church with their unfruitful works of darkness. This unfruitfulness is natural behavior for the unregenerate. This is why our Lord was so positive about that statement in Matthew 7:20.

In Ephesians 5:11, The Apostle Paul warns believers to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose or rebuke them as we bear fruit for God’s glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “The Unfruitful Works of Darkness vs the Fruit of Light

  1. “a believers fruitfulness is part of their nature, so is the unfruitfulness part of the nature of the unbeliever, especially those who think they are Christians, but are only deceived. ”
    Amen, Mike! They cause us all trouble, especially when they band together to do Satan’s work.
    It’s too bad that there are so many of them…sometimes all we can do is conceal the work we are doing for our Lord, so that they can’t find opportunity to interfere.
    “He travels fastest who travels alone” is an old precept that still works, as is, “Be ye wise as serpants, and harmless as doves”.
    I used to wonder what the old preachers meant when they said, “The Devil’s crowd”; now I understand…they are no longer making an effort to keep under the (discernment) radar, but are bold. Only our Lord can defeat them, and frustrate their evil plans to dismantle the Church.


  2. Thank you for the Greek lesson and the contrast, brother. I share this burden with you to make it clear the distinction between born again believers and Christians-in-name-only or religious hypocrites. I don’t think it will be long before the Lord sends His angels to separate the wheat from the tares, and in the meantime, let us continue to sound the alarm and call these lost ones to repentance.


  3. Kathy, my grandfather was a Baptist Preacher from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s until the 1950’s or so. He died in the early 1960’s. He said the very same sort of stuff. I have a lot of his letters and notes and books. He wasn’t very well educated by today’s standards, but I would put his Bible knowledge and his preaching ability up against a large part of what we have out there today. He preached the Word and nothing but the Word and did not care who was offended. That has to be how we do it. The Devil’s crowd are the Lord’s issue. We cannot defeat them, but He most certainly can and He can help us in this battle. Yes, the visible church is being dismantled, but the real Church is continually being built and protected by our Lord. Never forget that. The Gates of Hell will never prevail over it.


  4. You are very welcome Justin. Yes, when that separation time comes, some will be shocked, but some of us won’t be because we know what our Lord said about how to tell the real from the false. In any case, be strong in the Lord brother.


  5. Dear Mike,
    Catholics believe God gives everyone sufficient Grace to make him/her, using his/her freedom, turn to God and be saved. One way to explain it is using Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

    In the parable the Master gave different number of talents to his three servants according to their abilities.

    The Master obviously had the right to decide how many talents each servant received. The servant with only one talent was later condemned.

    Yet his Master did not intend to condemn him by giving him only one talent. Had he deposited it in the bank he would be fine like the other two.

    The servant was condemned for his own wrong action, i.e. hiding the single talent entrusted to him.

    Thus Catholics believe that condemnation of the Reprobate always involves their freedom to reject God’s Grace – in other words they are responsible for their damnation.

    Catholic’s view on Reprobation is called as Positive Conditional Reprobation – when God created the world He, being omniscience, foresaw the Reprobate’s rejection to His Grace and let them use their freedom to do so.

    Yet God still wants them to be saved and still gives them sufficient Grace.


  6. Well Michael, at first I was puzzled why a Catholic apologist would respond to this post with this sort of comment… However, as I read your comment it is clear that all of your arguments are based solely on Catholic dogma not Biblical authority so they hold no authority whatsoever here. If you read the rules for commenting here then you would realize that the only authority that we accept is the proper exposition of God’s Word in context.

    To answer your out of context man-centered comment that places man at the center and takes away God’s sovereignty, giving it to man, which I find both troubling and blasphemous, here is Romans 9:13-20 which totally refutes your entire premise and has all of the authority of being God’s Word and, therefore, trumps all of Catholic Church doctrine.

    As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:13-20 ESV)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  7. Dear Mike,

    It is perplexing when those who historically produced “good” fruit suddenly have some rotten apples in the bunch.
    But God already told us in His word:
    “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgement; for others, their sins follow after.” 1 Timothy 5:24
    Matthew Henry expounded:”Some mens sin’s are so plain and obvious that there is no dispute ocncerning the bringing of them under the censures of the church. The sins of others trail behind them; their wickedness does not presently appear, nor until after a due search has been made concerning it. So, also as to the evidence of repentance. There are secret, and there are open sins. Some are humbled and brought to repentance while it is quite otherwise with others. The incorrigible cannot be hidden.” (page 705)
    My prayer is that we will examine our own hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to work so that we are producing fruit fit for our King!
    In the boundless wonder of Christ, charisse


  8. Mike
    wow, heavy, great post! how much grace is in the fact the fruit is automatic, that God is working out that fruit in the Christian’s life, is mind blowing, and a great comfort? paul washer did a great job on “fruit”:


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