Walking in Wisdom

Ephesians 5:15-21

So far in chapter five of Ephesians Paul has commanded Christians to be imitators of God by walking in Love and in Light. Now he gives the final command to walk in wisdom. Wisdom consist not only of content or knowledge but the proper application of the information into day to day living.

Walking in Wisdom Involves…

œ Walking Circumspectly

Paul begins to list about eleven things involved in walking in wisdom. First, it requires the child of God to “walk circumspectly” (5:15a). The word “circumspectly” means “looking around on all sides.” It is like the tight rope walker who keeps his balance by being aware of his surroundings and stepping precisely The examining and investigating something with great care. The Christian life is not lived out by mere chance and carelessness, but by taking each step with care. It is like a couple who wants to make a trip. They first need to sit down and make some plans as to where they want to go and how to get there.

œ Walking Not as Fools

Remember the parable of the wise and foolish builder in Matthew 7:22-24. One built his house upon a solid rock foundation wisely and the other build upon the shifting sands. Those who do not walk circumspectly are foolish. Walking in wisdom does not mean mistakes will not be made, the wise will learn from them and avoid making them again in the future.

Pythagoras called those who loved wisdom “philosophers.” Those who love and respect or value wisdom will be like Solomon and pray for it. James wrote, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

œ Redeeming the Time

“Redeeming the time” (5:16a) is another aspect of walking in wisdom. The Greek term for “time” is not chronos or chronological time but the word for time as a season of opportunity. Instead it is from the Greek “kairos” translated “season” or “opportunity” Literally it means “to make the season given to us truly our own.”

In the margin in the American Standard version it reads “buying up the opportunity” or to seize the opportunities. “Opportunity comes from the Latin and means ‘toward the port.’ It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely in the harbor” (Wiersbe 47). Wise use of time requires one to recognize the opportunities and to act upon them at the right moment. At any moment the clock can strike twelve and life will end in death or Christ will return. Salvation is only available today because tomorrow may not come (2 Cor. 6:2). Therefore, we are to ask God “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

A reason is given for redeeming the time: “because the days are evil” (5:16b). Just as many opportunities exist for evil, the opportunities for God in this evil age must be seized in order live faithfully. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”

So much time is often wasted in life that eternity is lost. With so much at stake Christians must wisely use each day, hour, and minute. An elder lady living off a small social security check will give up every spare dime to a health/wealth huckster. A thrill seeker will never miss a chance to jump off a tall building. Christians need to seize every opportunity to keep on the path to eternal life. Napoleon said, “There is in the midst of every great battle a ten to fifteen minute period that is the crucial point. Take that period and you win the battle, lose it and you will be defeated.”

œ Understanding the Will of the Lord

Instead of being unwise, Christians must “understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:17). The Greek term used for “unwise” in verse seventeen is “stupid.” Wasting time not studying to know God’s will or what God wants us to think, say and do in life is stupid. Islam’s scripture, the Qur’an, is divided up into thirty sections. So a faithful Muslim can read the whole text in just one month. This is not done to gain wisdom or knowledge. They read it to gain merit with Allah to be rewarded with paradise. Christians read and study the Bible to know God’s Will. Wise living requires knowing the revealed will of God, so do not be stupid but take time to read the Good Book.

œ Drinking No Wine

Walking is wisdom involves things one cannot engage in: “do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation” (5:18). It is very unwise to pickle the brain and kill of a bunch of irreplaceable brain cells by drinking. Those who are not sober-minded can’t walk wisely. Ever see a drunk trying to walk or drive a vehicle? At Ephesus they worshiped the god of wine known as Bacchus. Much time was wasted in drunken stupor. Many drink thinking they are having a good time but awake later to a hangover and many foolish consequences. Every picture of drunkenness in the Bible is a picture of sin and disaster. Bible men such as Noah, Lot, Belshazzar, Nabal, etc. all learned the hard way.

The term “dissipation” or “excess” is not a reference to the amount of alcohol consumed. Rather but the destruction brought upon the drinker by reckless habits.

œ Being Filled With the Spirit

In contrast to being filled with alcohol, those who walk in wisdom, Christians are to “be filled with Spirit.” Alcohol is a depressant, while the Spirit is a stimulant. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not being supernaturally overtaken by this member of the Godhead. It is not a reference to having spiritual gifts. In Acts people spoke in tongues; prophecies and visions were given; people were healed. “Be filled’ in this verse (plarao) is not the same word as the one used in the Acts (pimplemi). Instead compare this passage to Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The life of a Christian is brought into agreement with the Will of God as he allows the Holy Spirit revealed Word of God to dwell in their hearts. Note the verb used here is present tense and passive: “keep on being filled by the Spirit.”

œ Speaking to One

Verses 18-21 form one long sentence in Greek. Four Greek participles speaking, making, giving and submitting are all modifying the verb “be filled.” Those walking in wisdom will be filled with “speaking to one another.” Pliny, a Roman govern, wrote a letter in about AD 112 to the Emperor Trajan where he describes Christians gathering on Sunday and “reciting a hymn antiphonally to Christ as God.”

The term “speaking” implies understandable communication with others (i.e., “understanding” in 1 Cor. 14:15 and “teaching and admonishing” in Col. 3:16). Some denominations use instrumental music but such man-made tools cannot speak or teach the hearts of men.

Three types of songs are commanded. First, we are to be speaking in “psalms” which refer to the Old Testament songs mostly written by David. Second, are the inspired poetical songs in praise and prayer to God called “hymns.” Some fragments of these are in Paul’s letters (Phil. 2:5-11; Co. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 3:16). Finally, the saints are to sing “spiritual songs” designed to edify, admonish, and/or teach (Revelation 5:9; 14:3; 15:3).

œ Singing

Next worshipers need to be filled with singing. Drunks like to sing. Bars are filled with fun and friends and brawls and murders. “Singing” is commanded and not playing an instrument. Wise men and women will fill their hearts and time with song.

œ Making Melody

As Christians speak and sing songs to one another, they will also be “making melody” in their “hearts to the Lord.” Notice the instrument used in making melody is not a piano or an organ but the human mind.

œ Giving Thanks

What are those walking in wisdom to do next? They are go be “giving thanks.” God has given so much and we have deserved so little. When do we give thanks? “Always” is a good time for thanksgiving. For what are we to be thankful? “For all things” not just what we deem as good and beneficial to us. To whom does one give thanks? “To God the Father” who is the giver of all good things. How do Christians give thanks? “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” which means by His authority or power. Compare this verse with Colossians 3:17.

œ Submitting to One Another

Finally, walking in wisdom involves “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (5:21). The Greek word for “submitting” is hupotassomenoi. It was originally a military word referring to the forming or lining up of troops for battle under a commanding officer. This does not mean they are to be totally passive neither is this a negative word. It is akin to the employee volunteering himself to obey the will of his employer or boss. “Unselfish service to others who have no authority in a binding, legal sense…willing to respond to another’s desires and needs” (Caldwell 263).

Submission is the duty of all those who respect God and His will. Wives will submit to husbands. Children will submit to parents. Youth are to submit to elders (1 Pet. 5:5). Citizens to every ordinances of man (1 Pet. 2:13).

The manner of this submission to one another is out of respect or fear of God. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7) and so does submission.

This verse acts as a hinge between the preceding verses where Paul transitions into a discussion of husbands and wives and Christ and the church.

– Daniel R. Vess

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