Text: Ephesians 5:15-21
Last Sunday morning, our lesson was on “The Gift of Time” focusing primarily on Gal. 4:4 which states: But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. God created time “in the beginning” and it wasn’t long before mankind sinned. God then began to execute His plan for a Savior in the form of His Son – a plan which took some 4,000 years before the time was just right – for Jesus to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. We closed our lesson with thanksgiving that God is longsuffering toward us – not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. With each breath we take, God is extending His gift of time to us to do His will. This morning I want to expand these thoughts on time & what we should be doing in the interim – as we await either our own death or the Lord’s return. Many of you have been a part of a marching band and know what it means to march in place. This is often done just before moving into a new formation. And, anyone who’s been in the military has spent time on a parade field doing close order drills. You should remember the command, “Mark time, march!” At which time, you would start marching in place without changing your location. The term for marching in place is “marking time” – you’re doing something but not making any progress. This morning, our lesson title asks a rhetorical question for us as individual Christians and as a congregation. Are we standing still spiritually and not growing? Are we standing still as a congregation? Are we stronger spiritually and numerically than we were a year ago? Or, are we just marking time? So please open your Bibles as we look at several passages bearing upon how we should be using our time.
In ancient as well as modern Judaism, there is a well-known term used to describe the way a Jew should live. It is known as halakah from the Hebrew word “to walk”. In other words, halakah means “a way of walking” in view of the Mosaical Law and the traditions established by the rabbis. Let me show you two verses using this Hebrew word halach – 2 Kings 21:21-22 – So he walked in all the ways that his father had walked; and he served the idols that his father had served, and worshiped them. He forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the Lord. It’s plain that walk in these two verses refers to a way of living. Hopefully, that will help us better understand all the NT passages about walking this morning – beginning with a portion of our text – Eph. 5:15-16 – See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Since I don’t know anyone who uses the word “circumspectly” today, let’s notice the NASB translation: Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. The Greek word translated “circumspectly” means accurately or carefully – depending on the context. Christians are not free spirits doing their own thing. We are to walk carefully as wise people. As we do this, we are making the most of our time though the literal Greek is “redeeming the time”. You may remember that Boaz redeemed or “bought back” the land of Elimelech’s inheritance for his beloved Ruth. This particular compound Greek word is only used four times in the NT. Notice how ejxagoravzw is defined in this passage by one scholar: the meaning is not so much “buying up,” “making market to the full of” the opportunity, as “buying back (at the expense of personal watchfulness and self-denial) the present time, which is now being used for evil and godless purposes.” Perhaps in the middle of this Greek word you can see the word agora – the Greek market place. Paul is the only writer to use this word so notice the parallel use in Col. 4:5 – Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. We as Christians are also to walk carefully around those who are outside of the Lord’s body – the church. And then Paul goes on in the next verse to give us a practical way to do this or the application: Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. We need to choose our words carefully so that they reflect the image of Christ and His body. We all live in an ungodly world and the book of Ephesians tells us how we are to live in such an environment. We are to live in such a way as to redeem the time we’re given as we walk on the face of the earth. Listen to how the ESV translates the first two verses of our text in Eph. 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. We need to use our time wisely as Christians and that means getting our priorities straight by putting the kingdom of God and His righteousness first (Matt.6:33). Maybe we don’t understand priorities. When something comes first, nothing else takes precedence over it. The main thing we’ve learned thus far about using our time wisely or redeeming the time is to walk carefully or wisely. Earlier in this letter, Paul stated the way we should walk a little differently. Notice Eph. 4:1 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. We are called to wear the name of Christ – the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Thus we are to walk worthy of that name and this means we must walk warily or carefully & wisely. Now let’s see if we can use scripture to get some practical applications of how to walk worthy, warily & wisely. We’ve already seen from Col. 4:6 that one of the ways we walk wisely is with our words – especially to those who are in the world. We need to take heed to Paul’s words in Eph. 4:29 – Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. When we speak, we should only say those things that will build others up. We shouldn’t let bad or rotten words cross over our lips. Next we should walk with good works. Turn back to Eph. 2:10 and let’s read this verse together: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We have a lot of good works to be accomplished but they require volunteers. Which good works are you involved in? We don’t do good works to be seen of men or to boast but we are involved in good works because that’s what God wants us to do. As Jas. 2:17 states: Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Next, turn over to Eph. 4:1 where Paul tells us to walk worthy of our calling. But he goes on in the next two verses describing ways in which we can do this – by walking with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Several of these are included in the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Gal. 5:22-23 – fruit we are develop as Christians: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We must be continually growing as Christians – adding to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Another way in which we are told to walk worthy and wisely is found in Eph. 5:2 - And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Perhaps the best example of walking worthy of our calling and with love as Christ did is found in 1 Pet. 2:21-24 – For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
“Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. Another way we walk worthy, warily and wisely is found in Eph. 5:8-10 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. Notice the last phrase indicating that children of light find out what is acceptable to the Lord and then do it. My friends, if you want to know what is acceptable to the Lord, you’ve got to get into His word and read for yourselves what His will is for you. Interestingly, it is the same for all of us. The psalmist put it best in Ps. 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Matt. 5:16 gives some guidance for the children of light – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. One more passage as we walk as children of light – 1 Jn. 1:7 – But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. What a blessed assurance of continuing forgiveness as God’s children! And, finally, I want to briefly mention one more way in which we must walk worthy and wisely but, perhaps most of all, warily – and that is in our worship. Return with me to our text this morning in Eph. 5:15ff. – See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. As Paul turns to worship, he instructs us to walk circumspectly or warily. He instructs us to sing without instrumental accompaniment as he also does in Col. 3:16. Solomon warned God’s people about approaching God in worship in Eccles. 5:1 – Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Despite what might be popular and what others may be doing, we need to be careful that we do not introduce into our worship anything that the Lord has not authorized. Turn with me to Col. 3:16 and we’ll read this verse as well as verse 17: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Once again, a cappella singing is what is commanded and thus the only type of music permitted in worship. Whatever we do in worship is to be done in the name of the Lord or by His authority. That is it why Jesus stated in Jn. 4:24 – “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Let’s be very careful in our approach to worship!
This morning we have looked at how Christians can make the best use of their time while on this earth. We have studied how we should walk worthy, warily and wisely with our words, with our good works, with lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering and forbearing, with love, as children of light and with our worship. If you’re a Christian this morning, are you walking the walk or are you just marking time? And, if you’re not a Christian, why don’t you become one by putting on Christ in baptism. When you’re buried with Christ through baptism into His death, you are raised to walk in newness of life according to Rom. 6:4. You can have only two walking companions in this life – you’re either walking with God or the devil. So who’s your Master as we stand and sing?
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 12/26/2010)