Our month’s study has revealed a rich, complex, interconnected web of meanings and themes surrounding the imagery of light and dark in Scripture. Light stands for knowledge, wisdom, and truth. It is associated with life, salvation, hope, goodness, righteousness, and spiritual alertness. Darkness, on the other hand, stands for ignorance, foolishness, and falsehood or ignorance. It is associated with death, condemnation, despair, sin, evil, and spiritual sluggishness or sleep.
So when Paul commanded us to “live as children of light” in today’s passage (v. 8), he was saying a mouthful! Having been rescued from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light, we are to live in keeping with our new identity. The “fruit of the light” is goodness, righteousness, and truth, and indeed, anything that pleases God (vv. 9–10).
The only contact we should have with “deeds of darkness” is to expose them (vv. 11–13). By our light-bearing words and actions, we will stand for righteousness and play a convicting role in the lives of others. People living in darkness can be unaware of the consequences or deceive themselves into thinking it’s good, but light by its very nature reveals and undeceives. The dark will not go willingly—it’s a battle for which we must put on the armor of light.
The image of Christ shining in verse 14 may come from an early Christian hymn. It may also be an allusion to Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” This is a picture of salvation and new spiritual life. Because of these gifts of God, we are to look for every chance we can to live wisely and by word and deed shine God’s light into a dark world (vv. 15–16).
One meaning of the biblical metaphor of light is spiritual alertness. People living in spiritual darkness are sluggish, oblivious, or confused. People living in God’s light have life, knowledge, and the power to lead holy lives. Spiritual alertness is essential for our prayer lives: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).