“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” Ephesians 5:15-17
Nobody likes to be known as a fool. To be foolish is not something to be proud of. What is the opposite of being a fool or being foolish?
The opposite would be wisdom. The opposite of a foolish person is a wise person. As a believer my lifestyle is to be characterized by wisdom. That is the message that Paul has written to not only the believers in Ephesus but to all believers at all places at all times.
The Bible has so much to say on the subject of wisdom. To illustrate the word itself is used 213 times in 201 different verses throughout the Scriptures.
What is wisdom? I like to define wisdom as the proper application of truth. Wisdom is living out the truth of God. John MacArthur says “Wisdom is centered in conviction and behavior, specifically in recognizing and obeying God.”
Wisdom is not an accumulation of facts. Wisdom is not the stockpiling of information. There are two aspects, two components of Biblical wisdom, acquisition and application. We are not considered to be a wise Christian until we have applied the truth that we have acquired.
Repeatedly the Scriptures exhort us to pursue wisdom, to diligently acquire wisdom.
Proverbs 4:5 says “Get wisdom; get insight.”
Proverbs 4:7 says “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom”
The Scriptures teach us that wisdom is not hard to find, that wisdom is readily available to anyone.
Proverbs 8:1 “Does not wisdom call? Does not wisdom raise her voice?”
Even though wisdom is readily available, our time for acquiring it is limited.
Ecc. 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”
The Scriptures teach that God wants us to have wisdom. James instructs us;
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. …”
Where are we told to apply God’s wisdom? Just consider what we’ve been studying for the past several weeks in the second half of the book of Ephesians. Every chapter in the second half of the book is application of truth.
But here again God has done more than tell us to walk in wisdom, he has given us wisdom, he has sent us wisdom. Paul tells us in 1 Cor.
“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)
God is not only the source of wisdom, he is wisdom himself and he came to us in Christ as wisdom. The reality is because I am in Christ I already have access to the wisdom that I need as well as the help in living in wisdom.
How is this wisdom communicated to us? Jesus communicates the wisdom of God to us not through some mystical experience but through the Scriptures which Peter referred to as a more sure word of prophecy.
Now as we come to the 15th verse of chapter five Paul gives us more application of truth to our lives. In this section he begins with another clear instruction.
I. THE INSTRUCTION
The second half of the book of Ephesians has been filled with instructions on how we are to walk now that we are believers. As a Christian my life is to be characterized by humility, by unity, by separation, by love and light. Added to that now is wisdom.
The Scriptures teach that every believer has been “bought with a price”, we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Therefore I am no longer free to live as I did before my salvation, before I was bought through the blood of Christ. My lifestyle, my walk is to be a reflection of who I am now that I am a Christian.
Paul begins this section of Scripture with the instruction to “Look carefully then how you walk.”
Paul only makes this statement after all of his teaching. Now that we are armed with the proper knowledge of how we are to live as Christians it’s time to put that knowledge into practice. Paul says pay attention to the way that you live. Don’t live carelessly, rather pay close attention to your attitudes which dictate your actions.
On one hand I find this strange that Paul has to tell us this. But some people are just more naturally disciplined than other. Some people find it very easy to watch what they eat. They find it very easy to watch what they spend. They are whether they realize it or not they are looking carefully at their actions in those particular areas of their lives. But those people seem to be the exception rather than the the rule.
In light of that Paul issues this instruction to pay careful attention to how we as believers are to live.
Days go by quickly, one season turns into another and it’s so easy to not give much thought about the way that we are living. We don’t consciously think about who we are and where are daily actions are taking us. In other words we’re not walking in wisdom. Have you noticed how many people seemingly drift through life with our much rhyme or reason? They have no plan or purpose for their lives, and as a result they accomplish very little with the time God gives to them.
As a believer, as one who has been redeemed I don’t have the right to just drift through life, I don’t have the luxury of living any way that I please.
But Paul has something specific in mind as he instructs us to “Look carefully then how you walk.”
Paul is instructing us to pay careful attention to the way that you use the time that God gives to each one of us.
II. USE TIME WISELY
“making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16 ESV)
Notice Paul’s choice or words, “making the best use of the time”. Words are important, notice that Paul doesn’t simply say “making the best us of time”, no he says “making the best use of THE time.”
In other words Paul is referring to a specific period of time. Any ideas on what the specific period of time Paul is referring to? Let’s consider who these words are written to. He wrote them to a particular group of people at a particular time in history. THE time is a reference to the time and the place that God in his sovereignty had placed them in. We all know that time is limited, and we all know that opportunities are limited. Each of us has a predetermined life span. For some it’s relatively short, for others it may be much longer. But each on of us shares a common factor that our time on this earth is limited and fixed.
In the Scriptures we have examples that stand as warnings about not making the best use of our time. For instance consider Noah and the Ark. The Ark took years and years to build, in fact it took what would be considered today a very long lifespan to build it. Think of all the people who heard about what Noah was doing it and why Noah was doing it. Yet they probably laughed at him, and mocked him and called him an old fool. Yet Noah understood that the rains and the flood were coming and so he made the best use of his time and was saved and all those who laughed and mocked and ridiculed lost forever their opportunity for deliverance.
Jesus himself said in John chapter 9
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Jesus understood that even he had a limited time, he had a limited window of opportunity to accomplish what his Father wanted him to accomplish.
THE time that Paul is referring to is the amount of time that God grants us. Paul instructs us to not follow the thousands upon thousands of others have squandered away their time and their opportunities. In our modern day vernacular Paul is saying “Seize the Day!”
An ancient Greek statue depicted a man with wings on his feet, a large lock of hair on the front of his head, and no hair at all on the back. Beneath was the inscription: “Who made thee? Lysippus made me. What is thy name? My name is Opportunity. Why hast thou wings on thy feet? That I may fly away swiftly. Why hast thou a great forelock? That men may seize me when I come. Why art thou bald in back? That when I am gone by, none can lay hold of me.”
MacArthur, John (1986-04-08). Ephesians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (pp. 221-222). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Paul says be particularly wise in the way you spend the seconds, the minutes, the days, and years that God gives to us. The time Paul refers to is the specific amount of time that God has granted to each one of us. it refers to the hear and now, not some distant time in the future.
Notice also that Paul says “making the best use of the time”. We are to make the best of the time that we have been given. Each of us are presented every morning with another 24 hours and it is up to us to decide how we are going to use that time. Of course Paul is exhorting us to making best use of our time in God glorifying and God honoring pursuits.
When we are young it seems as if we have unlimited time and unlimited opportunity. The reality is time and opportunity are both dispensed in limited quantities. Time passes much more quickly than we realize, the years slipped by until we finally realize that what we may have earlier in life not treated as precious and valuable is so very precious and valuable.
Paul is warning us to make the most of what we have been given while we can. The time to make the best use of time is now, not later. The time to make the most of the opportunity is this one not the next one. The next one, the next day may never come.
We would do well to remember the words of James.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15 ESV)
Jesus told of the boastful farmer, who had acquired so much that he was going to pull down his barns and build bigger ones. What happened to that man and his plans?
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:20 ESV)
III. The Days are Evil
Why are we to make the best use of time? Because the days are evil.
What exactly does Paul mean by that? Well he is referring to the conditions that we are surrounded by. He is referring to the climate of immorality and darkness that the natural man lives in and is surrounded by. Because the days are evil we are faced with opposition to living godly lives and walking in wisdom.
Remember these words were originally written to the church at Ephesus. These believers were surrounded by immorality, the perverted worship of the goddess Diana. They certainly understood that the days they were living in were evil ones. But do we really believe that we are living in evil days? Days that are just as evil as the ones the Ephesians were living in. I wonder do we really consider the times we are living in to be evil?
Because the days are evil, we must act and act quickly on every opportunity that God gives to us. We are going to talk after lunch about the opportunity that we as a church have and it’s precisely because the days are evil that we need to make the most of the opportunity.
Those of you who attend the college probably don’t have to be told that the days you are living in are evil ones.
III. Don’t be foolish
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 ESV)
We’re back to were we started. I started this morning by stating that nobody likes to be or wants to be identified as foolish. Paul says based upon what I just said don’t be foolish. I didn’t give a definition of a foolish person as I started this morning. But now we can understand who the foolish person really is.
The foolish person is the person who does not understand what the will of the Lord is. What is the will of the Lord? What has Paul just taught us? He has taught us to make the best use of the time that God has granted to us. The will of the Lord that Paul has in mind here is making the most of our time. The will of the Lord is to make the best use of our time, to take advantage of the opportunity that he sends us. To spend our lives living for his glory, living for his honor. To spend our lives living out the gospel, to engage in good works. That is what the will of the Lord is. And all who don’t make the best use of the time are regardless of their I.Q. score or the number of degrees they hold are foolish. But the believer without any formal education, who lives for Christ, who serves others, who engages in good works that one is the wise one, that is the one who is walking in wisdom.
I’d like to close this morning with some words from James Montgomery Boice. In his commentary on the book of Ephesians he wrote:
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Luke 6:21
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV
If you and I are going to redeem time, as wise men and women, we had better do in now, because there may be no opportunity tomorrow. If we are to understand the will of God, now is the moment that counts. If we are going to be filled with God’s Spirit, now is when we need the filling.
Be wise, as Jonathan Edwards was when he wrote in his diary at age twenty: “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”
I was working at home late Tuesday afternoon when my phone rang and it was a number from Ohio. I answered the phone to hear my Dad tell me that my Mom has terminal liver cancer and that they were trying to get things set up with hospice.
The next morning Sherry and I drove to Cincinnati to see her in the hospital. As she was laying in the hospital bed she said to no in in particular “I have things I want to do”
Unfortunately for my Mother her time and her opportunities have all but passed her by. But for you and I it’s not to late, to walk in wisdom, and to make the best use of the time that God has graciously given to us.[/sws_author_bio_ui]