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Walk in Wisdom – Ephesians 5:15-21

Where do you find wisdom?

Paul said the Gentiles walk in the futility of their thinking (Ephesians 4:17). By contrast, he says that in our new self, which we must put on (v. 24), we are to walk in wisdom. He describes that wisdom this way:

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for every­thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:15-21

The CEV (Contemporary English Version) begins this section, “Act like people with good sense and not like fools.” Whereas the Gentiles walk in futility, you are to use good sense and not act the fool.

Of course, one of the traits of a fool is that he thinks he is wise. Indeed, he may be wise with the wisdom of this age – but the wisdom of this age is the sophos of the Greek. This word for wisdom is the word that gives us sophistication. How true it is that so much of the sophistication of the world is empty of value and significance.

If you do not believe this, listen for a while to the empty blather of “the beautiful people” as they gush about things of such little importance. Yet, much of our culture hangs on their “ideas” and adopts what they say as if it were wisdom from on high.

Notice the characteristics of a wise walk as Paul presents them:

Wisdom makes the most of every opportunity. The KJV has redeeming the time for this. We must use time wisely if we are to be wise. It is so easy for us to fritter away the time God gives us with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Yet, many people (can you identify with this?) spend fruitless hours playing empty games or watching what many appropriately call “the boob tube,” no double-entendre intended – but perhaps apt!

Wisdom seeks to understand the Lord’s will. The Psalmist said the blessed man does not listen to the advice of wicked mocking sinners but delights in and meditates on the law of the LORD (Psalm 1:1-2). God has not hidden His will. He has revealed it to us by His Word – Who gives us His Spirit to help us understand and apply it to our lives. The key to understanding His will is to desire to do God’s will (see John 7:17). When we love God, we will come to understand His will for our lives. C. S. Lewis spoke of his days as an atheist as a time when he viewed God as someone who just wanted to meddle in his life. When he became a believer, he understood God’s will as the best thing for his life, God was not messing with him to frustrate him and make him miserable.

Ultimately, God’s will has to do with behavior. Consider the contrast James gives us of the two different kinds of wisdom and the behavior each brings:

James 3:13-18. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom

James is big on “showing” instead of merely claiming. He wants the man who says he has faith to show it by his works (2:18). Here he wants the man who claims wisdom to show it in his life.

14) But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15) Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16) For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

In its extreme form, this “wisdom,” that claims absolute freedom without any responsibility for itself, results in absolute chaos and anarchy. Or, it ends in a dictator­ship that seizes control of the entire culture. Envy and selfish, irresponsible ambition are not the parents of peace and prosperity – in the nation, the home, or the Church. Such things do not come from God, but from the devil. In fact, these come from man’s desire to become his own god.

17) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18) Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Heaven’s wisdom loves purity and peace, is considerate of other, submits to God and to others because of love, is filled with deeds of mercy and good fruit – that is, the fruit of the Spirit of God. Its harvest is righteousness and goodness. It is hard for us to imagine a world in which people live this way. Indeed, Peter says that it is in the new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. (See 2 Peter 3:13 in a context that contains many of the elements of James 3:17-18.)

Wisdom does not depend on artificial “joy.” It does not seek the excesses of alcoholic stimulation and debauchery. Instead God’s Spirit fills it with God’s joy. The ideal life is not a night of revelry followed by a hangover – but of reveling in the love God poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This is a “one another” joy, as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with music in our hearts to God. It is a thankful joy, as we experience the joy of gratitude to God in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Messiah.

Wisdom submits, not only to the will of God, but to one another. If I submit to you because you force me or intimidate me, I am your slave. If I submit to you out of reverence for the Christ, I am His servant and am in His likeness. This is the “truth that is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21), which brings the renewal that forms us into the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The rest of Ephesians 5 is commentary on how this submission to one another works. That will be the subject of my next post on Ephesians.

God’s Wisdom is Foolishness to the Gentile World

However, for all of this talk about the wisdom of God, the world around us thinks all of this is absolute foolishness. Paul and Peter both wrote of this.

Peter said, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Peter 4:4).

Paul wrote in words very reminiscent of Ephesians 4:17-18, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….” (Romans 1:21-22).

Perhaps the strongest words about the two different views of wisdom are in 1 Corinthians 1:20-25.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Christ crucified embodies all of the wisdom of God. He, in His walk with us on earth, certainly made full use of every opportunity. He not only redeemed His time, He also redeems us. He knew God’s will; He not only followed God’s will, He taught it for others. He, though others accused Him of being a winebibber, found His joy in fellow­ship with God and in doing His will. He even had joy in the face of the cross. His life was a life of submission. He showed us wisdom in every way.

Now, He longs to be our wisdom so we can walk as He did. When we put on the new man, we will.

NEXT: Christ and the Church – Ephesians 5:22-33

PREVIOUS: Walk in Light – Ephesians 5:8-14


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