Summary: Sermon to challenge individuals and congregation to live as Christians - making the best use of their time.
Text: Ephesians 5:15-21
Last Sunday morning, our lesson was on “The Gift of Time” focusing primarily on Gal. 4:4 which states: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. God created time “in the beginning” and it wasn’t long before mankind sinned. God then began to execute His plan for a Savior in the form of His Son – a plan which took some 4,000 years before the time was just right – for Jesus to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. We closed our lesson with thanksgiving that God is longsuffering toward us – not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. With each breath we take, God is extending His gift of time to us to do His will. This morning I want to expand these thoughts on time & what we should be doing in the interim – as we await either our own death or the Lord’s return. Many of you have been a part of a marching band and know what it means to march in place. This is often done just before moving into a new formation. And, anyone who’s been in the military has spent time on a parade field doing close order drills. You should remember the command, “Mark time, march!” At which time, you would start marching in place without changing your location. The term for marching in place is “marking time” – you’re doing something but not making any progress. This morning, our lesson title asks a rhetorical question for us as individual Christians and as a congregation. Are we standing still spiritually and not growing? Are we standing still as a congregation? Are we stronger spiritually and numerically than we were a year ago? Or, are we just marking time? So please open your Bibles as we look at several passages bearing upon how we should be using our time.
In ancient as well as modern Judaism, there is a well-known term used to describe the way a Jew should live. It is known as halakah from the Hebrew word “to walk”. In other words, halakah means “a way of walking” in view of the Mosaical Law and the traditions established by the rabbis. Let me show you two verses using this Hebrew word halach – 2 Kings 21:21-22 – So he walked in all the ways that his father had walked; and he served the idols that his father had served, and worshiped them. He forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD. It’s plain that walk in these two verses refers to a way of living. Hopefully, that will help us better understand all the NT passages about walking this morning – beginning with a portion of our text – Eph. 5:15-16 – See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Since I don’t know anyone who uses the word “circumspectly” today, let’s notice the NASB translation: Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. The Greek word translated “circumspectly” means accurately or carefully – depending on the context. Christians are not free spirits doing their own thing. We are to walk carefully as wise people. As we do this, we are making the most of our time though the literal Greek is “redeeming the time”. You may remember that Boaz redeemed or “bought back” the land of Elimelech’s inheritance for his beloved Ruth. This particular compound Greek word is only used four times in the NT. Notice how exagorazo is defined in this passage by one scholar: the meaning is not so much “buying up,” “making market to the full of” the opportunity, as “buying back (at the expense of personal watchfulness and self-denial) the present time, which is now being used for evil and godless purposes.” Perhaps in the middle of this Greek word you can see the word agora – the Greek market place. Paul is the only writer to use this word so notice the parallel use in Col. 4:5 – Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. We as Christians are also to walk carefully around those who are outside of the Lord’s body – the church. & then Paul goes on in the next verse to give us a practical way to do this or the application: Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. We need to choose our words carefully so that they reflect the image of Christ and His body. We all live in an ungodly world and the book of Ephesians tells us how we are to live in such an environment. We are to live in such a way as to redeem the time we’re given as we walk on the face of the earth. Listen to how the ESV translates the first two verses of our text in Eph. 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. We need to use our time wisely as Christians and that means getting our priorities straight by putting the kingdom of God and His righteousness first (Matt.6:33). Maybe we don’t understand priorities. When something comes first, nothing else takes precedence over it. The main thing we’ve learned thus far about using our time wisely or redeeming the time is to walk carefully or wisely. Earlier in this letter, Paul stated the way we should walk a little differently. Notice Eph. 4:1 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. We are called to wear the name of Christ – the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Thus we are to walk worthy of that name and this means we must walk warily or carefully & wisely. Now let’s see if we can use scripture to get some practical applications of how to walk worthy, warily & wisely. We’ve already seen from Col. 4:6 that one of the ways we walk wisely is with our words – especially to those who are in the world. We need to take heed to Paul’s words in Eph. 4:29 – Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. When we speak, we should only say those things that will build others up. We shouldn’t let bad or rotten words cross over our lips. Next we should walk with good works. Turn back to Eph. 2:10 & let’s read this verse together: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We have a lot of good works to be accomplished but they require volunteers. Which good works are you involved in? We don’t do good works to be seen of men or to boast but we are involved in good works because that’s what God wants us to do. As Jas. 2:17 states: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Next, turn over to Eph. 4:1 where Paul tells us to walk worthy of our calling. But he goes on in the next two verses describing ways in which we can do this – by walking with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Several of these are included in the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Gal. 5:22-23 – fruit we are develop as Christians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We must be continually growing as Christians – adding to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Another way in which we are told to walk worthy and wisely is found in Eph. 5:2 - And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Perhaps the best example of walking worthy of our calling and with love as Christ did is found in 1 Pet. 2:21-24 – For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: