Walking in the Manner of Darkness
Most Christians have sat through a sermon series or teaching module on the biblical motif of “walking.” Great emphasis is placed on walking in Christ, in the light, in love, in faith, by the Spirit, in a manner worthy of God, in newness of life, etc. What is almost always neglected in this teaching is our former walk. If one attends to expositional preaching, these subjects will eventually come to him piecemeal, so it is not a fully neglected teaching, but one that is not often organized as a whole.
Why should we study the negative walk? First, it is there in the Bible, so we should not neglect it. Second, it reaffirms to believers where they have come from and how they formerly behaved. Third, it is helpful to be reminded of the situation of those we are praying for and witnessing to. As Christians, we are considering our former state, and the current state of those who are walking in a manner of darkness.
The walk of the sinner, in this fallen world of sin, is a walk in darkness. Jesus taught, if you walk in the night, you will stumble (Jn 11:10). He who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes (Jn 12:35), and the darkness overtakes him. Even hell is called, “outer darkness (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).”
The apostle John clearly learned these teachings from Jesus, for he wrote, “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 Jn 2:11).” The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesians of their former darkness (Eph 5:7), which he considered to be their actual identity. Paul wrote to the Colossians and explained Christian conversion, as a transfer from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13). He who follows Jesus will not walk in darkness (Jn 8:12).
The motif of darkness is meant for us to observe the spiritual point of Scripture, which is that people are in spiritual darkness (1 Cor 2:14). If God is light (1 Jn 1:5), men are in the dark. Paul used the example of the Gentiles, in writing to the Ephesians. He said the Gentiles were, “darkened in their understanding (Eph 4:18).” This darkness manifested in the “futility of their minds (Eph 4:17).” Walking as unwise men (Eph 5:15), they do their evil deeds in the darkness (Jn 3:19–20), as children of wrath (Eph 2:3). The wrath of God is directed against the ungodly (Rom 1:18), who are called, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22).”
Walking as mere men (1 Cor 3:3) implies a spiritual void. Most of Jesus’ followers left His ministry when the teaching got tough, and they were not walking with Him anymore (Jn 6:66). Men of the world walk by sight, not by faith (2 Cor 5:7). The apostle Paul was accused by some, who charged him with walking according to the flesh (2 Cor 10:1–3). Christians are in the flesh, but we are not to war in the flesh. When there is jealousy and strife among us, then we have returned to walking in a manner of darkness. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 Jn 1:6). Clearly, every man’s walk, whether in darkness or light, matters to God.
Paul confessed this was his former manner of life in Judaism when he labored to persecute and kill Christians (Gal 1:13). Many walk in darkness as enemies of the Cross of Christ (Phil 3:18). We want the enemies of Christ to be reconciled to God in Christ, for we have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). This is very different from those who walk in craftiness, adulterating the word of God (2 Cor 4:2), as they fly from city to city in their Lear jets to fleece the sheep and goats of their money (Ezek 34).
Christians are instructed not to be partakers in the lifestyle of the sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2; 5:7; Col 3:6). What does this lifestyle entail? First, Paul calls it, “the course of this world (Eph 2:1).” This means it is under the control of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), who is blinding the minds of the children of the devil, who follow the ways of their father, Satan, who is called a “liar” and “murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:44).” This demonic inspired lifestyle is fleshly and begins in the mind (Eph 2:3). It is a life of futile thoughts and actions, lived in ignorance and unbelief (Eph 4:17–18).
The child of wrath is excluded from the life of God, being without God in the world (Eph 2:12). The things of God actually harden the unbeliever’s heart (Jn 12:40), making them callous toward God and His people (Eph 4:19), who have been delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). Because they do not have the Holy Spirit, the unrighteous live to gratify the flesh through too much food, too much alcohol, too many drugs, too much sex, too much sleep, too much mindless entertainment, etc. Paul said, “they have given themselves over to sensuality (Eph 4:19).” In their greed, the desire for more and more, they are never satisfied. “More, more…” is the cry of the leech and the carnal man.
Vice lists are prevalent in the New Testament. They are often placed in direct contrast with lists of virtues (ie. Gal 5:19–23). The old self is given to foul thoughts (Eph 4:17; Col 1:21), words (Col 3:8), and actions (Col 1:21). Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33; Col 3:7), and itself loves bad company. The reprobate encourage others in their unrighteousness (Acts 22:20). The Jews simply called the Gentiles, “goyim” in a derogatory manner, or “uncircumcision,” as David referred to Goliath, the Philistine.
Uncircumcision was a sign of one being a stranger to the covenant with Yahweh (Eph 2:12). Circumcision was the sign given to Abraham to mark those who live in the household of faith. This was faith in Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. In circumcision, the veil had been cut away, so the seed of the King to come was revealed by faith. Christ is our circumcision (Col 2:11). His blood is the blood of the new and everlasting covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Mt 26:28; 1 Cor 11:25). By His being cut on Calvary’s tree, the veil of separation was removed for those who were at the time separate from Christ (Eph 2:11). By His blood, we now have access to the holiest place, God’s throne of grace in heaven (Rev 4–5, 7).
Christ is seated as a merciful Mediator, King, and Judge upon His glorious throne (Eph 2:13; 1 Tim 2:5). Those who were dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), having been baptized into Christ (Rom 6; Col 2:12), have also been made alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13), who has become their all in all (Col 3:11). They no longer live to themselves, but Christ lives in them (Gal 2:20), having become their life (Col 3:4).
Christians lay aside their old self (Eph 4:22). The lust of deceit, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life are to be put off (1 Jn 2:16). Peter joined Paul in condemning the former ways, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance (1 Pet 1:14).”
The ignorance of this former way of life is rooted in unbelief and is the reason for the world’s hatred of the church (Jn 15:18–19; 1 Tim 1:13). Some temporarily take hold of the faith, tasting the good things of the Spirit’s work, but they fall away (Heb 6:4–6). It is the continuous preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ that sifts them like chaff. They have no interest in the preaching of sound doctrine. With itchy ears (2 Tim 4:3), they wish to be entertained by showmen and charlatans, who are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing (Ezek 34; Acts 20:29).
The prophet Isaiah spoke and wrote much of the coming Messiah of God (Is 7:14; 9:6; 11:2; 53; etc.). The Messiah would be recognized by the fruit of His labors, “Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.’ 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy (Is 35:4–6).” When Jesus Messiah came, those who walked in darkness saw a great light (Is 9:2). Men cried out, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation (Lk 2:30),” when Jesus was held in right regard. The lame leaped for joy (Jn 5; Acts 3:6–12; 14:8–10), when Jesus healed them and commanded them to walk.
Jesus Christ remains the only remedy for those walking in futility in this present darkness (Eph 4:17). Those who are walking on the wide way of destruction are walking in darkness (Mt 7:13), and they are headed for eternal darkness (Mt 22:13). With much gratitude for our own salvation, we must cry out into this dark wilderness, “Come into the light as He is in the light (1 Jn 1:7),” for “He has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).”
If we are to be children of light, and lights in the world (Phil 2:15), then we must walk in the light (Eph 5:8). The hour and power of darkness have passed, and men must repent of their love of darkness (Jn 3:19; Acts 17:30), for the light has shone in our hearts to bring comprehension (2 Cor 4:6; Jn 1:5). It is indicative that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will no longer remain in darkness; but it is imperative that everyone walk this way, following the pillar of fire by night (Ex 13:21), a very bright light from heaven (Acts 22:6; 26:13), who is Christ Jesus, the Lord, and the light of life.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 14, 2021