Napoleon, commenting on the first steamship said, “You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck…I have no time for such nonsense.” Lighting a fire under a deck to make ship sail surely sounded strange at first; I can understand Napoleon’s hesitance. It’s like igniting gasoline within your car to make it move. That confused me when I heard that the first time. You want to blow something up to make something move??? Sure…
But I want to convince you this morning that that is what the Spirit does within our lives. The Holy Spirit is likened to fire often in the Bible, John says that after him one will come who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, at Pentecost the Spirit came as tongues of fire and 1 Thes. 5.19 says do not put out the Spirit’s fire. You see, the Spirit works by lighting a fire. So before we move to our passage this morning, let’s have a quick look at Paul’s argument so far up to 5:15.
From chapter three in Ephesians Paul has been telling us how and why we should live a good life. He starts off by saying Christ dwells in us, and so we are unified in Christ. When we are in Christ, the source of light and truth, we can see light and truth, we are no longer in darkness. And so if we know the truth and live in the light that is Christ, then we must live the truth. We imitate Christ by living a life of love, removing immorality, greed and idolatry. We must learn what pleases God and live as children of God.
Ephesians 5: 15-20: 15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is here teaching to seek wisdom that comes from being filled with the Spirit, who is the source of life, and live as wise people. And the way he says it is a beautiful arrangement. Did you notice that Paul mentions each person in the Godhead? What I mean is that he is speaking about this God who is a Trinity, a Triune God. He says know the will of the Lord so that you can know wisdom; be filled with the Spirit so that he you can avoid the things of darkness; give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything.
Know the will of the Lord
Knowing the will of Christ, who dwells in us is so vital. How can we live a life that pleases the Lord if we do not know how he wants us to live? So he is saying be wise and avoid foolishness.
MacArthur states: “To live morally is to live wisely. Biblically, a “fool” is not so named because of intellectual limits, but because of unbelief and the consequent abominable deeds. He lives apart from God and against God’s law, and can’t comprehend the truth or his true condition.”
I think this quote sums of the essence of v. 15 well: to live wisely is to know and live God’s will.
Part of this, Paul says, is to not waste time. The image of a candle is a good illustration; we have the light of Christ, we are children of the light, as he says in earlier chapters, and so we are to show that light as a candle shows its light. But a candle cannot burn forever. It will eventually run out of wax. So our lives will eventually run out. We will eventually die and the light will cease to shine. So we must make the most of our time right now.
He then says “do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” That is so important. How do we know what the Lord’s will is? He’s already told us! Right here in the Bible! The Bible is made up of books and letters written by lots of different people recording the inspiration God has given them, and the Gospels record Jesus’ words themselves. So how do you know his will? Read the Bible! Spend time reading the Bible, praying and meditating on what you learn regularly and you will learn God’s will.
I know a guy who can recite nearly every word from nearly every Muse song. I also know some people who know more about One Direction than they do about Jesus! Some people know more movie quotes than Bible verses.
Proverbs 2 says of wisdom, “The Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Knowing that wisdom and living that wisdom will result in victory.
Paul in Ephesians outlines what it means to live a wise life: live a life of love, and remove immorality, greed and idolatry. We are to speak truthfully, we must not steal, we must work, we must only speak what is useful for building others up, we must be kind, compassionate and forgiving. Jesus tells us to love as he loved. That is wisdom.
Be filled with the Spirit
V. 18 then tells us the source of wisdom. The Spirit is the source of wisdom. We are instructed to be filled with the Spirit to live as wise people.
The Greek asōtia is often translated ‘debauchery,’ as in ‘do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery,’ or as many translations say ‘for that leads to debauchery.’ Now, asōtia also means reckless living. In Titus 1.6 it is translated as ‘wild.’ It can mean debauchery, but Paul’s emphasis is not on a specific act, but on a lifestyle. He says be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise. Also, The Greek estin is used which means ‘is.’ So the sense of the Greek is actually ‘do not get drunk for this is reckless, it is wild.’
I do want to clarify two things though. Firstly, alcohol is not bad. In fact, it’s good, it’s great in moderation. A glass of red wine a day can actually be good for you! I personally really like scotch. But getting drunk is not good. Secondly, parties are not bad either. Parties are fun! Paul is not saying, ‘don’t have parties, don’t drink, don’t have fun.’ But he is saying, ‘don’t be reckless.’
There was a party a week ago, it’s been in the news recently. It got onto Facebook that there was this party and anyone was invited. So about 500 15-22 year olds met at this shed on Warton road and caused a lot of trouble. There were fights, even a couple of people had to be rushed off to hospital. The police got called in, with riot gear, horses, helicopter, took hours for the people to disperse. That’s the sort of reckless living Paul is talking about. We cannot live like that, because people get hurt, teenagers get fined $15,000 and it is a waste of Police resources.
Instead of recklessness, we must be filled with the Spirit. Because the Spirit brings Christ’s wisdom, brings Christ’s presence and helps and enables us to live according to the wisdom that we now know. When Christ dwells in us, as we continually seek to deepen our relationship with Christ and continually increase our understanding and knowledge of Christ, growing in wisdom, we bear the fruit of the Spirit.
I got us reflecting and praying on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which is on your bookmark. The fruit of the Spirit are the things that we exhibit when Christ dwells in us. Living a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, that is the life that God wants us to live.
Give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus
But it is hard. In fact, it is impossible to live this life of wisdom because we will continually sin. So when I say we must live in step with God’s will, please don’t freak out. Because the truth is that Jesus has already taken the punishment for our foolishness. As Christians, being renewed in the image of Christ, we want to seek wisdom, because we recognize the truth of wisdom having experienced the spiritual blessings of being filled with the Spirit. So we want to live wise lives, but when we fail to live wise lives we shouldn’t beat ourselves up.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-5 that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” So being filled with the Spirit enables us to know and to live wise lives, but our salvation is not dependent on whether or not we live perfect lives. We seek to live as wise people, but when we fail, Jesus picks us up again. God has made us alive with Christ.
So what should our correct response to this grace be?
We should rejoice! Paul says in v. 19 that we should “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” God has saved us, so what should we do? Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord! I like the phrase, “in your heart” so that for the rest of us who aren’t very good at singing we can still praise God. It’s encouraging!
We should also give thanks! What do we do when we receive a gift? Should we be like my cousin when I gave him a chocolate he simply asked for another, or should we say thankyou? Definitely say thankyou! Paul says in v. 20 that we should always give thanks to God the Father for everything.
At the beginning, I said I wanted to convince you that the Spirit works by igniting a fire in our lives. We must allow ourselves to be filled with this Spirit of fire so that we can move forward in Christ, knowing Christ’s will and living Christ’s will, giving thanks to God the Father for sending Christ and enabling us to be unified in Christ as he dwells in us.
I’m going to finish with 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10: “Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
May we be filled with the Holy Spirit through whom we see the light, the truth of Christ’s wisdom and whose fire enables us to live out this wisdom.