Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV
Once again, Paul brings up the issue of our walk. He has already told his readers “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). He has warned them “you must longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4:17 ESV). Back in verse one of this chapter, he wrote, “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1 ESV). And then he gave his readers yet one more admonition: “Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true)” (Ephesians 5:8-9 ESV). Now, in verse 15, he provides yet one more more word about the walk of the believer. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15 ESV).
For Paul, belief and behavior in the life of the Christian were inseparable. Faith in Christ was to have a direct impact on every area of life, including the believer’s attitudes and actions. The Christian’s walk and words were to reflect his new nature. But the verses above are all imperatives. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling. Walk not as the Gentiles do. Walk in love. Walk as children of the light. Walk not as the unwise. They are commands, not suggestions. They require forethought and proper consideration. You have to think about them and plan for them to be a part of your life. And like all commands in Scripture, while they are non-optional, they are not always obeyed. We can choose to ignore each and every one of these commands. That is why Paul was so emphatic. He begged his readers to not act thoughtlessly, and he put it in very blunt terms: “do not be foolish” (Ephesians 5:17 ESV). To “be foolish” was to act without reason or reflection. It was to act rashly, without forethought or proper consideration. Living the Christian life requires a bit of brainpower and intellectual capacity. We have to think about what we are doing. It requires planning and deliberation. Back in verse 10, Paul wrote, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 NLT). That requires thinking before acting. It means you have to stop and consider the deed before you commit to doing it. In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul provided them with a key to making this happen.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2 NLT
God wants to redeem our thinking. He wants us to think like He thinks. But that required knowing His will, what He would have us do. Which is why Paul said, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT). And just in case his readers couldn’t follow his train of thought, Paul gave them a real-life example. “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life” (Ephesians 5:18a NLT). Think about it. What good ever comes from getting drunk? Who has ever been proud of their behavior after a night of heavy drinking? A better decision, Paul suggests, would to choose to, “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b NLT). It should be obvious that when Paul compares being drunk with wine with being filled with the Spirit, he is talking about control. When you’re drunk, you are under the control of the alcohol. It dictates your behavior. You do things you wouldn’t normally do. You say things you wouldn’t normally say. So to be filled with the Spirit is to choose to let Him dictate and determine your behavior. There is a big difference between being indwelt by the Spirit and filled by the Spirit. Every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation. And while we have all of the Spirit all of the time, we are not always “filled” or controlled by the Spirit. We can choose to ignore Him. We can determine to disobey Him. But when we are filled by the Holy Spirit and are under His control, our behavior will reflect it. Paul provides a glimpse of what that should look like:
…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:19-20 NLT
Earlier, Paul had warned, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30 ESV). We grieve the Spirit when we choose to live our lives apart from His power and without His guidance. We rob Him of His primary role in our lives. He exists to assist and help us as we navigate this fallen world, but when we refuse to live under His control, we deny Him the joy of producing His fruit through us. We end up producing “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV), when He longs to make us kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, thankful, and submissive to one another.
That is the will of God. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, “For this is God’s will: that you become holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:4 NET). Forgiveness of sins is great. But even an absence of sin does not make someone righteous or holy. God’s intention is to transform us from unrighteous to righteous. From unholy to holy. His ultimate goal is our glorification, when we will be free from all sin and entirely righteous. But we must stop and consider what it is that God is doing in our lives. We must constantly question why we would do anything that is contrary to His will for our lives. He desires for us to be holy, so why would we do anything that prevents that from happening? That is why Paul tells us, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT). Think before you act.