Ephesians 5:15-21 Walking Wisely
Our text this morning is Ephesians 5:15-21. It says,
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.
Last week we spent the entire sermon on the first part of Ephesians 5:15, “Look carefully then how you walk...”. This morning we will discuss the rest of this section. Let me begin by briefly discussing the surrounding context and also make a few points about the text itself.
We have now come to the last time that Paul speaks about the way that a Christian should walk. When Paul speaks of a believers ‘walk’ he is addressing their daily conduct and their consistent manner of life.
In Ephesians 4:1 Paul encouraged Christians to walk worthy of their calling saying, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”
In Ephesians 4:17 believers were encouraged to walk in holiness. He said, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”
In Ephesians 5:1-2 he told us to walk in love. He said, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
In Ephesians 5:7-8 believers were told to walk in the light. He said, “Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light...”
And now, in Ephesians 5:15 Paul encourages believers to walk wisely by the ennoblement of the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,”
In Ephesians 5:1-14 we see that there are a series of commands that Paul is giving to Christians.
In Ephesians 5:1 we are commanded to be imitators of God
In Ephesians 5:2 we are to walk in love just as Christ loved us
In Ephesians 5:3 commands us that fornication, uncleanness and covetousness cannot even be mentioned among us.
In Ephesians 5:6 we are commanded not to be deceived by vain words
In Ephesians 5:7 we are not to be partakers with those who practice unrighteousness
In Ephesians 5:8 we are commanded to walk in the light
In Ephesians 5:11 we are commanded to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather we are to expose them (2 Commands)
In Ephesians 5:14 we are commanded to awake and to arise
In Ephesians 5:15-21 we are given four more commands to obey.
We are commanded to walk circumspectly, not as fools (v.15)
We are commanded not to be unwise, but we are to understand what the Lord’s will is (v.17)
Ephesians 5:18 contains two commands: Do not be drunk with wine; but be filled with the Spirit.
In Ephesians 5:15-21 Paul will give us three characteristics of a believer who is walking wisely.
A wise person will make the best use of the time (16)
A wise person will seek to understand what the will of the Lord is (17)
A wise person will not be given to fleshly addictions but will be filled with the Spirit (18)
Also notice that Paul uses three sharp contrasts to describe how a wise person will walk. For example:
A wise person will not be unwise; BUT wise
A wise person will not be foolish; BUT understand what the Lord’s will is
Finally, a wise person will not be drunk with wine; BUT they are to be filled with the Spirit
Our text contains a couple strong warnings that ought to capture our attention. For example,
A believer is to be wise, and not unwise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Dr. Ferguson says, “While we have been delivered from the present evil age (Gal.1:4) we continue to live within its context 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.” Because we still life within the context of this dark age and remain exposed to its influences, Christians need a great deal of wisdom.
A believer is not to be drunk with wine, for that is debauchery. Rather, they are to be filled with the Spirit.
This may not seem like much of a warning. But I always appreciate that the Scriptures do not speak in politically correct language. For example, we are told in scripture that sin is not just an accident or a trite thing we may do; it is lawlessness. In our text, to get drunk is not simply having one too many drinks. To get drunk is debauchery (excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures). John Flavel says, “The Spirit of God, doubtless, has put such odious names upon such sins on purpose to deter and frighten men from them...How then are you able to look to these Scriptures in the face and not blush?” (John Flavel, Impure Lust, p. 8-11)
There are also strong encouragements for believers who will walk wisely. For example,
Paul is convinced that every believer has wisdom and that they can understand what the Lord’s will is.
Paul assumes that wisdom is practical to every area of a Christians walk and that they have the ability to apply wisdom in all areas of their life.
Paul commands Christians that they are to be filled with the Spirit. There is no hesitation on God’s part to fill a believer with the Holy Spirit when He is asked. Luke 11:13 “...how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
By the presence of the Holy Spirit our hearts are filled with joy and thankfulness to the Father for the countless blessings that we have received in Christ. By His presence we are enriched in every way (1 Cor. 1:5 - “...that in every way you were enriched in Him in all speech and all knowledge.”
Since this is the last time that Paul will directly mention the way that a believer ought to walk, let me make one final comment on this subject. For the past three months we have been commanded to look carefully at how we walk. We have been told to walk worthy, to walk in holiness, to walk in love, to walk in the light and to walk wisely. Because of the measure of grace that Christ has given to every Christian we will succeed in walking in a manner worthy of the call that we have received (Ephesians 4:7 – But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.)
What was the measure of Christ’s gift? Consider Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Richard Sibbs used to say in many of his sermons, “There is more grace in Christ than there is sin in us.”
Therefore, we can have great confidence that we can be obedient to walk worthy of the call that we have received. We can be confident and trust God for the path that we walk upon. God can be trusted during the seasons of green pastures, still waters, and also through the valleys of darkness.
Every path that God has you and I to walk upon will have its own challenges, but God has chosen the wisest path for each of us. You may wonder why your life has taken some turn or why you have been led you down a path that you had not expected? We can be assured, however, that He has us on the best path for us and this path will get you to your destination.
Some may want to object and say that their own choices and actions have led them down the path that they are on and that they may not end up where they should be. Yet, even if this is this seems to be the case we have this promise from the LORD, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Let me demonstrate this by looking at Exodus 13:17. It states, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’”
God is choosing for Israel the path that they are to take. They had a couple options. It would have been faster to go through the land of the Philistines; but the people did not have the stomach for war. They did not have the heart to engage in battle and they would have fled back to Egypt.
The Israelites may have wondered why God chose the longer path. It probably did not make any sense to them that the LORD was going to take them through the wilderness. However, it was the best way for them.
Consider Exodus 13:18 which says, “But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.”
This is one of those texts that reminds us that God’s omniscience should be a great comfort to us. Often it scares us to consider that God knows everything and that nothing is hidden from His sight. But here in Exodus God looks beyond the armor that these 600,000 men were wearing and saw that they did not have the heart for battle. Therefore, the best way to the Promised Land was the longer way. One day they might need all of the armor that they had on but they were not ready for it now.
The wilderness path tested their heart in other ways and they would often failed to remember what God had done, to thank God, to praise God, and to trust God on the journey. As a result, they murmured, grumbled and complained in disbelief.
In light of all of this, it does not seem like an accident that long before Paul talks about the spiritual armor that Christians are to wear in Ephesians 6:10-20, he speaks about the grace of God concerning their walk and the heart that they are to have. Heart work is hard work. Paul is addressing our hearts.
They are to walk worthy, to walk in holiness, to walk in love, to walk in the light and to walk wisely. And Christians ought to have a heart that is filled with the Spirit, full of praise, gushing forth with thankfulness always and for everything no matter where there path takes them. That is what our text says in Ephesians 5:18-20, “...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...”
Having said all of this, let us now look at our text. Christians to walk wisely. Our wise actions and responses ought to be a consistent testimony before the world. The unwise (those in the world) are governed by the flesh, the wise (Spirit-filled believers) are governed by the mind as it understands the will of the LORD. The wise walk in light of the divine truth of God’s Word.
Wisdom is more than simply knowledge or factual information. It is wisdom to look carefully at things and anticipate the results of an action and then wisdom acts to avoid trouble and regret. Wisdom is knowing how to achieve the best ends (God’s will) in the best way. We saw God’s wisdom in Exodus 13 when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt. And with His help we are to display wisdom in this world.
In Ephesians 5:15-21 we see three ways that wisdom is put on display:
Wise people will make the best use of the time (v.16)
Wise people will understand what the will of the Lord is (v.17)
Wise people will be filled with the Spirit (v.18-20)
#1 Wise People Make The Best Use Of The Time
Jonathan Edwards is a great example of someone who resolved to make the best use of the time. He lived a disciplined Christian life that was guided by seventy resolutions that he endeavored to keep. He knew that he needed God’s help to do these resolutions so he wrote at the beginning of them these words, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.” (Steven Lawson, p.157, Jonathan Edwards Biography)
Edwards fifth resolution stated, “Resolved, never to loose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” It seems as though Edwards may have written this resolution after he had read Ephesians 5:16.
Paul is reminding Christians that they are to take each moment that provides an opportunity and improve upon it for the good. A Christian is to discontinue to do any fruitless deed and replace it with some godly discipline or act of obedience to the truth of God. Yesterday, Klaven lamented the time wasted when he was a young man and he spoke of a resolve to redeem the time. This ought to be the desire of us all.
#2 Wise People Understand What The Will Of The Lord Is
Paul encourages Christians not to be foolish, mindless, senseless, unthinking or trifling; rather, we are to understand what the will of the Lord is and to do it. A wise man will seek to do the will of the Lord; but a fool is someone who seeks their own will and desires.
A wise Christian meditates upon the Scriptures and gains understanding and then they will apply the will of the Lord to their lives. Without the aid of the Holy Spirit we will not have the desire or power to do the will of God. We see this in Paul’s third point.
#3 A Wise Person Will Be Filled With The Spirit
Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘The grace of God that brings salvation, teaches men to live soberly.’
A wise person is not to get drunk with wine; but they are to be filled with the Spirit. Charles Hodge says, “Men are said to be filled with wine when completely under its influence; so they are said to be filled with the Spirit when He controls all their thoughts, feelings, words and activities.”
John Flavel, in his book entitled Binge Drinking, gives a warning that perhaps we would do well to hear about drinking. He says, “This is a sin (drunkenness) out of whose power few, or none are ever rescued or reclaimed.” For this reason, Augustine called it ‘the very pit of hell’.
Martin Luther lamented that the great sin of his day among so many people was drunkenness. The church of his day, like the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 11, had perverted many religious festivals by indulging in drunkenness and other sins. Luther wrote, “The feast-days are now abused by drinking, gaming, idleness and all manner of sins, so that on the holy days we anger God more than on other days, and have altogether turned things around; the holy days are not holy and the working days are holy, and not only is no service done to God and His saints by the many holy days, but rather great dishonor.”
What comfort are we to find in light of the hopeless depiction that Flavel, Augustine and Luther have spoken of concerning the sin of drunkenness? P.B. Powers wrote, “It would be a poor comfort to point out the existence of hindrances unless we believed that they could be overcome, and also could show how this might be done.”
Paul is not being a poor comforter to us here in Ephesians 5:18. Paul commands Christians that they are to be filled with the Spirit. It is the Spirit who is our greatest aid in our sanctification and we ought to give Him complete access to all areas of our life – our thoughts, our feelings, our words, and our activities. The Holy Spirit can rescue us from the very things that can be described as having led us to the ‘very pit of hell’.