Lesson 23: The Admonition for Spirit-Filling - Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 11/29/17

Lesson 23: The Admonition for Spirit-Filling (Ephesians 5:15-21)

Ephesians 5:15-21 (KJV)
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

(Verses 15-17) This portion of the Ephesian letter constitutes an exhortation to the readers to live like wise men. “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise” (15). It used to be commonplace to speak about “the Christian walk.” It is the theme of this extensive section in Ephesians (4.1ff.). Paul uses the verb walk several times (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The idea is not new to Paul, however, Jesus had already spoken of two gates, broad and narrow, from which we have to choose, opening into two paths, likewise broad and narrow, leading either to destruction or to life (Matthew 7:13-14). But even before our Lord, the great and decisive spiritual choices of God’s covenant with His people had been regularly described as a choice between two paths and two ways of walking. In fact the Old Testament uses “walk” more frequently in the sense of a lifestyle that it does of physical movement.

The language is appropriate. We can often tell a great deal about someone from how and where they walk. The way a person walks is one of the easiest ways to recognize them from a distance—“I would recognize his walk a mile away” we sometimes say.

It should be likewise with Christian believers. How we conduct ourselves should make us easily recognized as those who belong to Christ. We walk in love; we walk in the light. Now, Paul adds two further details: (i) we are to take care how we walk, and (ii) we are to walk wisely.

(Verses 18-21) You will notice that there are two imperatives, two commands. One is negative, one is positive, followed by five participles that's an i-n-g word. Those participles that follow two command imperatives are speaking, singing, making music or making melody, giving thanks, and being submittedor subjecting ourselves to one another; and those two commands and those five participles are going to shape the outline of Paul's argument. (Notice that he starts with don't do something, and then he moves to do this particular thing, which reminds us again that though Christianity is certainly more than do's and don'ts, it always entails harkening obediently and joyfully to God's commands to do some things and not to do others, by the strength of the grace of the Holy Spirit.)

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

“Circumspectly” suggests looking all around, giving attention to all circumstances, details, and consequences as one might do when passing through a very dangerous place. It expresses the idea of living in strict conformity to a standard, guarding against anything which would be improper or unbecoming for the Christian. The thought is further explained by the words “not as fools, but as wise.” It may be translated, “Watch (or, Look) carefully, then, how you walk.” Believers are to walk as people having the character of wise men, not fools. Believers are wise because we have the Spirit and the wisdom of God . . . “Christ is made unto us wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:29-30).

His words imply that in living the Christian life we need to think about what we are doing, and to look to make sure we are on the right path―the path that begins at “the narrow gate,” and though it is “difficult” to follow, “it is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” There is another path, but it must be avoided at all cost―many go this way because “the gate is wide and path is broad,” but “destruction” awaits all who take this path; all who wander off the narrow path (Matthew 7:14-15). This requires wisdom—wisdom to see the dangers (temptation to sin, the weakness of the flesh, opposition from Satan); and wisdom to know how to respond in a godly and biblically instructed way—holy wisdom which comes from heart-concord with the will of God, and with a watchful use of thought and of every faculty for its intended purpose. Had not Christ Himself told His disciples to “be wise as serpents”? (Matthew 10:16). As you walk, make all you can of the events of life, and use them for Him.

In Scripture wisdom is always more than knowledge of factual information. It is possible to possess learning without wisdom. But wisdom is savoir-faire, being “savvy” as we usually put it. It is the ability to process knowledge into the practical ability to apply it to life situations and circumstances. It involves knowing how to achieve the best outcome in the best way. Earlier Paul had given an illustration of this in the case of divine wisdom. God displays it in the way in which He has brought into being and preserved the church (3:10). He can point principalities and powers to it and say: “Do you see my wisdom at work there? Be in awe of it and admire it, for I am God only wise.” The life of godliness, therefore, will reflect God’s wisdom.

16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Notice Paul’s qualification here: “the days are evil.” While we have been delivered from “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4) we continue to live within its environment and remain exposed to its influences. It is dominated, indeed obsessed with, the idea of living for the “now” and turning a blind eye to eternity. Thus even the “workaholic”—who apparently never wastes a minute—actually wastes every minute by living for self, for the short term, and for this world only. This—“life under the sun”—as the author of Ecclesiastes describes it (Ecclesiastes as 1:3 etc.), is an empty striving after the wind. We reach out to take hold of what we have accomplished with our time, but since it lasts only for time, it crumbles in our hands.

But can we learn to be making the best use of this precious commodity? Paul uses the same verb of Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). His choice of vocabulary suggests that there is a price to be paid if we are to use time wisely. It needs to be bought back if we are to use it well in a fallen world. The concerns that dominate this “present evil age” will exhaust it unless we save hard, purchase well, and use carefully. But with what -coin can time be purchased for the glory of the Lord? The price is the self-discipline, which arises from a desire to glorify God in all things.

Paul adds an interesting comment. Time needs to be guarded because the days are evil. We, however, are more likely to think that they are harmless. But there is nothing harmless about an age that seems to regard leisure as an antidote for work, entertainment as an antidote for boredom. Rather than purchasing treasure we weaken our spiritual immune system as we breathe in the pollutants that ultimately destroy time’s value.

What do you most instinctively think of doing when you have nothing to do? That is one of the tests. Are you a time-waster or a time-redeemer?

Perhaps you think Paul was guilty of exaggeration when he sought to motivate you by warning you that the days are evil? Perhaps that is why he now warns us against being foolish or, more literally, “mindless.”

We are not to waste time . . . It is a sin to waste time. The days are evil, we are members of the body of Christ, and we are commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature . . . to carry the good news of the Gospel to those who are lost. To waste time is a sin. We are to grab hold of the opportunities that present themselves and declare the Good News of Jesus Christ daily to those who need to be saved.

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