Freedom in Christ – Living in Wisdom
We have been looking at the theme of Freedom in Christ in the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places; chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit. These are our benefits of being IN CHRIST as believers who are a part of the family of God, Jews and Gentiles. In the first few chapters Paul is teaching, instructing and giving knowledge to the saints in Ephesus; he is helping them to learn who they are IN CHRIST. Then the Apostle Paul also exhorts the believers to walk or live out their faith in Jesus in Eph 4-6. He states to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Eph 4:1), to not live as the Gentiles live (Eph 4:17), to live a life of love (Eph 5:2), to live as children of light (Eph 5:8). Now Paul speaks to live in wisdom (Eph 5:15).
Biblically speaking, knowledge and wisdom often go hand in hand, but are not synonymous. Knowledge is about gaining facts and ideas through life experience, research and study. Whereas, wisdom in the ability to put knowledge into action with discernment and accuracy to your life. Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. There are some in their pursuit of knowledge have become puffed up or proud (1 Cor 8:1) but Paul tells us the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:18-19).
The Scriptures tell us that wisdom and knowledge and understanding have their origin in the Fear of God; awe, respect and reverence for God Almighty.
· Prov 1:7 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
· Prov 9:10 - “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
· Prov 15:33 - The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honour.
Living in Wisdom
Paul begins this teaching on wisdom by saying, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph 5:15-17). The church of Ephesus was blessed IN CHRIST, and yet lived in a darkened society. Therefore, they needed to be reminded to be careful, prudent, watchful so that they live rightly before God and each other. Wisdom and folly are contrasted over and over in Proverbs. Paul tells them not to be foolish, lacking wisdom or common sense, but to understand and comprehend God’s will.
In one sense, Paul has in the previous verses highlighted God’s will; live well before God, and live in God’s love and light, avoiding the lifestyle of the Gentiles who were trapped in sexual sins and greed.
Do not get drunk
Now Paul speaks to another area of life to be careful with – drinking alcohol. The city of Ephesus was like many pagan cities, there was an abundance of alcohol to drink. The same is true today. I am not here to debate whether or not Christians can drink alcohol. But I am here to say that the Scripture clearly states “DO NOT GET DRUNK”; inebriated, stupefied, or excited by alcohol. Drunkenness leads to debauchery which is reckless and foolish living that destroys life; angry drunk, immoral drunk, driving drunk etc… A drunken person acts abnormally. Rather than controlling himself (wisdom), the wine controls him (foolishness). This kind of lifestyle does not glorify God.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit
In contrast, Paul speaks of being filled with something other than alcohol – the Holy Spirit. There are two terms in the Scriptures that are similar and relate to the Holy Spirit, baptism and filling. Although the terms are related there are real differences between the two. There are passages of Scripture that affirm the truth of the Holy Spirit and baptism and salvation:
· We are told in Mark 1:8 that “Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”; as well this language is used in Acts 1:5.
· For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Cor 12:13).
· for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27).
· Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The Scripture teaches us that there is only one Spirit baptism - at salvation, but there are many fillings that keep us walking in the Spirit’s power to live a life pleasing to the Lord. I believe that Paul highlights both these experiences in his letter to the Ephesians.
· (Baptism) - Eph 1:13-14 - And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
· (Filling) - I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (Eph 1:17).
· (Filling) - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
This leads us to Eph 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. The Greek language here speaks of “being continually filled”, moment by moment, with the Holy Spirit. A foolish drunk always wants their drink topped up. The wise Christian is to be topped up with the Spirit to the overflowing. In other words, wisdom is found in constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit?
There are no shortcuts in the journey of faith with Jesus Christ, the same is true of Holy Spirit. Jesus’ life and ministry were opposed by religious people who spoke of him being demon possessed. Satan has waged the same kind of war against the Holy Spirit in relation to the church; he has confused it, opposed it, and surrounded it with abuses and extremes.
Even though there is not step-by-step manual for the filling of the Holy Spirit, I would say that the Scriptures do give us some understanding as what to do in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
· One must be baptized with the Holy Spirit; in other words, you have to be a Christian. Not a religious person or someone who goes to church. Paul has described for us what genuine Christianity looks like. Someone who thinks rightly about God and themselves and someone who lives well before God and his fellowman; they are surrendered and obedient to God. This Spirit-filled life is not for superstar Christians, but it meant to be the way born-again believers live before God and each other.
· In relation to the Holy Spirit, the Bible also tells us to ask our Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). We must desire to be filled with Holy Spirit and let him take control of our life.
· A key Scripture is Rom 12:1-2 – we must be ready to present our body (mind, emotions, your personality, your all.
· Faith is key… I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? (Gal 3:2).
The Spirit-filled life is marked by “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:19-20). Oftentimes, well-meaning believers are more affected by what is going on around them circumstantially. Paul is teaching them to be “filled with the Spirit” and from the inside out bring joy and song into the world. In other words, let’s sing spiritual songs not drinking songs. The same way we are to be continually filled with the Spirit, we are to always be thankful…
Today, I would like us to pray for each other to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Maybe there are areas where we are filled with doubt and unbelief. Or maybe we are struggling with obeying God. Maybe our spirit tank is half-full. Or maybe we are full of hunger and desire for more of God. Our lives vary from person to person; however, the good news is that we can be filled with Holy Spirit today. We can be filled to the overflowing with the fruit and gifts of the Spirit.