“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
In this section of the letter, Paul goes back to telling the church how to live. It’s really a continuation of chapter 4, verse 17 where he is admonishing them to no longer live as the Gentiles did. He then tells them to take off the old self and put on the new. And now here, he tells them to pay careful attention to how they live, not as unwise people, but as wise.
How are they, and we, to do this? The first thing is to make the most of our time because the days are evil. What does he mean by this? Ephesus was a prosperous city, and there was trade and commercial activity. There was also idol worship. Ray Stedman said this in his sermon on this passage. “He is saying that whenever material prosperity abounds, and creature comforts are on every hand, and you live in affluent society then there are tremendous pressures being exerted to cancel out the true value of life.” This creates a large amount of emptiness and hollowness. Because of this, we have an opportunity to share the good news of Christ.
I think we can look at this another way also. When Paul writes that we must make the most of time because the days are evil, we need to evaluate how we are spending our time. I know I waste far too much time on social media. It drains my time and energy! And it takes me away from things I can be doing.
Paul continues. He says we are not to be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the thought that God wants to control every minute of our day. I really like what Stedman said. “God is not half so much interested in what you do as what you are.” Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These verses go right along with what Paul says in the rest of this passage! If you want more on this, I recommend this book: Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung.
Next, he says and don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless living but be filled with the Holy Spirit. There are two things I want to address here. The first is the contrast of being drunk versus being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not a comparison. There have been some movements recently that say we can be drunk in the Spirit. We know that Paul writes in Galatians that the final fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control. John Stott writes in his commentary, ”Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we do not lose control, we gain it.” I also want to stress that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. We are not asking the Holy Spirit to come back into our lives. He is already there! Paul writes that in 1:13 where he says, ”In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth.” We have been sealed. But, here, he is telling us we need to be filled. He will go on in the following verses to tell us how to do that.
But, before we go on, I want to cover the first part of that verse. Paul tells us not to get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless living. Alcohol is such a big part of our culture today. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website, 25.8% of people 18 and older reported that they had engaged in binge drinking in the last month. This was a 2019 statistic. I can only imagine that the numbers are higher since the COVID lockdowns. On TV, the commercials portray people who drink as happy, fun, part of the in-crowd. There are so many pressures in today’s world, just as there were when Paul was writing. Our culture says that drinking is the way to relieve that pressure. Paul says that is not the way for Christians. David Guzik writes this in his commentary. “Paul contrasts the effect of the Holy Spirit with the state of drunkenness. Alcohol is a depressant: it loosens people because it depresses their self-control, their wisdom, their judgment. The Holy Spirit has an exactly opposite effect. He is a stimulant; He moves every aspect of our being to better and more perfect performance.”
In contrast to being drunk with wine, we are to be filled with the Spirit. He goes on to describe what this looks like. The first part is group worship. He says we are to speak together in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Notice that this is done as a group. In all of his letter, he has been emphasizing that we are a church body. The great mystery is that we are all one body together, the new temple with Jesus as the cornerstone. Now we are to talk and sing to each other and to God. The commentaries I checked were not sure of the difference between hymns and spiritual songs, except perhaps one used musical instruments and the other didn’t. The Psalms would be what we are familiar with. Some Psalms are praise to God and some are for mutual encouragement. Examples of this are Psalm 95 and Psalm 47.
The last part of this section is what we do as individuals. We are to sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord and we are to give thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus. Paul’s letters are full of thankfulness to God. He also tells his readers to keep a thankful heart. I think that when we are singing and making music in our hearts to God, we can’t help but be thankful! In Psalm 138:1, David writes, “I will give you thanks with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the heavenly beings.” Of course, we will go through times in our lives that are going to be difficult and downright painful. God is not telling us we must keep smiling and acting like there is nothing wrong. I love that we have the example of the Psalms to read through. David and the other writers poured out their hearts to God. They expressed the depths of their hurt, their sorrow, and their pain. But they also understood that he is God, and he is sovereign. I think that the thankfulness in our trials comes by knowing that God is refining us. Our greatest growth come in times of trial. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
I’m going to end my post today with Psalm 104:33-35.
“I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him;
I will rejoice in the Lord.
May sinners vanish from the earth
and wicked people be no more.
My soul, bless the Lord!
Grace be with you!