Main Text: Ephesians 5:15-21
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
In the first half of Ephesians Paul describes our blessings and position in Christ – we have been Made New. In this last half he instructs us how to put into practice behavior that marks us as adopted children – we must Live New (Ephesians 4:1). At times, systemic change does not merely come from cognitive learning; some portions of our transformation happen simply by doing.
We have been saved to do the things that Jesus did, say the things that Jesus said, and love the way that Jesus loved. We are not our own –we have been purchased with a price. We have been adopted into this family to take on the characteristic of our Father and His Son and do good works. Living New means that we are to leverage our lives to bring God’s Kingdom (His values and ways of life) to this world.
You have not been saved simply for your benefit – you are now called to represent Christ – to be His body on planet earth. How you live – the decisions that you make – the friendships that you form – the work that you do – the ministry that you engage in - matters. The stakes are high; they are eternal.
This should cause us to ask some sobering questions. Am I living new? Am I sold out to Jesus’ calling on my life? Am I stewarding (managing) my life for maximum impact for Christ’s Kingdom?
For the last few weeks, Paul focused on contrasting between right living and wrong living. Today, we transition to the grays. We are not talking about right and wrong living but wise and foolish living. In life, not all choices are matters of right and wrong. Some choices are foolish even though they aren’t sinful. Paul addresses these Gentile (non-Jew) early believers that lived in an affluent, artsy, and pagan saturated city called Ephesus. He told them: walk in love, walk in truth, and now, walk as wise. The first verse (15) of our text says,
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise”
This is a very clear indicator that God wants me to take time to reflect on my life as well as plan my steps. What is wise living? Human wisdom is about enlarging me. Biblical wisdom is about enlarging God. Biblical wisdom is not tied to education and intellect and is available to all who seek God (Psalm 51:6; James 1:5). Biblical wisdom is the ability to apply God’s truth to everyday life.
Am I making the best use of my time?
Paul continues in verse 16: “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. Many things in our life demand more time than we are able to give – work, family, church, kids, parents, spouses, etc. Life in Ephesus was similar – it was a hurried city. The target that Paul is shooting for is that Christ followers seek to do that which pleases the Lord. Paul’s point is that time is going by, and evil will use it if Christians do not.
What are your goals? Education? Work? Marriage? Kids? Ministry? Financial? Spiritual? The Holy Spirit wants to give you moral discernment and practical skills in making decisions. God can use the totality of who you are for His purposes if you commit your ways to Him. Laziness and haphazard living has no place in the lives of those committed to Jesus (Proverbs 26:14).
Am I trying to discern God’s will?
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
We are supposed to understand God’s will. Some translations use the word “discern”. This Greek word means to take all the pieces and think about how they connect together. It is the word used to describe the assembling of a puzzle. You take all the disconnected piece of information and you try to assemble them into a coherent picture. God’s will is discovered through the entire Bible and it is about putting together all of the pieces, not just looking at one piece – we must understand the meta-narrative of God and man.
We are not to be foolish. The word for fool here was used by Jesus to describe the Pharisees who thought all God cared about was their external religion, not their internal heart. It was used by Jesus in Luke 12:20 to describe the rich, successful farmer who thought all his success was given for himself, not to care for others or to lay up treasure in heaven for eternal reward. In 1 Corinthians 15:36, Paul described a fool as someone who thinks death is the end of existence. A fool is someone who grabs sound bites of Scripture as God’s will for their life and doesn’t do the work of connecting it with the rest of Scripture.
We must commit ourselves to God’s revealed will as you try to discover his unrevealed will. When I don’t know God’s unrevealed will for my life, begin by committing myself to God’s revealed will. As we spend time with God and spend time doing the things His Word says, He changes the shape of our heart. God will place in our hearts his unrevealed will for our lives. What God wants us to do with our lives become the desires in our hearts. All you do is follow your desires when you are walking in step with his revealed will (Psalm 37:4).
Am I seeking to be influenced by the Spirit of God or the culture of the world?
Paul contrasts the destructive and unacceptable lifestyles of many in the culture around them (Ephesians 5:18-19). In Scripture, drunkenness is described as wasteful living (debauchery). It is symbolic of the height of loss of direction and the waste of a life without God. The contrast Paul is going for is a life full of the Spirit of Jesus with the Holy Spirit being the controlling influence motivating and directing the lives of believers. This fullness is a unity with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We have a choice in this matter. The Holy Spirit’s transforming work is not done apart from human involvement. Be aware of what is influencing you. Paul talked about wine. The city of Ephesus was located in the heart of wine country. There was even a god of wine drinking in the city called Bacchus. There were coins in Ephesus with the emblem of the vine on them because drinking and partying was popular in this wealthy city.
Music is a huge influencer in our lives – this has been true throughout much of history. Paul’s point was that singing should be a part of our Christian experience. We sing to one another reminding each other about God’s character at work in Jesus, but we also sing to the Lord as a way of offering praise. The integrity in which we sing is more important than the feeling that we have while singing.
Am I thankful?
Verse 20 indicates that life in the Spirit is marked by thanksgiving. It is common for modern day Christ followers to miss the importance of thanksgiving in the New Testament. Paul’s letter to the Colossian church (often considered a “sister letter”) repeatedly stresses thanksgiving. In Romans 1:21, Paul views the failure to give thanks as the root cause of sin.
Being thankful to God and His good purposes in Jesus is a lifestyle and not just spoken words. We give thanks because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We are to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances.
Verse 21 is very horizontal in application of the Christian life. We will deal with submission in our next Ephesians teaching. Chew on this until we get to it: mutual submission (self-giving love, humility, and willingness to die) is critical as Christians to fulfill our destiny. Also note: it does not say that one group of Christians are to submit to another group of Christians. It asks all Christians to submit to each other. There is no privileged group.
Manage your life well for Kingdom purposes!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 5:15-21
Open your time by sharing a time when you acted foolishly.
What do you think drove Paul to think so strongly about every moment that he had in this life? Why did he live with such an imperative focus to his life?
How does Paul’s example challenge you as you think about the things you give your life to?
In what ways do we learn to not act foolishly, but wisely?
Paul’s comparison of being drunk and being filled with the Spirit is interesting to say the least. What can you compare about these two acts? What is similar and what is different?
Think about someone in your life who embodies what it means to be thankful and share a little bit about this person.
Why is gratitude towards God something that truly shows the condition of our heart and our belief in the Gospel?