The first short story is about an Italian woman in her
sixties years who was reading the book of Acts for the first
time on her own.
When we read how members in the Jerusalem church sold
their goods to help one another, her eyes sparkled, and she
asked excitedly, “Where is that church today?
Why can't we do that?
Why can't we be like them?”
That's a wonderful example of the “Aha!” experience
that the Scriptures can bring to our lives.
The second story is about a preacher who writes books
for adult Bible classes.
One of his favorite expressions is this: “Familiar
passages must be read more slowly and considered more
think we already have them figured out, and sometimes miss
what they are saying.”
A final short story is about the teacher who told us
that whenever the members came to a hard passage in their
Bible class that nobody understood, the teacher would ask:
“Does anyone know what this means?”
Then someone would say, “Well, it means what it says,
and it says what it means.”
After about 10 seconds, everybody would feel holy,
and then move on to the next verse.”
Today, we are going to pick back up with looking into the
book of Ephesians.
Let's review just a moment about the city, the
church, and the message of the letter.
The city had about 200,000 inhabitants and was
wealthy since it had several trade and seas routes that came
It boasted one of the seven wonders of the ancient
world: the Temple to the goddess Diana or Artemis.
The city held games similar to the Olympics every
four years and was a center for magic, incantations, and
church began there in about 52 A. D. with the conversion of
some disciples of John the Baptist.
The apostle Paul also utilized a school there, and
many people throughout Asia heard the Gospel.
This is the city where the silversmiths caused a riot
to take place since Paul's preaching had hurt their
pocketbooks. The letter itself was written between 58-60 and
emphasizes being consistent or living up to our calling in
Christ. In the
first chapter, we saw how both Jewish and Gentile Christians
can praise God because all spiritual blessings have been
given by Him!
Paul then prays that the members will deeply grasp God's
hope, riches, and power!
Then Paul further explains what God has done for them
individually, collectively, and locally.
Paul also prays that they will be transformed, more
enlightened, and more filled with God's traits, blessings,
Then Paul challenges them in chapter 4 to all work together
to live up to their calling!
Then Paul describes some huge contrasts between
pagans and Christians.
In chapter 5, Paul admonishes the members to live in
Christ's love, to live in Christ's light, and to live in
Living in Christ's wisdom covers the passages that
were read this morning, verses 15-21.
This is a passage that is familiar, but as was
pointed out earlier, maybe we need to read this passage more
slowly and carefully to understand it.
This passage contains some wonderful news that
challenges our thinking!
This sermon is not designed to make us feel holy and
just move on.
This sermon can provide a real “Aha!” experience for us if
we'll really hear what Paul was trying to tell the brethren
Paul gives one command, three exhortations about it, and
four ways that the third exhortation can become a reality!
Paul first begins with this overall command for living in
in verse 15: “See then that you walk circumspectly”
or we might say, “Be very careful how all of you live!”
This command is addressed to the whole congregation;
the “you” is plural meaning “all of you.”
Believers should not return to the senseless living
they did as unbelievers.
They must now be very careful.
Literally, Paul is saying that we need to watch each
step that we take, and we must keep a watchful eye to all
that is going on around us.
Satan has set his snares and pitfalls to entice us,
and he knows that just one or two wrong steps just might get
us started down a path going in the wrong direction.
One commentator made this good remark: “We need to be
scrupulously careful about every detail of our conduct, for
nothing is trivial or unimportant.
Our manner of speech, fashion of clothes, companions
in pleasure, use of time, choice of magazines and books,
expenditure of money, are all indicative of the degree of
[wisdom] over [foolishness that we manifest] in our lives” (Paxson
). But do you
really care how you live?
A demon once asked Satan if there was any strategy
that he could use to keep Americans from thinking about God
and faith. “Oh
yes,” said Satan, “It's very easy.
Just remember this four letter word—b-u-s-y.”
A man once received a call from a female worker in
his department saying that her car had broken down about two
miles from the office.
He went out to meet her and asked what had happened.
She said that the car just suddenly quit running.
He asked if there was gas in the tank, and she
replied that she's just filled it up.
Then he asked if it made any noise, and she answered:
“Oh yes, it went, brump, brump, brump, pow!”
So then he asked, “When was the last time you changed
“Oil?” she questioned with a puzzled look on her face.
Now get this: the same man said that he often got the
same puzzled look when he had asked members of the church
this question: “When was the last time you slowed down and
stopped long enough to take a good spiritual inventory of
your life?” Be
very careful how all of you live!
“Well, Bro. Paul of Tarsus, can you help us to
understand a little more what living circumspectly means?”
So Paul now gives us three exhortations to help us
further see what it means to live carefully, to live in
These three exhortations have the same structure.
There is something not to do, followed by a contrast
showing what to do. The
first exhortation is seen in verses 15-16: “Not as fools,
but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil”
or we might say, “Don't live as fools, but take
advantage of every opportunity since the days are evil”
Jesus affirmed in Matthew 7:24-27 that people who hear His
teachings and put them into practice are wise, but those who
do just the opposite are foolish.
Here is what not to do.
“Not as fools” -- Don't live as an unthinking person,
who falls in line with the crowd, who takes the path of
least resistance, who plays along with the majority, who
disregards Jesus' teachings and His wisdom (Paxson).
Here is what to do.
Instead, we are to be wise.
“Well, Paul, how can we be wise?”
And Paul responds by saying, “You need to be
redeeming the time.”
We'd say, “Take advantage of every opportunity.”
Here are some questions for you: “Do you eagerly
grasp every opportunity to use it so that it will bring the
most profit to God, or to others, or to yourself?
Are you a murderer who kills time and fails to see
the enormity of such a sin” (Paxson)?
Do you spend more time in front of the TV absorbing
humanistic ideas or in God's Word absorbing divine ideas?
You see, “the wise Christian will use up his or her
opportunities for righteousness in the face of an evil age.
He knows that he must 'buy up' those occasions to
influence his family and children for Jesus now.
She knows that she will not always have the occasion
to speak a word about Jesus to a coworker, so she must speak
today. He knows
that God's way of escape for a certain temptation may not
always be open, so he must claim it while it is available.
She knows that the mid-week Bible study will help her
develop her relationship with God, so she takes advantage of
it. He knows
the opportunity to do a good deed in Jesus' name may soon
slip away, so he gets involved quickly (Bullard).
These are examples of redeeming our time.
As a Christian, you should want to make every moment
count because you know that the way you use your time here
will determine your eternal destiny.
To neglect our opportunities to show forth Christ is
to follow the world's foolish ways!
Be very careful how all of you live!
“Don't live as
fools, but take advantage of every opportunity since the
days are evil” (5:15-16)!
Now Paul provides another exhortation on how to live
Notice what verse 17 states: “Therefore do not be unwise,
but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
You see, we might say: “Don't live as unwise
(what not to do), but understand Christ's will (what to do)”
The Christian's understanding of life has been
changed because we have a new heart or a new mind (Weed).
“Well, Paul, how can we keep from being unwise?”
And Paul replies by saying, “You need to be
understanding Christ's will.”
The word “Lord” in this letter has always referred to
fundamental secret of living in Christ's wisdom is seeking
Christ's will for our lives each day (Paxson)!
When you hit those forks in the road, you should make
your decisions based on what will please Jesus and what will
bring honor to His name in those circumstances.
You should always make choices with a thoughtful
consideration of Christ's will.
See why Satan says, “B-u-s-y” is such a powerful
strategy against us?
We don't even think at times, “What would Jesus have
me to do?”
We're constantly thinking, “What's next to do on the
often like the little girl at the elementary school who was
having her picture made.
The photographer was making some light conversation
and asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And she replied, “When I grow up, I think I'll be
tired all the time.”
“The command in this verse 'understand' implies that you
will put forth the time and effort to discover what Christ
wants you to do and say in your world.
Through Bible study, prayer, personal reflection, and
conversations with other disciples, you can come to know
His will isn't something mysterious and illusive; no
indeed, it's readily available to you if you'll search for
it. The writer
of Hebrews says this at the close of his letter in 13:20-21:
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus
from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the
blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in
every good work to do His will, working in you what is well
pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be
glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Did you hear that?
God can help you to be complete in every good work to
do His will!
Each day you must submit, as our Master, the Lord Jesus did:
“Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Be very careful
how all of you live!
“Don't live as unwise, but understand Christ's
Now Paul gives another exhortation on how to live carefully.
Notice what verse 18 states: “And do not be drunk
with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the
see, we might say: “Don't live as drunkards, but let
yourselves be continually controlled by God's Spirit”
(5:18)! This is
a remarkable statement when we look at it closely.
Mentioning drinking may strike us as somewhat odd,
but in the Ephesian culture, drinking and religion were
ancient religions, and especially the worshipers of certain
gods and goddesses, used wine, dancing, and music in wild
rites designed to produce a frenzied state of intoxication
which was believed to facilitate [both] communication with
[a] deity and understanding the will of that god [or]
Paul is telling those who used to worship the goddess
Diana in this way not to revert to that type of
is not trying to take away joys and pleasures from these
believers' lives, but he wants them to have higher joys and
better pleasures (O'Brien).
One commentator gave an additional idea that serves
as a warning to our culture as well: “Alcohol is the
greatest single killer in the United States today, and it
produces more sorrow than what may attributed to any other
single source on earth.
It corrupts government, aggravates poverty, destroys
spirituality, and eventually destroys any society stupid
enough to indulge the unrestrained use of it” (Coffman).
You see, Satan wants us to substitute alcoholic
spirits for the Holy Spirit because he always wants to
replace the good with the bad (Ibid.).
“Dissipation” refers to sexual excess and sensual
“Well, Bro. Paul of Tarsus, how can we keep from being
intoxicated and living unrestrained?”
And Paul replies by saying, “Let yourselves be
continually controlled by God's Spirit” (5:18)!
Have you heard many sermons on this command?
Unfortunately, probably not, because we are scared of
the Holy Spirit. We're
scared because the Holy Spirit does not act in conventional
scared because any influence by the Spirit apart from the
Word almost sounds miraculous.
We're scared because we still want to control our lives
instead of letting God's Spirit guide us.
But, beloved brethren, we don't need to be scared; we
need to listen to the apostle Paul!
The verb used here is a present passive imperative
second person plural.
Now let's examine the implications of this.
“Present” means that the action is on-going.
The indwelling of the Spirit, we receive in a onetime
event at our baptism, but the filling of the Spirit is a
continual daily action.
One commentator said it this way: “Being filled with
the Spirit implies more than being indwelt by Him.
In some believers' lives, He has little more than a
foothold, being almost crowded out by a number of concerns.
Paul is eager that his converts should be under the
undisputed control of the Spirit.”
Do we have some “intoxicants” or concerns today that
prohibit the Spirit from filling our lives?
Could sports (especially those that include the
Razorbacks), watching TV, making money, using the Internet,
or whatever we have a strong thirst for, could these
“intoxicants” cause us to be controlled by them rather than
to be controlled by God's Spirit?
Now back to understanding the verb: present means
Passive means that the Spirit is filling us; it is
doing the acting and we receive that action.
Imperative means it is a command; something we must
all put into practice.
Second person plural means “you all”; this is
something that happens to us together.
So this is why the translation: “Let yourselves be
continually controlled by God's Spirit!”
“But Bro. Paul of Tarsus, how can we let the Spirit
control our lives?”
This is where Paul gives four ways that we can do it.
To better understand what Paul does, we need a quick
grammar lesson. Listen to this sentence: “Go to the store by
taking your car.”
What is the main verb in that sentence?
It is “go”.
It is a command.
What is the word “taking”?
It is called a participle of means.
How are you going to go?
Well, the means you will use is your car.
In like manner, Paul now uses four particles of means
to show how we can be controlled by or filled with the Holy
first way is by “speaking to one another in psalms, and
hymns, and spiritual songs” (5:19) or we might say, “by
teaching one another through songs.”
This emphasizes the horizontal aspect—we help the
Spirit to control us by teaching to each other when we sing.
Psalms were those old Jewish songs based upon the
book of Psalms.
Hymns were songs devoted to a god or goddess, but the
Christians in Ephesus now used this type of song to glorify
Jesus and God.
Spiritual songs were more personal and informal;
songs that some members themselves probably wrote.
“Imagine how beautiful and soul-satisfying these
meetings [filled with songs] must have been” (Hughes)!
Notice how Paul encouraged these members to use the
“old traditional psalms” as well as “the modern
songs” adapted from their culture and written by their own
members! It is
good that we can sing both older and newer songs.
And when are we going to hear some original songs
written by members right here?
Yes, if you have the talent to write poetry and
music, then why not try to write a spiritual song that we
Now look at the next way that we can be controlled by the
Spirit: “by singing and making melody in your heart to
the Lord” (5:19). And
you see, this emphasizes the vertical aspect.
We are not singing to please ourselves or to please
one another; we are singing to please our Lord Jesus.
We sing with our vocal chords and make melody with
the chords of our mind.
This worship involves both vocalizing and thinking;
it does NOT involve using any mechanical instruments.
Another lesson is going to be devoted to the topic of
why instruments of music in worship should be rejected.
But right now, let's not lose the train of thought
that Paul is expressing to these brothers in Ephesus.
The third way that we can be filled with the Spirit
is by “giving thanks always for all things to God the
Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:20).
We are to be a thankful people who pray to our
Almighty God through our one and only Mediator, Jesus.
“Always” means all the time, and “for all things”
means thanking God for all the spiritual and material
blessings that He has provided.
It does not seem here that Paul is asking us to
become hypocrites and thank God when evils strike our
But even in those terrible situations, we can know that God
is near and continue to bless His name, just as Job did.
When we are being truly grateful and appreciative, we
are being filled with the Spirit.
The fourth way that we can be Spirit controlled is by
submitting to one another in the fear of God” (5:21).
“In Paul's day 'submit' was a military term, and it
literally meant 'one equal putting himself under another
carried no connotation of inferiority. ... Submission is for
To the degree that we humbly serve and treat each other with
respect, and to that same degree we are [controlled by] the
reason that some Christians never get anywhere in their
Christian lives is that they are always standing up for
As long a Christian is doing this, he or she cannot be
yielding to the Spirit's control.
After all, what rights does a dead individual have
anyway, [one who is dying daily on his or her own cross]”
see, being controlled by God's Spirit is not about ecstasy
or exuberance, but it’s about singing, praying, and
You see, this fullness from God's Spirit is something
that we obtain only when we work together at it.
It is not something that we can get as individuals.
We can only be filled with the Spirit when we
See what you miss out on when you don't attend?
“Let yourselves be continually controlled by God's
Spirit!” .. this should be an “Aha!” experience for us!
Don't let the familiarity of using this text as a
proof-text against instrument music in worship blind you to
the more wonderful message that it has to offer!
This interpretation is a little different, so feel
free to share your idea after services.
It doesn't just “say what it means,” it challenges us
all to be very careful how we live, to take advantage of our
daily opportunities, to understand Christ's will daily, and
to be let ourselves be filled by God's Spirit as we sing and
pray together and mutually submit to one another!
There was a professor who was to give a lecture at another
When he got to the airport, he was greeted by a tall male
student in his mid-twenties.
As the student was escorting the professor to his car
and walking through the airport, he would break conversation
with the professor for a minute and go over to help a woman
put her suitcase on the scale, or he would pick up child who
was crying and twirl it over his head, then dry its tears
and keep on walking, or once he darted over to help a man in
his wheelchair pick up his dropped billfold, which he put in
his hands with a smile.
The professor finally got his attention long enough
to ask, “How do you do that?”
“Do what?” the student asked.
“How do you serve others like you do?”
“Oh that,” said the student.
“Well, sir, it's like this.
In Vietnam, my job was to use the sweeper to discover
the land mines and signal the troops following me to avoid
This practice taught me to look broadly, to walk
carefully, and to do all I could to keep as many of my
comrades alive as possible.
I guess I've kind of grown used to doing the same
thing now. Only
now I look for the opportunities to leave the beaten path
and bring as much joy to as many others as I possibly can.
Every day we live in this good land is a gift from
God, and I want others to realize that too” (Unknown).
Have you been walking carefully, thoughtfully, and
you been taking advantage of every opportunity?
Have you been trying to put Christ's will into
practice each day?
Have you let other things crowd out the Spirit's
you forgotten the importance of growing together with other
members in the church?
Great living begins with making Christ the supreme
relationship in your life, and it continues as you live in