Ephesians 5:15-21 A Life Controlled by the Spirit

Ephesians 5:15-21

A life controlled by the Spirit

The question we have to ask is: How do we continue to walk worthy of the gospel?

Everything Paul has written to us!

Our text today outlines nicely with a main verb being in the imperative at the beginning of each section, followed by participles that tell the audience how to carry out the action of the imperative.

So Paul’s imperatives to the Ephesians will be our imperatives. Paul’s methods to achieve the command will be our methods.

Lets continue to explore how to walk worthy of being united with each other in Christ.

Choose your manner of life carefully v. 15-16

“Look (present / active / imperative) carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making (present / middle / participle) the best use of the time (kairos – opportune time, not succession of minutes), because the days are evil (evil in a moral or spiritual sense).” v. 15-16

  1. Live wisely

God’s wisdom is that God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals.[1]

Us living wisely is us choosing the best goals and the best means to those goals in reflection of God who we seek to imitate.

But how does Paul tell us how we are to specifically live wisely in this context?

  1. Take advantage of the opportune time

Making the best use of the time here is not a chronological idea. Rather it is opportune time (kairos versus chronos)

In other words, we live wisely by taking advantage of the moments the Lord Jesus leads us to or orchestrates in his wise providence.

– This requires knowledge of God’s wisdom (what are his ends and


– This requires Spirit led discernment informed by Spirit inspired


– This requires a robust doctrine of God’s providence to see and take

advantage of those moments.

Why are we to take advantage of the opportune times?

  1. The days are evil

Or to say it another way: Beware, don’t let your guard down. We are at war!

“…the powers of evil have a firm grip on humankind in this age, leading it into self-indulgent disobedience (so 2:1–3)”[2]

Paul is not neglecting the reality that sin’s power has been broken, but he is acknowledging that the world system has not finally been overthrown and is still seeking to thwart the work of the kingdom. We will see this in chapter 6.

We are to live wisely because we live in a world where the curse has been broken by Christ, but many in this world system are still bewitched by the curse and are dead in their sin, and live according to the Prince of the Power of the Air, so they live not for the glory of God but for the rebellion, and we, of all people, must be living for God’s ends in God’s ways.

By living wisely among folly and as light in darkness we highlight and demonstrate that Jesus is better.

  1. We must evaluate whether we are doing God’s work in God’s way
  1. We must be willing to repent if either our ends or our means is off base.

Understand the will of the Lord v. 17

“Therefore do not be foolish (present / middle-passive / imperative), but understand (present / active / imperative) what the will of the Lord is.” v. 17

Verse 17 presents us with a negative command and a positive command.

  1. Stop becoming foolish (literal translation of the first part of verse 17)
  2. Folly = wasting opportune times or not knowing opportune times

In other words, stop being like the world system that is not looking for kingdom but content to live in the flow of the fall.

  1. Content to neglect our being in Christ
  2. Content to see the church as social institution rather than

the body of Christ

  1. Content to be segregated in the church with not unity
  2. Content with not exercising my gifting in the Lord for the

benefit of the body

  1. Content with not putting off my old self

It would be the idea of being good with my sin because Jesus died to make sure I can sin and it’s ok.

  1. Do pursue the will of the Lord

I believe verse 18-21 is going to tell us the will of the Lord in particular for the Ephesian’s setting. However, verse 18 of chapter 5 is one of 5 places where the Lord’s will is specifically mentioned. This truth gives us the freedom of going hard after Psalm 37:4 desires if these criteria are met.

  1. Saved 2 Timothy 2:3-4
  1. Suffering 1 Peter 3:17
  1. Sanctified 1 Thessalonians 4:3
  1. Submissive 1 Peter 2:13-15
  1. Spirit Controlled Ephesians 5:18ff (particularly in the context of

unified life together in the gospel)

Be controlled by the Holy Spirit v. 18-21

“And do not get drunk (present / passive / imperative) with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled (present / passive / imperative) with the Spirit, addressing (present / active / participle) one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing (present / active / participle) and making melody (present / active / participle) to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks (present / active / participle) always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting (present / active / participle) to one another out of reverence for Christ.” v. 18-21

There is a negative command and a positive command here as well. The negative command is going to give some meaning to the positive command, however.

The meaning and means of being filled with the Holy Spirit are contained in this text.

When the disciples received the Spirit at Pentecost, what did the bystanders say of them? “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13 – although 2 different words, they are synonyms and serve the same purpose)

What was the insinuation? The insinuation is that these men were drunk. They believed the disciples to be filled with wine.

When one is “drunk” or “filled” with some alcoholic drink, we say they are “under the influence.” That means they are under the control of the alcohol.

Paul tells the Ephesians to not be under the influence of wine, for that will lead to unclean things, but he does tell them to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

As one, when drunk, is under the influence of the excessive alcohol they have consumed we are to be under the influence of the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit and operating under the command of the Spirit.

This is a command not a suggestion. It is in the imperative, and a string of modifying participles follows the imperative. This string of participles indicates how one fulfills the command to be controlled by the Spirit.

Side note: This is why Father has created order and order in words so that we don’t manufacture ways to have spiritual experiences. If we take the command to be filled with the Spirit and go seeking spiritual experiences to be filled, we may get a demon. However, if we obey the written order, we may just get a “Holy Ghost” moment. There is no need to go beyond what is written.

The command is in the present, meaning it is something we are to be continually living in. It is not a one-time event we have and move on. Rather, being spirit filled is to be a continual life.

The command is in the passive, meaning that the very thing we are commanded to do is something we can’t just do. Meaning we can’t control ourselves with the Spirit. He is a person, and he is sovereign, and we don’t control him. He is not a tool we wield. He is a person we relate to and submit to as God. We are to be under his control. So, how do we get under his control?

The participles are in the active voice, meaning that these are actions we can do. As we do the things he has written as means he completes the end by filling us with himself.

Therefore, we understand that the Spirit controls us as we actively obey his means.

This is not a mystical activity that happens only as we sit in a certain pose while meditating. The filling of the Spirit happens as we obey.

Filling with the Holy Spirit – “…an event in which the Christian experiences a fresh work of the Spirit that may result in a variety of consequences, including greater love for God, greater victory over sin, greater power for ministry, and sometimes the receiving of new spiritual gifts.”[3]

What are his means?

  1. Encourage one another by addressing one another with truth v. 19a

It is fitting to address one another in opportune moments with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

  1. Worshiping the Lord at all times in our heart (singing and making melody)
  2. 19b

It is appropriate to sing to the Lord at all times not just on Sundays.

  1. Giving thanks in all things v. 20

A robust doctrine of God’s providence allows us to take Romans 8:28 and rejoice and give thanks in all things.

  1. Submitting to one another v. 21

We don’t seek to get our way, rather we seek to serve each other and, even if we are wronged, receive being wronged for the sake of peace and submission to one another.

This sounds like the kind of person I want to be around.

As a matter of fact, a Spirit-filled person is the kind of person that will preserve unity and the health of the body of Christ.

Spirit-filled people worship

Let’s sing and make melody with our heart and all that is in us.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 193.

[2] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1241.

[3] Grudem, p. 2633


Ephesians 5:8-14 Live in the Light and Expose the Darkness

Ephesians 5:8-14

Live in the light and expose the darkness

Jesus is at the Feast of Tabernacles on the day after the nighttime ceremony called the Illumination of the Temple. John 7 and 8 record this encounter.

This event takes place in front of four large candelabra that were massively tall. These candelabra were fed with large bowls that were said to hold up to 65 liters of oil. Well-trained and fit priests would have to hoss replacement oil up to these reservoirs to keep the wicks of the candelabra lit.

This ceremony celebrates the LORD leading Israel from Egypt through their wilderness experience by a pillar of fire at night and the cloud in the day.

“Men of piety and good works used to dance before the candelabra with burning torches in their hands singing songs and praise and countless Levites played harps, lyres, cymbals and trumpets and instruments of music.”[1]

It’s in this setting after the ceremony celebrating the LORD’S leading and Jesus reminding some Pharisees about the Law regarding the woman caught in adultery that the Lord says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

  1. The fall brought darkness and death, an eclipse of the way, the truth and the life
  2. Jesus, the light of the world, brought light and life
  3. Walking worthy involves walking in the light and exposing and rejecting

the curse of death and darkness

In Christ we are light v. 8a

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord…”

Verse 8 is not disconnected from the previous passage. Rather it is a continuation of the thought in verse 7.

We are not to be partakers with those who don’t imitate God precisely because we are children of light not darkness.

We are God imitators not God haters.

Romans 13:12-14 “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealously. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

  1. Our nature has changed “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are

light in the Lord…”

“Nature is mortal. We shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol…we are summoned to pass in through nature beyond her to the splendor which she fitfully reflects.”[2]

Let me be clear. We are not THE light. That is Jesus.

However, because the light has come to dwell in us, we reflect that light that is shining due to his transformation of us into sons of God.

We are not gods.

We are humans, but as Moses shone with the glory of God, we too when filled with the glory of God, shine like the sun.

  1. 2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine nature has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
  1. Matthew 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
  1. Because we are light, we have a great responsibility

The rest of the passage will unpack that great responsibility.

We are to live as children of light v. 8b-9

“Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)…”

The result of living as children of light is: goodness, righteousness and truth.

Good – benevolent, virtuous, generous

Right – antonym of lawless; the essence of being righteous; conformity to the claims of a higher authority; integrity in all dealings with God and man

True – unveiled reality; showing something as it is; absence of falsehood

Goodness, righteousness and truth are the character of God displayed in the life of one imitating God.

  1. Benevolence and generosity should ooze out of followers of Christ
  2. Righteousness must be the behavior from the heart that the world sees
  3. Truth is what we go after in all things
  4. We are to make sure we don’t hide this light, but put it on display

(Matt 5:14-16)

We are to discern what pleases the Lord v. 10

“…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

This freedom in the Lord carries great adventure.

Understand this is not a license to sin or to act in folly. We should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

If we are in sin and our friends call us on it, we should be humble enough to accept their love as from the Lord, repent and move toward Christ.

If we are about to do something dumb and our friends correct our folly, we should listen as if this is coming from the Lord in his grace, don’t be stupid, and move toward wisdom.

But, we are to be actively following the Lord Jesus and seeking to hear and obey.

  1. Get quiet
  2. Place busyness in last place
  3. Listen for the Holy Spirit
  4. Have ears that hear
  5. Obey

We are to expose darkness not participate in it (fearlessly pray / fearlessly speak / fearlessly act) v. 11-12

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”

Darkness can properly be defined as any curse of the fall being lived out under the lie that it is good or any curse of the fall not good but being used as beneficial to the few who use that curse to their advantage and the destruction of others.

Disease flourishes in the dark.

Total darkness would bring death to the earth’s life.

In like fashion, spiritual darkness brings disease and death.

The problem with the fall is that it made darkness appear to be preferable.

The fallen world system prefers darkness to light. Fallen creatures prefer lies to the truth.

There is much in created order that needs attention and needs exposure to the light and redemption brought to the table.

Many Christians have a great passion for certain very good social causes.

“On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most confortable – and least costly – for us in our culture.”[3]

  1. Poverty www.counterculturebook.com/poverty
  2. Abortion www.counterculturebook.com/abortion
  3. Orphans and Widows www.counterculturebook.com/orphansandwidows
  4. Sex Slavery www.counterculturebook.com/sexslavery
  5. Marriage www.counterculutrebook.com/marriage
  6. Sexual Morality www.counterculturebook.com/sexualmorality
  7. Ethnicity www.counterculturebook.com/ethnicity
  8. Religious Liberty www.counterculturebook.com/religiousliberty
  9. UPG’s www.counterculturebook.com/unreached

Slumbering believers must awake to the mission v. 13-14

“But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“14b appears to be a Christian baptismal hymn (repeated by the candidate as they came up from the water)[4], drawing on Is. 26:19 and 60:1–2. It is added not to justify v 14a, but to sum up the whole call (2–14) to leave behind the realm of darkness and death.”[5]

For me, the meaning and application of this passage was not so clear. Is it speaking to unbelievers in the Ephesian church? Is it speaking to believers? Is it speaking to believers who are waning in their zeal and appear to be more dark than light?

I believe it’s the later.

Whatever the origin of these words, it appears that some who are light in the Lord need to be reminded that they are light in the Lord and begin walking worthy.

This is, perhaps, the occasion for the writing of Ephesians.

Paul is writing to shake them from their slumber by reminding them who they are, whose they are by the working of the gospel, and how to walk worthy of their calling in Christ.

It is a fact that Christians can be snoozing spiritually and not know it. Comfort does this to us. This is why the Lord will sometimes graciously allow difficulty. Difficulty has a grace in it that shakes us from slumber to alertness.

It is possible to be a slumbering light even though well regarded by others.

It is possible to be asleep while looking like one is awake (just be for the right political party or cheer for the right socially acceptable cause).

It is possible to pray while asleep just mouthing the same words others have mouthed. In other words, your prayer life is nothing other than what you hear others pray. There is not personal walk with the Lord and dialogue with the Lord.

It is possible to sing a song without being awake to the words.

It is possible to lead a ministry without knowing or caring for the end for which you are leading it (exaltation of King Jesus as the king, the establishing of his kingdom/rule through the overthrow of the rule of darkness through breaking the curse).

It is possible to live a dreamy life of unreality in the netherland of inaction.[6]

We must all be on mission and not just hanging out and happy to be here.

  1. We have the keys of the kingdom and can expose darkness(Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18)
  2. We have the authority to bind up sin (Matthew 18:18)
  3. We have the authority to preach the gospel (Matthew 16:9)
  4. We have the authority to conduct spiritual war (Jesus promises to

be there causing his kingdom to advance when we obey him)

We must be worshipers

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 180, Sukkah 5:2-3.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 374.

[3] David Platt, Counter Culture, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2015), p. 46.

[4] Parenthesis min

[5] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1241.

[6] C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 12 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1973), pp. 578, 579, provides the homiletical ideas regarding sleeping while appearing awake.