15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17)
A. Walk Carefully, Children
The Glen Canyon Dam sits on the Colorado River just outside of Page, AZ, about 130 miles North of Flagstaff. It’s a massive concrete dam of similar construction as the Hoover Dam—a wall of concrete towering over seven hundred feet above the river.
Equally impressive is the highway bridge that runs across the river gorge several hundred feet in front of the dam. It’s nearly 1,300 feet long and rises 700 feet above the river.
It’s not a wide bridge. A two lane highway goes across, with a walkway on either side. The walkway has a tall chain link fence on the side, and a low guard rail to separate it from the car traffic. There is no shoulder, the traffic zooms by just a few feet from the guard rail.
It was on this walkway that Tami and I and our six children ventured out in April of 2012, to get a good look at the dam. Soon we realized how foolish that was, not only was the seven hundred foot drop on the one side scary, but the traffic zooming by just a few feet away was dangerously scary to parents of young children who walk weaving and meandering like the Colorado River itself.
And then the guard rail would have to have gaps in it every few feet! Again and again we admonished the kids to walk carefully, to hold on to the the little ones, to not wander to the left nor to the right—to walk, just this once, in a straight line!
And so, like a family of ducks trying to cross the road, we waddled to the first possible camera-friendly location (we didn’t even make it half-way across the bridge), gazed in amazement and fear at the awe-aspiring sight, and scurried back to the safety of our suburban waiting for us in the parking lot.
B. Walk Carefully, Christian
Without a doubt, the Christian life is much the same. We are to follow a narrow path, with dangers to our faith just within reach on either side. And there seem to be gaps in the guard rail, where we can wander out and suffer shipwreck to our faith. For that reason, our text warns us…
Ephesians 5:15a See then that ye walk circumspectly,
“walk circumspectly” ἀκριβῶς (B, ἀκριβῶς) means to live your life carefully. It has to do with being accurate or precise or performing a close inspection (Pillar). You might compare it to a pilot going through the checklist before take-off.
The Greek word here also involves a “strict conformity to a norm or standard” (Louw-Nida). Again, you can see this in a pilot using a checklist and making sure that the plane conforms to the standards acceptable for a safe flight. The Christian also needs to check to make sure that they are living close to the standards explained in the Bible if we are to have the spiritually safest flight through life.
We say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing carefully or right.” That is true of the Christian life. If you are going to be a Christian, ought you not want to be the best Christian you can be? Then we must walk carefully. How is that done?
THE CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO WALK CAREFULLY BY…
I. BEING WISE AND NOT FOOLISH
A. Not As A Fool
Ephesians 5:15b not as fools, but as wise,
“not as fools” ἄσοφοι (JNPM, ἄσοφος). What is a fool? In the Greek, it’s literally a “not-wise” person. It is a person who lacks knowledge or discernment.
The foolish person is vividly described in the book of Proverbs. Let’s take a look at a few verses, you’ll get the picture and maybe even see elements of foolishness in your own heart:
A fool is not honest with their feelings about people:
18 He that hideth hatred with lying lips, And he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)
A fool has their own ideas about how things should be:
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: But he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)
A fool cannot overlook an insult:
16 A fool’s wrath is presently known: But a prudent man covereth shame. (Proverbs 12:16)
A fool feels no remorse over their sin:
9 Fools make a mock at sin: But among the righteous there is favour. (Proverbs 14:9)
A fool doesn’t listen to parental advice or chastening:
5 A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: But he that regardeth reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)
A fool doesn’t care to learn anything beyond his own opinions:
2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, But that his heart may discover itself. (Proverbs 18:2)
A fool continually repeats his mistakes and his foolishness:
11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, So a fool returneth to his folly. (Proverbs 26:11)
Finally, and primarily, the fool is someone who does not heed God or his Word.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
He is like a child who does not listen to his parent’s warning not to touch the stove or play in the street. The child thinks that he knows best and refuses to acknowledge the wisdom of the parent. The fool thinks that his reasoning is best and God is a foolish myth.
As Christians, we need to shun the way of the fool and cling to the way of the Lord. As it says in Psalm 1—
1 Blessed is the man That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; And in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2)
Do not live as a fool…
B. But As Wise
“but as wise” σοφοί (JNPM, σοφός). The “wise” person is the opposite of the foolish one. They are most concerned about what God thinks and wants in their lives.
Like with the fool, the book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about the wise person:
A wise man listens and learns:
5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: (Proverbs 1:5)
A wise person is careful about what they say:
19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: But he that refraineth his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)
11 A fool uttereth all his mind: But a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. (Proverbs 29:11)
A wise person is concerned about the souls of others:
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that winneth souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)
A wise person’s counsel is healing:
18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: But the tongue of the wise is health. (Proverbs 12:18)
A wise person gathers wise people around them:
20 He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: But a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)
A wise woman works to build her family and home in the ways of wisdom:
1 Every wise woman buildeth her house: But the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. (Proverbs 14:1)
A wise person not only knows information, he or she also knows when and how to use that information.
2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. (Proverbs 15:2)
A wise person accepts reproof and criticism gracefully, considering what lessons it may have for them:
10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man Than an hundred stripes into a fool. (Proverbs 17:10)
The study of the wise person and the foolish person in the book of Proverbs is a fascinating one that I commend to everyone. Young people especially, you would benefit from spending a few weeks reading Proverbs and making a chart of the differences between the wise and foolish person. It would go a long way in seeing how a Christian ought to walk carefully by being a wise person.
THE CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO WALK CAREFULLY BY…
II. REDEEMING THE TIME
A. Make Good Use Of Your Time
Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
“Redeeming the time” ἐξαγοραζόμενοι (VPMP-PNM, ἐξαγοράζω) is the same word that is used to speak of Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; 4:5) and so it has the sense of buying something back, or liberating someone.
In this verse, we cannot redeem the time in the sense of buying it back, since time cannot be regained once it is passed. The way we redeem time is by using it carefully as it passes. We are to urgently rescue our time from being wasted.
David Brainerd was a missionary to native Indians in Colonial America. His life burned out early at the age of 29. He was keenly aware of the brevity of life and the urgency of Christ’s mission. In his journal, he wrote:
I am engaged to ‘press towards the mark’ day by day. O that I may feel this continual hunger…to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! O that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey! (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008], 329)
Jonathan Edwards, a friend of David Brainerd, also understood the value of our time on earth. As a young man, he wrote down seventy resolutions that, by the grace of God, he resolved to live his life by. One of those resolutions was: “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.”
B. Because The Times Are Evil
“because the days are evil.”—
What is meant by the days being evil? Why should that affect our time usage?
The “days are evil” in the sense that everything around believers tries to corrupt us and mislead us. The word “days” here is being used in the sense of “the times that we live in” or the “age in which we live.” Look at a couple other verses in Ephesians, and you’ll get a sense of the meaning:
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)
The time in which we live is a time that is directed by the “prince of the power of the air,” by Satan himself. Satan holds a compelling authority over non-Christians, binding them to his will. And Satan’s will is completely opposed to God’s will.
Here’s how I would paraphrase this verse: “Make the best use of your time, because we live in the evil age of Satan.”
So, we need to make the most of our time, to live wisely, because there is an opposing force who never rests, who wants to impose his will on this world and destroy every living human being for eternity.
In a practical sense, Satan wants you to waste your time…to be unproductive, especially in spiritual matters. He wants you to say, “I don’t have time for prayer” or “I can talk to that person about Christ later” or “I will spend time with my family tomorrow.”
The Christian who walks carefully will carefully consider how to best spend their time, so that God’s purposes are a top priority and Satan’s desires are thwarted.
THE CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO WALK CAREFULLY BY…
III. UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WILL
Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
“Wherefore be ye not unwise…”—This is the same word as “fools” in verse 15. What is another way of not being a fool or an unwise person? By “understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
Commentators are split on whether this is referring to God’s will in general or if this is referring to a more particular form of God’s will, namely, what God would have you do in any given situation. I think it is safe to say that it is referring to both.
A. The Lord’s General Will
The Lord’s general will for all people is found in the Bible. First, that people be saved:
9 The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
The Lord also wants those who are saved to become like Jesus Christ:
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
There are also many moral commands that the Lord wants us to obey, as doing so will provide us with the best possible life. For example,
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
God’s general will is revealed in the Bible, but what about his particular will?
B. The Lord’s Particular Will
His particular will for each person—if and whom you should marry, where you should work and live, and so forth—is found after careful pondering of the principles given in God’s Word, prayer, and seeking advice from mature believers, as will as reading the circumstances (i.e., is God opening or shutting a door?).
To understand God’s will for your life requires knowing God’s Word. It’s packed with principles on relationships, parenting, marriage, how to handle your money and so forth.
It’s most effective when you, over the years, read and ponder the Bible, not only committing it to memory, but committing it to your heart. Then, God’s principles will seem to float to the surface when you are faced with decisions and circumstances.
One thing that I’ve noticed about God’s will over the years is that it is very often counter-cultural. It is the opposite of what worldly people would do. Jesus said to unbelieving Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). Satan never does things God’s way.
If you are considering a decision, ask yourself about the possible course of action, “Would an unbeliever do the same?” If so, then that should be a caution flag that maybe that is not God’s will.
C. The Lord’s Example
We must know God’s principles found in the Bible, but there has to be a desire to follow those principles. Often as Christians, we already know what God’s will is in a given situation, we are just either too prideful or too afraid to follow it.
We need to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, when he was faced with the prospect of being tortured to death on a cross, did not give into pride or fear, but instead sought the Father’s face in prayer:
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)
Christ knew, that through his pain, he would buy the salvation of untold millions. We read in Hebrews,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Christ joyfully saw that the Father’s way, although painful and hard, was also the only way to provide salvation for humanity. He would pay the wages of death that our sins demand. Then we, when we believe in Christ, would have his payment applied to the bank accounts of our sin.
Do you believe in Jesus? Have you had your sins forgiven? God wants you to be saved, but you must come to him through Jesus Christ.
When we ponder what God’s will is for our lives, don’t assume that the easy way is his way. Often, it’s the hard way that God chooses for us to follow. We can respond in the same manner as Christ—joyfully submitting because we know God has something good in mind for you:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2–4)
CONCLUSION/CALL TO DECISION
The Christian Ought To Walk Carefully By…
I. Being Wise And Not Foolish
II. Redeeming The Time
III. Understanding God’s Will
The same day that we ventured out on the Glen Canyon Bridge, we also visited the Navajo Twin Bridges not too far away. There are, as the name implies, two bridges—one is a vehicle bridge built in 1995 and the other was built in 1929, that was at one time the main bridge, but now is only for walking.
Immediately, we felt safer on that bridge—there were no zooming cars, and it had a safer-feeling kind of fence. So, even though it was nearly 500 feet above the water, it was a wonderfully safe place. The kids ran around on the bridge, protected from dangers.
The wise Christian who lives their life respecting the boundaries (instead of pushing them) that God has put in place—his rules and principles for life—will find that, rather it being confining, it is freeing.
The truth shall set you free.
Walk carefully in this life by believing that the Lord knows what is best for you. Wisely follow his way.