What does Ephesians 5:11 mean?
ESV: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
NIV: Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
NASB: Do not participate in the useless deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
CSB: Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.
NLT: Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.
KJV: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
NKJV: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
Verse Commentary:
Two commands are offered in this verse. First, believers are to completely avoid participating in sin. Paul's command here implies that sin is a waste of time and associated with darkness, which is opposed to the light of those living for Christ.

The second command is a contrast to merely avoiding sin. This instruction means to unmask or point out what is sinful. This does not mean speak in graphic detail about certain sinful actions (Ephesians 5:12). However, believers must define right and wrong and encourage others (and themselves) to live according to what is right. This is a powerful counter to the frequent charge against Christians of being "judgmental." While we must use righteous, humble judgment (John 7:24), we are actually commanded as believers to point out sin, for the benefit of others (James 5:20).

This need to expose sin requires believers to avoid particular actions, encouraging purity and unity in the body of Christ. This includes a careful personal life (Ephesians 5:15), wisdom (Ephesians 5:15), a productive use of time (Ephesians 5:16), focusing on God's will (Ephesians 5:17), and joining together with other believers for worship (Ephesians 5:18–20).
Verse Context:
Ephesians 5:1–21 continues Paul's invaluable instructions on how Christians should live out their faith. Rather than imitating the world, or being controlled by worldly things, Christians are to be filled with the Spirit. Specific flaws such as sexual immorality, crude speech, and wasting of time are discouraged. Instead, believers ought to submit to one another out of respect for Christ, providing a powerful witness to the world.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 5 begins with an admonition to imitate Christ. In order to do so, Christians must avoid sexual immorality, vulgar language, foolishness, and other inappropriate attitudes. Paul warns that those who persist in these behaviors are not part of the kingdom of God. The passage then transitions to an explanation of mutual submission, including that between husbands and wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands, and respect them. Husbands are to love their wives in a Christ-like, sacrificial, and humble way.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 5 continues the very practical second half of the book of Ephesians. Chapter 4 encouraged Christians not to live as unbelievers do, but worthy of the gift we have been given. Chapter 5 gives even more direct application of these principles. Paul details impure attitudes and habits which Christians ought to put aside. He then details the proper approach to marriage, rooted in a Christian understanding of the gospel. This style of advice will continue through chapter 6. Paul's advice will culminate in a famous analogy about applying Christian principles to all of life, using the symbolism of a suit of armor.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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