Where the world comes to study the Bible

20. Walking Wisely (Ephesians 5:15-21)

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Introduction

Of all of the places our family has spent the night, one stands out in particular—the Alpine Lodge. We were driving back to Texas after having visited our families in Washington State. The fuel crisis of that time did not make travel any easier, and to make matters even worse, we had a large van with a healthy appetite for fuel and a small gas tank. Several times we found it necessary to spend the night in a small town, so that we would be able to get fuel the next morning, after the service stations opened.

We were driving in a remote area and it was beginning to get late. We needed fuel as well as a place to spend the night. When a small town finally came in sight, we all agreed that this was where we would stay, if we could find a motel with any vacancies. The flashing red neon sign of the Alpine caught our attention on the right hand side of the road. (We won’t forget that sign, because our room was right behind it, so that the blinking light illuminated our room the entire night.) There was no bathroom in the room we would rent for the night. It was down the hall. There was one bath, not two, and its doors were the kind you see on the old Western movies, with two swinging doors. The top and the bottom of the doorway was open, nor was there was there any lock on the door. It was not a time to be very particular about where we would spend the night.

We quickly learned that the Alpine Lodge was also a tavern. The bar tender was also the inn keeper and so I had to go to the bar in order to check in. I will never forget that scene, and neither will my girls. The bar, like the rest of that place, was far from elegant. A large but rather listless German Shepherd was lying on the floor, right next to the bar. And two drunks were seated at the bar, right where I had to go to get the towels for our room. The most amazing thing is the conversation which I happened to overhear while I was waiting for our towels. One of the drunks was witnessing to the other, attempting to lead him to the Lord.

While I might be willing to grant that a bar is a possible place for evangelism, it is not consistent with my view of the gospel to think of a drunk as an evangelist. There is something incompatible about drunkenness and evangelism. They just don’t seem to go together.

In our text in Ephesians chapter 5, Paul speaks of the incompatibility between drunkenness and being filled with the Holy Spirit. While the ill informed and unsaved might confuse these two (as we see happening at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2), no Christian should confuse them. And yet it seems that some did so. In the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul found it necessary to rebuke the Corinthian saints for drunkenness at the Lord’s Table, an almost unbelievable thought (1 Corinthians 11:17-34; see especially verse 21). And so, in Ephesians 5:15-21, Paul speaks of the contrasts which Christian faith produces with our former walk as unbelievers.

Our Text in Context

Ephesians 1, 2, and 3 reveal the eternal plan and purpose of God for His church, in a depth never before revealed until Paul’s conversion and calling to faith. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 describe the conduct of the Christian, which is to be the outgrowth of his identification with Christ and His church.

In Ephesians 4:1–6:9, Paul describes our conduct in terms of our walk.117 In Ephesians 6:10-20, he speaks of our conduct as warfare. Ephesians 4:1–6:9 speaks of our conduct in terms of its relationship to men, both non-Christians and our fellow-believers. In Ephesians 6:10-19, he speaks of our conduct in terms of our spiritual warfare with fallen and hostile celestial beings.

At Ephesians 5:15 we come to the final description of the Christian’s walk. This section continues through chapter 6, verse 9. In Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul calls us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. In 4:17-32 Paul calls us to walk in a way that differs dramatically from our walk as Gentile pagans. In 5:1-6 Paul urges us to walk in love, while in 5:7-14 we are instructed to walk as children of light. Finally, in 5:15–6:9 we are called upon to walk as those who are wise.

This final command—to walk as those who are wise—is the longest of Paul’s instructions for walking. It begins at verse 15 of chapter 5, and ends with verse 9 in chapter 6. The overriding command of this section is recorded in verse 15, and repeated twice, in verses 17 and 18:

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

Each command to walk wisely has a corresponding contrasting command, not to walk unwisely. These three commands are all variations of one command, to walk carefully, as those who are wise. By the use of participles, Paul gives further clarification and illustration of his commands. Most of these participles are easily identified by the translation of the NASB, which gives them an “ing” ending. These are: “making,” verse 16; “speaking,” “singing,” and “making melody,” verse 19, and “giving thanks,” verse 20. The last participle is not as clearly indicated, because it is rendered as an imperative, “be subject,” verse 21.118

Paul’s final command to walk wisely is stated in terms of being “filled with the Spirit” (verse 18), and then further clarified by the participles which follow. The submission which serves as evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit is that which should be evident universally and mutually, as well as in marriage, the family, and in other social institutions of authority. The resulting structure becomes apparent:

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,

16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

The universal and mutual submission which Paul calls for in broad and general terms in verse 21 is more specifically applied in 5:22–6:9. Here, Paul speaks of submission in the context of relationships: husband and wife (5:22-33); parents and children (6:1-4); slaves and masters (6:5-9). In later lessons, we will study these verses in detail. The important thing to observe at this point is that the submission called for in Ephesians 5:22–6:9 is that which is called for in 5:21. In other words, 5:21–6:9 is a unit, and the submission which Paul speaks of is but one manifestation of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

In this study, I have chosen to consider the text a command at a time, working down through the text as Paul has written it. Let us give heed to Paul’s instructions concerning wisdom, and let us endeavor, by God’s grace, not only to understand what Paul is teaching here, but to do it.

The First Command:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

“Therefore be careful how you walk”

The Christian’s walk is to be one that is given careful consideration. It is one that is to be the outgrowth of thought, of purpose, of deliberate and disciplined action. This week I have watched, along with countless others, some of the Olympic Games in Spain. Not one of those athletes arrived at the Olympic games by chance, without thought, planning, or diligent and disciplined preparation. Paul, speaking of the “Olympic games” of his own day, calls for Christians to act with similar dedication:

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

We will soon see that walking carefully is walking wisely, and that walking wisely is, in the final analysis, walking in the Spirit. Why is it, then, that so many Christians equate being filled with the Spirit with spontaneity? It was Paul who wrote to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit [Spirit] of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6).

I remember well the senseless injuries and deaths of men and women soldiers after the Persian Gulf War ended. It happened because these soldiers were lulled into a false sense of safety and security. Sometimes in the course of duty, and other times in the pursuit of souvenirs, soldiers carelessly went about in places where mines and booby traps had been placed by the enemy. And this carelessness led to injury and death for some. Christians live in a fallen world, in a hostile and dangerous world. We dare not live our lives and Christians in a haphazard fashion. We must give careful thought to our attitudes and actions. This is what Paul calls for, nothing less.

“Not as unwise men, but as wise”

To walk carefully is to walk as those who are wise. To do otherwise is to walk as one who is unwise. Elsewhere in Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 1-3; James 3:13-18), two kinds of wisdom are contrasted. Divine wisdom is contrasted with mere human wisdom. But here in our text, Paul speaks only of divine wisdom as wisdom, while he identifies human wisdom as that which is, in truth, unwise. There is only one true wisdom, and all other wisdom is unwise. In our text, as in the Book of Proverbs, to walk as one who is wise one will live skillfully. In our text, as in Proverbs, wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord.” As Paul writes elsewhere:

18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

I am impressed that here, as earlier in Ephesians, Paul seldom gives a command without also giving a corresponding prohibition. And so the instruction is given in terms of “not … but.” Paul does not speak of the relationship between our past life apart from Christ and our new life in Christ in terms of continuity, but in terms of contrast. We do not carry the baggage of our pagan lives into the faith; we jettison that baggage, replacing it with that which God produces in us through His Spirit. Christian living involves a complete mental overhaul, a whole new set of values, motivations, means and methods.

“Making the most of your time,119 because the days are120 evil”

The “time” to which Paul refers here seems to be a particular time, the opportune time. His instruction might even be paraphrased, “seize the moment.” In Colossians, the opportunity Paul has in view is that of evangelizing the lost: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). In both Ephesians and Colossians, wisdom is in the context. It takes wisdom to recognize that the days are evil. The lost are inclined to be oblivious—morally numb—to rightness and wrongness of the world in which they live.

It takes wisdom not only to recognize the evil nature of the days in which we live, but wisdom as well to know how best to respond. A Christian may rightly sense the evil of an abortion clinic, but blowing up the building seems to fall far short of that action which is wise, which brings glory to God, which enlightens a darkened world, and which promotes the gospel. In these present evil days, a Christian teacher has many restrictions to the proclamation of his or her faith in the public school classroom. A wise Christian will manifest wisdom both in what is said and done, and in how it is said and done. A Christian employer faces many difficulties in terms of hiring and firing employees. Wisdom is necessary to know what to do and how to do it, to the glory of God, to demonstration of what is good, and to the advancement of the gospel.

Evil days also seem to present the Christian with many distractions and diversions. While we have more free time than any previous culture, look how many “time eaters” our culture has produced. It is no wonder that a friend wrote these words on a card, which he attached to his television: “Redeeming the time.”

Just before our vacation in England, I read a biography of John and Charles Wesley. These men traveled many, many miles, mostly on horseback. They preached in many different places. They wrote an incredible number of hymns. I was struck by the impact these men had as we went from place to place (some of which were out of the way places) and found historical markers indicating that one or both of them had preached in that place. These men knew how to make the most of their opportunities. How much greater the opportunities are in our day, not only because of the evil of our time, but also because of our technology. But who would dare to have our lives compared to the Wesleys?

The Second Command:

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is”

Walking wisely is, according to these words, walking in accordance with God’s will. Walking wisely is walking in the will of God. To fail to know and to do God’s will is to be foolish. If Paul’s words imply anything, it is that God’s will is not a deep, dark secret, which only a handful of saints will ever be able to discern. The “will of God” is here depicted as that which is patently clear, and that anyone who fails to discern or to do it is foolish. Doing the will of God is acting wisely, and with sound reasoning, as guided by the Spirit of God and the Word of God. As Bruce puts it, “The doing of his will is not a matter of irrational impulse but of intelligent reflection and action.”121

The important thing is for people to know and to do God’s will. But what is this “will of the Lord” to which Paul refers here? It is not surprising that fallen men have twisted the meaning of God’s will, focusing more on ourselves than upon God, and upon His plan. We just returned from a vacation with my parents. We had a choice to make whenever we took a picture. We could take a picture with only the scene. Usually, however, there were commercial pictures available which were far superior in quality. The other choice—the one which we made—was to “personalize” each picture. And so, in virtually every photo, one or more members of our family was in the picture. Often, our presence served to obscure the scenery.

We have likewise tended to “personalize” the picture of the will of God which the Scriptures paint for us. God’s will has thereby become “God’s will for my life.” When the Bible speaks of God’s will, there are times when it speaks of His specific will for a particular person, in a given situation. But this is not the norm. Much more frequently, the Bible speaks of the “will of the Lord” as His overall plan. In the context of Ephesians, the “will of the Lord” is the eternal plan of God, outlined in chapters 1-3. Through Paul, additional elements of God’s will, which were previously a mystery to men, have now been revealed. If we are to be wise, rather than foolish, we are to be astute concerning the plans and purposes of God, as revealed in the Scriptures. And we are to base our decisions on this eternal plan. We are to subordinate our plans to the eternal plans and purposes of God. In the vast majority of instances, the will of God for our life is dictated by God’s eternal plan. In those instances where specific divine guidance is needed, God will direct our path, whether by revelation, or providentially.

The Third Command:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation,122 but be filled123 with the Spirit”124

In the second chapter of Acts, some mistakenly identified the filling of the Holy Spirit as the conduct of those who had too much to drink. In the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, we learn that some of the Corinthian saints actually did become drunk while gathering together as a church to remember the Lord’s death through communion. Heathen religions did make use of wine, but in a way that led to sin and debauchery:

By the ancients, moreover, an overdose of wine was often used not only to rid oneself of care and to gain a sense of mirth but also to induce communion with the gods and, by means of this communion, to receive ecstatic knowledge, not otherwise obtainable.125

There is an implied relationship between getting drunk with wine and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This relationship has, as I understand it, but one similarity, and that is the similarity of “getting drunk” with “being filled.” Both terms imply a control over an individual by an outside force, which alters one’s thinking and conduct.

The similarity between drunkenness and the filling of the Spirit ends here, with this one factor—control. The control which wine gains over the one who becomes drunk is detrimental and even destructive. The thinking and the actions of a drunk are not those for which a man is praised. The control of the Spirit produces clear thinking, a wisdom which is beyond human abilities, and conduct which benefits those with whom we associate.

I have yet to hear of a drunk who was considered wise in the midst of his drunkenness. A drunk makes a fool of himself. A drunk does not make wise use of his money, his time, or of his body when under the control of alcohol. He may gather together with others. He may even join with them in music, but it will not be for true worship. It will not result in the edification of others, or in the glorification of Christ.

Paul begins by contrasting the filling with the Spirit and drunkenness in a general way. Drunkenness results in dissipation—waste. By inference, we can see that the filling of the Spirit is fruitful, beneficial, edifying. Paul describes the benefits of the filling of the Spirit in several ways. Paul employs four participles in verses 19-21, which depict four manifestations of the Spirit’s filling.

Paul’s third command, recorded in Ephesians 5:18-21, is similar to another of his commands, recorded in the third chapter of Colossians. It may be well for us to refresh our memories as to this parallel text:

And Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you; with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:15-17).

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”

Here, as also in Colossians chapter 4, Paul seems to be referring to the public gathering of the church as well as to smaller gatherings as well. In verses 19 and 20, he seems to be dwelling on the role which music is to play in the church.126 The drunken man sings too, but not as Paul is describing.

Some have made noble efforts to define and distinguish “psalms,” “hymns,” and “spiritual songs.” I am not convinced that any of these is precise, or even intended by Paul. I am more inclined to find Paul indicating to us that our music in church may have a variety of forms. Through the years I have heard song leaders instruct the congregations, “Now let’s sing this song worshipfully.” What one meant was to sing acapella. Another wanted us to sing slowly and quietly. And yet another wanted us to sing loudly, briskly, and enthusiastically. By inference, Paul indicates to us that Christian music may have a variety of forms, none of which should exclude the other. Having said this, I must also go on to say that I believe some musical forms and styles have no place in Christian worship. While all things may be “lawful” and nothing evil of itself, not all things edify (see 1 Corinthians 6:12).

The music of which Paul speaks is not considered apart from its lyrics. The lyrics of the songs we sing are instructional. We sing to one another. In so doing, we speak to one another, by means of the lyrics of the songs we sing (5:19). In Colossians, Paul tells us that we teach Scripture through Christian music, and we even admonish musically. Music has a way of distilling our theology. It is one of the ways that we teach and learn. Thus, we should be careful about the words of the songs we sing. We should even be careful to enunciate the words we sing, so that others can hear and understand. Music that is not understood is not edifying:

What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?” (1 Corinthians 14:15-16).

I believe that good Christian music also focuses on the major truths of the faith and that it sets aside the minor issues which are divisive. In our church, a number of staunch Calvinists sing hymns written by the Charles Wesley, without any hesitation or reservation. Why? Because Wesley’s great hymns dwell on the “camels” of the faith and not on the “gnats” (see Matthew 23:23-24). Good Christian music tends to promote the unity of the church, rather than to divide it.

“Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”

Christian music is not just horizontal—”speaking to one another”—it is also vertical. And so Paul goes on to indicate that the Spirit-filled Christian not only speaks to his fellow-believers in song, but that he also speaks to God. If our theology can be expressed and communicated in song, so can our praise. This praise is not to be thought evident in music that is professionally and flawlessly performed, but in terms of the heart from which it emerges. This is not a justification for poorly performed music, but a reminder that, once again, it is not the outward appearance which matters so much to God and the inward motivation (see Luke 16:15). And because this music flows from the heart, it need not happen only in a congregation, or with accompaniment. It can and should take place all week long.

“Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father”

As indicated earlier, Paul may well be speaking here of that thanksgiving which is expressed musically. The Spirit-filled Christian is evident by his on-going thanksgiving, expressed in the name of Christ to the Father. Such thanksgiving not only recognizes the existence of God, but the sovereign involvement God has in the life of the believer. It recognizes that all that happens in the believer’s life is from God, that every good and perfect gift is from Him (James 1:17), and that even suffering is a gift (Philippians 1:29) which comes from God for our good and His glory (see Romans 5:3-5; 8:28). It recognizes and responds with thanksgiving for God’s gracious involvement in our lives as the result of His fathomless wisdom.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36).

“Be[ing] subject to one another in the fear of Christ”

Finally, the filling of the Holy Spirit is evident by our submission to one another. This submission ultimately stems from a fear or reverence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not of the one to whom we are in submission. This submission is not just to those who are in authority over us. This submission is mutual—one to another. Since submission is the subject of the next several paragraphs, and of our next several lessons, we will leave this matter here for the time being. Nevertheless, let it be noted that the Spirit is viewed here as the source of our submission one to another, as we see elsewhere (see Philippians 2:1-8).

Conclusion

In this section, Paul has exhorted Christians to walk as those who are wise. He has repeated this command three times, seeking to show what is involved in walking as those who are wise. He has also provided us with those manifestations of the Spirit which bear witness to His presence and control in the life of the Christian.

One test of the Spirit-filled Church and of the Spirit-filled Christian is their music. Notice what Paul gives as a test of the filling of the Spirit. Paul’s benchmarks are not the same as those often employed in the church today. Some think that a church is Spirit-filled when people sing skillfully, dramatically (dancing, for example), or enthusiastically (with clapping or raised hands). Others think that Spirit-filling is evident in restraint in worship and music. They may have a pipe organ, rather than guitars or drums or a keyboard. They may sing slowly and somberly. Neither method of singing sets a given church apart from others as “Spirit-filled.”

What does set apart a Spirit-filled church is that their music is understood as communication both with their fellow-believers and with God. The words which are sung are true to biblical doctrine, indeed, the expression of that doctrine. The “spirituality” of our singing and worship is not how we feel as we sing, but whether or not others are edified and God is glorified. The emphasis is not on us, on our feelings, or on our fulfillment, but on God. We should speak to others about God. We should admonish others not to be disobedient to Him. We should speak with great thanksgiving to God, giving Him praise and glory through Christ.

Spirit-filling is not evident in careless, thoughtless, structure-less spontaneity, but in godly wisdom and in orderliness. It is not seen in those who exalt themselves (even by means of actions and words which seem spiritual), but by submitting ourselves to doing that which edifies and builds up our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be careful, then, about judging the Spirit’s filling by standards which are worldly or fleshly, rather than in accordance with God’s Word.

Walking wisely involves thought, consideration, prioritizing and planning. It involves choices and disciplined living. It requires us to have a sense of the times in which we live, and a resolve to be good stewards of the opportunities which God gives us in this short period of time which constitutes our earthly sojourn. It shuns foolishness and it seeks to comprehend as fully as possible the plans and purposes of God, and then to subordinate our lives to God’s eternal plans and purposes. It means worshiping wisely, rather than foolishly, and particularly as this relates to music. Our music is to communicate to others so that they are edified, and to communicate with God in grateful worship and praise. It means living sacrificially toward others, seeking their good above our pleasure.

Walking wisely will be evident in the fruits which Paul has described in our text. But where does the walk of wisdom begin? It begins by coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God initiates God’s work in us, giving us light and life so that we recognize our foolishness and impending doom. We recognize that it is in Christ that true wisdom is found, and in Him alone. Before you can walk as one who is wise, you must come in simple faith to the “only wise God” through Jesus Christ.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

54 And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers? (Matt. 13:54).

12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute (Luke 21:12-15).

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10 And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:8-10).

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 16:25-27).127


117 The structure of Ephesians 4:1—6:9 is quite clearly indicated in the text, although many translations do not reflect this. Two key terms indicate the structure. They are only found together (or in close proximity) in chapters 4-6 when they indicate a new paragraph. These terms are “therefore” and “walk.” Thus we find the indication of a new paragraph at Ephesians 4:1, 17; 5:1-2 (“therefore” in verse 1 and “walk” in verse 2); 5:7-8 (“therefore in verse 7 and “walk” in verse 8); and 5:15.

118 Thankfully, the King James Version and the American Standard Version do supply the “ing” ending by their renderings, “submitting” (KJV) and “subjecting” (ASV).

119 Virtually the same expression is found in Colossians 4:5, and yet the NASB renders it differently in these two texts. In Ephesians, it is rendered, “making the most of your time,” while in Colossians it is translated, “making the most of the opportunity.”

120 There is a future “evil day” which is yet to come. Paul refers to this future evil day in Ephesians 6:13. There are also certain times when evil seems to increase. Such as times is referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:26. Here, Paul is speaking of this entire age—until Christ comes—as evil (see Galatians 1:4).

121 F. F. Bruce, The Epistles To The Colossians, To Philemon, And To The Ephesians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991 [reprint]), p. 379.

122 “The noun rendered ‘dissipation’ appears also in Tit. 1:6 (where the children of church elders must not be chargeable with dissipation) and 1 Peter 4:4 (in reference to the profligacy which marked the former lives of people recently converted from paganism to Christianity); the corresponding adverb is used of the ‘riotous living’ in which the prodigal son wasted his substance (Luke 15:13).” Bruce, p. 379.

123 Note that being filled with the Spirit is a command. It is also a present imperative, indicating an on-going process, rather than a once for all event.

124 The question here is whether the term “spirit” refers to the human spirit, or to the Holy Spirit. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit is in view. Hendriksen holds this view:

“Although it is true that the apostle makes use of a word, namely, pneuma, which in the translation should at times be spelled with, at other times without, a capital letter (hence “Spirit” or “spirit”), it should be capitalized in this instance, as is often the case. Paul was undoubtedly thinking of the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy spirit. Evidence in support of this view: a. the expression “filled with” or “full of” the pneuma, when the reference is to the Holy Spirit, is very common in Scripture (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55; 9:17; 13:9); and b. the very contrast here in 5:18 between getting drunk on wine and being fulled with the pneuma occurs also, though in a slightly different form, in Acts 2:4, 13, where the reference can only be to the Holy Spirit.” William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), p. 239.

Bruce adds, “The same phrase, ‘in spirit,’ occurs in three other places in this letter—in Ephesians 2:22, with regard to the new community of believers as the dwelling-place of God; in 3:5, with regard to the revelation of the ‘mystery’ of the new community to God’s ‘holy apostles and prophets’; and in 6:18, with regard to the prayer life of Christians. In three places the Holy Spirit is certainly intended, and equally certainly it is he that is intended here.” F. F. Bruce, p. 380.

125 William Hendriksen, p. 240.

126 In Ephesians 5:20 Paul speaks of giving thanks. In Colossians 3:16 this thankfulness is expressed in song. It would seem then, that Paul may well be thinking of songs of thanksgiving in Ephesians 5.

127 See also 1 Corinthians 1:20-25, 30; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Ephesians 1:7-8, 15-17; 3:8-10; Colossians 1:9-10; 2:1-3; James 1:5; 3:13-18; Revelation 5:11-12; 7:11-12.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians