The Indicative and the Imperative (Ephesians 5.7–14)



Ephesians 5:7–14


In Ephesians 5.7–14, Paul makes two kinds of statements. The first is indicative; it states who we are. The second kind is imperative; it tells us how we should act.

Indicative statements include the following:

  • “You were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (verse 8).
  • “The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (verse 9).

Imperative statements include the following:

  • “Do not associate with them” (verse 7).
  • “Walk as children of the light” (verse 8).
  • “Discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (verse 10).
  • “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (verse 11).
  • “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead” (verse 14).

For Paul, there is a logical connection between the indicative and the imperative. Notice the conjunctions “therefore” (verse 7) and “for” (verses 8, 9, 11, 14). In each case, they link who we are and how we should act. “You are light in the Lord,” Paul says, so “walk as children of the light.”

Unfortunately, far too many of us Christians act in very dark, un-Christ-like ways. What is the solution to this problem? What is the remedy for our hypocrisy?

The first remedy is association. “Birds of a feather flock together.” This proverb states a sociological principle: We act like those with whom we associate, whether positive or negatively. If we want to become like Christ, we must associate with people who have a similar goal. This does not exclude friendships with people of other faiths, of course. It simply means that our primary relationships should be with people who will encourage us in our relationship with God.

The second remedy is proactivity. Paul tells us, “Walk as children of the light.” Moral transformation does not happen passively, any more than weight loss happens by sitting on a couch. We must take action, and that action must aim toward one goal: continuous moral progress.

The third remedy is discernment. We often make decisions about what to do based on what pleases us. We are self-centered that way. Continuous moral progress begins when we center our lives on Someone other than ourselves, our Creator, Judge, and Savior. We will become more Christ-like when we “begin to seek what is pleasing to the Lord.”

The fourth remedy is negation and exposure. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” Negation and exposure are a single action. We summon the courage to call what is displeasing to God “sin,” and then we refuse to do it.

The final remedy is alertness. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Too often, we become complacent about the process of moral transformation. To become like Christ, we must be constantly alert to the obstacles in our way, as well as to the opportunities Christ gives us to shine.

We’re Christians—“little Christs.” Let’s act like it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: