Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Second Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Ephesians 5:15-20

[See the first pass at the text here.]

A Few More General Comments
1. The New Interpreter's Bible (NIB) calls this passage, Wisdom as Thanksgiving. When we exercise the wisdom God has given to us, it's a way of expressing our thanksgiving to him. When, for example, we refrain from drunkenness, as is mentioned tangentially in this passage, we give God and His Spirit place in our lives. That's wise. Drunkenness displaces God and is an unwise, even dangerous, way of living.

2. NIB also--rightly, I think--divides this short passage into two sections: 5:15-18a, which is a call to live wisely; 5:18b-20, which is a doxology.

3. William Loader says this about the passage:
...In this excerpt of the continuing instructions the focus falls first of all on wisdom. This comes both in 5:15 and in 5:17. Why emphasise it? What would it mean for the hearers not to be wise? To answer that we need to note the themes of the preceding verses. 5:6 assumes there is persuasion around which could lead them astray, probably in Christian guise (see also 4:14). The verses which follow speak of unfruitful works of darkness, hidden, shameful behaviour. This may be sexual immorality (a theme in 5:3). It may be that this is just a typical warning against false teachers. It was common to accuse false teachers not only on going astray in their thoughts but also in their behaviour. It was probably less than fair, but we see it happening more and more in the later writings of the New Testament and then in the early church.

The instruction to look accurately at how they live and not to fall to foolishness (5:15) arises from the assumption that there are real dangers to faith and that often they need intellectual discernment...

Verse by Verse Comments
15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
(1) The opening verse sets the tone for what's to follow. This entire passage expresses the letter of Ephesians' penchant for contrasts, here calling Christ-Followers to love wisely, not unwisely. In what follows, we'll be told some of what constitutes a wise life.

(2) Of course, wisdom is a highly valued trait in Biblical faith. The book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament, is wisdom which God revealed to ancient King Solomon. Many contemporary business people, as well as Christian leaders like Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, and Gerald Mann, make reading Proverbs a regular routine. Wisdom is the practical know-how needed to live life with a sense of connection to God's purposes for us.

(3) In Proverbs, there's a passage that contrasts wise and foolish people:
Hear, my child, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered;
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of evildoers. (Proverbs 4:10-14)
(4) Wisdom is rooted in God and belongs to those who call on Him, Who dispenses it. Psalm 14 says:
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout

all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Pslam 14)
(5) The times in which we live, where evil exists, requires us to exercise spiritual caution, avoiding temptations that might lure us from God. This means adopting a lifestyle wisely tuned into God. Our lives and our faith can otherwise be destroyed. The God we Christians meet in Jesus Christ will never abandon us. But we can walk away from Christ and when we do so, it rarely happens as the result of some grand conversion to evil. We walk away from Christ "by littles," an unwise decision here and there that we allow to build into a wall of self-centered unrepentance. That is the path of destruction. Avoid it, Paul says.

More later, I hope.

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