Date: November 24, 2019
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Scripture: Ephesians 5:15–5:21
Outline: Two traits that must characterize a Christian’s life
I. Walking in Wisdom (15–17)
A. Make the best use of your time—steward, don’t waste it
1. Because time is finite
2. Because time is given
3. Because time is wasted
4. Because the days are evil
B. Understand God’s will
1. God’s secret or decretive will (Deut. 29:29; Eph. 1:5)
2. God’s revealed or preceptive will (Ex. 20; Eph. 5:17)
II. Being Filled with the Spirit (18–21)
A. Being Spirit-filled means being Spirit-controlled
1. Shown by contrast
2. Shown by parallel passages (Acts 2:13–18; Col. 3:16ff; Gal. 5:22–25)
3. Shown by context
B. Examples of what being Spirit-filled looks like
1. Fellowship (19a)
2. Worship (19b)
3. Thankfulness (20)
4. Submission (21)
Any day now we are going to begin punctuating our goodbyes with a phrase that would seem out of place any other time of the year.
As the snow begins to fall, the icy roads and sidewalks will come with them. And we’ll start telling everyone to “be careful” out there.
You approach the sidewalk a bit differently when there is ice on it, don’t you?
You no longer saunter about with your chin up and your mind on different things. No, you move cautiously. Your head pivots up and down as you scan your path.
Nobody wants to fall. It’s costly. We could miss work. We could suffer a long-term injury. And to be honest, it hurts.
In a similar way, the Apostle Paul encourages Christians in Ephesians 5:15 to be careful how we walk. He says, in effect, be careful out there.
This brings me to the main point I want to convince you of from this text: Following Jesus requires continual and careful attention to how we are living.
And while careless walking in the snow could bring undesirable results, careless living as a Christian could be worse. Because at the core of who we are as Christians is a desire, a burden, a yearning, to please and honor God. Our careful attention to how we are living corresponds directly with our love for God.
Today we’ll look at two particular traits that must characterize a Christian’s life. First, walking in wisdom (15-21), and second, being filled with the Spirit (18-21).
Here in verse 15 we have the command to walk carefully. Give careful and continual attention to how you live.
Okay, how so? In what way?
Well, Paul goes on to say, in verse 15, “not as unwise but as wise.”
The simplest contrast between the unwise and the wise, biblically speaking, is between those who build their life and identity upon what the Bible says and those who don’t.
If we hear and heed God’s Word then this is considered wisdom. If we do not, if we chose to reject it, then it is considered unwise.
These aren’t just matters of preference.
It’s backed up by experience and plain reason.
We all lack moral perfection and perfect knowledge. If we lack either than we need wisdom from an outside source-preferably one who possesses perfection in morality and knowledge.
If we don’t know everything exhaustively and have instincts that are imperfect, then we need help.
The Bible, the Word of God, comes from one who is omniscient and morally perfect. What’s more, he will never change. He provides his wisdom through the Scriptures.
Paul writes to the Ephesian church that they must live in accordance with the Word of God, that is to walk as wise not as those who are unwise.
Make the Best Use of Your Time
But what does this look like? He provides two ways in the text.
The first is found in verse 16, it concerns our time.
In effect, Paul says, don’t waste your time, but make the best use of it.
Some other translations say redeem the time. It basically means to buy back the time. It means to utilize time for the point it was given. Instead of wasting time we are to use it wisely.
Because time is finite
Think of the time allotted to you in life. While you don’t know how much you have in total, you do know that you have less of it today than you did yesterday.
Time evaporates quickly and steadily from us. James tells us that our lives are like a vapor, a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow. Like the steam that comes off your morning coffee initially but slowly fades away. So too are our days. Time is finite. It’s short.
Because time is finite, it helps show us how valuable it is. Some people value having a lot of money, but what good is money if you don’t have the time to enjoy it. Time is the unseen quiet oxygen that allows us to breathe in the joys of life.
Because time is given
The Bible speaks of stewardship. Everything we have is a gift—and time is no different—given to us for our good and God’s glory.
We are not the owners but the ones who are given these gifts for the purpose of using them wisely. Therefore, we are to steward not squander our time.
Because time is wasted
Wasting time is a perpetual problem for us. And, it’s an indication of a lack of wisdom. It’s a characteristic of this fallen world.
If we are called to use our time well, to steward it rather than squandering it, then we need to consider the time leeches that we use to waste time.
How do you waste time?
Perhaps it’s laziness?
We don’t notice it but what we do is often tainted with laziness and if we’re honest selfishness.
We act like we are the center of our own universe and spend our time in a way that we want to with very little regard for what God wants or what others might need.
Laziness says my time is my own, this is folly. Stewardship says my time is a gift from God, this is wisdom.
Or maybe, busyness?
“Busyness is a cousin to laziness and no more noble than its relative. It is a modern-day plague. Even if you reject laziness, you may swing to the opposite pole of busyness, filling your every moment with activity and judging yourself by the number of tasks completed.”
Today you practically expect that when you ask a friend how he is doing he will reply, “Busy! So busy!”
Yet busyness must not be confused with diligence, the number of activities with meaningful accomplishments.
God has given you a short little life and expects that, of all the great things you could do, you will identify and pursue the few that matter most.
Because there is only so much you can do, diligence and redeeming the time involves saying “no” to a million good opportunities to focus fully on a few excellent ones.
Or maybe it’s Distraction
The infinity pool is a term some productivity experts have given to our streams of information and entertainment.
Never before have we had some opportunities to be tantalized with new and engaging information or entertainment—and it’s seemingly endless.
It is impossible to get to the end of the social media feed.
The news keeps refreshing.
The TV keeps talking.
The podcast keep coming.
Netflix has another movie cued up.
YouTube will play another video.
The pool is infinite.
And we often mindlessly dive into these infinity pools and when we do climb back up the ladder and come out?
An hour later? Maybe two? Perhaps even more. Where did the time go?
We are distracting ourselves.
Then Paul gives a reason in verse 16, because the days are evil.
Because the days are evil
Paul is giving us an Intel briefing on the day and age we live.
He reminding us that this world is not our own. That the kingdom of God has broken in. Jesus the King is eclipsing this world order.
But, the god of this world, the devil, is still in office. He is still ruling and influencing. His administration of belittling God’s glory and doing great injury to people.
So because of the evil that characterizes the day or the age, believers are to buy back their time out of its slavery to the god of this world.
We do this day after day, moment by moment, in the practical decisions of life.
This is why Jonathan Edwards wrote in his resolutions, “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.’ He was a wise man, for the first sign of wisdom which Paul gives here is a disciplined use of time.”
Understand God’s Will
The second trait that is given, is to understand God’s will. We read in verse 17, “therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
In order to understand God’s will we have to first define it. Theologians divide God’s will into two helpful categories. The first is God’s secret will and the second is his revealed will. We see this reflected in Deut. 29:29, ““The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
God has kept certain things to himself. This is God’s secret will. It’s also called his decretive will.
This is describing what God has ordained or decreed to take place before the foundation of the world.
And whatever God has decreed it has or in the case of the future, will come to pass. We saw this in Ephesians 1 with those whom God has chosen for himself, “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5)
We cannot know God’s secret will except in retrospect.
We can look back in history and know what was part of the Lord’s secret, or decretive, will up until this point because God’s decretive will always come to pass.
Whatever happens in history manifests what he’s ordained in his sovereign but hidden will. Yet we are not called to seek out this hidden will, which we cannot know in advance anyway because God hides it from us.
When Scriptures like Ephesians 5:17 tell us to understand God’s will, it is not referring to the secret will of God but his revealed will.
This tells us what the Lord finds pleasing (Eph. 5:10).
We are not called to understand God’s secret will but to understand and heed God’s revealed will. We find this revealed will in the Bible.
It’s here that we live like citizens of his kingdom, ruled by his governance, in accordance with its constitution—the Bible.
We see that it is to be characteristic of anyone who follows Jesus to know God’s Word and obey it.
There are some clear implications for this, as I’m sure you can see.
The priorities shape themselves up.
We must give ourselves to the regular reading and study of God’s Word.
We must give ourselves to the praying that the Word of God would be understood and applied.
We must give ourselves to the local church. Here is where we hear the Word of God preached and through membership in the church we find encouragement to obey God’s will and accountability when we do not.
If you are walking in wisdom then you are prioritizing the Word of God.
If you are not prioritizing the Word of God then you are not walking in wisdom. It’s as simple and clear as this.
Following Jesus requires continual and careful attention to how we are living.
The other trait that must characterize a Christian’s life is being filled with the Spirit. So first, walking in wisdom, and now second, being filled with the Spirit.
We read in verse 18, “and do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Being Spirit-Filled means being Spirit-Controlled
There is very little debate here as to whether or not this is referring to the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the debate centers on what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
I believe this means being controlled by the Spirit. You can see in a few key ways, but first by way of contrast.
The apostle Paul makes a contrast between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit.
When someone is drunk they lose control of themselves. People change. They don’t act like themselves. They do things they otherwise would not. They contradict plain wisdom, discretion, and reason.
They lose their balance and coordination. The very things that make us our best go out the window with drunkenness.
One has said, People who are drunk give way to wild, dissolute and uncontrolled actions. They behave like animals, indeed worse than animals.”
But in contrast, being “under the influence of the Holy Spirit we do not lose control; we gain it.” (Stott)
“The results of being filled with the Spirit are totally different. If excessive alcohol dehumanizes, turning a human being into a beast, the fullness of the Spirit makes us more human, for he makes us like Christ.” (Stott)
We can see this in parallel passages. In the second chapter of Acts, the Apostle Peter was preaching and the Holy Spirit was given to the church. His arrival was so powerful and evident that people thought they were drunk. This was not because of disorder but because of the miracle of the gift of languages.
In a passage very much like our own, the Apostle tells the Colossian church to “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) Here the Word of God dwells in and the Holy Spirit is in control of the believer.
Furthermore, we read in Galatians 5 of the fruit of the Spirit. That is, the evidence or demonstration of a life that is controlled by the Spirit. Look at Galatians 5:22-25
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22–26)
We also see this in the context. Everything that flows from this and out from it is a demonstration of what God wills in the life of the Christian.
These things are impossible to do on our own. We cannot will ourselves to do them. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to do what God commands.
Spirit filling is not being baptized by the Spirit, this happens when we are born again and are placed into, or baptized into the body of Christ.
Spirit filling is not miraculous acts, these are demonstrations or gifts of the spirit, which were reserved for the apostolic era.
Spirit filling is not being sealed with the Holy Spirit. This happens at conversion when God declares that you are his and puts his seal upon you.
Spirit filling is not even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that comes to every believer.
No, Spirit filling is the ongoing yielding of our lives to what God’s Word says. Here we are yielding or ceding control to God the Holy Spirit in order to honor, obey, and glorify him.
More or less filling is synonymous with more or less submission of your life to God’s Word.
Paul says, keep being filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Just as drunkenness affects all manner of one’s life and responses, so may your life be characterized by the ongoing control of God the Holy Spirit.
Examples of what being Spirit-filled looks like
Fellowship – addressing one another in psalms hymns and spiritual songs
This doesn’t mean that we stop talking to one another and only sing, but it does mean that one aspect of our time of worship together is the singing of songs of the faith.
It is difficult to distinguish the types of singing or songs that are taking place here, some have tried to make distinctions, but I don’t think they are convincing.
Paul’s bigger point than a type of music is the occasion and aim of the music. It is a gathering of Christians together, with the point of singing, and the goal of singing together—even to one another.
I wonder if you have thought of this?
When we gather and sing, we are to sing to one another. You might say, I thought we sing to God? We do, and we’ll get there in a minute. But for now, Paul is emphasizing the one another aspect of our singing.
In our singing together we are testifying to the truthfulness and the value of what we confess. We are reminding one another of who God is, what the gospel says, the preciousness of his promises, the value of sacrificing all to follow him.
This is why it is so important to sing when we gather together for worship. We need to hear one another sing.
The congregational voice is the only instrument that is commanded for playing in the church. We must hear one another sing.
This is one of the reasons we pick songs that tend to aid in the congregational voice.
We have turned down the amplification and tried to encourage the vocals of the church
Even if you don’t normally like to sing, or like me—are not particularly blessed with a good singing voice—you should still sing.
Why? Because we are testifying to one another of the truthfulness of the Word of God. You are serving your brothers and sisters.
And we are demonstrating the power and control of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So brothers and sisters, be controlled by the Holy Spirit and sing to one another.
Worship–singing and making melody to the Lord in your heart
This is more likely what you would be used to, the Holy Spirit encouraging us to sing unto God. This is what he wants to produce in us, a joyful reverence upon God.
In his book Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards ventures this explanation of why God created singing and poetry:
And the duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned, why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.
Singing the truth about God to God excites and stirs our hearts. It moves our hearts, our affections to love and worship God.
This is quite amazing, as we are Spirit-filled we produce joyful worship of God. Here we are glorifying God and enjoying him.
Brothers and sisters, don’t discount the beautiful privilege of corporate singing.
Join me in praying that God would make us a church that sings joyfully and tearfully of and to our great and awesome God!
Thankfulness–giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father
What is the opposite of thanksgiving? It’s grumbling. This was a common sin for the people of Israel.
As Christians, submitting to the Spirit, we are to be people whose lives are not characterized by grumbling but thanksgiving.
You’ll notice the way the text is worded you might have some questions about applying this. Look at verse 20, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Does this mean that everything that happens should be an occasion of thanking God for it?
Do we thank God for murder? Corruption? Apostasy? Wayward children? A self-indulgent, atheistic culture?
No, I don’t think so. We don’t thank God for blatant evil or anything that contradicts his will.
No, we petition God to work change and showcase his glory through these events and circumstances. We trust God amid them. But we do not thank him as if he is the author of sin.
I think the verse helps us. We are to thank God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything that is consistent with the Word of God which reveals God to us is to inform how we thank God.
But even as we do this we do so trusting in God’s wisdom, that through unpredictable acts of providence he is able to make all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
We thank God and trust him.
It should be little surprise that the Holy Spirit produces thankfulness to God through Christ.
Are you a thankful person?
Submission–submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ
This is a willingness to put one’s interest aside in view of serving others. This type of submission in the body is a refusal to assert one’s own rights but to look out for the interests in others. It’s characterized by gentleness, humility, love, and service of Christ. It’s not about selfishness, my way or the highway mentality.
And you see the motive, it’s out of reverence for Christ. We are to submit to one another by looking to Christ who submitted to the Father in order to save us from our sins (Phil. 2:5-9).
Restate the Command
And so we go back to verse 18 and ring it out a bit. Look again with me: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
When we consider the grammar of the passage, we find some important nuggets in here for our Christian life.
When Paul writes, be filled with the Spirit.
He is writing in the plural form. That is, he is writing to the church. All of you be filled or you all be filled.
But he is also writing it in the present tense in the imperative mood. This is an ongoing command. All of you need to keep being filled with the Holy Spirit.
But notice, it’s also in the passive voice. This means that it is something that happens to you, it’s not something you do. God fills and controls you by his sovereign and gracious means.
What can you do? Deploy his ends.
Like we have been saying, giving yourself to a wise walk that relies upon and takes in the word of God with an aim to apply it. Walk by the Spirit and not the flesh.
We are no longer in the flesh. We are in Christ. We are part of his new creation and live under his Lordship. We are possessed by the Spirit of God and breath in the air of the new atmosphere.
And so God controls us by his Holy Spirit.
So you all must be filled and keep being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
What does it look like? It looks like obedience. But in particular, here it’s: singing to one another, singing to God, gratitude, and submission.
There’s one final point of application that I want to emphasize. And we really see this come out when we look at the overall structure of the book of Ephesians. Many of you have been here for the entire series (the previous 13 sermons).
One of the things we’ve observed is the way the letter is arranged.
In the first 3 chapters, there is an emphasis on what God has done for us in Christ, that is the good news of the gospel.
Then in chapters 4-6 Paul explains how we are to live in response to this. It is our Christian duty in response to what Christ has done.
One of the ways we see this is in the grammar.
There are 63 verses in chapters 1-3, and only one of them includes a verb in the imperative mood.
But in those same 63 verses, there are 50 verbs in the indicative mood.
In other words, there is only one verse telling you to do something (2:11) while the other 62 gives us statements of fact or emphasizing what God has done.
Those three chapters emphasize the truth of the gospel—all that God has done for us in Jesus.
This does not mean that the Bible doesn’t have things for Christians to do.
As a matter of fact, do you know how many imperatives or commands come in the remaining chapters, 4-6? 40.
Paul goes from 1 to 40.
Because as believers we have to have the groundwork of the gospel laid first before we get to the business of obedience and doing what God has told us to do.
A big part of walking carefully is making sure that we don’t forget our gospel grammar.
The imperatives (commands) always flow from the indicatives (facts about what Christ has done).
Our obedience flows from Christ’s obedience for us. We don’t obey in order to earn God’s favor, but we obey because Jesus has already earned it.
Paul, by his very grammar and emphasis, gives us some important pastoral and theological counsel.
Friends, don’t forget the gospel. If we are going to make any progress in godliness (the imperatives) then we must begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ (the indicatives).
But, sadly, we do forget this. We forget the truth of the gospel and try to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. This warning at the outset to be careful how we walk is a call to remember the gospel.
This is where we find ourselves today. Being reminded to live or walk in a particular way because Jesus has lived or walked in a particular way for us.
We are living in this world with our passports stamped for the age to come. So Paul tells us that our King requires continual and careful attention to how we are living.
What should we see? What are the traits we want to see?
Walking in wisdom
Being filled with the Spirit
May God continue to graciously shape us for eternity.