Ephesians 5:15-21

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 17, 2000


One way that the book of Ephesians has been broken up was done by Watchman Nee, a Chinese theologian (not to be confused with the “Witness Lee” of the cult known as the Local Church).  Watchman Nee broke the book into three sections:  Sit, Walk, Stand.

He pulled his idea from how we are “seated” in the heaven with Christ (2:6), then how we are to “walk” with Christ (4:1), and finally to “stand” (6:11) against the enemy.

There’s a type of progression in this as well.  First we need to learn to receive the blessings that Jesus has for us as we are “seated” with Him.  Then we learn to “walk” with Him, walking in a way that’s pleasing.  Then finally we learn to “stand” in battle against what the enemy tries to defeat us with.

Chapter 4 starts off with the exhortation to

(Eph 4:1 NASB)  walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called

Through chapter 4, we get a great picture of what that “walk” looks like, but I think it’s when we get to chapter 5 that we understand “how” the walk gets accomplished.

:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

circumspectlyakribos – exactly, accurately, diligently

:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

(Eph 5:16 NIV)  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

God wants us to know what His will is for us.  His will is …

:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess;

excess – a waste

Paul is going to contrast being “drunk with wine” with being “filled with the Spirit”.

The comparison between these two goes back to the day of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples with the sound of a roar, and a crowd was gathered as the disciples began to speak in tongues.

(Acts 2:12-15 KJV)  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? {13} Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. {14} But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: {15} For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

Sometimes we have the idea that a person drinks to “loosen up”, but I think in reality they become controlled by the wine.

Perhaps you’ve seen a drunk person get upset or angry and someone will say, “Don’t pay any attention to him, it’s just the wine speaking”.

A person drunk with wine is controlled just as a person who is filled with the Spirit is controlled by the Spirit.

:18  but be filled with the Spirit;

be filledpleroo – to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full; to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally; to render full, i.e. to complete; to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim.

The Greek word here is a command, present tense, we are commanded to be continually filled.


The Spirit is the power

When we look at Ephesians 4-5 and what a Christian is supposed to be like, we can get kind of depressed at times.
We’re supposed to be honest all the time.
We’re not supposed to have impure thoughts or actions.
We’re not supposed to have filthy language.
We’re not supposed to be bitter or angry.
We’re supposed to forgive everybody.
If you were honest, you’d have to admit that this kind of stuff is pretty hard if not impossible.
The glove and the hand.
I have a work glove.  I like my work glove.  I want my work glove to learn to play the piano.  But by itself, it can do NOTHING.  I can throw my glove on the piano.  I can lecture my glove about how I want it to develop it’s creative side.  I drop my glove off at the music store and sign it up for piano lessons.  But will the glove ever play the piano?  Not until I put my hand into the glove.  Then suddenly, amazingly, the glove is able to do just about anything my hand can do.  Why?  Because it’s my hand that’s really doing the work.  The glove may be a little more awkward than my hand without the glove, but that’s okay, because I’m letting my glove play the piano.
You’re the glove.  The Holy Spirit is the hand.  You can only do supernatural things like forgiving and loving if He fills you.
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a  mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated,  the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the  aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of  the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way  through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.” 
When the houselights dimmed and the concert was about to begin,  the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was  missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on  the impressive Steinway on stage.  In horror, the mother saw her  little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle,  Twinkle Little Star.”
At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly  moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep  playing.”  Then leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left  hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached  around to the other side of the child and he added a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a  frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. And  the audience was mesmerized.
Whatever our situation in life and history—however outrageous,  however desperate, whatever dry spell of the spirit, whatever dark  night of the soul—God is whispering, “Don’t quit. Keep playing. You are not alone, Together we will transform  the broken patterns into a masterwork of My creative art.”

What follows in these verses are grammatically the result of what precedes.

In verse 18 we have an “imperative” (command), while all the verbs in verses 19-21 are participles.  This seems to indicate that they are the results of the command.  They are the results of what happens when I am filled with the Holy Spirit.

:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,

speakinglaleo – to utter a voice or emit a sound; to speak; to use the tongue or the faculty of speech; to utter articulate sounds; to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts

to yourselves – better, “to one another”

psalmspsalmos – a striking, twanging; of a striking the chords of a musical instrument; of a pious song, a psalm; designating a song which took its general character from the OT Psalms, although not restricted to them; the leading idea is that there is musical accompaniment with this song.

hymnshumnos – a song of praise; emphasis on “praise”

spiritualpneumatikos – relating to the human spirit; of God the Holy Spirit; one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God

songsode – a song, lay, ode; simply a song.  A “spiritual song” might be a song that comes out of the human spirit, but could also be a song from the Holy Spirit.  Paul even hinted at singing in tongues:

(1 Cor 14:15 KJV)  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

It is possible for a song to be all three, having a musical accompaniment, being a praise song, and being from the Holy Spirit.

:19  singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

singingado – to the praise of anyone, to sing

making melodypsallo – to pluck off, pull out; to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang; to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument so that they gently vibrate; to play on a stringed instrument, to play, the harp, etc.; to sing to the music of the harp; in the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song


Worship from the heart

One of the results of the Holy Spirit filling your life is that you will begin to experience a new passion and love for the Lord.
You will find songs of praise to the Lord filling your heart.
You will find that we don’t come to church on Sunday mornings just to “sing songs”.  We come to express our love to the Lord.
A person filled with the Spirit won’t have to wait until Sunday morning to worship, but will worship all through the day.
(Luke 7:36-48 KJV)  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
This was a woman who loved Jesus from her heart.  A beautiful picture of worship, washing Jesus’ feet with our tears, kissing Him and blessing Him with the beautiful fragrance of praise.

:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

A Spirit-filled life is a life of gratitude, learning to say thanks.

:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

in the fear of God – I’m not sure I still really understand all this, but I came across some verses this week that gave me a little different perspective:

(Psa 115:11-13 KJV)  Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. {12} The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. {13} He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.

To me, a person that I am “afraid” of isn’t someone that I trust.  But that’s the wrong kind of fear.  We ought to be incredibly aware of God’s awesome power and fear Him, yet He is wonderfully trustworthy.  In fact He even blesses us, also something you don’t expect from someone you’re afraid of.

When we talk about this horrible subject of “submission”, the question is, “Do you trust the Lord to do it His way?”  His way seems backwards.  His way is hard.  His way is right.

submittinghupotasso – to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection; to subject one’s self, obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice; to obey, be subject; A Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

As I’m filled with the Spirit, it will affect my relationships with others, especially in learning how to submit to others.
What follows is a list of types of relationships where Spirit-filled submission will be operating. 
Marriage, family, work.

I think there might be a reason for the order Paul lists them in.  I think Paul is listing them from the most difficult to the easiest.

I think submission is hardest in the home, with your own spouse, your equal.


Submission = Denying yourself

I think the reason that we ALL have trouble with the word submission is because we don’t like the idea of denying ourself.  I think that this is one of our biggest problems in our “me-oriented” society.  We want it “our” way.  Yet God calls us to trust Him, deny ourselves, and submit to each other.
Denying oneself is not to be equated with losing one’s uniqueness or becoming of no value.  There have been great people in each generation who modeled self-denial as they made significant contribution to humankind.  One such man was General Robert E. Lee, commander-in-chief of the Confederate troops during the Civil War. Few eagles soared higher during these darkest days of our nation’s history than General Lee.  In fact none of his biographers have overlooked his trait of self-denial when describing the qualities of that Southern gentleman.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in fact, concludes his lengthy volume, Lee, with these moving words that illustrate the extent of the General’s humility:

Of humility and submission was born a spirit of self-denial that  prepared him for the hardships of the war and, still more, for  the dark destitution that followed it.  This self-denial was, in  some sense, the spiritual counterpart of the social self-control  his mother had inculcated in his boyhood days, and it grew in  power throughout his life.  His own misfortunes typified the fate  of the Confederacy and of its adherents.  Through it all, his  spirit of self-denial met every demand upon it, and even after he  went to Washington College and had an income on which he could  live easily, he continued to deny himself as an example to his  people.  Had his life been epitomized in one sentence of the Book  he read so often, it would have been in the words, “If any man  will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross  daily, and follow me.”  And if one, only one, of all the myriad  incidents of his stirring life had to be selected to typify his  message, as a man, to the young Americans who stood in hushed awe  that rainy October morning as their parents wept at the passing  of the Southern Arthur, who would hesitate in selecting that  incident?  It occurred in Northern Virginia, probably on his last  visit there.  A young mother brought her baby to him to be  blessed.  He took the infant in his arms and looked at it and  then at her and slowly said, “Teach him he must deny himself.”