The Rule of the Saint's Life
Ephesians 5:10
Proving what is acceptable to the Lord.

Darkness implies ignorance, for in deep darkness, where no object is recognizable, movement becomes impossible; as, for instance, in the plague of darkness sent upon smitten Egypt of old, we are told that none moved out of their place for three days. It implies suffering and sadness, and is one of the most familiar images which we unconsciously use to represent our times of sorrow (I was going to say, unconsciously repeating the image), the dark times of our life. But it implies also depravity and crime, for evil hides in the darkness, and has a natural sympathy with it. Who, then, are they who are said by the apostle to be dark? Are they the unlearned and untaught in human knowledge, in contrast with the wise and eloquent of the world? Evidently no. The word is palpably applied to all who are not Christians — those whom he describes in a preceding chapter of the same letter as dead in trespasses and sins. On the contrary, however, all converted men, all true Christians, all real believers in Christ Jesus, are not only enlightened but are light. That they are enlightened we shall all readily admit, for God hath shined in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. But the special lesson which is impressed here goes further. It is that they are light — that there is a positive power of light planted within them, capable both of guiding themselves and of being reflected upon others. It is not their own light primarily or meritoriously, but it is the light of God in Christ.

I. I ask your attention to THE PRINCIPLE INVOLVED. It is that the law of a Christian life is to be found in that which is acceptable to God. In other words, our characters and conduct are not to be regulated by the bare outward letter of the law, but by something further. The result of the lesson is no doubt to raise greatly the standard of our Christian life; and who will deny that we need to raise it; who will not be conscious of the abyss of difference between ourselves and the apostles, between what we are, and that model of what we ought to be, contained in the Word of God?

II. But from the principle we must pass on to THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION. How are we to prove what is acceptable to God? What, then, is the test? It is at least three fold.

1. There is the test of the Word of God, that sure rule by which everything else must be measured. But I do not mean the letter of the Word only, its direct, positive precepts. It is unnecessary to speak to you of these; whatever they command is of course right, whatever they forbid of course wrong. But I mean the indirect test of the Word. Does any given pleasure, or pursuit, or habit bring us into closer harmony with the Spirit and the mind of God? Then it is acceptable to God. Does it put us out of tune with it, and make it more difficult to keep the plain command? Then it cannot be acceptable to God.

2. The test may be found in the effect which any given course or habit has on our habits of devotion, and the soul's loving communion, through the Word and through praise and prayer, with its Father in heaven.

3. Beyond this, I believe there is in a soul in a state of spiritual health, where the reason follows God's teaching, where the affections find supreme delight in Him, and where the conscience is sensitive to inconsistency, an instinctive sense of what is right and wrong, a feeling on which aught dishonourable to God jars and is at variance, just as a harsh discord in the midst of a sweet harmony may offend the ear which is not skilled enough to detect its nature.

(E. Garbett, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

WEB: proving what is well pleasing to the Lord.

The Experimental Test of the Lord's Will
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