Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:15-20
Make the most of every opportunity
In Ephesians 5:8-14, Paul highlights the characteristics of the children of light. He warns the Ephesians not to have anything to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather to expose them (v. 11). He closes that section with an exhortation to the Ephesians to experience a spiritual awakening so that Christ will shine on them. In this week’s passage, he continues to prod the Ephesians to cultivate a life of godliness. He begins with a warning for them to be very careful not to live as unwise but as wise. Verse 15 in the KJV says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” This contrast between fools and wise people is mostly a contrast between paganism and Christianity. Adam Clarke suggests the phrase not as fools was connected to the practices of devotion to the ancient god Bacchus, worship with drinking and partying. Bacchus was the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Dionysus. He was the god of agriculture and wine. Presumably, devotees of Bacchus would engage in orgy like celebrations during which they acted like madmen, running about, tossing their heads from shoulder to shoulder, appearing to be in every sense completely frantic.”
In verse 16, Paul encourages the new Ephesian converts to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. In KJV, it is translated as “redeeming the times.” The Greeks used two words for time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to chronological or sequential time. Kairos indicates a proper or opportune time for action. Paul is using the Greek word Kairos for time in verse 16. He wants the Ephesians to consider the season and culture they lived in as an opportune time to let their light shine amid the paganism of their day. This then is how they could redeem the time, or make the best of every opportunity. “The idea behind redeeming the time is that you buy up opportunities like a shrewd businessman. You make the most of every opportunity for Jesus Christ.” The idea of redeeming the time also suggests that Paul expected the rapture to occur at any time. Yet from Paul’s perspective, the days were evil. These words capture the extent of the wickedness with which the Ephesians were contending. Thus the need for the warning from Paul not to live as pagan fools. Instead, they are to understand what the will of God is (v. 17).
Such a discerning spirit requires wisdom from above. That wisdom can only be gained through the study of the word of God. For the word makes us wise unto righteousness. In verse 18, Paul cautions the Ephesians not to get drunk with wine. That is what the devotees of Bacchus would do. They would often engage in orgy-like celebrations in their drunken stupor. The believer, however, was to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not an alcoholic spirit. “The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event that we live off of the rest of our days. It is a constant filling, asking to be filled, and receiving the filling by faith.” When we are filled with the Spirit, we can speak with one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (v. 19). Our hearts will sing melodies to the Lord and rejoice in the worship of his name and give praise unto him. This indicates that one does not have to be a professional singer to sing melodies to the Lord. The Holy Spirit prompts the believer to serenade God with the melodies of the heart.
Paul certainly offers a variety of ways believers can commune with God, and with one another when they are filled with the Spirit. The idea is that there are plenty of ways. Spirit-filled disciples can celebrate their union with God as members of the Body of Christ. “This variety suggests that God delights in creative, spontaneous worship.” In verse 20, Paul closes the passage by instructing the Ephesians to give thanks always for all things to God. He “recommends the same pattern for our thanksgiving as he practiced in prayer in Ephesians 3:14 – giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a spirit of thankfulness comes from the Holy Spirit.
Time is the most precious commodity we own as human beings. Whereas we can make more money and learn to develop new talents, we cannot make more time. Our time on earth is fixed. The length of time may vary for each of us, but none of us is immortal. Therefore, it is paramount that we learn how to redeem our time. The word redeem comes from the Greek word exagorazo – which in turn comes from two Greek words, Ek (meaning from or from out of) and agorazo (meaning to purchase). Exagorazo appears four times in the Bible. One time in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5. The other two are Galatians 3:13, and Galatians 4:5. Exagarazo is a marketplace term. To redeem someone from slavery, as Christ redeemed us, you are purchasing them – purchasing them out of (exagarazo) their slavery. You are paying the price to take them out of a bad situation.
What does it mean to redeem the time? The word redeeming implies buying back something, regain possession. Most Christians do not appreciate the power they have to redeem the time. Christians—as a consumer group—have the power to redeem the entertainment industry to ensure that people are not exposed to sexually explicit materials every time they turn on their television. We can redeem sports, social media, local, and national politics.
The days are evil and need to be redeemed by kingdom workers like you and me. This is our time (Kairos) to redeem the time through Christian fellowship. We have to redeem the time from the “business as usual” mindset that is making us so ineffective in the work of ministry. We cannot allow ourselves to become slaves to the pleasures of this world such that we spend our time chasing after them. The good news of Jesus Christ is that we have been set free to live Spirit-filled lives. Paul provides specific ways for the Ephesian Christians to redeem the time in verse 17-18. He told them to practice godly wisdom, avoid drunkenness, and to seek a deeper understanding of the will of God. How can these instructions be applied in today’s context? We should use the many technological tools at our disposal to spread the gospel.
We have to redeem the time for people that are struggling with opioid or alcohol addiction. If we don’t redeem the time, the number of underage kids that are being preyed upon by sexual predators online will continue to increase. For the sake of the institution of marriage, we have to redeem the time so that the rate of divorce will not continue to increase. More importantly, we need to redeem the time, so we can expand God’s kingdom on earth and make more disciples for Jesus Christ.
Blessed Lord, please help us to redeem the time by the shine the light of Christ in us in this world of darkness.