Four Kinds of Christians

Ephesians 5

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2019

We are studying the Book of Ephesians.  Today, we will be looking at four types of unbiblical Christians from Ephesians 5:8-17.  Churches are full of these kinds of Christians.  They are found in every denomination.  These are four bad role models in the church today.  What are the four?  They are Carnal Christians, Silent Christians, Sleeping Christians and Ignorant Christians.  The question for us to think about is this:  Are you one of them?

Carnal Christians

This is the first danger in a church.  Paul wrote a letter to a whole church that was worldly.  It was the church of Corinth.  We have worldly churches today or carnal Christians (as Paul called them in I Corinthians).  They live after the flesh.  Those types of Christians will ruin a church.

A worldly Christian is is a person who is saved but still lives like the world.  They look and act like the world.  They think like the world.  I have talked to some Christians who think like the world in the area of politics on some moral issues.  These are issues that all Christians should agree on.

Many Christians do not really know what the Bible says.  They have not been taught the Scriptures.  They do not follow what God says.  They follow what society says and what everyone else is doing.  They follow what is politically correct.

The church today often looks exactly like the world (gay churches, gay pastors).  In many cases, it is really hard to tell believers apart from non-believers.  They look the same.  They listen to the same music.  They use the same language.  They have the same entertainment.  They have marriage problems just like unbelievers. The divorce rates are the same.

The Bible says that we are to be different from the world.  We saw that a few weeks ago.  God’s people in the OT were to be different from the Canaanites.  They were to be different from the Egyptians. Believers in the NT are to be different from the world as well. Are you a worldly Christian?  Is there any difference between you and the unsaved people around you?  There should be.  There should be a big difference.  Paul uses the metaphor of light and darkness in Ephesians 5 to show this difference.  It actually tells us several things.

Light and Darkness

What does it say to us today?  Five things stand out from our passage in Ephesians.

1) There are two types of people in the world

We can put people into all kinds of different boxes (race, nationality, religion) but everyone falls into only two categories.   Paul sees everything black and white, except he calls it darkness and light.  Everyone is either darkness or light.  There is no middle ground.  There are only two types of people in the world today: saved and unsaved.  Paul didn’t believe in universalism.  He did not believe that everyone was saved. he believed that some people were darkness and some people were light.

Notice what Paul says and does not say here.  He does NOT say that Christians are children of the light and unbelievers are children of darkness.  He says that the unsaved ARE darkness and Christians ARE light.  Notice Ephesians 5:8 For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (ESV)The unbelievers were not just in darkness.  They were darkness.

Every unsaved person, no matter how moral is spiritually dark.  The unsaved do not know God and follow the prince of darkness.  Paul said earlier that they were darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18).  People who are saved are not just in the light.  They are light because they have Jesus inside them.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14 ESV).

2) These two types of people are completely opposite

They are complete opposites.  You cannot have anything more opposite than day and night or light and darkness or black and white.  They have nothing in common.  Paul said, “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14 CSB).  They are so opposite that they cannot be at the same place at the same time.

Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same place.  If you walk in a dark room, a room that is pitch black, and turn on a light switch, what happens to the darkness?  It is gone.  It vanishes, because you cannot have the two together.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not put it out (John 1:5).

Saved people and unsaved people are polar opposites.  One has an old heart and one has a new heart.  One was born once, and one was born twice.  One is headed to heaven and one is headed to hell.  One is a child of God and one is child of the devil.  One has their sins forgiven and one stand guilty before God in his or her sins.

3) Change is possible to the most darkened heart

For you were once DARKNESS, but now you are light in the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9 ESV)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13 ESV). God change the most hardened sinner.

4) Salvation always produces some kind of fruit

For the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:9-10 ESV).  Light has some fruit.  There are some signs that it has taken place.  If you are saved, there will be some evidence of it in your life. Jesus said, “by their fruits, you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16).  Paul tells us what the fruit of light is.  He gives three signs.  What are they?  GOODNESS, RIGHTEOUSNESS and TRUTH.

If a person demonstrates these three signs, it is an evidence of light, not darkness.  If we children of the light, we should go around doing good to people, not evil.  Are we kind and compassionate to people?  We should live righteous lives, not wicked and immoral lives.  Are we godly?  We should be people of absolute truth, not dishonest people who lie.  Are we people of personal integrity?

Paul’s point is this.  Now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-9 ESV)If we are saved, we should not live like the unsaved.  We should not live like children of darkness.  How do they live?  Paul has already mentioned six things in this chapter.  We talked about them last week.  Four of the six had to do with sex.  You can read the lesson from last week.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:5-7 ESV).

Silent Christians

One of the biggest dangers in the church today is silent Christians.  They are quiet.  They never open their mouths for Christ.  No one even knows they are believers.  They are believers in secret. John describes some who believed in Jesus IN SECRET (John 12:42)

God does not want us to be secret believers.  We are supposed to be light in a dark world and our light is to shine for people to see.  Jesus said, “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:15 ESV).

What does Ephesians 5 have to say about being vocal and taking a stand.  It says that we are to expose certain things, not ignore them or accept them but EXPOSE them.

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. (Ephesians 5:11-14 ESV)

Exposing the Works of Darkness

Ephesians 5:11 says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”  It is an important verse on separation.  It is also a verse that has been greatly abused in fundamentalist churches.  Some have used it as a reason to separate from the Catholic Church.

It is not a verse about separating from this person or that person.  This verse doesn’t say anything about that.  It is not talking about separation from PEOPLE.  It is talking about separation from SIN (the unfruitful works of darkness).

Paul says that we are not only to AVOID the works of darkness.  We are to EXPOSE the works of darkness. We are not merely to ABSTAIN from sinful practices.  We are to REPROVE them.  It is not enough just to abstain from these things.  They must be exposed, expose the evil of abortion, expose human trafficking and slavery.  How do you do expose darkness?

Darkness is exposed by light (Ephesians 5:13).  To get rid of darkness, all we must do is to turn on the light.  When you turn on a light in a dark room, the darkness disappears.  Some preachers, some very good preachers, use this verse to teach that the way we expose evil is just by living a godly life, just by being a silent witness.

The argument is that darkness is not driven away by preaching at it but by the presence of light.  We do not dispel the darkness by discussing it or even fighting it.”[1] As J. Vernon McGee says, “Darkness is not dissipated by lecturing or preaching.  Darkness is dissipated by light.”[2]  He says that we do not need to have campaigns against the darkness.  We just need to turn on the light.

Is he right?  No.  The word translated “expose” (ἐλέγχω) means to reprove or rebuke in many passages (Luke 3:19; I Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:15; Hebrews 12:5; Revelation 3:19).

We are supposed to be light in a dark world and people should see our godly example but there is something else that is a light.  God’s Word is a light for our feet and a lamp for our path (Psalm 119:105).  It is a LIGHT and it is a LAMP.

We can shine the light of God’s Word in a dark world.   God’s Word illuminates the darkness.  It lights our path.  It tells us what is right and what is wrong.  It tells us how to live.  One of the purposes of the Bible is for REBUKING and CORRECTING (II Timothy 3:16).

One of the biggest dangers of the modern church today is that preachers do not preach against sin.  They do not preach against sin because it is not popular.  That is one of the reasons revivals no longer take place.  No one talks about sin anymore.

Some say that it is not our job to tell the world how to live.  They are unsaved.  We don’t expect them to live like saints.  They are unsaved and Jesus said not to judge people.  If that is the case, why did John the Baptist rebuke King Herod for his adultery?  Why did the OT prophets preach against sin?  Why does Paul expose the false teachers in his day and even name names?

Do some do this rather harshly today?  Yes.  Some preachers rail against sin from the pulpit.  They scream at the top of their lungs, raving about the sin around them.  Ephesians says that we are to speak the truth IN LOVE (Ephesians 4:15).

Sleeping Christians

These are what I call “Rip Van Winkle Christians.”  Rip Van Winkle is a famous story published in the 1800s by Washington Irving.  It was about a man who drank some wine and fell asleep.  He slept for twenty years.  When we woke up, everything had changed.  He grew a long beard.  He goes into the village and does not recognized people.  He finds out that his wife had died.

There are some modern-day Rip Van Winkles in the church today.The elders are asleep. The pastors are asleep. The deacons are all asleep.  You can be genuinely saved and spiritually asleep.  You can be a baptized and be asleep.  You can be a member of a local church and be asleep.  You can even be a church leader and be asleep.

How do you know if you are a sleepy Christian?  Sleepy Christians have no fire or passion.  They have no zeal.  They are dull and apathetic.  They are not excited about studying the Bible.  They are not excited about prayer.  They are not excited about ministry.  They are not excited about evangelism, leading people to Christ.They are not bothered much by sin, even sin in the church.  They have become desensitized to sin.  They have no idea about the spiritual warfare that is going on all around them.  Sleepy people are not aware of things that are going on around them. Sleepy Christians live like the world.

Paul talks about this in Romans.  He talks about it in Ephesians.  He talks about it in I Thessalonians.  He talks about this topic at least three times.

Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV)

While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you bare not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children 2 of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (I Thessalonians 5:3-8 ESV)

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14 ESV)

Does this describe you?  Are you asleep?  Do you need to be woken up?  Do some entire churches need to be woken up?

Ignorant Christians

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)

This is a huge problem in the church today.  It is a big problem because it is often encouraged by preachers.  Almost all preachers love to rail against knowledge like it bad.  Wisdom is good but knowledge is bad.  Knowledge puffs up.  Love builds up (I Corinthians 8:1).  Are they right?  No.

The Book of Proverbs says that fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22).  It says that the wise man not only stores up knowledge (Proverbs 10:14) but seeks knowledge (Proverbs 15:14; 18:15 ).  We are to add to our faith knowledge (II Peter 1:5).  Knowledge is good and wisdom is good.  God gave spiritual gifts of knowledge (I Corinthians 12:8).  He gave spiritual gifts of wisdom (I Corinthians 12:8). God does not want us to be ignorant.  He wants believers to walk in wisdom.

In Ephesians 4, Paul told us to walk worthy of the vocation to which were were called? (Ephesians 4:1) How do you do that?  First, we are to walk in UNITY, because of all of the things we have in common, such as one faith, one baptism, one body (Ephesians 4:3-6).  Second, we are to walk in LOVE, because we are beloved children (Ephesians 5:1).Third, we are to walk in PURITY, because we are saints and certain things are not fitting for saints (Ephesians 5:3-7).

Fourth, we are to walk in LIGHT, because we are light (Ephesians 5:8-14).  Fifth, we are to walk in WISDOM, because we have the Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-21). That will be our topic for next week.  What does it mean to walk in wisdom?  Paul mentions two areas – time management and the will of God.

Time Management

Paul says that we should make the best use of the time, because our deeds are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  The KJV says “redeem the time.”  That is a literal translation of ἐξαγοράζω, but it is misleading.  We do not have to buy time.  We already have it.  We are born into this world with time.[3] How do we do it?

One, we make good use of our time.  This does not mean that we can never spend any time on recreation or do anything fun, but it does mean that time is important and we should not waste it.  How many of us do that?How many of us fritter away days, weeks, months?  How many hours a day do we spend watching TV, playing video games, spending time on Facebook or on our phones?  That is a big problem today.  It is a big problem for Christians.

When we think of stewardship, we think of money but we also need to steward our time.  We should make the best use of our time.  Paul says that we should make the best use of our time, not just because our days are short but because our days are evil.  We live in a fallen world. The NIV says “make the most of every opportunity.

Sometimes God puts opportunities right in front of us every day and we do not take advantage of them.Sometimes we do not even see them.  He may put an opportunity to minister to someone.  He may put an opportunity to witness to someone.  He may put an opportunity to help someone out financially.  He may put an opportunity to encourage  someone.  We need to pray that every day God would use us and that we would use every opportunity to serve Him in any way we can.

The Will of God

Nothing is more important that for us know the will of God for our life and to submit to it.[4] Every young Christian asks the question, What is the will of God for my life?  Who do I marry?  Where do I go to school?  What should I major it?  What should I do with my life?  It is one of the most important questions we should ask after we are saved.

Many think that there is no way to know God’s will.  The truth is that God wants us to know His will and you can know it.  Paul says that we can understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17).  Paul could not say this if it was impossible to find His will. In fact, can we know the will of God but we are commanded to know it.Ephesians 5:17 is a command but Paul is not dealing here with all of the specifics.

He wants believers to know God’s moral will for their life.  He is not dealing with whether you should be a plumber or a politician. He is not dealing with morally neutral issues.  He is dealing with black and white issues.  Knowing the will of God in this passage is being able to discern what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10)

Can we do that today?  Yes.  We have God’s Word and we have God’s Spirit living inside us.  All of us can know the will of God.


[2] J. Vernon McGee, Ephesians, 143.

[3] The Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible (POSB), II, p. 1207.

[4] John M. Fowler, Ephesians: Chosen in Christ, 96.

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