Sermon for 03.19.23 “Our faith and calling”

Lent 4, March 19, 2023
Text: Ephesians 5:8–14
Theme: Our faith and calling
Other Lessons: Isaiah 42:14–21; Psalm 142; John 9:1–41 or 9:1–7, 13–17,

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Epistle lesson from Ephesians 5 serves as our sermon text for this
C. Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
Ø Holy God, hear my prayer.
Ø As I walk this spiritual life, I relentlessly question You.
Ø You heal someone’s beloved, and I ask, “Why not this one too?”
Ø You shower food upon some who hunger, and I complain that my stomach is
Ø Forgive me.
Ø Forgive me for my doubts and my limited sight.
Ø Open wide before me the expanse of Your grace, the embrace of Your love,
and the wonder of Your healing power.
Ø In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.

A. “What is truth?”
1. This question was asked of Jesus by Pontius Pilate hours before our
Lord’s crucifixion (John 18:38).
2. Jesus told Pilate that he came to “bear witness to the truth,” saying
that “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
3. Pilate wasn’t interested in finding out what truth was.
4. In a cynical, somewhat annoyed manner, he reveals what he thinks about
the ability to discover truth in this life.
5. He thinks it’s silly.
B. A similar attitude is very much alive and well in our time.
1. Objective truth is on trial again.
2. The secular opinion is that truth is manufactured in the heart of man.
3. Truth is what you make it to be.
4. This leads to a diversity of perspectives on life, with no unifying
5. How does a society function when truth is based on individual opinion?
6. What is truth when truth can be different from person to person?
7. When there can be more than one truth, how can there be unity?
C. In our text from Ephesians, Paul shows that Christian teaching upholds
objective truth when he exhorts his hearers regarding their manner of life.
1. He says they were once like Pilate, a people who were living in
darkness, apart from faith in Christ.
2. Now, however, they have heard the Word of God, they have been baptized
into Christ, and so he calls them “light in the Lord.”
3. In verses 8 and 9, he says:
A. “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that
is good and right and true).”
B. Paul teaches that once an individual comes to faith in Christ, that
person knows not only what is true but also what is right and good.
C. Today, let’s dig into our text more deeply, especially into these three
fundamental virtues, and see how they define what it means to Walk as
Children of Light.
D. To walk as children of light means:
1. First, that we should walk in a way consistent with all that is good.
2. Second, it means we should walk in a way consistent with all that is
3. Third, to walk as children of light means we should walk in a way
consistent with all that is true.
I. We should walk in a way consistent with all that is good.
A. God alone is good.
1. He is the source and originator of good, that is, of all moral
excellence and purity.
2. The Scriptures make this quite clear.
3. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he looked
a. “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).
4. Throughout the Old Testament, it was clear to the ancients that good
comes from God as a gift and blessing.
a. In Psalm 73, we read that:
1. “it is good to be near God” (verse 28).
b. In Psalm 84, we read that he withholds:
1. “no good thing . . . from those who walk uprightly” (verse 11).
c. In Psalm 109, we read that his:
1. “steadfast love is good” (verse 21).
5. In the New Testament, Jesus makes God’s goodness abundantly clear when
he asks:
a. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
B. Though God alone is good, Paul teaches the Ephesians that by Baptism and
faith in Christ they have been brought out of spiritual blindness and now
can see what “good” is!
1. Before they knew Christ, the Ephesians did not know.
2. Formerly they were lost and their lives were lived in pursuit of carnal
3. We read at the beginning of Romans how low the Gentiles became­:
a. to worship idols and even engage in unnatural relations.
b. The way of the Gentiles before Christ was not good.
4. Then the prophets, apostles, and Christ himself brought to the world
“news” from this “good God” that of course came to be called “Good News!”
5. That news was of the only true God, who forgives and saves through the
atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.
6. Because of Christ’s suffering and death for the sins of the world,
Gentiles were able to go from unbelief to belief, from darkness to light,
from bad to good.
C. Pilate, standing near and talking to Jesus, was a Gentile living in
darkness who scoffed at the idea of Christian virtue.
1. His decisions were not based in virtue but on convenience, even if it is
2. Look at the world around us today.
a. Who is seeking what is morally excellent? Who is seeking what is
objectively good?
b. The basis for much decision-making in popular culture these days is
1. that means, it comes from within the human heart.
2. “Whatever seems good to me, that I will do!” says modern man. It seems
silly to the unbeliever to seek what is good from outside of self, because
an upstanding moral life based on an objective ethic does not necessarily
indulge the flesh or fill the bank accounts.
c. In fact, it may do the opposite!
1. For example, some Christians have quit their jobs in order to separate
themselves from immoral decision-making.
2. Other Christians have remained and are outspoken for the cause of what
is good and received harsh treatment in return.
3. Nevertheless, Paul teaches that walking as children of light is to seek
the good that God has taught and shown.
II. We should walk in a way consistent with all that is right.
A. God alone is right.
1. When Paul teaches the Ephesians to pursue that which is “right,” he is
not teaching them to seek what is “correct” as much as he is teaching them
to pursue justice and righteousness.
2. When considering the rightness or righteousness of God, we immediately
think of God as judge or arbiter.
3. In fact, the Scriptures reveal God this way in many cases.
4. Again we appeal to the Psalms.
a. Psalm 7 states clearly:
1. “God is a righteous judge” (verse 11).
b. Psalm 50 says:
1. “The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!”
(verse 6).
c. And in Psalm 75, we read:
1. “I will judge with equity” (verse 2).
B. A proper understanding of “righteousness” is central to understanding
the entire Bible.
1. God who created the world was filled with sorrow when his creation fell
into sin.
2. Nevertheless, God judged Adam and Eve according to their sin in the
Garden of Eden, saying, ultimately:
a. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the
ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you
shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
b. As the world now lived in a state corrupted by sin, the Creator was
entirely “right” to judge and sentence the sinner harshly.
C. However, this divine judge was very quick to make declarations that were
laced with grace and mercy for the sinner.
1. In fact, already with Adam and Eve, though they were judged according to
their sins, God spoke words of mercy that related to the promise of a
Savior (Genesis 3:15), words we focused on a few Sundays ago.
2. Throughout the biblical text, we learn more of the Creator God, who is
3. His judgments are not made with hostile force and cold indifference.
4. Rather, justice is sought not only with regard to what is right but also
with regard to what is merciful.
5. So the Creator God shows amazing grace as the gift of his Son is
announced, a Son who was given willingly for the sake of the lost sinner.
6. As the Messiah was promised to the world, yes, already to Adam and Eve,
the declaration of righteousness was modified.
7. Now, the sinner did not have to appear before the angry judge according
to his own works or merits.
8. Rather, the sinner was given an advocate to stand next to him:
a. even in his place as substitute, taking the death we deserved upon
b. That advocate was the Son of God, the Savior, Christ Jesus.
D. Our God, who is judge therefore, is not one whom we should flee from.
1. But he is one to whom we should run to.
2. In Isaiah, we read of this judge making a declaration:
a. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah
3. Paul makes a parallel statement in Romans when he writes:
a. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are
justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus” (Romans 3:23–24).
4. It is this “good” and “right” God who has brought the Gentiles from
darkness to light, and in so doing has called them to that which is right.
E. Knowing the righteous God who has acted with mercy on behalf of the
sinner for the sake of the cross of his Son, Jesus Christ, the Gentiles are
now given a very clear understanding of what it means to walk as children
of the light in all that is “right.”
1. This “walk” is going to be consistent with justice and mercy, with sound
judgments and compassionate decrees, with attention to the Law of God and
also a focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
F. Understanding what is “right” in light of the Lord, the Gentiles are now
given an ethical standard by which to live.
1. When Paul tells them in verse 10:
a. “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord,”
b. they should realize this is something they can do!
c. Knowing this God and his nature, attitude, and disposition toward them,
they can know and learn day by day what is pleasing to him, and knowing
what is pleasing to him will help them in exposing (verse 11) the opposite,
that which does not please him.
III. We should walk in a way consistent with all that is true.
A. The knowledge of that which is good and right will go a long way for the
Gentiles in helping them live out their Christian calling.
1. But Paul speaks of one more virtue in verse 9 that will help them still
more, a virtue that Pilate thought was so far from anyone, but a virtue
that is close to us in Jesus Christ our Lord: that which is true.
2. We should walk in a way consistent with all that is true.
B. It’s an ironic moment in time when Pontius Pilate, a man born of Adam,
looks into the eyes of the God who created him and asks, “What is truth?”
1. Jesus, of course, is truth in the flesh.
2. The Bible again speaks of our God as a God of truth.
3. Appealing yet again to the Psalms, we read in Psalm 43:
a. “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me” (verse 3).
4. In Psalm 51:
a. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me
wisdom in the secret heart” (verse 6).
5. And in Psalm 119:
a. “The sum of your word is truth” (verse 160).
C. The language of truth, like goodness and righteousness, is not only left
in the Old Testament, but sounds forth clearly in the New, especially as it
relates to Jesus.
1. John the apostle writes of truth as a theme in his Gospel.
2. Beginning already in chapter 1, he says:
a. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his
glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”
(verse 14).
3. Just a few verses later, he writes again:
a. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus
Christ” (verse 17)
4. While these texts are clear, nothing is more clear than what Jesus says
in John 14:
a. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me” (John 14:6).
b. The Scriptures make it clear.
c. God alone is the source of all truth.
d. And if the world is to know truth, then it must know Jesus Christ, the
truth of God incarnate.
D. Paul says that walking as children of light must also include walking in
the truth, that is, in the facts and realities of life.
1. How does one walk in truth, or live in reality or understand the facts
of life?
2. Jesus answers this question again in John 8, saying:
a. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know
the truth, and the truth will set you free” (verses 31–32).
3. Jesus clearly teaches that the Word of God is truth, fact, and real,
even as he prays in the High Priestly Prayer:
a. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
b. The Word of God is one of the means through which the Holy Spirit works
to bring people from darkness to light.
c. It is God’s Word which the Gentiles received through the preaching of
Paul that led them away from that which was unfruitful, dark, and shameful.
d. God’s Word exposed the dark ways of the unbelieving Gentiles so that
they could see and live in the light of the truth.
E. What a struggle we have in our day with debates over what is true and
1. Truth has been so obscured that we get angry and frustrated even
thinking about the ways:
a. A boy calls himself a girl.
b. A girl calls herself a cat.
c. An unborn child is called a “product of conception.”
d. Standing up for your beliefs is called bigotry.
e. And on and on it goes.
2. It has become increasingly clear that the Christian faith and worldview
are under assault by that which is false, dark, and evil.
3. The world today is living in a very similar manner to that of these
Gentiles before they were brought into the light of Christ.
F. But Paul’s words in our text are for the Christians.
1. He is not barking at the Gentiles; he is exhorting God’s chosen, his
elect in Christ.
2. He is:
a. Calling
b. Reminding
c. teaching them—teaching you and me—to live out their rightful calling—our
rightful calling—and walk in the light of the Lord that he clearly made
known to us and continues to make clear to us in Holy Scripture.
3. The calling of which Paul spoke to the Ephesians was not based in the
mind of man but in the mind and will of God, who created, redeemed, and
4. He exhorts the Ephesians to consider their walk and to be wise in their
day, knowing that the days are evil and that Satan will ever continue to
attack those who confess Jesus as Lord.


A. Not many years ago, a Lutheran pastor was putting his children to bed.
1. The daughter was banging on the bathroom door, appealing to her brother
to let her in.
2. “Stop that!” the father called out.
3. To his son in the bathroom, he said, “Open the door. We’re all waiting
to get in and brush our teeth!”
4. When the father came closer to the door, he could hear that the water in
the sink was running much stronger than necessary.
5. So he called out again, “Son, open the door and turn off that water!”
6. No response.
7. The father got serious.
8. “Son, open the door or I’ll take it off the hinges myself!”
B. Soon after, the father, the daughter, and now a small crowd gathered
around the outside of the door to see what was going on inside.
1. A hand was heard on the doorknob, the lock was clearly released, and the
door began to open.
2. To the surprise of all, water flooded every corner of the bathroom.
3. The father yelled at his three-year-old son, “Where did all of this
water come from?”
4. From chin touching chest, and a thoughtful expression on his brow, he
slowly looked up and answered his father and pastor, “God?”
5. Immediately, the father’s stern demeanor and high shoulders relaxed into
a more casual posture.
6. “I guess that’s true, son,” he said.
7. With siblings now laughing behind him and attempting to keep the smirk
off his own face, the father continued, “Water does come from God, but the
mess came from you!”
C. Though Paul exhorts the Ephesians in today’s text to walk as children of
light (Ephesians 5:8), it’s a challenge for us sinners to try and put good
and right and true together all at the same time, isn’t it!
1. We often end up standing ashamed like the little three-year-old drowning
in his own mess.
D. Though virtue remains on trial today in our world and our society and
Pilate’s question continues to ring from generation to generation, we have
received a word from the only reliable source of wisdom and knowledge in
1. The triune God, who is himself good and right and true, has given us his
Son—even to death on the cross—so that we might have these virtues
illuminated before our eyes.
2. Not only that, but the Son of God has brought us into his marvelous
light by Baptism into his name, that we might not only know virtue but also
live virtuous lives.
3. May we, like the Ephesians, boldly cling to the Word of Christ and
pursue that which is good and right and true in our day, to the glory of
God and in service to our neighbor. Amen
E. Let us pray:
Ø Great God of all creation, who am I that you are mindful of me?
Ø You who set the stars in motion, who launched waves crashing against the
shore, who knows the heights and depths of the world.
Ø Why do you bother with me?
Ø You count the hairs on my head and call me each by name.
Ø You give me Your wisdom and You uphold me by Your Spirit.
Ø You tend to me and care for me, and I do not understand why.
Ø I cannot grasp Your love for me, O God, for it is unlike me to be that
loving and forgiving.
Ø Remind me once again of the sacredness of my ordinary, day-to-day life.
Ø By your Spirit, teach me to live truly as beings little lower than
Ø In your mercy, O God, forgive who I am and bless who I will be.
Ø I pray in the peace that only God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit
can give. Amen.
F. The peace of God, which transcends all human understanding, guard your
hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
G. In the Name of the Father…Amen.