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Ephesians 5:15-21: The New Self Walks in Wisdom Print E-mail
Sunday, 17 December 2017

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Some tasks require great care. Ian has a set of wooden blocks that he loves to build with. He drags them out and plops down on our rug and says: ‘Build, dada.’ We have been doing this for a few months. The other day we were working on a ‘doggy house’ (which is pretty much what we are always building) and I noticed him setting a block on top and saying: ‘Ebey, ebey.’ These particular blocks don’t fit together and so anything we build takes some precision. Needless to say, precision is difficult for a 2.5 year old. Thus, when we first started building with them and we trying to put the finishing touches on our doggy house, I would tell him: ‘Easy, easy.’ The other day I realized he was just repeating back to me what I had told him. And even though he is still working on actually being ‘easy’ in his building, he’s at least getting closer to saying it right! Hopefully the actual precision can come later!

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Paul begins our passage this morning with a call for us to be careful in how we live. Look at verse 15. Once again Paul uses the language of ‘walk.’ After reminding us of who we are in Christ in chapters 1-3, Paul told us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (4:1). He explained this further by calling us to walk in love, as Christ loved us (5:2) and to walk as children of light (5:8). In this verse he tells us to be careful in how we walk, calling us to avoid foolishness and walk in wisdom. Again, this is part of putting on the new self (4:24) and living out our calling as followers of Christ. Paul has told us that the manifold wisdom of God is displayed in and through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (3:10). Now he is calling us to walk in wisdom in this world. How can we do that? How does Paul instruct us here to walk in wisdom? Let me mention three ways.

First, we walk in wisdom by making the best use of time (v. 16)

If we are going to walk in wisdom, we must not waste our days. Look at verse 16. Wisdom means taking advantage of every opportunity we are given to bring honor and glory to Christ. We are to ‘redeem the time.’ Truth is, we are only given a certain amount of time here on this earth. The issue is not necessarily how can I get more time, but how can I use the time that God has given me best? How can I make moments matter? The old poem is true: “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” James tells us that our life is a mist that will quickly vanish away (James 4:14). Thus, we must be determined by God’s grace and strength to make the most of every day that we are given. That doesn’t mean that rest or relaxation is wrong, in fact, there are times when these are essential. But we must not make an idol of them. We must not waste our days on entertainment and recreation alone. We must live for Christ. We must look for ways to spend our days on Him.

Why is this so important? Paul answers: the days are evil. Our enemy cannot steal our souls but he can steal our time. He can distract us and pull us away from what really matters. It seems he does this because he knows that time is short and that all our days are numbered. His goal is to get us to waste as many of those as he can. Likewise, the evil days are leading to the Final Day. People all over the world are dying without ever hearing the name of Jesus. Our neighbors are skipping through life completely unprepared for eternity. Many this season will acknowledge the birth of Christ without contemplating the gravity of His promised return. Therefore, we must take advantage of every opportunity we are given to point people to Jesus. If we are to walk in wisdom, we must make the best use of our time.

Second, we walk in wisdom by understanding the will of God (v. 17)

Paul mentions another way to walk in wisdom in verse 17. Look at that with me. Again he tells us to avoid foolishness. And how do we do that? He tells us: understand what the will of the Lord is. Sounds simple enough. And yet most of us have struggled with the notion of God’s will at many different points in our life. Is it God’s will for me to go to this school, marry this girl, take this job? Is it God’s will for us to have more kids, buy a different house, make plans to retire early? We could go on and on.

Yet, even though all of these questions are important, I don’t think this is what Paul has in mind in this verse. Instead of talking about specific guidance as God’s will, Paul is referring to God’s will in the overall plan of our salvation through Christ. Our adoption as His sons through faith in Jesus was done according to the purpose of His will (1:5). Likewise, it is the Father’s will to unite all things in him (1:10). So when Paul speaks of us understanding God’s will in this passage, it seems that He is urging us to live in light of God’s plan to save us and unite us to Christ. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ in our words and deeds. This will involve seeking His counsel and guidance when we are making certain decisions, but it is not limited to that. We need to avoid thinking that God’s will is some mysterious plan that we have to figure out in order to please God or be blessed by Him. The Bible teaches that God’s will is plain: For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). So then, if it is God’s will to make us His children and unite us to Christ and make us holy, then we should seek to understand and realize that will in our everyday lives. We ask questions like these: How can I be like Christ in this situation? How can I live as God’s son at work and at home? How can I learn from this difficult situation to hate my sin and love Jesus more? How can I point others during this season to the great hope we have in Christ? If we are going to walk in wisdom, then we must seek to understand the will of the Lord.

Third, we walk in wisdom by being filled with the Spirit (v. 18-21)

Paul mentions one more way to walk in wisdom in verse 18. Look at that with me. Once again Paul contrasts the way of darkness when the way of Light. Instead of being drunk, we should be filled with the Spirit. Although the Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol outright, it does condemn getting drunk. It is never right for a Christian to be drunk. Such action will lead to debauchery, which can include all sorts of evil actions. Anything that causes us to lose control of our faculties is included in this prohibition. The government may decide that marijuana use is legal, but that does not make it right for Christians. We are to avoid drunkenness and any other state that means loss of control. Such actions are walking in foolishness.

Rather, we are to be filled with the Spirit. Some view such prohibitions as God trying to rob us of joy in this life. ‘Oh, how fun it is to be drunk all the time! That is the best life!’ But such reasoning misunderstands what Paul is teaching us here. For all the pleasure we might find in getting drunk, Paul is saying that being filled with the Spirit is far better. In other words, you can choose between temporary, passing pleasure (drunkenness) or eternal, lasting pleasure (being filled with the Spirit). Only a fool would choose drunkenness. Walk in wisdom by being filled with the Spirit.

Yet, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? I mean, if we are Christians, don’t we already have the Spirit? As believers in Jesus, we have all been given the gift of the Spirit. If you have turned from your sins and placed your faith in His death and resurrection, then you have the Spirit. But the Bible talks about being filled with the Spirit as Christians. This happens for service and is also something that we should pursue, which is what Paul is referring to here. So then, what does being filled with the Spirit look like? Paul gives us three manifestations (there are more of course) of being filled with the Spirit in these verses. Let’s consider these.

First, being filled with the Spirit means singing to others and to God. Look at verse 19. We are to sing to one another and sing to the Lord. And we are to do this with your heart. We are to do it passionately, with all our being. We have an opportunity to do this every week during corporate worship. We sing together to build each other up. Your singing encourages me and I pray mine will encourage you. And singing that edifies the saints brings glory to God. As we sing Christ-centered, God-honoring songs to one another we are building up the Body of Christ and praising our God. Second, being filled with the Spirit means giving thanks to God in Jesus’ name. Look at verse 20. We are to have thankful hearts and live thankful lives. Notice that we are to do this always, or constantly, and for everything. We can even be thankful to God when hard things happen because we know that He will work them for our good (Romans 8:28). We have so much to be thankful for in Christ. He has taken on flesh and saved us through His death. Through faith in Him we can always be thankful! Third, being filled with the Spirit means submitting to one another. Look at verse 21. We are to gladly submit to others because we fear Jesus, our King. Through faith in Him we can see that submission is actually a good thing for us. Paul will go on to give three examples of such submission, which we will consider in the weeks ahead. For now, we simply need to see that submission is part of being filled with the Spirit.

Walk in love. Walk in the light. Walk in wisdom. This is how Paul defines walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. And Jesus is our example for all of these. We are to walk in love as He loved us at the cross. We are to walk in light as He walked in obedience to the Father. And we are to walk in wisdom as He submitted to the wisdom of the cross (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Jesus is the wisdom of God incarnate and our call is to walk in wisdom as we seek to follow after Him. By His grace and strength, may we do just that. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 January 2018 )

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