As we begin our study of Ephesians today, let me remind you of what we have already learned. The first three chapters are positional truth—the things Yahweh has done for us. What has He done? He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. He made us to be holy, to be blameless. In love He predestinated us. He adopted us. He made us to the praise of His glory. He made us accepted in the Beloved. We saw that the Father selected us, the Son redeemed us, and the Spirit sealed us (1:3-14). He's made us alive who were dead. He has placed us in the heavenlies in Christ (2:1-10). He's taken us, who are afar off, who are lost, who are cut-off, and made us near. He has united Jew and Gentile into one New Man, He put us in one body called the Church (2:11-3:13).
Ruth Paxon said, "Ephesians chapter 1 through chapter 3 is how God sees us in Christ. And then in chapters 4 through 6, is how the world should see Christ in us." That's good! In Ephesians 4:1-6:9, Paul describes our conduct in terms of our walk.
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 unbelieving Gentiles. 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:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, Ephesians 5:15 NASB
"Therefore be careful how you walk"—the "therefore" points back to the preceding context where we saw that as Christians, we are now children of light (5:8). Since we are children of light, we are to be careful how we walk.
The word "careful" here is blepo, which means: "to see" and here refers to spiritual perception. In the Greek there is another word here that the NASB completely leaves out. It is the adverb akrobos, which means: "accurately, carefully, well." It is to consider with exactness and precision. It was an accounting term. If you're keeping the books for an organization or just balancing your checkbook, it is important to be exact. There's a concept of accuracy and of absolute carefulness in the way that we walk. It means literally this: "See that you walk carefully with exactness."
This is Paul's final use of the word "walk" in Ephesians. As we have been saying, "walk" pictures our way of life, worked out in a daily step-by-step process. In Paul's day, people didn't just walk for exercise. They walked to get to a destination. So to walk spiritually pictures steady progress toward a definite goal. Walk is a present indicative giving the sense that the believer is to make it a habit of walking carefully.
Paul was telling them that they needed to choose their steps carefully, because the enemy has strewn the path with dangerous obstacles that will cause them serious harm if they are careless. I say that Paul was telling "them" because the first century saints lived in what I call "The Transition Period; the spiritual battle that they faced was unique to them. We'll talk about this more in a minute.
Although the saints in Asia Minor to whom Paul was writing were living in a different age that we are, I still think that we can apply these words to ourselves. I think that believers today still need to be "careful how they walk." The way we live is important, as we have been seeing; and if we are going to live godly lives, we must walk carefully.
This first exhortation, "be careful how you walk," stands like a heading and is explained by three antitheses, "not...but," in the following clauses: not as unwise, but as wise; not foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; not drunk, but filled with the Spirit. If we are going to walk carefully, we must walk in wisdom.
"Not as unwise men, but as wise"—the Greek words used here are asophos and sophos. To a Greek, sophos (wisdom)is knowing some things. The Greek idea of wisdom is understanding the "why" of things. If you were to stand at the airport and watch the planes coming and going, you might be able to get a general idea of the overall plan of the various flights. As you watched them take off, land, circle the runway, and taxi in, you could learn some things about the overall plan.
But if you were to go into the tower with all the radar showing the visible location of every plane and hear the tower's communication with the planes, you would learn much more. At once you would be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control the aircraft. You would see WHY the plane must circle the runway before it lands. You would see WHY the plane on the ground must wait for clearance to take off. You would understand WHY that plane stopped its taxing and returned for repairs. The why and wherefore of all these movements becomes plain once you can see the overall picture. This is the Western idea of wisdom—understanding the WHY. But to a Hebrew this is NOT an illustration of what Yahweh does when He gives us wisdom. Wisdom does not consist of a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us. It is not the ability to see WHY Yahweh has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is gong to do next.
To an Eastern thinker, a Hebrew, wisdom is like being taught to drive. What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things, and the soundness of your judgment as to what scope a situation gives you. You don't ask yourself, "Why is this road so slippery?" or "Why is the turn so sharp?" or "Why is that car parked where it is?" or "Why did they suddenly stop right in the middle of the road?" Does the "why" really matter? Instead of asking, "Why," you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation.
To drive well, you have to keep your eyes focused to notice exactly what is in front of you. To live wisely, you have to do the same thing. Wisdom is properly evaluating circumstances and making right decisions. It's the ability to respond correctly to the circumstances of life. In Hebraic usage, wisdom described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct—a wisdom derived from his personal knowledge of Yahweh.
Wisdom is not understanding the WHY, but responding correctly to the circumstances of life. Wisdom is acceptance of, and adjustment to, Yahweh's revealed truth. Herbert Hoover defined wisdom as: "knowing what to do next."
How do we get wisdom? In Scripture, wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing Yahweh:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 NASB
So, wisdom starts with a fear of Yahweh. To the Hebrew, wisdom is right living, responding correctly to life's situations. So, when you fear Yahweh, you will begin to live right.
This is a Hebrew parallelism. Parallelism is the expression of one idea in two or more different ways. If "wisdom" and "understanding" are parallel in this verse, and I believe they are, then the "fear of Yahweh" and the "knowledge of the Holy One" are parallel also. If we fear Yahweh, we will walk in wisdom, and if we know Yahweh, we will walk in understanding. To know Yahweh is to fear Him, and to fear Him is to walk in obedience.
In our day, the idea of "fearing God" seems old-fashioned to many Christians. But there was a time when to be called a "God-fearing man" was a great compliment. You don't hear that phrase used anymore today.
What does it mean to "fear Yahweh"? When we think of fear, we associate the word with terror. Webster's Dictionary defines fear as: "a feeling of anxiety and agitation produced by the presence or nearness of danger, evil, pain, etc." For many, this would describe the feeling you get when you see a snake, go to the doctor or dentist, or when you find yourself in a time of extreme danger. It is dread of the unknown. Surely, this is not the sensation the Bible is referring to.
In our modern vernacular, the "fear of Yahweh" is often defined as "reverence" or "awe," which is fine as far as it goes. But I wonder if this definition truly goes far enough. When we truly fear Yahweh, we will recognize that He is the Creator, and we are the creatures. He is the Master, and we are the servants. He is the Father, and we are the children. This attitude will manifest itself in our having a respect for Yahweh, and in our having a desire to do what He tells us to in His Bible. We can relate this kind of fear to that which a child has for his parents. If the right kind of fear is present, the child knows that his parents can hurt him if there is disobedience, but overriding that fear is the knowledge that disobedience hurts the parents, and the child loves and respects his parents and does not want to hurt them. To put it simply, the fear of Yahweh is a deep seated reverence for Him that causes men to want to please Him at all costs.
The reason that there is so little wisdom in the Church today is because there is so little FEAR of Yahweh. We do not know Him, so we do not fear Him. Yahweh is holy and He is to be feared. The fear of Yahweh should provide a primary motivation for, as well as result in, obedience to Him. If we truly reverence Yahweh, we will obey Him since every act of disobedience is an affront to His dignity and majesty. Fearing Yahweh results in obedience, and this is wisdom. How can we come to really know Yahweh so that we do fear Him? There is only one way and that is through the Bible, which is Yahweh's self revelation.
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 Yeshua. 2 Timothy 3:15 NASB
Here we see that Scripture gives wisdom that leads to salvation. True wisdom for man is adjustment to, and acceptance of, Yahweh's revealed truth. It lies in seeing himself, the creature, in right perspective to Yahweh, the Creator; and in acting accordingly.
How can we walk in wisdom? Paul tells us very clearly:
making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16 NASB
"Making the most of your time"—is not a very clear translation. The word translated "time" here is kairos. Kairos has nothing to do with chronological time (that's chronos). It means: a "decisive or crucial point" or a "critical situation in your life that requires decisive action; a decisive moment" (TDNT, vol. III, 455). It refers to a period of possibilities upon which you must take action. Yeshua used the word in Mark 1:
and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15 NASB
He's pointing to the decisive period of His proclamation of the Gospel. Those who heard the proclamation of the Gospel had the responsibility to "seize the moment" by trusting in Christ. He also looked over Jerusalem weeping, because she "did not recognize the time of [her] visitation" (Luke 19:44). Again, time is used of a decisive moment that requires action.
The Greeks liked to personify just about everything, and they had a personification of Kairos. Statues of him could be found all across the Greek peninsula, but the most famous stood in now-ruined Sikyon. It had the following epigram carved into it:
Who and whence was the sculptor? From Sikyon.
And his name? Lysippos.
And who are you? Time who subdues all things.
Why do you stand on tip-toe? I am ever running.
And why do you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind.
And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge.
And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock.
And why, in Heaven's name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind.
Why did the artist fashion you? For your sake, stranger, and he set me up in the porch as a lesson.
I think you get the point, we must grab opportunities when they come.
Paul says, "Making the most of your time"—as I said, this translation is a little weak to me. "Making the most" is from the Greek word exagorazo, which means: "seize the opportunity, buy up an opportunity." It is used four times in the New Testament; the NASV translates two of them: "redeem," and two of them: "making the most." It comes from two words: "out" and "to buy," and in this passage means: "to buy up for oneself." It implies a sacrifice or loss of something to gain something else.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us— for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE" Galatians 3:13 NASB
"Redeemed" here is exagorazo. So here the price was Christ's becoming a curse for us, and the gain was our rescue from the curse of God. So to "redeem the opportunity" means: "to take whatever painful steps are necessary to get the gain we are after."
Exagorazo is used in the active voice in (Galatians 3:13, 4:5) of the deliverance out from the Law and its curse. In Ephesians 5:16, the middle voice is used, which conveys a "reflexive" sense to the verb—the idea then is of buying up for oneself. A Christian operating in wisdom seizes spiritual opportunities. He takes the best advantage of the situation:
So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:10 NASB
"Opportunity" here is kairos. As we have opportunity, we ought to grab it.
The Greek word that Paul uses for "making the most," exagorazo, is only used once in the LXX and that is in Daniel 2:8. In Daniel 2:8-9, Nebuchandnezzar told the Chaldeans that if they did not tell him his dream and its interpretation, they would be destroyed. They asked him to give them the dream and then they could give him the interpretation. He accused them of trying to buy time before their doom:
The king replied, "I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, Daniel 2:8 NASB
They were trying to make the most of the opportunity.
What is the opportunity that believers are to seize? I think it is ANY opportunity to honor and glorify Yahweh. We, like them, are to seize the opportunities for His glory.
Harry Ironside, in his Commentary on Ephesians, tells a story about how he used to ask congregations that he was preaching to how many people had read the Bible through in a year. He used to ask them to put their hand up! Well, in a company of 500 people there were only two. He said on that day that he would never ask that question again, and his reason for it was this: He was ashamed to let the devil see it! Are we seizing the opportunity to spend time in the Word of God?
So let me ask you this, "Do you have a 'purpose statement' for your spiritual life?" If you just drift through life without thinking carefully about how to spend your time, you will not end up where you want to be.
If I were to ask any of you what your spiritual statement for your life is, what would it be? What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I think this kind of thinking is to what Paul refers to when he says to "walk, not as unwise, but as wise, taking advantage of redeeming the time because the days are evil." When we consider that our lives are not ours to do with as we might please, but are a gift from Yahweh to be light in further exposing His glory, we have to ask, "Is my life and the life of my family going to be spent for the American dream or for the glory of Yahweh?
Paul tells them that they are to seize the opportunities "Because the days are evil"—this expression has been understood simply as a general description of the presence of evil in the world. But Paul's language, given his eschatological perspective, suggests a specific age. Second Temple period Judaism distinguishes between two types of ages or olam: olam hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba ("the world to come"). The "olam hazeh" or "this world" is characterized by darkness, wickedness, sin, and death. It is called "night." The "Olam Haba," or "the world to come," as it was called by the rabbis, was known as a time of joy, peace, light, eternity; it is known as "day." The rabbis connected the Olam Haba and the resurrection. So they viewed the present age as wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. It can be mended only by the direct intervention of Yahweh. When Yahweh does intervene the golden age, "the age to come" will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a New Age.
To Paul and the Hebrew mind set, evil was descriptive of the present age (olam hazeh):
who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4 NASB
Now please notice that the evil age was present to them, but it was an age that was about to end:
"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 NASB
The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: "about to be." We could translate this, "the age about to come" (in the first century). The days are evil because they are part of the last days with impending judgment.
Later in Ephesians Paul says:
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13 NASB
The days of that age were evil because they were controlled by the "god of this age," who opposes Yahweh and His kingdom, and who will try to prevent any opportunities for the advancement of Yahweh's Kingdom. During the Transition Period unrelenting warfare existed between Yahweh and the "gods of that age":
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 NASB
Some see this as referring to Yahweh, and certainly Yahweh blinds the minds of men, but He also uses others to carry out His will. Who was it that moved David to number Israel?:
Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah." 2 Samuel 24:1 NASB
So it was Yahweh, right? Well what about:
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1 NASB
So who was it? It was ultimately Yahweh, but He used Satan to carry out His Will. Satan could do nothing without Yahweh's approval:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. Job 1:6 NASB
Here "sons of God" is bene elohim and is used of Yahweh's counsel, they were other elohim, who served on Yahweh's counsel. They answered to Yahweh. Satan was just one of many spiritual rulers. Satan says that Job only serves Yahweh because of what Yahweh gives him, so Yahweh gives Satan permission to afflict Job:
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12 NASB
In the text in 2 Corinthians 4:4, it seems to be that this god is hindering the Gospel message and opposing Yahweh; and I also have trouble with it saying that Yahweh is the "god of this age." Yahweh is the God of every age. This phrase, "god of this age," is used nowhere else in the New Testament, but Yeshua uses the same idea in:
"Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. John 12:31 NASB
And John also writes:
We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 NASB
Satan is called, "god" in the rabbinical writings. "The first God is the true God; but the second god is Samael." Here is what we have to understand, there were other gods beside Yahweh; they were lesser gods that Yahweh had created and later destroyed.
God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. Psalms 82:1 NASB
Here "God" and "rulers" are both elohim, this is speaking of the divine counsel, or the watchers:
I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Psalms 82:6 NASB
Here "gods" is elohim. Yahweh said, "You are gods." But notice the next verse:
"Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." Psalms 82:7 NASB
If these elohim were men, why would Yahweh say, "You will die like men"? Yahweh is saying here that He will judge the disobedient watchers. I think we see this same idea in:
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 1 Corinthians 2:6 NASB
Here "rulers" is archon, which is used of spirit beings:
But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." Matthew 9:34 NASB
"Rulers" here is also archon, and here he is talking about a "ruler of demons." So these watchers, these gods, were gods of "this age," who were soon to be judged. So Paul says, "The days are evil," because they are under the power of the prince of the power of the air, who is opposed to Yahweh and His purposes.
Believers, we now live in what was to the first century saints the "age to come." When most Christians read in the New Testament and see the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future (to us) age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.
Since the "present age" of the Bible ended in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple and the Coming of the Lord, we must be in the "age to come." The "gods of the nations" have been judged and destroyed. The spiritual battle that the New Testament saints fought is over. We now live in the consummated Kingdom of Yahweh. We don't fight demons and spiritual rulers, but we still battle with sin. And, therefore, we are still to seize the opportunities to bring glory to Yahweh:
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:17 NASB
Who is the fool?:
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. Psalms 14:1 NASB
The fool does not fear or submit to Yahweh. Can believers live like fools?:
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Yeshua the Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Galatians 3:1 NASB
Believers can play the fool by disobedience. We know that there is a God, but we often live like there isn't.
If you're just living to get a good job, pay the bills, and enjoy selfish pursuits, with an occasional trip to church when it doesn't interfere with your entertainment program, Paul calls you foolish.
"But understand what the will of the Lord is"—the adversative conjunction allah (but) indicates a strong contrast from the preceding negative statement, "Don't be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." When talking about the will of God, we must differentiate between what is called His sovereign will and His moral will; or His secret will and His revealed will. Look at "will" in these two passages:
You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" Romans 9:19 NASB
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 NASB
Does the term "will" mean the same in both of these passages? No. Romans 9 uses the term "will" to speak of God's sovereign will of decree. And 1 Thessalonians 4 uses the term "will" to speak of God's revealed will of precept.
The term "will" is ambiguous. The ten commandments are Yahweh's preceptive, or moral will. They command men to do this and to refrain from that. They state what ought to be done, but they neither state nor cause what is done. God's sovereign will, however, causes every event.
It might be helpful to clarify if the term "will" were not applied to the precepts. Call them requirements of morality, commands, precepts, or laws; and reserve the term "will" for the Divine Decree.
Remember, Yahweh's sovereign will is secret until it happens. Our concern is to be obedient to the moral commands of God, the Scriptures.
"But understand what the will of the Lord is"—it's not referring to guidance for everyday decisions in determining the will of Yahweh. This is not talking about leading us to decide what school to go to, what church to go to, who to marry, where to work. If you listen to Christians talk, you may hear something like: "I believe that God is leading me to marry Bill," or "God has led me to this job," or "God wants me to go to this church."
This kind of terminology reflects the idea that the key to making the "right" decision is discernment of God's leading. This may sound spiritual, but we don't see this kind of language in the New Testament. Notice what the Bible does say:
Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas— Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, Acts 15:22 NASB
The text doesn't say, the Spirit led the apostles and elders to choose these men. It says, "It seemed good" to them to choose these men. Now that doesn't sound near as spiritual:
it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Acts 15:25 NASB
Again they choose them because it "seemed good":
If you want to know God's will, don't look for supernatural leading, learn God's Word. And in non-moral areas just use wisdom. And when you do make a decision, instead of saying, "God led me to do this," which sounds super spiritual and authoritative, it would be much more biblical to say, "It seemed good to me to do this or that."
I think that people would rather be led by the Spirit, in some experiential way, than study the written revelation that God has given us, because it takes away the burden of serious and, often, laborious study of the Scriptures. Second, it establishes an absolute freedom from criticism and condemnation (if the Spirit "led" in the taking of a certain position, or the doing of a certain action, what man is there that can criticize the Spirit?). Third, it establishes a profound authority in the one "led of the Spirit." Thus, the setting aside of the written revelation in favor of the internal leading of the Spirit is extremely dangerous, because it appeals greatly to those who are too lazy to study; too insecure in their theology to be able to bear criticism; and too desirous of having men think highly of them. In a word, such a position appeals to the pride of man.
So Paul says, "be careful how you walk," and then explains what he means by three antitheses, "not...but," in the following clauses: not as unwise, but as wise; not foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Next week we will look at the fact that we are not to be drunk, but filled with the Spirit. If we are going to walk carefully, we must walk in wisdom.
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