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43. “Unfruitful Works of Darkness” (Ephesians 5:11)

Here again it is perfectly clear that the context is one of deeds and not of “doctrine” (in the commonly used sense). When the apostle speaks of “having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness”, we need have no doubt as to what he means: fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, crude jesting, and idolatry (vv. 3-5). That Paul is speaking of conduct is emphasized furthermore by the three-fold “walk” of the passage (vv. 2,8,15).

That with which we are to have no fellowship, therefore, is the unclean way of life that belongs to the darkness of this world. If need be that we personify this “darkness”, then let us not look at our brethren in a critical sense, but instead let us first examine ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28). He whom we should be quick to “disfellowship”, if anyone, on the basis of this passage, must be the “old man”, who is corrupt according to his deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22), the “devil” within each of us (4:27).

Is there ever a time that such a passage should be turned against our brethren? Yes, sadly, there may be such times, when faithful brethren are forced to examine the conduct of their brethren. How shall we go about this in a Christ-like manner, being sure that we do not zealously overstep our prerogative and disfellowship those whom Christ would forgive?

“The answer is that the very plainness of these commands helps us, for Scripture passes judgment on such matters. Truly we have to apply the judgment of Scripture, and there is danger of mistake in the application. It is the will of God that such responsibility should be ours and we must discharge the duty as faithfully as we can. We must try to remember the teaching of the Word as a whole, and we must be honest in the application of specific rules. If one quotes the passage regarding unfruitful works of darkness, things done in secret ‘of which it is a shame even to speak’, and applies the passage to one well reported of for good works, the only real complaint against him being that he is too reluctant to be severe with offenders, surely it is evident that in such an application there is the most amazing perversity. If one in resentment of a difference of judgment as to the precise application of these commands denounces his brother as guilty of disorderly walk, repudiation of the faith, and re-crucifixion of the Lord, it is difficult to believe in such a case that there is even an attempt to find righteous judgment” (I. Collyer, “The Principles Governing Fellowship”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 61, No. 721 — July 1924 — pp. 297,298).
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