To be light in this present darkness

by Mike Ratliff

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) 

14 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη· 15 οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, καὶ λάμπει πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ. 16 οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. Matthew 5:14-16 (NA28)

Probably the quickest and/or easiest 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 so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’ The believer who cowers from this or backs away from the firm stand to be that light, φῶς, is revealing the reality that they are ashamed of the Gospel. So how are we to be this φῶς in this present σκοτίᾳ (darkness)? 

We can only do this because of who our Saviour really is and what He has already done.

4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4-5 (NKJV) 

4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. John 1:4-5 (NA28)

4 In Him was life and the life was light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not grasp it. John 1:4-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The “Him” in v4 is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is what? In Him was ζωὴ, or zōē, which refers to the principle of life in the spirit and soul. This is spiritual life not biological life. Here ἦν 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 φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων, 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 φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, light shines in the darkness. 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 φῶς shone into their hearts, which had been full of σκοτία, 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 κατέλαβεν, overtake, them again. They are delivered from it.

Because of this, we are called to be shine our Lord’s φως into this world’s σκοτία. Notice, I did not say, nor are told anywhere in Scripture, that we are the source of this φως nor the ζωὴ from which it comes. No, the ζωὴ, 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 it that He may be merciful to others.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) 

12 Ὥστε, ἀγαπητοί μου, καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου, μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε· 13 θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας. Philippians 2:12-13 (NA28)

Paul encourages the Philippians (and us) that just as they have πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε faithfully obeyed divine commands,  that he commands them ‘with (μετὰ) fear (φόβου) and (καὶ) trembling (τρόμου) your (τὴν) own (ἑαυτῶν) deliverance (σωτηρίαν) work thoroughly (κατεργάζεσθε).’ The verb κατεργάζεσθε 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, κατεργάζεσθε 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 μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου, 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.

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV) 

14 Πάντα ποιεῖτε χωρὶς γογγυσμῶν καὶ διαλογισμῶν, 15 ἵνα γένησθε ἄμεμπτοι καὶ ἀκέραιοι, τέκνα θεοῦ ἄμωμα μέσον γενεᾶς σκολιᾶς καὶ διεστραμμένης, ἐν οἷς φαίνεσθε ὡς φωστῆρες ἐν κόσμῳ, 16 λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες, εἰς καύχημα ἐμοὶ εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ, ὅτι οὐκ εἰς κενὸν ἔδραμον οὐδὲ εἰς κενὸν ἐκοπίασα. Philippians 2:14-16 (NA28)

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!

4 thoughts on “To be light in this present darkness

  1. I am with you Brother Mike. I loved your words and have printed out this page to share with my bible study group. God is using you in a mighty way . I praise God for leading me to your website. Rich meat for a hungry soul. Thank you.

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  2. By God’s Grace, I am with you. Just had an encounter with the darkness and blindness of family member. We speak the truth in love, because “Christ’ Love compels us.” It is very difficult to see how the darkness hates the light of Christ. Very sad. Thank you for this very timely teaching !!! I have been encouraged to not give up! 😊

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  3. When we stand firm and refuse to compromise on the truth God has revealed to us, we don’t walk in lock step with the majority – or even family members. The truth divides, as it is meant to do, and can require us to walk alone. But that we willingly do, for God has graciously, undeservingly revealed Himself to us. And that truth we cannot deny or would not in exchange for the company of men.

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