2nd Sphere: Walking Worthy as a Christian Testimony in the World
Ephesians 4:17 – 5:21
Ephesians 4:17 – 5:21
2nd Sphere. Having discussed the subject of walking worthy in the assembly sphere, Paul next exhorts us to walk worth as a Christian testimony in the world. This consists of a series of arguments as to why we should walk worthy in this sphere of life. Not only should the one body be evident in the earth (collectively), but a new order of manhood should be evident as well (individually).
- In Eph. 4:17-19 we are exhorted to walk differently than the unconverted Gentile world.
- In Eph. 4:20-24 we are taught about New Creation, the great inward change that occurred when we were saved; i.e. the Old Man was put off, the New Man was put on.
- In Eph. 4:25-32 we are exhorted that this inward change should have a resulting outward change in our lives.
- In Eph. 5:1-7 we are exhorted to walk in love, our hearts responding to Christ’s love-sacrifice. We are given to understand God’s view of sin; that He takes each individual act very seriously.
- In Eph. 5:8-14 we are told what we are (light in the Lord), and exhorted to walk as children of light.
- In Eph. 5:15-17 we are given a divine knowledge of the Lord’s will for our pathway: that we need to be awake, be careful, be prudent, be wise, and be filled with the Spirit.
- How Not to Walk: A Picture of the Unconverted Gentile World (4:17-19)
- New Creation: The Great Inward Transformation (4:20-24)
- The Resulting Outward Transformation of Our Lifestyle (4:25-32)
- Walking in Love: A Life of Sacrifice and Obedience (5:1-7)
- Walking as Children of Light: Living up to What We Are (5:8-14)
- Walking in Wisdom: How to Be Preserved in the Path (5:15-21)
How Not to Walk: A Picture of the Unconverted Gentile World (4:17-19)
¶ 17a This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye should no longer walk as the rest of the nations walk v.17a As Christians living in a dark world, we can easily be influenced by the corrupted culture around us. We are exhorted to be different. Not just to try to be different, but to reflect the ways that we are different. We need this exhortation. Certain more eccentric people like to be different, but most of us like to fit in. Furthermore, many believers have come from a worldly background, just like the Ephesians Paul was writing to… and old habits die hard.
17b (1) in the vanity of their mind, 18 being (2) darkened in understanding, (3) estranged from the life of God (a) by reason of the ignorance which is in them, (b) by reason of the hardness of their hearts, 19 who (4) having cast off all feeling, (5) have given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greedy unsatisfied lust. vv.17b-19 Here we get a vivid picture of the unconverted Gentile world; five things that characterize man apart from God. We can also discern a progression in these five things. Their being spiritually far from God (v.18) led them to be morally far from God (v.19), and so on. You get that same progression in Rom. 1 where the depravity of the heathen is described. Five steps are described:
- “In the vanity of their mind“. They let their minds wander wherever they wanted. They let their thoughts go beyond the revealed mind of God. When man does this, essentially, man becomes his own god.
- “Darkened in understanding“. They lost the little knowledge they had of God (see Rom. 1:21). Light rejected brings greater darkness.
- “Estranged from the life of God“. They became greatly distanced from God. The life of God (Eternal life) is only found in His Son; and they were a million miles away. Two reasons:
- By nature (“the ignorance which is in them”). There is nothing in man that responds to God, he is “dead in sins” (Eph. 2:1).
- By practice (“the hardness of their hearts”). They deliberately chose to walk away from God. Their ignorance was because their hearts were hard, not because they were slow mentally.
- “Having cast off all feeling“. Their lusts crossed the barrier of human sentiment. No natural affection, no pride of character, no shame, no prick of conscience, could restrain them from following their lusts.
- “Given themselves up to lasciviousness“. They pulled out all the stops, giving themselves over to, and taking for themselves, whatever they wanted. A viscous cycle developed; “greedy unsatisfied lust” is wanting things, taking things, and never being satisfied.
New Creation: The Great Inward Transformation (4:20-24)
Knowing the Truth in Jesus (vv.20-21)
20 But *ye* have not thus learnt the Christ, 21 if ye have heard him and been instructed in him according as the truth is in Jesus; vv.20-21 The first thing we must learn is Christ (risen and glorified), where He is now, and that our standing is in Him. The second thing we need to learn is the truth in Jesus. Notice that “Jesus” is our Lord’s manhood name. We see the truth acted out perfectly in Jesus. He displayed perfectly the character of the new man: His love, compassion, tenderness, patience, obedience, submission, holiness, etc. He was the living, breathing manifestation of eternal life, for He is called the “Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). By comparison, the Gentiles were the walking, breathing manifestation of the flesh (v.18). We have two interesting expressions in vv.21-22. We need to “learn the Christ” and we need to “learn the truth in Jesus”. The order is important. Some people try to practice “the truth in Jesus” (Eph. 4-6) before they learn “the Christ” (Eph. 1-3). A classic example is a Christian trying to live for the Lord while holding office in secular government. They don’t know their heavenly calling and as a result they end up in a compromising position.
The Truth in Jesus. We only have “the truth” in its full character when we view it in connection with the person of Christ (John 14:6). If you look at creation to learn God’s heart, you will see His power and wisdom in a limited way, but the creation has fallen under the reign of sin… full of weakness, decay, suffering, death, etc. If you look at your fellow man you will see nothing but the ugly old man. If you look at history you will see injustice; e.g. Abel suffering while Cain prospers. If you look within yourself to conscience, you may see the “moral law” that C.S. Lewis spoke of, the work of God’s law written on your heart (Rom. 2:15), but it will only condemn you. If you look to the Mosaic law you will find the exposure of the flesh to an even higher degree, but still no knowledge of God’s heart. Even if you read the entire Bible apart from Christ, and never really see Jesus, you will not find truth (John 5:39). It is only when you know Jesus that you know the full truth of God reflected in His Person. Jesus was the perfect display of God’s heart. In the life of Jesus we learn what man really is, but we also learn what God really is; both light and love. We learn the depth to which God would go to have us with Him. As God’s creatures, when we submit to Him we find perfect happiness. In entrusting our souls to Him we find perfect peace. Through the truth as it is in Jesus we can have eternal life, and can actually know the God of the universe. Truth is the declaration of what is. God is not “The Truth”, because He is What Is (hence His name, “I AM”)… He is not an expression of anything. The Spirit is truth subjectively (1 John 5:6), because the Spirit makes the truth good to us, but the Spirit is not “The Truth”. Only the Son is “The Truth” objectively, because He alone is both fully God and fully man. He alone is the perfect “Image” and “Word” of God by which all can be measured.
Knowing What Changes Occurred When We Received Jesus (vv.22-24)
Three Changes. Three changes have occurred; a putting off, a renewal, and a putting on. The two expressions; “having put off” and “having put on” are in the infinitive aorist, which means they are actions in the past that are once-for-all. However, “being renewed” is in the infinitive present, which means it is action that is ongoing.
22 namely (1) your having put off according to the former conversation the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts; v.22 Change #1: We have put off the old man. The test for Adam was a simple test of obedience. It did not require the knowledge of good and evil to pass the test. He failed the test and proved himself unrighteous. But by eating of the tree he gained knowledge. It was by gaining knowledge that Adam fell, because he did not have the power, knowing good and evil, to choose the good. In order to choose the good there must be divine life (to want it) and divine power (to act). The “old man” is the state of knowing good and evil, and of descending into deeper shades of “corruption”, pulled down by the power of “lusts”. That order of manhood “corrupts itself”… it consistently chooses the evil. But the believer has put off that old character of things when he is saved! No longer does a lifestyle of corruption characterize us in God’s sight!
23 and (2) being renewed in the spirit of your mind; v.23 Change #2: A life-long renewal process has begun, during which all of our thoughts are gradually being re-directed to focus on Christ. It is not only our position that has been changed in Christianity, but our very thought processes. This transformation of our thoughts is accomplished by complete saturation with the Word of God (Rom. 12:2). It is our responsibility now to pursue the sphere of Christ’s interests.
24 and your (3) having put on the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness. v.24 Change #3: We have put on the new man. We have been created anew in Christ (Eph. 2:10). The new life that we have is righteous and holy. It is empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God, so we can know evil and instinctively reject it (c.p. with corrupting ourselves, v.22), and know good and instinctively love it. We have been created “according to God”, which means we have a nature that is perfectly in keeping with the mind and heart of God.
The Image and Likeness of God. These two words are often confused. Adam was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). Image is the thought of representation, and likeness the thought of resemblance. As the likeness of God, Adam resembled God morally, in that he was without sin (see usage; Psa. 17:15; Ezek. 1:5; Dan. 10:16). Christ is never said to be the “likeness” of God, because He is God! Christ is the perfect display of all God is as light and love. To say that Christ is the likeness of God would be to deny the truth of His Person. Though man was created “after the similitude of God”, he is no longer in His likeness, because man is morally fallen. As the image of God, Adam was the representation of God in the earth (see usage; Dan. 2:31; Matt. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:7). The Greeks understood that the image of Jupiter did not necessarily look like Jupiter, but it was made to represent him. Not angels, but man was placed on earth to represent God. Of course, none but Christ is the exact “image” or representation of God (Heb. 1:3). Even though man has fallen, he is still the image of God (1 Cor. 11:10), but he gives a distorted representation. When Adam fell, God-likeness was lost and God-image was distorted; “and Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his likeness, after his image…” (Gen. 5:3). In the new creation, which is created “in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10), we find that likeness is restored (Eph. 4), because the believer’s new nature now resembles God in His characters of light and love. Furthermore, image is renewed (Col. 3), because God now looks down at the new race, and He is accurately represented in that race.
The Old Man and the New Man. The old man is an abstract term that describes the characteristic features of the fallen race of Adam in its depraved moral character. The new man is an abstract term that describes the characteristic features of those in the new creation “in Christ”. These terms are not well understood, therefore often confused with the old and new natures. Read more…
The Resulting Outward Transformation of Our Lifestyle (4:25-32)
vv.25-32 The following exhortations are based on the fact that we have put off the old man and put on the new man. There is a corresponding change in our lifestyle when we get saved. This is similar to “mortifying our members on the earth” (Col. 3). We are seated with Christ in heavenly places, but we are still on this earth as a testimony for the Lord.
Area #1: Truth vs. Falsehood (v.25)
25 Wherefore, having put off falsehood, speak truth every one with his neighbour, because we are members one of another. v.25 The first outward proof of an inward transformation is honesty. We have put off falsehood when we were saved, once-and-for-all. The term “falsehood” is broader than lying, which is only verbal. It is possible to live a lie without saying anything. We are to speak truth to our neighbor (here it is fellow-Christians) which will be a tremendous testimony to the Gentile world that knows only dishonesty (Titus 1:12). We are “members one of another”, but sometimes we act like the body has an auto-immune disease.
Area #2: Righteous Anger vs. Fleshly Anger (vv.26-27)
26 Be angry, and do not sin; let not the sun set upon your wrath, 27 neither give room for the devil. vv.26-27 The second outward proof of an inward transformation is hatred of sin. We are to be angry about sin, like Christ was (Mark 3:5, Matt. 21:12). Even God is angry against what is sinful (Psa. 7:11, Psa. 139:22). The warning is “do not sin“; i.e. don’t let righteous indignation turn into fleshly anger. But then, “let not the sun set upon your wrath” means that we should never get complacent about sin (an allusion to Joshua 10). But on the other hand, if we nurse our indignation against sin, we might “give room to the devil”… and when we give Satan a foothold, he doesn’t let go easily.
Area #3: Giving vs. Stealing (v.28)
28 Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him toil, working what is honest with his hands, that he may have to distribute to him that has need. v.28 The third outward proof of an inward transformation is integrity. Perhaps before salvation, we were “stealers”… but no longer. We are to labor in an honest profession (not like gambling, or the black markets, etc.). In 1 Thess. 4:11-12 we are to labor so we don’t have to borrow from others, but here it goes farther; i.e. that we might have the means to be distribute to those who have needs (see Acts 20:35). It isn’t “if you have surplus” but, for the express purpose of giving! The godly Christian is characterized by labor. There is much to do, and this world is not our rest.
Area #4: Gracious Words vs. Corrupt Words (vv.29-30)
29 Let no corrupt word go out of your mouth, but if there be any good one for (1) needful edification, that it may (2) give grace to those that hear it. v.29 The fourth outward proof of an inward transformation is good language. A “corrupt word” might be bad language or filthy jokes. These things are commonplace in the unconverted Gentile world. They don’t build up. A “good word” would be:
- Edifying. It will build the hearer up in some area of need. Perhaps it would be encouragement, comfort, knowledge, wisdom, or correction.
- Gracious. It will always be said with the spirit of Christ (Luke 4:22).
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for the day of redemption. v.30 To grieve the Spirit is to act independently of the leading of the Spirit according to the directions of the Head. It would seem that the primary way we grieve the Spirit is by our words, although it could also be our actions. We are to be careful about our speech (1) because of who we are speaking to, v.29, and (2) because of the divine Guest. But if we do grieve the Spirit, He will not leave us, for we are “sealed for the day of redemption (bodies)”. Compare grieving with quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). We must be careful, because habitually grieving the Spirit of God can lead to chronic spiritual numbness, where we become desensitized to the leading of the Spirit.
Area #5: Kindness and Forgiveness vs. Bitterness and Wrath (vv.31-32)
31 Let all bitterness, and heat of passion, and wrath, and clamour, and injurious language, be removed from you, with all malice; v.31 The fifth outward proof of an inward transformation is kindness. Five characteristics of the old man are listed. (1) “Bitterness” is when a person is unwilling to let go of an offense (Matt. 20:35). (2) “Heat of passion” is when a person has a rash, short-tempered spirit. (3) “Wrath” is when a person has extreme anger towards others; c.p. v.26. (4) “Clamour” is when a person stirs up trouble or confusion. (5) “Injurious language” is speech with the intent to hurt people. “All malice” is added in connection with each of the five, because malice (evil thoughts) is the insidious root of all these characteristics.
32 and be to one another kind, compassionate, forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you. v.32 The positive exhortation, as always, it to display the character of Christ. We are to be (1) “kind”, showing good will toward our brethren (vv.31-32 is toward our fellow Christian), and (2) “compassionate”, responding to the suffering of others, and (3) “forgiving”, letting go of offenses committed against us. What is to be the measure of our forgiveness? Even God’s forgiveness of us. Here it is eternal forgiveness. See a similar argument in Matt. 18:32-33 with regard to governmental forgiveness. The miss-translated expression “for Christ’s sake” gives the thought that God’s forgiveness is reluctant. It should be translated “in Christ”, because forgiveness originates from God’s heart, and Christ is the blessed channel by which it came.
Walking in Love: A Life of Sacrifice and Obedience (5:1-7)
Exhortation to Walk in Love (vv.1-2)
¶ Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children, v.1 Imitate God. We are children of God, and therefore we share His life and nature. There is a difference between “sons” and “children” in the Word of God. Sonship has to do with position and dignity (Eph. 1), while children have to do with life and nature (Eph. 5). We have the life of Christ, thus the capacity to love as He did (v.2). We are called “beloved children”, because God loves His children… He is the source of love.
2 and walk in love, even as the Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. v.2 Imitate Christ. Christ’s love made Him fully devoted to God, but His death was also on behalf of others. His love is to be the measure of our own love. divine Love works upwards and downwards. Christ was perfect in both… He gave himself for us (love reaching downward) as a sacrifice to God (love lifting upward). If I look down to fallen man, I see unworthiness, and my heart – filled with Christ’s love – reaches out. If I look up to God, I see perfection, and my heart lifts up in devotion. Christ’s offering was a “sweet-smelling savor”, which means it brought satisfaction (propitiation) to God. Our own love for others should be a “sweet-smelling savor” too.
The burnt offering character of the sacrifice of Christ is the standard set before us for walking in love. It is the highest standard there could be. The burnt offering comes first in the list of offerings in Leviticus because it represents the first object of the Lord Jesus in coming into the world. It presents Christ, not so much as taking our sins, but as offering Himself to God to accomplish the will of God and to glorify Him (Heb. 9:14).
What We Need to Avoid (vv.3-4a)
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or unbridled lust, let it not be even named among you, as it becomes saints; 4a and filthiness and foolish talking, or jesting, which are not convenient; vv.3-4a We need to avoid anything what would grieve God’s heart or our brethren. The first thing is “fornication”; any sexual relations outside of marriage. “Uncleanness” is broader than fornication… in would include our thoughts and habits. There are many men, even Christian men, that are addicted to pornography. That is not technically fornication, but it is serious uncleanness… so is every form of entertaining lustful thoughts. It is connected with “unbridled lust”, which is wanting what we want. This should “not even named” among believers. Even a rumor of such a sin does injury to the testimony of Christ. A holy life of devotion is what becomes saints. “Filthiness and foolish talking” are connected together. So often, the subject of conversation or humor becomes something filthy. “Jesting” is presenting a falsehood for the sake of amusement. It draws attention to self.
What We Need to Be Occupied with (v.4b)
4b but rather thanksgiving. v.4b Rather than spend our time fulfilling the desires of the flesh, we should be occupied with “thanksgiving”. We should be thankful for what the Lord has given us, not focus on what we don’t have. King David presents a warning to us in that regard. Nathan traces his sin with Bathsheba to a lack of thankfulness and contentment with what the Lord has given us (2 Sam. 12:7-10).
We need to Understand about God’s View of Sin (vv.5-7)
5 For this ye are well informed of, knowing that no fornicator, or unclean person, or person of unbridled lust, who is an idolater, has inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and God. v.5 Very often these verses are used by supporters of Conditional Security to claim that believers will lose their salvation if they fall into any of these sins. However, From v.6 we learn that the sins listed in v.5 are the reason for judgment of the children of disobedience (the unbelieving). The key words being “on account of these things.” The apostle’s point is that God judges the sinner for their actual sins, not merely for rejecting the gospel. Paul brings this out to show believers the seriousness of sin, not to bring into question their eternal security. Yet it was needful to exercise their consciences by showing them the eternal consequences of these sins in “the children of disobedience”. The point is simply this: God loathes sin, and this is proven by the fact that He will judge the wicked for those very things.
6 Let no one deceive you with vain words, for on account of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. v.6 These “vain words” would be any teaching that denies God’s utter hatred of and repudiation for sin. The proof that God detests sin is that He will bring His wrath “upon the sons of disobedience”. Why? Because they have done “these things”.
7 Be not ye therefore fellow-partakers with them; v.7 Therefore, it is not the fear that we will lose our salvation that keeps us separate, but a knowledge of God’s hatred for sin. We are his “beloved children” (v.1)… if such is His view, we should not be fellow-partakers with them.
Walking as Children of Light: Living up to What We Are (5:8-14)
Light. What we are, “light” (Eph. 5:8), and where we walk, “in the light” (I John 1:7), are things that are true of every believer. One is our new nature, the other is our condition in an absolute sense. Walking in the light is the basis of our fellowship. There are two aspects of light, one emphasized in John 8, the other in John 9.
- Light exposes man’s condition – this is the primary character of light. It “lightens” or illuminates every man (John 3:20-21, Eph. 5:13), similar to how a bright flashlight can illuminate a dirty surface. We see Jesus as the Light in action in John 8:1-11, and we see Him exposing the hearts of the hypocritical Pharisees, followed by His declaration, “I am the light of the world” (v.12).
- Light is the knowledge of God’s character revealed in the person of the Son – a knowledge that opens the spiritual eyes of a person to see the truth (2 Cor. 4:6). We see Jesus as the Light in action again in John 9, where after declaring “I am the light of the world” (v.5), He opened the eyes of one born blind. Our light will have this dual influence on this world.
Love and Light. God is said to be light (1 John 1:5) and He is said to be love (1 John 4:16). These two words describe God’s character in different aspects. However, while we are said to be light (Eph. 5:8), we are never said to be love. This is because love is a motive, a sovereign source. God himself is that source, and we are privileged to be channels through which that love flows out… hence, we are exhorted to “walk in love” (Eph. 5:5) and “love one another” (1 John 4:12). Light, on the other hand, is a fixed state of purity… and it is characteristic of our new nature.
What We Are (Light) and the Corresponding Walk (vv.8-12)
8 for ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk as children of light, v.8 Now Paul speaks of our nature. We were darkness. This is more than just being “in” the darkness… our very nature was in opposition to God; we were darkness. But we are now partakers of the divine nature. We desire what God desires. We know and love what God loves. We are “light” in the Lord. The exhortation is to walk according to what we are; to “walk as children of light”.
9 (for the fruit of the light is in all (1) goodness and (2) righteousness and (3) truth,) v.9 Paul now gives us the character of the light. The fruit of the light would be the practical display of the new nature. Compare the fruit of the light with the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5; the list is similar. These ought to characterize us: (1) “goodness” or benevolence of nature, (2) “righteousness” or consistency of heart and life with God’s standard, and (3) “truth” or purity from falsehood and conformity to reality.
10 proving what is agreeable to the Lord; v.10 The positive result of walking as children of light is that we will live according to the Lord’s will. We need to seek from scripture what the Lord wants us to do, and then prove it out experimentally. It is not a question of “is this or that ok?”… but rather “what does He want me to do?”
11 and do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather also reprove them, 12 for the things that are done by them in secret it is shameful even to say. vv.11-12 The negative result of walking as children of light is that we need to be separate from evil. It is not only that are we to abstain from doing sinful deeds, but that we are to have no fellowship with those things. The “unfruitful works of darkness” are in contrast with “the fruit of the light.” We reprove or expose the works of darkness by walking as children of light. Physical light doesn’t make noise, and neither does spiritual light. We approve what is acceptable and reprove what is unacceptable by our walk. The darkest works of evil are done in secret, away from the light. The “them” (v.12) refers to the doers of the fruitless works of darkness. In Christendom people still cannot publicly commit gross sins that are openly committed in heathendom, because the light in Christians is too strong. However, as the light declines, gross moral sins again become more public and open (e.g. gay marriage, abortion).
What the Light Does for Us: Shows Things as They Are (vv.13-14)
13 But all things having their true character exposed by the light are made manifest; for that which makes everything manifest is light. v.13 The property of light is then given: light makes the true character of everything manifest, both of good and evil (John 3:20-21). By the Christian walking through this world as a child of light, the true character of the world will be evident to those watching. Jesus was the “light of the world” (John 1:9; John 8:12; John 9:5). In Christ’s absence, we are to be this light (Matt. 5:14). Though it is not brought out in Ephesians, the Church collectively is to be this light; i.e. the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1-3).
14 Wherefore he says, “Wake up, thou that sleepest, and arise up from among the dead, and the Christ shall shine upon thee.” [Isa. 60:1] v.14 This exhortation is to a believer that is backslidden. There is the prospect of recovery from their condition. A spiritually “sleeping” Christian is called to “arise” from among the “dead” unbelievers. A sleeper is externally similar to a dead person. You don’t have to stay where you are! When we are sleeping, we are missing out on the light. But the moment we awake: the discernment, the wisdom, the power… Christ Himself is there for us. See Matt. 6:22-24. This verse is an allusion to Isa. 60:1. Prophetically, the Lord will awaken the nation of Israel who have been in a “slumbering” condition, spiritually. When they awake, the Lord will shine light onto them, and they themselves will become a light to the Gentile nations around them (See Isa. 60:2-7). Paul applies this to a backslidden Christian who has ceased to be a light to this world. If they will only awake and turn to the Lord, He will supply the light needed to set their life in order, so that they can once again return to being a light to the world around them.
Walking in Wisdom: How to Be Preserved in the Path (5:15-21)
Four Parts to Walking in Wisdom (vv.15-18)
15 See therefore how ye walk carefully, not as unwise but as wise, v.15 Walk carefully. “Therefore”, based on the fact that we have been called to walk in love, and as children of light, we need to walk carefully (“as wise”), not to slip into a lifestyle contradictory to our calling (“unwise”). Satan is a clever foe. We have been delivered from so much, but if we are not careful, we can be deceived by the strategies of the Devil (Eph. 6). We must walk carefully.
16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. v.16 Redeem the time. The Lord has right and title to our time because He purchased it at the cross. But the exhortation is to “redeem” it. Redemption goes a step further than purchase. Redemption includes the thought of liberation. We must set our time free for Christ’s interests. We need to seize every opportunity because “the days are evil”. In fact, the more evil the day, the higher the stakes.
17 For this reason be not foolish, but understanding what is the will of the Lord. v.17 Understand the Lord’s will. Every step we make that is not in the Lord’s will is a wasted step, except that God may allow it to teach us lessons in His school. It is foolish to do anything that is not in keeping with the Lord’s will. The Lord’s will for our life is to “further god’s dispensation” (1 Tim. 1:4), to live out the truth of the mystery in a practical way.
18 And be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, v.18 Be filled with the Spirit. To be “filled with the Spirit” is to be full of the influence of the Spirit of God… to allow the Spirit to have control over every area of our life. To be intoxicated with an external worldly influence (wine) is debauchery, but to be intoxicated with the Spirit should be our everyday experience! There is no exhortation to be “sealed” with the Spirit, because that is a one time thing that God does. But there is an exhortation to be filled with the Spirit because it is dependent on our choices.
Walking in the Spirit vs. Filling with the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) is contrasted with walking in the flesh, and it seems to be a walk of complete obedience to every impulse of the Spirit. Filling with the Spirit is contrasted to drunkenness, and it seems to be a walk of complete communion and occupation with Christ, resulting in the outflow of praise and thanksgiving. There are two ditches, one that pertains to “walking in”, the other to “filling with” the Spirit:
|WALKING IN THE SPIRIT||FILLING WITH THE SPIRIT|
|The Goal||Perfect liberty in our practical walk.||The spontaneous outflow of praise and worship.|
|Grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) – to disobey an impulse of the Spirit.||Quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) – to block the Spirit’s filling, thus limiting the outflow of praise.|
The Results of Being Filled with the Spirit (vv.19-21)
19 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and chanting with your heart to the Lord; v.19 Result #1: Singing and Chanting. If we are filled with the Spirit, we will be occupied with singing and chanting to encourage each other (“to yourselves”) and in praise to the Lord Jesus (“to the Lord”):
Singing in the New Testament. From Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 it is evident that early Christians sang psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. From 1 Corinthians 14 it is evident that these were sung regularly in the assembly meetings, as well as in private (James 5:13). These psalms, etc. are quite distinct from the inspired poetry in the Old Testament, written by David, Asaph, and others for the Jewish people. We have no indication that Old Testament inspired psalms were sung in the assembly of God. Nor do we have an indication that there is such a thing as inspired New Testament hymns, etc. Perhaps the closest thing is the likely short “spiritual song” in 1 Cor. 15:3-4. That may have been a song common to early Christians, but recorded by inspiration in Paul’s epistle. As a side note, there is no mention of musical accompaniment with New Testament singing. The Church has brought in the use of musical instruments from “the camp” of Judaism (Heb. 13:13).
- Psalms are about the wilderness experience (e.g. L.F. #16 in the appendix).
- Hymns are addressed to a divine person (e.g. L.F. #135).
- Spiritual songs are songs about the truth of God (e.g. L.F. #150).
20 giving thanks at all times for all things to him who is God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, v.20 Result #2: Prayers of Thanksgiving. Secondly, we will be occupied with prayers of thanksgiving “at all times for all things”. These prayers will be addressed to our God and Father, who is the source of every gift (Jam. 1:17). These prayers of thanks are offered in the full name of: Lord (acknowledging His authority as risen from the dead) Jesus (His manhood name, His proximity to us) Christ (the anointed One, the glorified Man of God’s counsels).
21 submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ. v.21 Result #3: Submission to One Another. Thirdly, we will be characterized by Christ-like humility; always giving place to others. However, notice that the submission to others is “in the fear of Christ”… in submission to others we need to remember who we are and whom we serve. If someone asks you to do something Christ would not want you to do, you should not submit to that. We fear Christ, not the one we are submitting to. The fear of Christ implies a distrust of self, and trust in God. It will be difficult to submit to our brethren if we do not trust God. It is beautiful to see how these exhortations are qualified.