Walk in Wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-21)

Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | July 28, 2013


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph.5:15-21)

 Illustrations of the need for wisdom in Scripture

Two women bring a baby to King Solomon both claiming to be his mother asking him to decide between them. He says, “Bring me a sword” and prepares to have the baby cut in two and give half to each. But when one of the women says, “No, give her to the other woman” Solomon understands that this was the true mother. That’s wisdom. The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery to test him, asking whether or not they should stone her as the Law demanded?  He bends down and writes something on the ground. Then he stands up and says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  That’s wisdom. 

Illustrations of the need for wisdom in your life

Each of us faces decisions and tests every day. Some are fairly simple, but others are much more complicated and difficult. Wisdom helps you decide.

Teens are tempted with opportunities to cheat on tests and papers, to steal another student’s ipad or ipod left out, to try alcohol or take drugs or have sex.

They make difficult decisions every day. Wisdom helps them decide. Parents must choose how to discipline, educate and raise their children. Wisdom guides their path. Each of us must choose how to use the time we have been given every day. Wisdom shows us the right way. Paul tells us in chapter five three ways we are to walk as a Christian. Walk in love, walk in the light, and walk in wisdom. He begins our section today, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise…” 

The definition and source of wisdom

Scripture gives us the definition of wisdom in Proverbs,  (Prov. 2:6) …from the LORD’s mouth come knowledge and understanding; Wisdom is not only knowledge. It is also understanding, the application of knowledge to guide us in the decisions of life. And Scripture tells us how wisdom is gained. (Prov. 2:6; 9:10) For the LORD gives wisdom… The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Wisdom comes from God to those who fear him and know him by faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul writes, 1 Co.1:23ff Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God, he became to us wisdom from God,…By his death he redeemed us from the foolishness of our sin.Tit.3:3-6 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, 4 But 5 he saved us through Jesus Christ our Savior, 

Why we need wisdom

So why are some decisions so difficult to make? Why do we need wisdom? Because though Christ has saved us from bondage to foolishness, as long as we live in this world, we are still prone to foolish, unwise attitudes and actions. We are no longer compelled to be foolish, but we are still tempted in this life, as verse 16 says, “because the days are evil.” Satan still is the temporary ruler of time on earth. Therefore, the days, the times are evil. But because Christ has redeemed us, he has given us the ability to “redeem the time” or “make the most of the time” we have. To redeem something is to exchange one thing of value for another. When you turn in pop bottles for money, the store is redeeming them – buying them back. When you bring a coupon to the store and the cashier takes money off the total of your bill, she is redeeming it.  We redeem time when we trade it for something of value – God’s wisdom. We get wisdom by trading our time for it. Each day we make choices about how to use our time. In order to get wisdom, this verse tells us, we must do two things: understand the will of the Lord and be filled with the Spirit.

Understanding the will of God

We become wise – we gain knowledge and understanding of God, of ourselves and of the world around us – first by spending time reading, listening and studying the Word of God. Or we remain foolish by neglecting to do so. That’s what is meant by verse 17, 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  We redeem time to become wise. We trade our time spent in the Word of God to get wisdom. We are wise and we become wiser when we spend time reading and listening and meditating on God’s word. Our goal should be to both know and understand the Word of God so that we may become wise. This goes for every person of every age. Jesus at age twelve (Lk. 2:52) increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Because of the training of his parents, he already had gained some wisdom, but he increased in wisdom as a teenager and a young man. And we are never too old to receive more wisdom from the Word. 1 Co. 2:6  among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age. We should read the word from cover to cover so we know all that it says. That’s knowledge. And we should study it in detail to understand what it means. That’s understanding.  “…the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. How much of your time are you redeeming by spending it in the word of God?

Being filled with the Spirit of God

We get wisdom second by spending our time being filled with the Spirit. Or we remain foolish by spending time being filled with other things. That’s what’s meant by verse 18, 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. We either redeem the time by filling ourselves with the Spirit or we waste our time by filling ourselves with things like alcohol or drugs or money or entertainment. How can we continue to be filled with the Spirit and in so doing, get wisdom? I believe it’s explained here in four verbs – speaking, singing, thanking and submitting. You might be wondering, “What’s the difference between receiving the Spirit when we are born again and being filled with the Spirit?” The bible teaches that every believer receives the Spirit for the first time and for all time at the moment of regeneration, when we are born again. 1 Co.12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. It is totally passive on our part. This is somewhat different. Here we are commanded to continue to be filled with the Spirit. “Be filled” is in the imperative mood, the present tense and the passive voice. It is a command. Therefore it is something we must do. It is in the present tense so we should continue to do it. One way of translating it is be being filled. Yet it is in the passive voice, so it is something that is being done to us, something that we are receiving from God. Therefore, it is an in-filling we receive from God as we participate in serving others and glorifying God. It is the Spirit’s wisdom, power, love and more that we receive as we minister to God and others. As we serve others, as we give glory to God, He fills us afresh, I believe, so we can continue to do so. The four modifying verbs here are examples, not a complete list, of the actions and attitudes that contribute to being filled with the Spirit – speaking to one another, singing and giving thanks to God, and submitting to one another. A similar construction is found in Col.3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Let’s look briefly at each one to see how we are filled with the Spirit, redeeming the time and walking in wisdom. 

Speaking to one another

First, addressing or speaking to one another in a worship setting.  19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  If you look through your hymnal you’ll see that about half the songs speak to God and half speak to each other. Through our responsive readings and singing in corporate worship, we not only sing praise to God, we speak and sing the gospel to one another. Luther understood this concept. Many of his hymns were written to refute the false teachers of his day. We redeem the time by being filled with his Spirit as we speak and teach one another even as we sing.

Singing to God

Speaking of singing, another way we are filled with the Spirit is by keeping a melody in our heart to God – singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart – whether in a worship setting or even throughout the day. We are filled with the Spirit as we minister to God with a song in our heart.

Giving thanks to God

Similar to this is giving thanks to God, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we give thanks to God throughout the day – always – for everything, we redeem the time and he fills us with his Spirit. 

Submitting to one another

Finally, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. As we freely, willingly, joyfully place ourselves under the authority of those whom God has appointed over us – just as we submit to Christ, we are filled by his Spirit. This is what’s happening among the believers in Acts 2 in the days after Pentecost. Acts 2:1 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. They received a continual filling of the Spirit as they ministered to God and one another. They were redeeming the time and growing in wisdom.


How can we do this? We can’t. But Christ has done it for us. He is the wisdom of Psalm 8 from before the foundation of the world. He entered into these evil days and redeemed the time. As a child he grew in stature and wisdom. Throughout his life he studied the Scriptures and was filled with the Spirit as he spoke words of encouragement to the people, as he kept a song in his heart and gave thanks to God for everything, as he submitted to his Father, even to death on the cross.

He redeemed us with his blood, so that now we can redeem the time. We may have failed or fallen back in some of these areas, but his grace is sufficient in our weakness. When we admit our weakness, then we become strong as we depend on him. He can enable us once again to redeem the time, to know and understand his Word, to be filled with his Spirit to continue to walk in his wisdom.

Categories: 2013, Ephesians, Ephesians: The Christian's Inheritance, Sermons

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