by Mike Ratliff
1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. (Romans 12:1-2 NA28)
1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect.(Romans 12:1-2 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul used light and darkness in analogies pertaining to spiritual life and spiritual death. For instance, in John 1:4, 5 the Apostle says, “ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.” Or, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not grasp it.” In order to lay the foundation for this discussion on discerning the Lord’s will, it is imperative that we understand what is being said in these two verses. First, the “Him” in v4 refers back to ὁ λόγος or “the Word” from v1. This is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. In v4, we learn that in Him was ζωὴ or zōē, “life.” This ζωὴ is not simply the life we all have here and now, but was φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων or the “the light of men.” What does that mean? This light comes from God and brings to this dark world true knowledge, moral purity, and the light that shows the very presence of God. Finally, notice that this light shines into the darkness, but the darkness does not “receive, admit, or grasp” it. Those who discern the will of God are in His light. Those who cannot are in darkness.
Carefully read Romans 12:1-2 which I placed at the top of this post. The Apostle Paul clearly tells us that in the work of sanctification and maturing by the Holy Spirit, their transformation unto Christlikeness, is accomplished through the renewing of their minds. This is done via becoming living sacrifices not conformed to this age. These living sacrifices devote themselves to prayer, drawing near unto God through worship and the study of His Word. This would also include the working out of our obedience of fellowship with other believers in brotherly love and the sharing of what we have. As we work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, we are transformed through the renewing of our minds and He will enable us to discern the will of God. How is this possible? When we walk this way, the light of God is manifest in and through us. Notice that key in this is that we cannot live our lives conformed to this age or to this lost and dying world, which is in darkness.
1 Γίνεσθε οὖν μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς τέκνα ἀγαπητὰ 2 καὶ περιπατεῖτε ἐν ἀγάπῃ, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς καὶ παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν προσφορὰν καὶ θυσίαν τῷ θεῷ εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας.
3 Πορνεία δὲ καὶ ἀκαθαρσία πᾶσα ἢ πλεονεξία μηδὲ ὀνομαζέσθω ἐν ὑμῖν, καθὼς πρέπει ἁγίοις, 4 καὶ αἰσχρότης καὶ μωρολογία ἢ εὐτραπελία, ἃ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εὐχαριστία. 5 τοῦτο γὰρ ἴστε γινώσκοντες, ὅτι πᾶς πόρνος ἢ ἀκάθαρτος ἢ πλεονέκτης, ὅ ἐστιν εἰδωλολάτρης, οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ. 6 Μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς ἀπατάτω κενοῖς λόγοις· διὰ ταῦτα γὰρ ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀπειθείας. 7 μὴ οὖν γίνεσθε συμμέτοχοι αὐτῶν· 8 ἦτε γάρ ποτε σκότος, νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ· ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε 9 — ὁ γὰρ καρπὸς τοῦ φωτὸς ἐν πάσῃ ἀγαθωσύνῃ καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ — 10 δοκιμάζοντες τί ἐστιν εὐάρεστον τῷ κυρίῳ, 11 καὶ μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε. 12 τὰ γὰρ κρυφῇ γινόμενα ὑπʼ αὐτῶν αἰσχρόν ἐστιν καὶ λέγειν, 13 τὰ δὲ πάντα ἐλεγχόμενα ὑπὸ τοῦ φωτὸς φανεροῦται, 14 πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον φῶς ἐστιν. διὸ λέγει· ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός. 15 Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί, 16 ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. 17 διὰ τοῦτο μὴ γίνεσθε ἄφρονες, ἀλλὰ συνίετε τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου. (Ephesians 5:1-17 NA28)
1 Be therefore imitators of God as beloved children 2 and walk in love as Christ loved us and gave up Himself on behalf of us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But fornication and all impurity or greediness let it not be named among you, as is proper for saints, 4 also indecency and foolish talking or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For this you know by recognizing that every fornicator or impure person or covetous person, that is, an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words; because of these things, the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore, do not be joint partakers with them; 8 for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. 9 Walk as children of light for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth 10 proving what is well pleasing to the Lord, 11 and do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things done by them in secret, 13 but everything when it is exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says, “Arise, O sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 See therefore how carefully you walk not as unwise but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:1-17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Here we have the contrast of those who walk in darkness and are, therefore, not of God from those who are imitators of God as beloved children. These, walk in light now even though they were once in darkness. Therefore, the call for all in Christ is to walk as children of light for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Those who know the will of God do this, not the opposite, which is to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness. Instead of participating in them, they expose them. What happens to the works of darkness when they are exposed to the light? They become visible.
Just as no light enters our eyes when we are asleep physically, likewise no spiritual light enters when we are asleep spiritually. I believe that Paul is describing believers here who are not spiritually dead, but rather are dead effectively. They are not growing as Christians and have no practical vitality or useful witness. In other words, Ephesians 5:14 is a call to believers to repentance and renewed devotion to the Lord. What happens to those who do so? Christ shall “shine on you”. In other words, He will give them even more light than they have. That means He will illumine His Word that much more in their hearts and minds. Those who continue to “sleep” are not making the best use of the time, but are being foolish. On the other hand, those who are walking through this life as living sacrifices are filled with His light and do understand what the will of the Lord is.
Soli Deo Gloria!