For years, I've interpreted in knee-jerk fashion that to expose the deeds of darkness is the task of living-in-the-light Christians. I automatically assumed the "children of disobedience" (v.6) are unbelievers. Now, however, I'm not so sure.

In interpreting these verses, could the injunction to expose the deeds of darkness involve three or more people (or groups of people)?

  • First would be a Christian who is aware they have disobeyed God and is responsible before God to allow His light to expose their disobedience and lead them to repent (à la 1 John 1:8-10).
  • Second would be another believer (or believers) who is participating in deeds of darkness and whose evil a spiritual Christian is to expose (a la James 5:16 and Galatians 6:1).
  • Third would be unbelievers in the world who are doing only what comes naturally to "sons of disobedience," but whose deeds of darkness need to be exposed by Christians who are witnesses to those deeds (à la John the Baptizer who exposed the sin of Herod the tetrarch (John 14:3-5).

In Ephesian 5: 8-14, whose deeds of darkness need to be exposed, and by whom?

Paul explains: Let's get rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness.

Romans 13:12-13 (NASB)

12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let’s rid ourselves of the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let’s [a]behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and debauchery, not in strife and jealousy.

2 Corinthians 6:14 (NASB)

14 Do not be [a]mismatched with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness?

Similarly, Peter counsels and emphasizes the need for doing God's will, otherwise, they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

1 Peter 4:3-5 (NASB)

3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, [a]having pursued a course of indecent behavior, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and wanton idolatries.In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them in the same excesses of [b]debauchery, and they slander you; 5 but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead

Expose them, How?

In Vs 5:11 Paul writes" Do not participate in the useless deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;"

Paul is counseling fellow Christians to preach to others, friends, and family members to abandon the darkness and choose the light, this calls for courage. More importantly, it calls for compassion and concern for others and a heartfelt desire to share the light of truth with them for their eternal benefit.

John 3:16 (NASB)

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.


You are considering the injunction ‘expose’, as in ‘Expose the deeds of darkness’. Expose from the Greek ‘elegchō’, which in this context means ‘by conviction to bring to the light, to expose’ - because from verse 8 Paul is talking about walking in the light. So ‘light’, in contrast to darkness ‘exposes’ [the wrong ‘lifestyle’].

In this view, only two groups. Believers [those walking ‘in’ the light] and unbelievers. But, Paul is talking to a third group, believers, who, because of ‘reasons’, (practices and/or lack of understanding] are not reflecting, walking in, or shining that light.

So your initial interpretation, in my view, is correct. Yes there are three groups involved, but when Paul is teaching, in his teaching there are only two groups. It’s his audience (believers) who are not fitting into the groups that should be. They are not, in their current ‘state’, possibly due to their ‘lifestyle’, exposing, or rather, contrasting the difference between light and darkness. He was, in effect, exhorting them to change so that they would.

Let’s look at ‘how’. How ‘walking in Light’ brings conviction. Let’s revisit ‘expose’, from the Greek ‘elegchō’, which in this context means ‘by conviction to bring to the light, to expose’

The ‘conviction’ comes as a result of the following ..

EPH 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

That sense of God wrath. Paul describes this in Romans 1, from verse 18. An ‘inward sense’ of Gods wrath, that originates from man’s (unbelievers) ‘inward’ knowledge/perception of their unrighteous ‘state’. And, those ‘walking in the light’ would ‘trigger’ or bring to consciousness that ‘sense’ of wrath.


Paul's theme is we are to be truthful straightforward and honest; starting as early as chapter 4.

14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, -- (Eph. 4:14–15, ESV)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. -- (Eph. 4:25, ESV)

In Chapter 5 Paul starts with us being imitators of God; of Christ and his example of love in particular. Paul continues to explain how, first in the more general section including v8-14. then he tells us how in our particular relationships.

Note v8-14 is within the theme that we are to be truthful, open, and honest.

8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 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. -- (Eph. 5:8–14, ESV)

However, we should take care that what we expose is truthful and out of love. Were we an eye witness, or is it hearsay? With hearsay we are in danger of spreading gossip or rumors, which can actually be deception. Virtually everywhere in the New Testament this is brought up, especially among Christians, the first action is to confront them openly, seeking truth and repentance.

As far as confession the New Testament has passages dealing with it. Where it is most important is with people we have harmed, and people aware of our sin.

In dealing with a non-Christian, we can only expect them to live up to the standard they hold. What is legal and ethical in the workplace and country. Usually the company and country have a procedure for dealing with this.


Let's see the context in Ephesian 5:

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

The contrast is darkness vs light in the Lord. Darkness here symbolizes Satan.

Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Who can expose the deeds of Satan?

Only the people who have the light in the Lord. The contrast here is a simple binary, darkness in Satan vs light in the Lord. There is no gray area here.

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