Ephesians 5:15-21 A Life Controlled by the Spirit

Ephesians 5:15-21

A life controlled by the Spirit

The question we have to ask is: How do we continue to walk worthy of the gospel?

Everything Paul has written to us!

Our text today outlines nicely with a main verb being in the imperative at the beginning of each section, followed by participles that tell the audience how to carry out the action of the imperative.

So Paul’s imperatives to the Ephesians will be our imperatives. Paul’s methods to achieve the command will be our methods.

Lets continue to explore how to walk worthy of being united with each other in Christ.

Choose your manner of life carefully v. 15-16

“Look (present / active / imperative) carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making (present / middle / participle) the best use of the time (kairos – opportune time, not succession of minutes), because the days are evil (evil in a moral or spiritual sense).” v. 15-16

  1. Live wisely

God’s wisdom is that God always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals.[1]

Us living wisely is us choosing the best goals and the best means to those goals in reflection of God who we seek to imitate.

But how does Paul tell us how we are to specifically live wisely in this context?

  1. Take advantage of the opportune time

Making the best use of the time here is not a chronological idea. Rather it is opportune time (kairos versus chronos)

In other words, we live wisely by taking advantage of the moments the Lord Jesus leads us to or orchestrates in his wise providence.

– This requires knowledge of God’s wisdom (what are his ends and


– This requires Spirit led discernment informed by Spirit inspired


– This requires a robust doctrine of God’s providence to see and take

advantage of those moments.

Why are we to take advantage of the opportune times?

  1. The days are evil

Or to say it another way: Beware, don’t let your guard down. We are at war!

“…the powers of evil have a firm grip on humankind in this age, leading it into self-indulgent disobedience (so 2:1–3)”[2]

Paul is not neglecting the reality that sin’s power has been broken, but he is acknowledging that the world system has not finally been overthrown and is still seeking to thwart the work of the kingdom. We will see this in chapter 6.

We are to live wisely because we live in a world where the curse has been broken by Christ, but many in this world system are still bewitched by the curse and are dead in their sin, and live according to the Prince of the Power of the Air, so they live not for the glory of God but for the rebellion, and we, of all people, must be living for God’s ends in God’s ways.

By living wisely among folly and as light in darkness we highlight and demonstrate that Jesus is better.

  1. We must evaluate whether we are doing God’s work in God’s way
  1. We must be willing to repent if either our ends or our means is off base.

Understand the will of the Lord v. 17

“Therefore do not be foolish (present / middle-passive / imperative), but understand (present / active / imperative) what the will of the Lord is.” v. 17

Verse 17 presents us with a negative command and a positive command.

  1. Stop becoming foolish (literal translation of the first part of verse 17)
  2. Folly = wasting opportune times or not knowing opportune times

In other words, stop being like the world system that is not looking for kingdom but content to live in the flow of the fall.

  1. Content to neglect our being in Christ
  2. Content to see the church as social institution rather than

the body of Christ

  1. Content to be segregated in the church with not unity
  2. Content with not exercising my gifting in the Lord for the

benefit of the body

  1. Content with not putting off my old self

It would be the idea of being good with my sin because Jesus died to make sure I can sin and it’s ok.

  1. Do pursue the will of the Lord

I believe verse 18-21 is going to tell us the will of the Lord in particular for the Ephesian’s setting. However, verse 18 of chapter 5 is one of 5 places where the Lord’s will is specifically mentioned. This truth gives us the freedom of going hard after Psalm 37:4 desires if these criteria are met.

  1. Saved 2 Timothy 2:3-4
  1. Suffering 1 Peter 3:17
  1. Sanctified 1 Thessalonians 4:3
  1. Submissive 1 Peter 2:13-15
  1. Spirit Controlled Ephesians 5:18ff (particularly in the context of

unified life together in the gospel)

Be controlled by the Holy Spirit v. 18-21

“And do not get drunk (present / passive / imperative) with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled (present / passive / imperative) with the Spirit, addressing (present / active / participle) one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing (present / active / participle) and making melody (present / active / participle) to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks (present / active / participle) always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting (present / active / participle) to one another out of reverence for Christ.” v. 18-21

There is a negative command and a positive command here as well. The negative command is going to give some meaning to the positive command, however.

The meaning and means of being filled with the Holy Spirit are contained in this text.

When the disciples received the Spirit at Pentecost, what did the bystanders say of them? “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13 – although 2 different words, they are synonyms and serve the same purpose)

What was the insinuation? The insinuation is that these men were drunk. They believed the disciples to be filled with wine.

When one is “drunk” or “filled” with some alcoholic drink, we say they are “under the influence.” That means they are under the control of the alcohol.

Paul tells the Ephesians to not be under the influence of wine, for that will lead to unclean things, but he does tell them to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

As one, when drunk, is under the influence of the excessive alcohol they have consumed we are to be under the influence of the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit and operating under the command of the Spirit.

This is a command not a suggestion. It is in the imperative, and a string of modifying participles follows the imperative. This string of participles indicates how one fulfills the command to be controlled by the Spirit.

Side note: This is why Father has created order and order in words so that we don’t manufacture ways to have spiritual experiences. If we take the command to be filled with the Spirit and go seeking spiritual experiences to be filled, we may get a demon. However, if we obey the written order, we may just get a “Holy Ghost” moment. There is no need to go beyond what is written.

The command is in the present, meaning it is something we are to be continually living in. It is not a one-time event we have and move on. Rather, being spirit filled is to be a continual life.

The command is in the passive, meaning that the very thing we are commanded to do is something we can’t just do. Meaning we can’t control ourselves with the Spirit. He is a person, and he is sovereign, and we don’t control him. He is not a tool we wield. He is a person we relate to and submit to as God. We are to be under his control. So, how do we get under his control?

The participles are in the active voice, meaning that these are actions we can do. As we do the things he has written as means he completes the end by filling us with himself.

Therefore, we understand that the Spirit controls us as we actively obey his means.

This is not a mystical activity that happens only as we sit in a certain pose while meditating. The filling of the Spirit happens as we obey.

Filling with the Holy Spirit – “…an event in which the Christian experiences a fresh work of the Spirit that may result in a variety of consequences, including greater love for God, greater victory over sin, greater power for ministry, and sometimes the receiving of new spiritual gifts.”[3]

What are his means?

  1. Encourage one another by addressing one another with truth v. 19a

It is fitting to address one another in opportune moments with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

  1. Worshiping the Lord at all times in our heart (singing and making melody)
  2. 19b

It is appropriate to sing to the Lord at all times not just on Sundays.

  1. Giving thanks in all things v. 20

A robust doctrine of God’s providence allows us to take Romans 8:28 and rejoice and give thanks in all things.

  1. Submitting to one another v. 21

We don’t seek to get our way, rather we seek to serve each other and, even if we are wronged, receive being wronged for the sake of peace and submission to one another.

This sounds like the kind of person I want to be around.

As a matter of fact, a Spirit-filled person is the kind of person that will preserve unity and the health of the body of Christ.

Spirit-filled people worship

Let’s sing and make melody with our heart and all that is in us.

Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 193.

[2] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1241.

[3] Grudem, p. 2633

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