Summary: Do you wish to be wise? Would you like to discern God’s will and use your time wisely? Our text wants that for you.
Do you wish to be wise? Do you wish to make wise decisions? Would you like to give wise counsel? Would you like to discern God’s will and use your time wisely? Our text wants that for you. Let’s see what wisdom we can gain from it.
We are about to close out this section of Ephesians regarding the Christian walk. It began with chapter 4, verse 1 in which the Ephesian saints are told “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Such a manner included “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul then presented the Christian walk in the context of the church. In verse 17 he moved to the walk of Christians in the world. They are to “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds,” who are darkened in their understanding. That led to a series of contrasts in behavior given with the illustration of putting off old clothing and putting on new. The summary of the appropriate walk was given in 5:2: “walk in love, as Christ loved us.” Paul will spoke again of their walk, this time, not merely as a contrast to the old ways of walking but in terms of what it should accomplish. In 5:8 he said, “Walk as children of light.” That light will expose the darkness and even transform those who walk in it. Now we come to the final instruction about walking.
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.
The “then” in verse 15 certainly refers to what Paul has just been saying about light and darkness. If we are light, and by our light we expose the darkness so that others may come to faith, surely we sure look carefully to how we walk before them. But coming as it does at the end of a long section about the Christian walk, Paul is probably thinking of all that he has said beginning in 4:1. This worthy walk in love and light, which contrasts with the walk of the world, requires ongoing attentiveness, less we stray back into the old ways. As my colleague Jonny McGreevy commented, “The Christian walk is not merely about choosing the right path but how we walk on the path chosen.”
Paul gives us three thoughts to keep in mind about the walk. We are to walk with wisdom; we are to make the best use of the time; and we are to understand what the will of the Lord is. Let’s take them in order.
First, we are to walk with wisdom, “not as unwise but as wise.” Paul has basically been saying this all along with his put off/put on imagery. All these sinful ways of the old life are unwise. They belong to those who “are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (4:18). This is un-wisdom, born out of ignorance of God.
Wisdom – biblical wisdom – is tied to knowledge of God. In 1:17, Paul prays for the Ephesians “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” One could label the first three chapters in the book as the revealed wisdom of God. The latter three chapters then present the practical lessons drawn from that wisdom. And so, with such biblically informed wisdom – wisdom that is informed with the knowledge of God and his ways – we are to walk in this world, so that we do not become of the world.
Secondly, we are to make the best use of the time. Paul notes “because the days are evil.” I think what he is saying to the Ephesians is something like this: Look around you. You have come out of a way of life that was marked by darkness in understanding and behavior. But that way of life is the very society in which you still live and can easily fall back into. You must, therefore, make a determined decision to use your time in such a way so as to mature in faith and to grow up into your head, Jesus Christ (4:13-16). You must use your time wisely to step clear of the traps and obstacles that the world places in your way. You must take advantage of every opportunity to do good, to be light, to grow in faith, because you live in such a time and society that works against such things.