Exposing the Deeds of Darkness

By Mark D. Roberts

July 16, 2019

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:11-14


As we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, Ephesians 5:11 does not urge us to remove ourselves completely from “the fruitless deeds of darkness” and those who do them. Rather, it teaches us not to become partners in wrongdoing. And indeed, we are taught to have something to do with “the fruitless deeds of darkness.” We are to “expose them.”

reflection of woman's face in foggy windowWhat does it mean to expose the deeds of darkness? How should we do this? Which dark deeds deserve our attention? Those of the world? Those done by fellow believers? All of the above?

In today’s devotion, I want to focus on the latter questions. Before we consider how we should expose the deeds of darkness, we had better determine which deeds deserve our attention. Commentators on this passage differ in their interpretation of this verse. Some believe that the deeds we should expose are those done by our fellow believers. After all, we are to “speak truthfully” to our fellow Christians, which includes, at times, exposing their sinful behavior so they might repent (Ephesians 4:25; see also Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1). This could be what Ephesians 5:11 envisions.

But I am persuaded by the text and its context that this verse invites us to expose the deeds of darkness done primarily by those who are not followers of Jesus. (By analogy, we might also expose the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but this is not the main point of verse 11.) In Ephesians, darkness is associated with Gentile thought and action. In Ephesians 4:17-18, we are no longer to “live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding.” Moreover, we were “once darkness” before we became “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Thus, our battle is primarily against “the powers of this dark world,” not the shadows of darkness that remain in the church (Ephesians 6:12).

It seems clear to me that the deeds of darkness we are to expose are those done by people outside of Christ. But writing this makes me cringe. I picture Christians denouncing the evils of their neighbors while ignoring their own sins. I envision judgmentalism and “holier-than-thou-ism.” Surely this is not what Ephesians calls us to!

Tomorrow, I’ll begin to address this concern. We’ll work with the text to see how we are supposed to expose the deeds of darkness. For now, let me encourage you to wrestle with this text so that you might discover what God is saying to you through it.

Something to Think About:

When you read that you are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness, how do you respond? What do you think? What do you feel?

Is this a task you look forward to doing? Or is this something you’d rather avoid?

How do you think God wants you to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness in the world?

Something to Do:

Talk over this passage with your small group or a Christian friend. Be honest about how you respond to what the text says. Consider together how you might live it out.


Gracious God, I must admit that the passage we are studying makes me rather nervous. I’m not sure I like the idea of exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness. I’m so aware of the darkness that remains in my life. Who am I to expose anything in the lives of others? And the last thing I want to do is to become one of those Christians who majors in telling others their sins and railing against the world. Yet I receive your Word as truth. Help me, I pray, to know what you are saying to me and to your church through this verse. Teach me how I can “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Working for the Good of Others (Galatians 6:1–10)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

More on Mark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn