And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11).
This verse really jumped out at me as I read it yesterday. Paul instructs us on how it is that we should walk as believers, given that we have the fruit of the Spirit, goodness, righteousness, and truth. Given this, we are to work toward what is acceptable to the LORD and have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness.
Most would agree up to this point. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues with one more clause: but rather expose them.
We are not only to keep from having fellowship with that which is sinful, but expose that which is sinful as well. This is the part of the verse that most people want to quickly jump over and think nothing of it, because in this part of the verse, it requires something of us. In fact, the verse requires two things of us.
The first is that we are to be on our guard, against that which is unfruitful. We are supposed to be discerning and be able to determine those things which are wicked and debased, so that we do not have fellowship with those things.
I think an obvious application of that in our current culture is a denial of fellowship with those who practice fornication, uncleanness (in regards to sin), those who are covetous, filthy, foolish talkers, and guilty of course jesting, etc. (Ephesians 5:3-5). Please note, course jesting. That is just as sinful as the fornicators. (You might want to quit watching television at this point, especially shows like Friends or The Office, which are filled with fornication, uncleanness, and course jesting). Paul makes it clear that those who practice such things are under the wrath of God and are sons of disobedience.
But Paul isn’t saying here that we should not be in the world, but rather that we should not have fellowship with such people. Fellowship implies that they are part of the church. He expands upon this in his first letter to the Corinthians: I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
Being named a brother implies the person is a Christian and claims fellowship with the church through faith in Christ. The one who claims this, yet falls into the category of sinners that Paul describes, is to be distanced from the fellowship of believers. How so?
Back in Ephesians, Paul tells us: expose them! We are not to remain silent as to what sin is, nor remain silent when we see one who calls himself a “brother” living in sin. The sin needs to be named. If we are loving, in the true sense of the word, we do not remain silent about what sin is, because of sin’s destructive nature to the church as a whole, and also to the individual. We name it so that they can repent of it.
I’m not saying this should be done from the pulpit, but it is incumbent upon us as brothers and sisters in the LORD to point out the sin in a way that helps the sinner see the need to repent.
Listen to William Hendriksen on this verse:
Those who belong to the realm of light cannot be neutral with respect to the work of darkness. Compromise, too, is definitely ruled out…Sin must be exposed. One is not being ‘nice’ to a wicked man by endeavoring to make him feel what a fine fellow he is. The cancerous tumor must be removed, not humored. It is not really an act of love to smooth things over as if the terrible evil committed by those still living in the realm of darkness is not so bad after all.
As Paul continues: For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
What these people are doing is shameful. This is why the pastor needs to be clear on what is sinful, and what is not sinful. To gloss over sin is to do a disservice to those in the body. To remain silent out of a desire not to offend is to be deceitful. To change the subject when sin arises is disgraceful. For we must expose that which comes to our attention. Not so that we gossip about it, but so that those who are trapped in that sin may be lovingly pointed toward the cross and given the opportunity to repent of their sin.
We actually see a clear example of this when the LORD confronted Cain concerning his sacrifice. In Genesis 4, we see that Cain brought an offering to the LORD, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. What Cain offered was unacceptable to the LORD, showing us that we need to follow His word when it comes to our worship, not our willy-nilly worldly desires.
But the point is that Cain became dejected, and the LORD said, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
The LORD exposed Cain’s sin to him so that he could repent. He didn’t, but that was left between Cain and the LORD.
The same is true in the body of Christ. We are not to remain silent. The health of the body of Christ depends upon it.