Are We Doing Our Job Here?

The New Testament is full of many hundreds of commands. We are ordered to do all sorts of things, yet I suspect many believers are very selective about which commands they actually obey and which ones they simply ignore, if not outright disobey.

I want to look at just one such command. It is a familiar passage which we all know, but one which it seems many believers are uncomfortable with, or really do not want to obey. I refer to Ephesians 5:11 which says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

While many Christians may be willing to do the first half of this command, and avoid evil or stay away from clearly sinful activities, far fewer are game to obey the second part of this admonition. And there is a very good reason for this: heaps of Christians actually think this is a bad thing to do.

You see, our culture is so completely steeped in cultural relativism, false notions of tolerance, and Political Correctness, that everyone is terrified of making any moral judgment or pronouncement whatsoever. We do not want to be seen as intolerant or unloving or narrow-minded or exclusive.

We have been paralysed by fear, and have bought the entire package of secular humanism which says we must accept everyone, everything, every lifestyle and every activity. And I am not just talking about the world here. Christians are just as bad unfortunately.

The church has simply followed the world here, slavishly adopting its unbiblical and un-Christian mindset and worldview. It has renounced its calling to be salt and light in the world, and has instead taken on the world’s values of embracing everything and criticising nothing.

And worse yet, often Christian leaders have tried to baptise this moral cowardice and spiritual irresponsibility. They try to convince us that Jesus never hurt a fly, accepted everyone, and was all about an amorphous and nebulous love. These evangellyfish leaders have managed to convince millions of gullible and uninformed believers that we should never speak out against anything.

They think just being “nice” and “accepting” and “tolerant” is somehow the trait of the true Christian. They think namby-pamby, limp-wristed believers must just smile and go along with anything and everything. They believe any sort of conflict, any sort of challenge to the status quo, any sort of prophetic witness to the world is just not Christ-like.

Well I have got news for these spineless wonders: they obviously have never read their Bibles. Scripture throughout presents the people of God as bold, courageous beacons of light and rocks of righteousness. Simply look at the prophets: they challenged people, ideas, values and institutions all the time.

And they did not just challenge other believers; they also challenged the pagan nations as well. Right now in my daily reading I am going through Isaiah, and I am in the midst of a number of chapters fully directed at the surrounding nations (Is. 13-21; 23,24; 34).

These words of rebuke, censor and judgment are just as harsh and just as direct as the words given to God’s own people. In fact, the same language is used, the same sins are rebuked, and the same standards of a holy God are appealed to.

Jesus too was no peace-loving hippy. He was quite often involved in rebuking others – even flinging tables around in the temple. He will do far worse of course when he returns. And the early disciples also pulled no punches, but were unflinching in publically proclaiming truth, even if it upset people, caused controversy, and even sparked riots.

But let me return to Eph 5:11. The Greek verb form used here, elegchó, can be translated “reprove” as in the KJV, or “rebuke” or “refute” or “convict”. It can also be translated “expose” or “uncover” or “unmask”. It thus means to bring to light, to bring out into the open. Of course as part of exposing sin, this will entail reproof, whether directly or indirectly.

There is another side to this word as Frank Thielman notes: “The term can also take on positive connotations, however, by referring to the action of pointing out error in order to correct it and put someone back on the right path.” And this rebuking, exposing and correcting is not just meant to be only for other believers.

As Peter O’Brien comments, “Both the flow of the argument and the context of darkness suggest that the fruitless deeds which are exposed are the sins of unbelievers. The conduct of the children of light will shine as a beacon to others, revealing evil deeds for what they are. To interpret the verb along these lines of exposing sin for what it is does not imply that Christians should remain silent or fail to speak out against evil. But the particular point being made here is that of living a godly lifestyle and showing evil to be evil.”

Jesus of course made a similar point when he too talked about believers as being in the light, and unbelievers walking in darkness. In John 3:19-21 he makes the contrast quite clear: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

The people of light, by their very presence – or rather, by the presence of Christ within them – will expose and reprove the darkness around them. And those in the dark will certainly not be happy about it. They hated Jesus and put him to death, and they will also hate any of his righteous followers.

And our lifestyle is not all there is as a witness. We are also to speak prophetically into our world, acting as salt and light in a decaying and dark culture. The work of William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr certainly comes to mind here.

We must expose, uncover and rebuke evil. That is part of our calling. If past national sins such as slavery and racism had to be addressed by true followers of Christ, so too the many important moral issues of our day. Thus we must be exposing and rebuking the abortion industry as it slaughters millions of unborn babies each year.

We must expose and uncover other works of darkness as well, such as the war against marriage and family. We are not to coddle up to these enemies of God’s institutions, but oppose them and expose them. Sure, we seek to love the individual and reach them for the gospel.

But we must steadfastly resist and fight against their evil agendas and crusades of darkness. That is part of our calling. That is part of what it means to be salt and light. So forget those who would try to tell you we must never rock the boat, must never make a stink, or never speak out.

Comments William Hendriksen, “Sin must be exposed. One is not being ‘nice’ to a wicked man by endeavoring to make him feel what a fine fellow he is. The cancerous tumor must be removed, not humoured. It is not really an act of love to smooth things over as if the terrible evil committed by those still living in the realm of darkness is not so bad after all.”

We are commanded to do this. Of course we are to speak the truth in love, but we must speak truth nonetheless. We must expose the unfruitful works of darkness. Are you obeying this command?

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9 Replies to “Are We Doing Our Job Here?”

  1. A good article Bill. There are two things in my experience which make “exposing evil” a difficult thing. One is that *some* of those who do this a lot have issues of their own and do it in a less than helpful way which results in unnecessary pain, and the the other thing (by far the more common problem in my opinion) is that most people receive “reproof” badly, taking any suggestion that they change or improve something as a criticism of their being and identity and react aggressively without even thinking about the value of what has been said to them. I believe that as disciples of Christ we have an attitude that allows correction if necessary. Many have some ways to go in developing such an attitude.

    John Symons

  2. So true Bill, but so lacking in the church and always judged from a humanistic perspective and often labelled “unloving”.

    Proverbs 27:5 comes to mind also.

    Simon Rossic

  3. Salt and Light Bill, agreement here from me. Though I feel there is a gift in giving reproof, as seen by the amount of times the media paints some leading Christians out to be Bigots, self-rightous, Hypocrits, and judgemental do-gooders. Am I being soft saying we need integrity as Jesus did. I lifted this from some site ages ago;
    Who is this CHRIST you are talking about?
    Is it the Messiah of the New Testament scriptures?
    Is it the same person who whipped the merchants at church??
    Is it the same guy who called the leaders in charge (pharisees) venomous names??
    …here are just a few of the things he called them:
    hypocrites
    vipers
    dead men
    children of hell
    blind fools
    unclean
    murderers
    extortioners
    serpents
    …and that is just in Matt 23.

    Johannes Archer

  4. This is a very thought provoking article, Paul reproved the believers in the Corinthian church for tolerating sin in their midst; the man in an adulterous relationship had to be put out of the church until he repented otherwise the entire assembly would be spiritually contaminated.
    We have another example of the indifference of the population of Sodom and Gomorrah to evil. Lot and his family had to be escorted out by the Angels of the Lord before its impending destruction. Abraham pleaded with the Lord for mercy in sparing the cities if only ten righteous people could be found and they couldn’t.
    Sin must be challenged both within the church and outside, Paul challenged Peter when he sided with the Jews, Lets ask God for the courage to stand for truth…
    Kevin McDonald

  5. I think a factor in this is that many Christians are afraid of “judging”. I try to follow the example of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery: Don’t judge or condemn the person, but it’s OK to judge behaviour.
    Of course most worldly people don’t get that either, so they are quick to judge us as judgemental.

    John Bennett

  6. You’re right Bill, John and others. We, in the Church are very uncomfortable about speaking out regarding ‘wrongs’, evils and anything that stands in opposition to the gospel of truth and justice. Even if we (I) feel uncomfortable about standing in opposition to evil, we must DO do something. It’s what Jesus commands.
    Brian Hoffman

  7. Thanks, Bill for highlighting this.
    One of the problems we often encounter is that many Christians have rejected what they call ‘rules’ of any kind. They often condemn ‘legalism’ and in rejecting that they throw out everything else about how we are to live as Christians.
    A prime example was Yancey’s book ‘What’s so amazing about grace’ where he started by criticising the ‘rules’ and ‘legalism’ in the church he grew up in – such as ‘don’t drink, don’t dance’. However, in the middle of his book he supports Mel White in leaving his wife and going off to live as a homosexual.
    I’ve heard some Christians say that, well we don’t have any commands or ‘rules’ that we must follow and the Holy Spirit will show us how to act! But they make no reference to the commands of the New Testament. Yes, we must be sensitive to the Spirit, but we must also test it against Scripture – and be informed by Scripture.
    I heard a sermon on Galatians 5, that emphasised ‘freedom’ – but it didn’t mention fleeing from the desires of the flesh – or exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. Fortunately the passage itself was read aloud, so we could actually hear what Paul was exhorting us to do!

    Jenny Stokes

  8. Jenny, it is very significant that in talking about “Freedom” in Galatians chapter 5, Paul talks about fruit of the Spirit. Most people think of “freedom” as “freedom from…” but Paul talks about a lot more than that in Galatians chapter 5 – he also mentions “freedom to …. produce fruit of the Spirit”, something we did not have before we were freed *from*. Unfortunately most people have a very truncated concept of “freedom”.

    John Symons

  9. Yes, we must be sensitive to the Spirit.
    But my thoughts on this are how sensitive are we and can we know Gods voice each and every time.
    Satan has a voice also and im sur hes a good deceiver and furthermore their are people who have been christians for decades and still not be sure what god is trying to say to them.
    I believe this subject needs to be tested a little more, to see in fact what they are really saying.

    Daniel Kempton

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