Expose the Deeds of Darkness
Paul now moves from urging the Ephesians not to be deceived by joining others in the works of darkness to exposing them, outing them, shining the light on them so that everyone may see the wickedness and shame of such evil works.
Paul first tells them to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.” Here we are reminded that while godliness produces the fruit of the Spirit, wickedness produces—nothing. We may say that wickedness produces either no fruit or rotten fruit, but either way, immorality and ugly speech produce nothing. We must bear in mind how wasteful sin is. Oh, I do not mean to suggest that the wages of sin are nothing; indeed, those wages are ruined lives and ultimate death (Romans 6:23). But in saying that it produces nothing, we mean that it produces nothing lasting that is worth keeping. With what is the prostitute left when she is old and worn? Does anyone want her? With what is the malicious man left? Will anyone befriend him? With what is the swindler left? Will he take his money to the grave? There is nothing more unproductive, more unfruitful than sin. This is why its wages are death: There is nothing else it has to offer.
That’s when Paul tells us to expose the works of darkness instead. Now it seems odd that he would tell us in the same breath that “it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” I believe what Paul is telling us is that rather than talking about such things (which can lead to wondering about them, obsessing over them, and then doing them), bring these dark deeds into the light of gospel day that all may see their ugliness and stand back in horror. Shine the light on diseases which sexual immorality begets, the suicide rates of people who indulge unnatural passions, the broken children of divorce, and the list goes on forever. But the deeds of darkness wither in the light. Sin destroys and so Satan is called, “The Destroyer” (Revelation 9:11).
Paul then quotes what appears to be an early Christian hymn, perhaps sung during baptismal services in welcome to the new convert: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Waking from sleep and rising from the dead—this is what it means to come to saving faith in Christ Jesus. Such people hate the deeds of darkness, they are scandalized by them and flee from them. If they must have any interaction with them, it is in exposing them that their ugliness may be abhorred by all.