The apostle Paul has taught his audience that they have a new identity in Christ Jesus. “You are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). As light we expose the darkness making the law of Christ visible to the world. As light we are being transformed, waking up from the darkness ourselves because the light of Christ is shining. Paul brings us to his fifth use of the word, “walk.” In Ephesians 4:1 we were told to walk worthy of the calling. We were told to not walk like the Gentiles in the world (4:17). Paul commands us to walk in love as we imitate God as his children (5:2). Then Paul told us to walk as children of light (5:8). Ephesians 5:15 gives us the final description of how we are to walk so that we can be found walking worthy of the calling.
Look Carefully How You Walk (5:15-17)
We are to look carefully at how we are walking. Paul is instructing us to carefully watch how we live our lives. How we live our lives matters to God. We must watch how we live. God cares what decisions we make. Are we looking at how we are walking? It is so easy to not pay attention to how we live. We just live for today without considering if we are staying on the path God has taught. We walk without trying to discern what the will of the Lord is in our lives. We do not carefully look at what would please the Lord. We just go and we forget to look at where we are going. We forget to look to the Lord as we walk. My daughter who is eight years old does not like looking where she is walking. She likes looking at other people, plants, sky, and everything else that is distracting as she walks. I am constantly telling her to look at where she is walking. Why do I keep telling her this? I tell her this because she is going to fall down if she does not look how she is walking. She is going to get hurt if she is not watching. So often we forget to look at where we are walking. We just do what we want to do for today. But Paul says to walk carefully. Look at how you walk.
The reason this is so important is “because the days are evil.” The reason we must watch carefully how we live is because the days are evil. Temptation is all around us. The world is full of darkness. What the world says and does is not godly. What others say and do is not the way we are to live our lives. The pressure is to conform to the ways and values of the world. We must be careful because it is so easy to fall into Satan’s traps. It is so easy to fall into sin. So what we must we do to walk carefully?
Paul says looking at how we walk means to walk wisely and not unwisely. Walking in this world requires wisdom. This is what the wise writer of the Proverbs instructs his son and us.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)
The fear of the Lord is the means to wisdom and instruction. Only unwise people (fools) do not have the fear of the Lord. To walk as wise people and not unwise people means looking to the Lord for knowledge and wisdom. Recall what James instructed Christians. If anyone lacks wisdom, ask God who gives generously to all without reproach (James 1:5). God is the place of wisdom. God is the giver of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Wisdom does not come from within yourself. Wisdom does not come from the world. The world claims to be wise, but God says they are fools (Romans 1:22). Looking carefully at how we walk means looking to the Lord.
Make the best use of your time.
The second way that we carefully look at how we are walking is by making the best use of our time. The NKJV reads that we “redeem the time.” We must plan to make the best use of our time because the days are evil. Idle time is temptation time. Having unplanned, unaccountable time is the easiest way to fall into temptation. This warning is given both to Christian men and women (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; 1 Timothy 5:13-15). Idleness leads to sin. Idleness leads to sexual immorality, being a busybody, gossiping, and the like. This is why the apostle Paul told men to get a job in 2 Thessalonians 3:10. This is why the apostle Paul told the women (widows) to be active in the work of the church in 1 Timothy 5. Idle time is a temptation to sin. Note your time each day and make the best use of it for the glory of the Lord.
Therefore, spend your time understanding what the will of the Lord is. This is the second time Paul told us to do this. Go back to Ephesians 5:10 where Paul said that we to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Paul says to spend your time understanding what the will of the Lord is. Otherwise we are being foolish, according to Paul. A foolish life is a life that is not spent understanding God’s will. A wise life that is carefully looking at our walk looks to understand the Lord’s will.
Be Filled With The Spirit (5:18-21)
Looking carefully at our walk, living as wise and not unwise, and making the best of use of our time means not getting drunk but being filled with the Spirit. Here we see a contrast of influence. Don’t be under the influence of alcohol. Be under the influence of the Spirit. I think it is important for us to notice that this is one thing that Paul specifies to show what it looks like to not make the best use of our time and to live foolishly. Do not waste your life in unfruitful activities like getting drunk. Be filled with the Spirit instead. Let’s talk about not filling ourselves up with alcohol. Drunkenness is repeatedly condemned in the scriptures. This is one of many places. Drinking parties is also condemned in 1 Peter 4:3. “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” (1 Peter 4:3 NKJV) Paul says to not get drunk because that is debauchery. This is a waste of the time that we are to be making the most of. Drunkenness leads to foolish, reckless decisions and actions. Drunkenness is a mark of foolishness, worldliness, and darkness, according to Paul.
Rather than being drunk with wine, be filled with the Spirit. What does it look like to be filled with the Spirit? Does being filled with the Spirit mean that you will perform strange acts? Does being filled with the Spirit mean you will speak in tongues or scream aloud? Does being filled with the Spirit mean that God will start speaking to you in your head? Listen carefully to how Paul describes being filled with the Spirit in verses 19-21. There are three aspects that show we are filled with Spirit.
Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.
Being filled with the Spirit means singing with your heart to God. There is no concern here about having a good voice or enjoying singing because you like music or are musically inclined. Instead, we have drawn our hearts near to God and love God so passionately that our hearts overflow with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There is a joy that we have in loving and serving the Lord that must express itself in words to each other. This is what we are doing when we are singing to each other. We are speaking to each other the overflow of our heart in these songs we sing. Being filled with the Spirit means your heart speaks to others with upbuilding words, making melody from the heart to the Lord. Obeying this command requires Christians to gather for corporate worship. We cannot remain alone but must assemble together. This text is the basis for our singing in worship. We will look at this idea more deeply in our next lesson.
The second attribute of being filled with the Spirit is being filled with thanksgiving. I want us to observe the four conditions given for thanksgiving. (1) Giving thanks always. Being filled with the Spirit means that we are thankful to God during good times and bad times. We are thankful in good health and bad health. We are thankful in trial and in prosperity. How can we be thankful always? I offer that the attitude of Job during his trial shows how to be thankful always no matter the circumstances.
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:20–21 ESV)
Job falls to the ground and worships because he understood that he came into the world with nothing and will leave with nothing. Anything I have is given by the Lord as a blessing and if it is taken away, then it was not mine to begin with. Thankfulness at all times comes from an attitude that I deserve none of the blessings I have. Therefore I am able to be thankful for gain or loss because it was by the grace of God I was given what I have.
(2) Giving thanks for everything. Be thankful for everything. Exclude nothing from your heart of thankfulness and prayers of thanksgiving. Be thankful for your family. Be thankful for your job. Be thankful for the home you have. Be thankful for your luxuries. Be thankful for everything. Assume nothing. One of the greatest gifts we offer back to God is our perpetual thanksgiving. This is our challenge: find how we can be thankful in every circumstance. This happens with a heart that sees the positive in all God has done for us rather than what we may lack. Being thankful always for everything only happens in the hearts of the humble. Lacking perpetual thankfulness is an indicator of pride.
(3) Giving thanks to God the Father. God needs to hear our thanksgiving. God needs to hear our appreciation. We need to speak these words to God and let others hear our dependence on the Lord alone.
(4) Giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the only reason we can be thankful. Consider this point for a moment: if Jesus does not come to the earth, die for our sins, and raise from the dead three days later, then there would be nothing to be thankful for. Our lives would simply be on a collision course to an eternity in hell. All we would have is to cling desperately to our physical lives for the moment we take our last breath, knowing that our eternal suffering would begin. Christ is the only reason we can be thankful. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift and there was no greater given to the world than Jesus. We show that we are not filled with the Spirit when we are thankless people. Gratefulness must pour from our hearts. The power and authority of Jesus is the means by which we can offer prayer and thanksgiving to God the Father.
Submitting to one another.
The third trait of being filled with the Spirit is that we submit to each other. Submission is a willful, voluntary act. We are not making each other submit. We are not telling each other to yield. We are volunteering to submit our will and desire to each other. Submission is the heart of Christian living and the example of Christ in his life. We are to submit to each other. We are to yield to each other. How few divisions would occur among God’s people if we submitted to one another! What is my motivation for submitting my will to yours? Paul says that we submit out of fear and reverence for Christ. Because we are in covenant with Christ and he has taken us from darkness to light, we will yield ourselves to each other. Submission is giving ourselves up for each other because Jesus gave himself up for us.
Look carefully at how you are walking. Be wise in your decisions. Understand the will of the Lord and make the best use of your time because the days are evil. Temptation is all around us. Don’t waste your time and your life by become drunk. Fill your life with the Holy Spirit. Here is what a Spirit-filled life looks like: singing, joyful hearts, thankful hearts in all circumstances for all things, and submission to each other for Christ.
If we do not see these things in our lives, then we do not truly understand what Jesus has done for us. How can we not live a life of thankfulness and walk carefully for the Lord when we see the cross of Jesus? Do not be filled with worldliness. Be filled with the Spirit. In Colossians 3:16 Paul gave the Colossians the same teaching.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Being filled with the Spirit is letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. When we let the word of Christ live in our hearts, the result cannot help but be singing joy, thanksgiving, and submission. Be filled with the Spirit. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.