Out of the darkness

Paul encouraged believers to change their behavior and to act like children of God. He told the Ephesians, “At one time you lived in darkness. Now you are living in the light that comes from the Lord. Live as children who have the light of the Lord in them” (Ephesians 5:8, NLV). Paul encouraged the believers in Ephesus to be engaged in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:13) and told them to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

The unfruitful works of darkness that he referred to in Ephesians 5:11 may have been rumors that were being spread about Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. The Greek word translated reprove, elegcho (el-eng’-kho) means “to rebuke another with the truth so that the person confesses, or at least is convicted of his sin” (G1651). There was most likely a lot of conflict in the church at Ephesus and Paul wanted the believers there to resist the temptation to be drawn back into their old lifestyles. The Greek word translated unfruitful, akarpos refers to “those influenced by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” (G175).

Paul’s final instruction to the Ephesians was to be properly equipped for spiritual battles. He said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). Paul became familiar with the armor of the Roman soldiers while he was under house arrest. The constant poking and prodding Paul had to endure from his captors may have prompted him to think of ways to thwart their attempts to antagonize him.

Paul said that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). The descriptors Paul used suggest that a structured organization exists in the spiritual realm. The Greek word translated powers, exousia refers to “the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others” (G1849). Rulers of the darkness implies a world-ruler and may have been a reference to Satan himself. Paul was talking about “spirit powers, who, under the permissive will of God, and in consequence of human sin, exercise satanic and therefore antagonistic authority over the world in its present condition of spiritual darkness and alienation from God” (G2888).

Paul’s instructed believers to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13). This might suggest that we can only withstand Satan’s attempts to overcome us by using all of the spiritual resources we have available to us. Paul identified six pieces of clothing or armory that could be used in spiritual battles: a girdle (truth), breastplate (righteousness), shoes (gospel), shield (faith), helmet (salvation), and a sword (word of God). These pieces of armor may correspond to the process whereby a person becomes a child of God. A person must first hear the truth, then be convicted of his sins, understand that Jesus died for all sins and by faith receive Jesus as his savior, and finally, read the Bible to learn more about God’s kingdom.