Explore the Bible Series
November 7, 2010
Lesson Passage: Ephesians 5:15-21
This lesson continues Paul’s appeal to practical Christian living, as prescribed by the theological principles he expressed in Ephesians 1:1-3:21. This paragraph highlights the importance of spiritual watchfulness; indeed, the term “walk circumspectly” reflects this admonition to remain spiritually and morally aware, attentive to all aspects of one’s life. Dr. Curtis Vaughan observed:
The word “circumspectly” suggests looking all around, giving attention to all circumstances and consequences as one might do when passing through a very dangerous place. The Greek word, however, expresses the idea of living in strict conformity to a standard, guarding against anything that would be improper or unbecoming of the Christian. It might be translated, ‘Watch carefully, then, how you walk.” Believers are to walk as people having the character of wise men, not fools.
Of course, Paul did not leave his readers to ponder what this admonition meant; rather, he expanded his directives to prescribe specific ways to live circumspectly. This lesson focuses on those directives.
I. “Redeeming the Time” (v. 16): “Redeem” is a marketplace term that recognizes the value of time. Paul encouraged his readers to buy up (hold precious) every moment and opportunity that life presents. This, of course, demands the “price” of discipline and effort. As most of you know, I teach freshman-level history courses at a local college. Thousands of fresh-faced eighteen-year olds have passed through my courses, and some of them have learned to buy up precious opportunity to get a good collegiate education; however, many do not yet possess the wisdom to seize the opportunity. Sadly, many fritter away precious moments in their experience, only to discover, at a later date, the consequences of their neglect. Christians, according to Paul, may do something similar, wasting the priceless moments of life. The apostle pointed out that the “days are evil”, fraught with tests and hardships. These tests must never become the occasion for excuse-making.
II. “Understand what the will of the Lord is” (v. 17): How does one discern the will of God? Of course, much of God’s will is revealed in the Bible; however, in my experience, life is filled with “gray areas’ that the Bible does not specifically address. The apostle called the Ephesians to seek the will of God through wisdom (“do not be unwise”). Wisdom is the spiritual gift of determining the best course of action when life presents difficult decisions. It comes through experience, prayer, knowledge of the Scriptures, and the counsel of wise mentors. In this case, Paul acted as a mentor to his readers. Sadly, the folly of immaturity often short circuits learning valuable life-lessons from older, wiser people. Don’t shut your heart to the wisdom of Paul.
III. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 18): Actually, this verse contains two, related commands, “Do not be drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit.” Paul saw this filling with the Spirit as a continual, ongoing enjoyment of the presence and power of the Spirit. Foolish men fill themselves with unworthy things that intoxicate their minds, thus rendering them foolish (lacking in wisdom) and out of control (“dissipation”- wasteful, ruinous, vain).
IV. “Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (vv. 19-20): We should not make a sharp distinction among “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” “Psalms” probably refers to the Old Testament hymnody recorded in the Book of Psalms. “Hymns and spiritual songs” may indicate songs with a more “New Testament” orientation, centered on Christ, the cross, the resurrection, etc. These songs must issue from the heart and center attention on the Lord.
V. “Submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord” (v. 21): Vaughan summarized the application of this command in this way, “… denotes that attitude of reciprocal deference that becomes and marks out those who are filled with the Spirit. It is opposed to rudeness, haughtiness, selfish preference for one’s own opinions, and stubborn insistence on one’s own rights…In verse 21 the general rule of mutual submission is stated; in 5:22-6:9 the principle is applied to specific relations.”