“Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”.
Paul begins this paragraph with “Therefore consider carefully how you live” and ends with “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. This is an appeal from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus to walk and live in a manner that reflects their current status as a new creation in Christ. Then Paul begins to get down to the specifics of how we are to live; this also begins the hard lessons of the letter that we don’t like to follow. But note the ending, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”; woven though out the preceding chapters we are reminded over and over again how Jesus submitted to the Father’s plans in his life specifically for our good, now we are to do the same with each other.
Paul continues saying “be wise” “because the days are evil” and reveals the method to becoming wise is to understand God’s will. We as God’s new creation are to abandon a life of foolishness and seek to understand, discover and carry out God’s will. Only after we understand what pleases God can we carry out His will in our life. The un-wise live as if there is no God or as if it doesn’t matter what God says about how we are to live, they live out what seems right in their own mind instead of seeking the mind of Christ.
For a fool speaks disgraceful things; his mind plans out sinful deeds. He commits godless deeds and says misleading things about the LORD; he gives the hungry nothing to satisfy their appetite and gives the thirsty nothing to drink. Isaiah 32:6
“Some people would understand the term “the Lord’s will” (Ephesians 5:17) to mean specific guidance on what to do next, where to live, what job to have, whom to marry and so forth, but what Paul means is that we need to be aware of what God wants out of us in every situation—in general, how we live to please the Lord”. Even in the midst of trying times and the evil that permeates our world.
“Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”. Hebrews 11:6
“Faith is believing what God says about everything—life, people, ourselves, how to be saved—everything”. Faith believes what God reveals about Himself; He is Holy, He is Truth, He is Love, He is Just, He is Merciful. When we truly believe God is who He says He is, we are slowly but surely changed in our thoughts, attitudes and actions to be more like Him”.
Next, Paul gets specific, “And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery but be filled by the Spirit”. Let us consider the culture of Ephesus at this time, “one of most prevalent forms of worship centered around the god Dionysius, Dionysian worship employed dances and exciting music to produce ecstatic rapture, Dionysius was the god of wine. Intoxication with wine combined with dancing and music was the method of choice for getting to the desired state of enthusiasm (literally, “the god within”). Paul points to these riotous drunken orgies on display all around the people of Ephesus and contrasts them with what takes place in worship as Christians come to be “filled by the Spirit”. “The manic debauchery associated with Dionysian worship sets a sharp contrast to the beauty of singing, the melodic harmonies, that it is the work of the Spirit to bring expression in each worshiping congregation”. (Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson)
Paul is quite clear: do not act or behave like the pagans, working yourself into some sort of display of excitement or rapture. Instead be filled by God’s spirit, this is the ongoing and active presence of the Holy Spirit that is interceding for us and reconciling us to Christ, creating in us a new life with a new way to walk and live. Paul prescribes how we are to live and worship, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. The same pressures in life, the same troubles and demands, will drive some people to drink, but will drive others deeper into the embrace of the Spirit. Under the influence of wine, people lose their inhibitions and gain confidence—but lose control. Under the influence of the Spirit, people gain boldness under God’s control.
Notice that we are to speak to one another; we are to be in communication. Communication with others means amplifying God to one another, communication with the Lord to sing His praises in our heart, communication with our Creator to give thanks for all things, and finally submitting to one another – serving each other rather than dominating or exalting yourself which will show respect for Christ.
“Paul did not intend to suggest that believers only discuss religious matters, but that whatever we do or say should be permeated with an attitude of joy, thankfulness to God, and encouragement of others. Instead of whining and complaining—which our culture has raised to an art form—we are to focus on the goodness of God and his mercies toward us. How would others characterize your words and attitudes?” LIFE Application
Under our current circumstances it is hard to give thanks, when your life is interrupted and you feel unsure of the future for yourself and your family. Take heart—in all things God works for our good if we love him and are called by him (Romans 8:28). Thank God, not for your problems but for the strength he is building in you through the difficult experiences of your life. You can be sure that God’s perfect love will see you through.
Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. Ephesians 5:1
Paul begins chapter 5 saying that we should be imitators of Jesus who is the perfect example of submission to the Father and ends the same chapter saying that as we submit to each other it shows our worship for Christ, when we choose to submit to each other we are imitating Christ. “Have you ever considered that submitting to God means loving others? Have you considered that when you love, you aren’t self-seeking? Have you considered that willingly submitting to the will or opinion of other believers is submitting to God?” Putting submission into practice is the main topic of our next lesson.