Ephesians 5:15-20,  “Paul Admonishes The Ephesians To Be Wise And To Be Filled With The Spirit


Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:


1.1.                     In our last study, we looked at verses 1-14 of chapter 5.


1.1.1.  In that study, we saw that the apostle Paul began to admonish the Ephesians to begin to imitate the Lord in their lives, to learn of His ways, and then to allow those same ways to encapsulate their lives.  Since believers are children of God, Paul admonished us in this study to behave like our heavenly Father in all of the things that we do.


1.2.                     In our study today, we are going to look at verses 15-20 of chapter 5.


1.2.1.  We Christians are those who are wise and Paul tells us in this study that we are to act as wise men and women.  We are going to look at what characterizes both wisdom and foolishness.


1.2.2.  We are going to see that the Lord commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit


1.2.3.  One day a dear old saint met the pastor at the back of the church after the service.  This man asked the pastor, “Pastor you are always telling us how we ought to live, when are you going to tell us how to do it?”  In this study, we are going to discuss how to be filled with the Holy Spirit for the filling of the Holy Spirit is a prerequisite that is necessary to applying any of the exhortations of this book.


2.     VS 5:15-16  - 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  -  Paul admonishes the Ephesians to walk as wise men and make the most of their time


2.1.                     As a background for this verse, we must realize that Paul has already explained to the Ephesians the fact that since coming to Christ that many things are now true of their lives, things which are also true of us.  They are now new creatures in Christ and therefore completely new principles apply to their lives, and they have new capabilities.  They are now beloved children of God and through the Holy Spirit are given the ability to walk in a manner worthy of their new family and parent, their Father in heaven.  They have gone from being children of darkness to being children of light and now they have the ability and desire to walk as children of light in all holiness and righteousness.  Because of these new realities in their life, it can be said of these Ephesian Christians (and all Christians that now they are ‘wise.’  We have a wisdom which none of those who do not know the Lord have.  We have the understanding of truth and knowledge about the Lord that is not able to be understood by the natural man since it is spiritually appraised (1 Cor. 2:14).  Jesus said that it was the ‘wise’ man who build his house upon the rock, and thus all Christians are ‘wise.’


2.2.                     Though we who are true Christians are ‘wise,’ Paul admonishes us here to ‘be careful’ that we walk as one who is ‘wise.’  We are to take pains to be sure that we walk in a ‘wise’ manner.  It is extremely important in our life that we do this.


2.3.                     What is wisdom then?  Wisdom is not the mere accumulation of knowledge.  There are many well educated people who have done much study and research yet who are not ‘wise’ but are fools for they do not believe in Bible and the God of the Bible.  Even Christians may have a lot of knowledge about God from His word and yet make foolish decisions for their lives, or they can come to wrong conclusions based upon the knowledge of God’s word which they have.  Wisdom does depend upon knowledge, however wisdom is defined as “the correct and appropriate application of knowledge.”  How many times have we heard of someone getting counsel from another Christian that turned out to be misapplied knowledge from God’s word?  We Christians are admonished to be ‘wise’ or apply knowledge of God correctly and appropriately in our lives. 


2.4.                     The person who acts foolishly is basically one who doesn’t look before he leaps.  He bases a decision upon some sort of impulse or instinct without really considering all of the facts in the case.  He thinks he perceives the true nature of a situation based upon impulse and a limited amount of understanding or perspective which he has and so he acts.  Some Christians think that a Christian should act impulsively or instinctually and that to do otherwise is to not have faith or to quench the Holy Spirit.  I have known Christians who were of the Pentecostal persuasion who have made very foolish decisions which they later regretted because of some sort of word from the Lord that they felt they were supposed to act impulsively and immediately upon.  A pastor of a large church one day fired all of his staff merely because someone whom he respected spiritually received a supposed word from the Lord that he was supposed to fire them.  This man later realized that had he merely thought and prayed about this decision carefully before he acted he would have realized that for many reasons this was a very foolish action for him to take. 


2.5.                     It is never God’s will for His people to merely act based upon some instinctual response, rather it is always wise to pray and meditate upon scripture asking the Lord for wisdom to guide us in our actions.  James, in James 1:5-6, wrote about the fact that if any of us Christians lack wisdom in any situation that we are to ask God for wisdom and that He will answer us and give us the wisdom which we request, “5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.””  When I was a young Christian I found myself often asking God for wisdom pertaining to my life and during those times I thought of myself as reasoning with God as I would pray and meditate upon the scripture pertaining to my life and decisions.


2.6.                     The scriptures give us some guidelines for discerning that which is ‘wise’ from that which is foolish and one such verse that I have often meditated upon is James 3:17, “17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”  Before we make a decision it is good to pray and ask the Lord if our decision matches what James wrote here.


2.7.                     Paul adds to this admonishment to the Ephesians to act wisely that they are to do so because they are to be ‘making the most of your time.’  We Christians have been placed here upon this earth just for a limited amount of time.  There are certain things that God wants to do through our lives, we have a calling and ministries.  Just as Jesus did, we Christians are to be about our Father’s business, making the most use of our time.


2.8.                     Making the most of our time as Christians here upon this earth relates to “opportunities” that are available to us.  There are people around us all of the time and the Lord has placed them there for specific reasons.  If people around our sphere of influence do not have a personal relationship with the Lord then this is an “opportunity” that God has given us to reach them for Him, to help in bringing that person to salvation through Jesus Christ.  O Christian, are you making the most of the “opportunities” that the Lord gives you each day?  If not, you need to wise up, says Paul.


2.9.                     A second reason Paul gives for being wise and making the most of the opportunities that the Lord places in our live is ‘because the days are evil.’  We are living in a world that is ‘evil’ and under the influence of hosts of demons that are ‘evil.’  This ‘evil’ world is quickly heading for judgment also, and thus it is so important that we redeem our time and use the opportunities we are given to reach people in our life for Christ.  Merely reflecting upon the fact that the ‘days are evil’ is a motivation for us to share our faith with others and redeem our time wisely.


3.     VS 5:17  - 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  -  Paul admonishes the Ephesians to know what God’s will is and not be foolish


3.1.                     Paul now admonishes the Ephesians that they are to ‘understand’ God’s will, and thus not be ‘foolish.’  It is a tragedy that so many Christians today have so little true spiritual understanding, so little knowledge of God’s word, and thus His will for their lives.  Many supposed Christians even jest at the notion of seeking God’s will in matters related to their life, or they assume that their desires must surely be God’s will for their life.


3.2.                     This verse emphasizes the importance for us who are Christians of not only reading God’s word, but also studying it, memorizing it, and meditating upon it.  People growing up today have a very small attention span, they read very little compared to people in earlier days, and they depend upon the television for most of their information.  However, we who call ourselves Christians must rise above living such a lazy lifestyle and read, study, and meditate upon God’s word.  Thus, we will make the most of our time.


3.3.                     The scriptures tell us in 1 Cor. 3 that there is one day coming the “Bema Seat Judgment” of believers in which we will have to give account for all of the things we have done in our life after coming to Christ.  The rewards that we will receive and enjoy for eternity will be handed out based upon what is revealed at this judgment.  It will not be a judgment for condemnation, only reward, however there will be an accounting of all we have done.  Can you imagine the Lord on that day showing you a movie of what your Christian life and influence on earth could have been like had you been wise and understanding of God’s will and made the best use of your time?  We will all wish on that day of judgment that we had done some things differently and kept more focused upon the things that are important and eternal in nature.


3.4.                     Can you imagine if you happen to be present on that day of the Great White Throne Judgment and there you are watching friends and people that you knew on earth be condemned to an eternity in hell for not believing in Jesus, and then one of your friends sees you and says to you, “Jim, you’re a Christian?  Why didn’t you ever tell me about Jesus so that I could be saved?”


3.5.                     We Christians need to “be intentional” in building bridges of friendship to people so that we can be able to share the gospel with them when the opportunity presents itself when they share some need that they have or ask us our opinion about things. 


4.     VS 5:18  - 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,  -  Paul admonishes the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit


4.1.                     Paul is now wanting to begin to give very specific instructions for husbands, wives, children, and slaves regarding their obedience to God and the submission that they are to give to those over them, and, he will proceed to do that.  However, before Paul begins these admonitions notice that he places this verse just ahead of those admonitions.  It may seem as though this verse is out of place however such a view comes about as the result of misunderstanding of our great need in all that we do for the empowering of the Holy Spirit, as well as a possible misunderstanding of what the filling of the Holy Spirit is.


4.2.                     It is precisely the filling of the Holy Spirit that a person needs in his/her life in order to enable him/her to live the kind of Christian life that God wants him/her to live, whether the person is a husband, wife, child, slave, etc..  In and of ourselves because we are a sinful and fallen race, we as people tend to be selfish and self-centered and this tendency of ours will destroy any possibility that we might have of a godly and loving marriage, home, family, church, etc.  We desperately need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to live victorious overcoming Christian lives.


4.3.                     It is important for us to understand what the “filling of the Holy Spirit” is, and there has been much misunderstanding in the church throughout its history concerning this. 


4.3.1.  There are two expressions of the Holy Spirit which we see functioning in the early church.      The “baptism of the Holy Spirit.           This experience occurred in the second chapter of the book of Acts as well as various other places in Acts.  In these instances in Acts the Holy Spirit fell upon believers as they were gathered together, and various phenomena usually occurred at that time including the speaking in tongues and on that day of Pentecost tongues of fire appeared over people’s head and a mighty rushing wind was heard.           The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a more rare experience although it occurred in Jerusalem, the revival in Samaria, at the house of Cornelius the Gentile, etc.      The “filling of the Holy Spirit.”           This experience is described as much more common place in the early church and occurred in believer’s lives on a daily basis, as these scriptures point out:               In Luke 1:15 John the Baptist was prophesied about by the angel as a man who was to be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, in other words throughout his entire life.               In Luke 1:41Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and then spoke out prophetically to Mary about the baby in Mary’s womb.                 Though Peter and the rest of the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost we see Peter in Acts 4:8 being filled with the Spirit and then addressing the Jewish rulers, it says, “he was filled with the Holy Spirit and…”  Peter’s sermons in Acts always came as he was filled with the Holy Spirit.               In Acts 4:31, the church was all together and it says that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.               In Acts 6:3, Stephen and the rest of the first deacons were chosen to the position of deacon because they were already men who were “full of the Holy Spirit.”  They were not filled with the Holy Spirit after becoming deacons but before they were made deacons.           The Holy Spirit gives us special abilities that we did not previously have, and these abilities are used to empower and enable us to please God and to be used by Him through the working of spiritual gifts.  In each case where the filling of the Holy Spirit is mentioned this is the case, special abilities were given.  The emphasis given in Acts in reporting those events was not that some phenomena or experience had occurred but rather that the believers were given special abilities by the Lord to be used by Him.           The concept of being ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit refers to being controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 


4.4.                     It is very interesting here that Paul uses being drunk with wine in giving this admonishment about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and from his reference to drunkneness we can learn some interesting things pertaining the working of the Holy Spirit.:


4.4.1.  Some people have mistakenly made a case that this verse is an attempt by Paul to communicate that those who become drunk are supposed to instead be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Though this is true, this is not the reason that Paul used the concept of drunkenness here.


4.4.2.  During what I refer to as the “counterfeit” Brownsville Revival of a few years ago some preachers were saying that the Holy Spirit had come upon people causing them to become so drunk they couldn’t drive home or speak without slurring, and they said this occurred just as it did with the early church in the book of Acts.  One preacher in this movement was referred to as “The Holy Spirit Bar Tender.”  However, the scriptures reveal that being filled with the Holy Spirit is much different from being drunk with wine.  In the book of Acts those who became filled with the Holy Spirit were infused with energy and power and enabled to speak eloquently and powerfully such that many came to salvation.  Their abilities and sensitivities were not diminished as with one who is drunk but rather the Holy Spirit worked for them more as a stimulant and gave them energy and great power to be able to minister.


4.4.3.  Being filled with the Spirit has a correlation to being drunk.      The person who is drunk is under the influence of alcohol.  It affects all that he does.  Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant, and as such it deadens first the judgment center of the brain that we use to constrain ourselves, and thus people who drink lose their inhibitions.  This feeling of the loss of inhibitions that occurs causes drunk people to say and do many things that they wouldn’t normally do, loosening their moral standards etc.      My parents drank heavily all through my growing up years and they went to wild party after wild party.  Then, several years ago due to some medication that my mom had to take they could no longer drink as they had.  They told my wife and I one day how that over the past year how their friends had all gone so far downhill lately, they were now so crude and disgusting.  We told mom and dad that their friends hadn’t changed that it was them who had changed.      If a person drinks a lot the alcohol affects him greatly and he is under the influence of alcohol in all that he does.   In the same way, if a person is ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit in all that he does.  He is being “controlled by” the Holy Spirit.  This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit means and this is one of the reasons that Paul used this analogy.      People on the day of Pentecost thought at first that the Christians had gotten drunk however the church was not really acting in a drunken manner, instead the saints were filled with joy and praised and worshipped God in unknown and known tongues (people from various countries understood them), and a powerful sermon preached by Peter resulted in 3,000 people being added to the church.


4.4.4.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit has a contrast to being drunk.      When a person is drunk his inhibitions are loosed and he says and does things that he wouldn’t do otherwise.  The people of the city of Ephesus, like idolaters from around the world, used alcohol and drugs in their pagan worship as this was an ingredient that was supposed to enhance and facilitate their religious experiences.  Thus, the people in the church to whom Paul was writing could upon reading this verse relate immediately to what kinds of evils drunkenness would lead to in their lives.      Many kinds of bad behavior is produced in the lives of people who are under the influence of alcohol.  Drunkenness affects the lives of many Americans in incredible ways.  Marriage problems, home problems, teen rebellion problems, violent crimes, traffic accidents, money problems, work problems, etc., etc. are much more likely to result in the lives of people who get drunk or are intoxicated with drugs.      In the opposite sense, being filled with the Holy Spirit produces in a Christian’s life the fruits of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control.  Being filled with the Spirit creates homes that are a witness and testimony to God’s work, churches that have great influence in their cities, etc.


4.5.                     It is important to recognize here that Paul is “commanding” believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  The fact that this is a command should make us realize that the filling of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for no one can control being baptized in the Holy Spirit.  God commands all believers to appropriate the filling of the Holy Spirit in their lives as this is something that each of us who are Christians have control over.  We are commanded to make sure we are filled with the Spirit at all times.


4.6.                     There are several things that we can do that hinder us from being filled with the Holy Spirit, including:  grieving the Spirit through allowing known sin to exist in our life, quenching the Holy Spirit by not listening to and responding to the Spirit’s promptings, not staying in God’s word on a daily basis, not praying about our daily needs, not fellowshipping and worshipping with other believers, etc.


4.7.                     How can a Christian be filled with the Holy Spirit?  When a person accepts Christ as his Lord and Savior, he gets off of the throne of his own life and allows Jesus to sit upon that throne and control his life.  A new Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit at his conversion.  However, when he sins he kicks Jesus off of that throne.  It is sin that has caused him to no longer be filled with the Holy Spirit.  In order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he must now confess and repent of his sins (1 John 1:9) and allow Jesus to again resume sitting upon the throne of his life.  It is by faith also that he must believe that Christ is sitting upon that throne in his life and controlling his life, for the scripture tells us that whatever is not of faith is sin.


4.8.                     The tense of the verb here implies a continual filling of the Holy Spirit is admonished.


5.     VS 5:19  - 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;-  Paul describes the influence of the filling of the Holy Spirit by describing speaking and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord


5.1.                     In this verse, Paul tells the Ephesians how the filling of the Holy Spirit ought to affect their lives.  He tells them that as they are filled with the Holy Spirit that they should be sharing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with each other as their hearts are led to worship the Lord.  They are to continually sing and make melody with their hearts to the Lord as the Holy Spirit leads them.


5.2.                     All across the world, when people of all cultures come to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they begin to have a desire to worship the Lord and sing songs of praise to Him.  This is the natural result of God’s working in them.


5.3.                     It is interesting here how that Paul breaks up the different types of singing that people sing to the Lord as ‘psalms,’ ‘hymns,’ and ‘spiritual songs.’


5.4.                     The ‘psalms’ can be used to sing in worship to the Lord, however when singing the ‘psalms’ it is important to keep in mind that certain things that are written in the ‘psalms’ do not pertain to our relationship with the Lord that we have in New Testament times.  We today are not under law but rather grace and therefore it is alright if we sing the ‘psalms’ as long as we keep in mind that there are some of them that probably are not appropriate to sing and others which if we sing them we must understand that they do not directly apply to us in the same way they applied to the psalmist.   An example of a ‘psalm’ that the church sings but when we sing it we must realize that it does not completely relate to our relationship to God is the 51stpsalm.’  There, David asks the Lord to create in him a new heart.  However, we who live in the new covenant of grace have already been made new creatures in Christ and we already have a new heart created in us by the Lord.  We can ask for a new heart as long as we want however we will not receive another one.  However, God can work in our heart as we allow Him to do so.


6.     VS 5:20  - 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” -  Paul admonishes the Ephesians to always give thanks for all things to the Lord


6.1.                     One of the very key things that a Christian must learn to do is to give thanks to the Lord in every situation.  God has shown His grace to us in so many ways we must give thanks to Him in everything.


6.2.                     Though we cannot understand why some bad things happen to us when we are trying to serve the Lord, nor can we see into the future as to how God might use something we go through in our lives, none-the-less we have the promise in Rom. 8:28 that all things are working together for good to those who love God, who are called for His purposes.  Because of this promise, we must always give thanks in every situation.


6.3.                     When we give thanks to the Lord we are simply acknowledging both that the Lord knows what He is doing in our lives as well and that His promises for our lives will come true.  We are exercising our faith and trust in God when we give thanks to the Lord.


6.4.                     If we do not give thanks to the Lord in the midst of the things that are going on in our life, we will end up getting bitter, angry, and resentful, and these types of attitudes will destroy us and cause us to be alienated from those around us.


6.5.         CONCLUSIONS:


6.6.                     Since you are wise having come to faith in Christ, commit yourself to acting in a wise manner.  When making decisions, be sure to pray and meditate upon God’s word asking Him to give you wisdom.


6.7.                     Ask the Lord daily, even moment by moment to fill you with the Holy Spirit, and believe that you are filled.


6.8.                     If you find that you have kicked Jesus off of the throne of your life, confess and repent of your sins, and again allow Jesus to reign upon the throne of your life.


6.9.                     Commit yourself to giving thanks to God in every single thing that you go through in life every day.


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