Ephesians 5:10

As the ninth verse is a parenthesis, the apostle states that it is by walking as children of light we are in a position to prove "what is well-pleasing unto the Lord."

I. CONSIDER THE TRUE STANDARD OF JUDGMENT AS TO RIGHT AND WRONG. The believer is not to discover it in whatever may be well-pleasing to himself, but in what is well-pleasing to the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord of the conscience to regulate all our thoughts and all our actions. He has a supreme lordship over our life as well as over our death: "For whether we live we live unto the Lord." He is thus not merely Savior and Example, but Director of his people in all the concerns of religious life. In difficult situations, therefore, the true casuistry of life is to ask - Will this action be well-pleasing to Christ?

II. CONSIDER THE SUBJECTIVE TEST OF THIS DIVINE WILL. Believers are enabled, in the clear light in which they walk, to discover the right path. It is through their being transformed by the renewing of their mind that they "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God"(Romans 12:2). Similarly we learn that "if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). Light admitted into the understanding contributes to win the affections, and, the affections won, open wide the doors for the admission of more light. To know the law you love and to love the law you know is the best condition in which human beings can be. It is the union of clear light in the understanding with perfect purity of heart which distinguishes the kingdom of redemption in its final practical triumph. - T.C.

Proving what is acceptable unto 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.)

I. THE ACT: "proving." So to prove as to approve and practise.

II. THE OBJECT: "that which is pleasing, or acceptable, to the Lord." There is a difference between things.

1. Some things utterly displease God, as sin (2 Samuel 11:27).

2. Some things are not displeasing unto God, as all natural and indifferent actions, which are not forbidden, but allowed by Him (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

3. Other things are commanded by Him as a positive law, but have no natural goodness in themselves, setting aside God's command.

4. There are some things which do most please God, as things eminently good are acceptable to Him in the highest degree; as, for instance, faith in Christ is pleasing to God, but a strong faith is more acceptable than a weak, which needeth props and crutches (John 20:29). That proving what is acceptable to God is one great duty which belongeth to the children of light.I shall explain this point by these considerations —

1. Our great end and scope should be to please God, and be accepted with Him.

2. We please God by doing what He hath required of us in His Word. There are certain things evident by the light of nature which belong to our duty; these must not be overlooked (Micah 6:8). The things there mentioned are evident by the light of nature. That we should carry ourselves justly towards men, and with reverence and obedience to the Divine majesty, is evident by the light of nature, as well as Scripture. But the revelation that He hath made of our duty to us by the Word is more clear, full, and certain.

3. If we would know God's mind revealed in His Word, we must use search and trial. Δοκιμάζοντες, "proving," noteth great diligence and care that we may know the mind of God; for it greatly importeth us, and we are often pressed to it: "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 6:21). If we see but a piece of money that hath the king's image stamped upon it, we bring it to the touchstone to see if it be right: do so with doctrines and practices, bring them to the law and to the testimony, see how they agree with God's Word (1 John 4:1).

4. We must search and try, that we may walk as children of the light. The night was made for rest; the light is not given us for rest and idleness, but for work.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

The business of a Christian upon earth is not an independent one; he is not acting on his own account, but he is a steward for Christ. What if I compare him to a commission agent who is sent abroad by his firm with full powers from his employer to transact business for the house which he represents! He is not to trade for himself, but he agrees to do all in the name of the firm which commissions him. He receives his instructions, and all he has to do is to carry them out, his whole time and talent being by express agreement at the absolute disposal of his employers. Now, if this man shall lend himself to an opposition firm, or trade on his own account, he is not true to his engagements, and he has to bear the responsibility of his acts; but so long as he acts for his firm, and does his best, his course is an easy and safe one.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

That eminent ornithologist, M. Audubon, who produced accurate drawings and descriptions of all the birds of the American continent, made the perfection of that work the one object of his life. In order to achieve this he had to earn his own living by painting portraits, and other labours; he had to traverse frozen seas, forests, canebrakes, jungles, prairies, mountains, swollen rivers, and pestilential bogs. He exposed himself to perils of every sort, and underwent hardships of every kind. Now, whatever Audubon was doing, he was fighting his way towards his one object, the production of his history of American birds. Whether he was painting a lady's portrait, paddling a canoe, shooting a raccoon, or felling a tree, his one drift was his bird book. He had said to himself, "I mean to carve my name amongst the naturalists as having produced a complete ornithological work for America," and this resolution ate him up, and subdued his whole life. He accomplished his work because he gave himself wholly to it. This is the way in which the Christian man should make Christ his element. All that he does should be subservient to this one thing, "That I may finish my course with joy, that I may deliver my testimony for Christ, that I may glorify God whether I live or die."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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