Bible Study Series: Ephesians - The Third Heaven Epistle
Ephesians 5:11-20 Bible Study - Staying alert in evil days
by I Gordon
We are in Ephesians 5:11-20 today and this is a great passage, extremely relevant to the days in which we live. I know I've been saying it a bit, but allow me to pop up onto the soap box once more... we live in trying days. We live in challenging days. Ok... I'm being kind. We live in evil days. The Bible says in Revelation 12 that the day will come when the enemy knows that his time is short and will be flung to the earth filled with wrath. 'Woe to the earth' is the announcement for those days. Well... we aren't quite there yet but there is still a noticeable increase in evil and deception occurring around the world and you do get the feeling that all the players know that the time is short. There is mass censorship and coverups of truth. Increased restriction and persecution of believers. Widespread propaganda and brain washing occurring, especially with the youngest and most vulnerable among us. These are disturbing days.
Well Ephesians 5 speaks to believers in such days. How are we to live in such days? I've called this message 'Staying alert in evil days' and this passage gives great instruction for believers in these trying times.
- It instructs us to oppose & expose the deeds of darkness
- It instructs us to watchful, wake and alert,
- It instructs us to make the most of the opportunities we have
- It instructs us on the only way to survive such days... through a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled, Spirit-controlled life
So that is what we will be focusing on today. Let's push the go button.
Exposing deeds of darkness
Eph 5:11-12 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (12) For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.
So Paul starts this section by saying 'have nothing to do with deeds of darkness but rather expose them.' What comes to mind when you hear that? I personally don't think he had in mind unbeliever's personal sins as such. The Lord Jesus didn't really operate that way. He sometimes revealed things about a person one-on-one (such as with the Samaritan woman in John 4:18) if it could lead to salvation. But He didn't go around saying things like 'you're a prostitute and I know what you did last night.' And yet His life brought about the greatest sense of love and conviction and, ultimately, transformation, from those living such lifestyles. But He certainly exposed the works of the enemy1 and there are many ways that this verse can be applied2. Let me give you some examples:
- My mother was led into the New Age when it started becoming popular in the early 1980's. This led to many practices that were 'deeds of darkness' even though they were portrayed and expressed as being 'the light' and 'the truth' back then. She eventually saw through it all because a friend, who was worried about what Mum was getting into, took the time to expose it by getting Mum to read a book called 'The beautiful side of evil' by Johanna Michaelson. Suddenly the light went on and she saw that, through deception, she had become involved heavily in 'deeds of darkness'. She then repented, removed everything in her life that was associated with the New Age and told others of this deceptive darkness. Having seen the truth she had nothing to do with these deeds of darkness but rather exposed them.
- My cousin, who is a musician, began 'channeling' using a spirit guide to write songs. Yes, it worked, Yes, it was successful (in terms of quickly being given songs you wouldn't have come up with yourself). And yes it was evil. She didn't know at the time that it was evil but she now exposes those deeds of darkness. In a recent book she writes:
My dark journey really began early 2016 when I asked a spirit guide to help me write. Within six weeks I had written a 22 song musical using a writing technique called channeling. Although at first this was exciting, over time alarming things began to happen. The musical began to act out around me and the theme of it was death and destruction. The project was aborted when I was diagnosed with terminal cancer 3⁄4 way through filming. This book is for anyone who thinks it is safe to communicate with the dead, consult psychics, read tarot cards, use pendulums, talk to spirit guides or dabble in the occult in general. It is also for anyone who does not believe in a spirit world because I have discovered this dimension is very real.
- Or what about the darkness and evil that is now taught to the youngest of our children? What do you do as a parent when you see the sexualized and corrupted material being taught to the most impressionable and precious minds?
So many people are quickly sliding down along with society as it slips away. So let me ask you... are you anchored? Are you anchored to the truth? Or, as society proceeds on it's downward spiral, are 'deeds of darkness' now becoming acceptable to you? As mentioned, these are difficult days so we must be steadfast anchored to the truth of God's work. There will be, there must be, a separation between the child of light and the children of darkness.
Wake up O Sleeper! - A message to weary Christians
Eph 5:13-14 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, (14) for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
So what are we to do in this difficult day? Our passage has instructed us to expose the darkness to the light. Now men don't like coming into the light as Jesus said (John 3:17-20). The truth of God's word is like shining a light into a dark soul and seeing all the rats and bats living there! But there is a great need for the believer here not to be asleep themselves! Wake up O sleeper, the word says. While there is an application for both believer and unbeliever here, I believe in context this is addressed to believers. It is addressed to those among the church who have become sleepy. They have become weary and, well, would rather just not know. Large parts of the church are going 'woke' thinking they are 'awake' when really they are asleep. Today's 'wokeness' is not the awakeness that God asks for! Many churches think they are awake if they are preaching the latest social or racial justice issue but being Biblically awake is being self controlled, alert to the evil of the days, aware of the lateness of the hour, and living for the Lord as you watch for the coming of the Lord:
1Th 5:4-6 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
Rom 13:11-12 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (12) The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
John Bunyan knew of the danger in falling asleep and included it is his classic 'Pilgrim's Progress'. In it he spoke of 'the enchanted ground' that came near the end of Christian's journey. I'll quote from both Christian's and Christiana's journey (Part 2 of Pilgrims Progress).
Then I saw in my dream that they continued their journey until they came into a region where the air naturally induced sleepiness if one was not acclimated to it. Here Hopeful began to grow very sluggish and sleepy. He said to Christian, “I am starting to grow drowsy and can scarcely keep my eyes open. Let’s lie down and take a nap.”
“By no means,” said Christian. “We might fall asleep and never wake up.” “Why so, my brother?” Hopeful asked. “Sleep is sweet for the travel-weary man, and a little nap would be refreshing.”
“Do you recall that one of the shepherds told us to beware of the Enchanted Ground?” Christian inquired. “He meant that we should beware of sleeping. ‘Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.’”
Christian and Hopeful then went on to have a spiritual discussion to keep from being sleepy. This Enchanted Ground is expounded more fully in Part 2 of Pilgrim's Progress with Christiana's journey where they came across Heedless and Toobold who had fallen asleep in the Enchanted Ground. Great-heart, their guide, advises them:
"This Enchanted Ground is one of the last refuges that the enemy of pilgrims has. As you see, therefore, it's placed almost at the end of the Way, and so it stands against us with more advantage. For the enemy thinks, 'When will these fools be so desirous of sitting down as when they are weary, and when will they be more weary than at their journey's end?' That's why, I say, that the Enchanted Ground is placed so close to the Land of Beulah and so near the end of their race. Let Pilgrims watch themselves, therefore, lest it happen to them as it has to these who, as you see, have fallen asleep, and whom no one can awaken."
Then with trembling the Pilgrims desired to go forward, only they asked their Guide to strike a light so they could go the rest of their way with the help of the light of a lantern. So he struck a light and they went by the help of that through the rest of this way, though the darkness was very great."
You can see from this that Bunyan saw that the enemy goes after those that have been Christians for some time, who are nearing the end of their journey, with this sleepiness. They are weary from the journey and tired from the fight and would rather just rest. So beware of the Enchanted Ground where the air is thin! Beware when you start feeling spiritually sleepy!
Oh, can't you see it's such sin? The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can't fight 'cause it's asleep in the light
How can you be so dead when you've been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave. And you, you can't even getta out of bed
Keith Green, lyrics "Asleep in the light"
But look at the promise of God - 'Wake O sleeper... and Christ will shine on you!' That is, make a move towards God and He will respond. And what a blessing it is for Christ to shine upon us! It made up the heart of the Aaronic Blessing with which the Priests of Israel would bless the people.
Num 6:24-26 ' The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." '
Isa 60:1-2 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you.
That then is the order... Arise and then you'll shine! Arise from your sleep, wake up and move towards God, and the face of God will shine upon you again and give you light. And though there be deep darkness upon the people and the land, you will have the direction, comfort and guidance that comes from God's light and glory upon your life.
Making the most of the moment... in evil days
Eph 5:15-17 NASB Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, (16) making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (17) So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Given the darkness of the hour, the word of God rightly warns us about how we should walk. And in particular, it stresses the importance of walking in wisdom. Boy do we need that in our day! Now there are 7 mentions of 'walk' in 6 different verses in Ephesians:
- Walk in the good works God has prepared in advance for you (Eph 2:10)
- Walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Eph 4:1)
- Walk not like Gentiles who don't know God (Eph 4:17)
- Walk not with a futile mind (Eph 4:17)
- Walk in love just as Christ loved you (Eph 5:2)
- Walk as Children of the light and not in darkness (Eph 5:8)
- Walk in wisdom, knowing the days are evil (Eph 5:15)
So this then is the last - walk in wisdom and not as the unwise. But what does that mean? What does it relate to? Do you know? It goes on to say 'making the most of your time, because the days are evil.' 'The Greek word for 'making the most' is 'exagorázō' which is typically translated 'redeem' as it is in the NKJV... 'Redeem the time'. There is a general thought in the Bible of making the most of your life as in Psa 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom." But the thought here is more specific. Given the lateness of the hour, use the key opportunities that you have in a wise way, for God's glory. It is 'buying up the opportunity' as they present themselves. It is probably easier to think of this first of all in the context of a business person. Let's say you bought and sold stocks... or property. Good options will come and go pretty fast and you need to be alert, aware of the opportunity and ready to act fast when they come. If you can see that time and buy up the opportunity when it arises, great gains can be made. That is what Paul is saying here. Make the most of the opportunities that you have. Sometime you will be talking with an unbeliever and feel the prompting to say something about the Lord. Do you redeem that time? Sometimes we hear of a difficulty someone is going through and know we could help... Do you make the most of that opportunity?
In terms of the difficulty of the day in which we live, a key consideration is this word 'time'. We only have so much of it left and it could be a lot less than any of us expect! Note that following that we are to:
- Know the time - Rom 13:11-12 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
- Redeem the time - Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Eph 5:16 Making the most of your time, because the days are evil
- Reap in time - Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
"What lends special urgency to this matter is the evil character of the days in which we live. They remind us God will not always strive with man, the day of grace will soon close, the opportunities for worship, witness, and service on earth will soon be forever ended."
William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary
Do we know the time? Do we know that we live very close to the return of the Lord? If so do we redeem the time that we have knowing that the days are evil and that we can be a light in these dark days? And do you also know that if you do this you will also reap a harvest in the proper time? The Lord doesn't leave His workers unrewarded.
Eph 5:18-20 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (19) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make 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.
So how are we to be strong in such trying days? It is all very well to say 'walk in wisdom', 'redeem the time', 'spot the opportunities'... But how are we to keep the light shining when all around is growing dark? Paul answers that very question right here. You cannot do it by yourself. Our very nature is given to sleepiness. You'll no doubt remember how the closest disciples of the Lord all fell asleep when He needed them the most and specifically asked (three times!) for them to stay awake, alert and pray with Him. (Mat 26:44-45) Or you will remember in the parable of the 10 virgins how they all fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to return. (Matt 25:5) Or who can forget a compromised Samson who fell asleep (both physically and spiritually) thinking that he still had the strength of the Spirit and found out the hard way this was not the case! (Jdg 16:19-20)
The tendency of natural man, without God's intervention, is towards spiritual sleepiness. We need the activity of the One who has been given to us as our 'Helper'. We need to be filled with the Spirit.3
The Greek tense here is 'be ye being filled' or 'be constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.' That is, it is not speaking of a one off event. It is not speaking about an experience you had when you became a Christian or a wonderful experience you look back with fondness on. It is a continual ongoing process where the Holy Spirit who has been given to each believer is allowed access to control and empower that believer.
Paul contrasts the effect of the Holy Spirit with the state of drunkenness. Alcohol is a depressant; it "loosens" people because it depresses their self-control, their wisdom, their balance and judgment. The Holy Spirit has an exactly opposite effect. He is a stimulant; He moves every aspect of our being to better and more perfect performance.
Pastor David Guzik
Ok... but how does that happen? Obviously we need to first recognize that in ourselves we do not have what is takes to be a strong Christian. The presence of God within the believer is critical for any spiritual life. Remember that it was testified of the Lord Jesus that 'in Him was life, and that life is the light of men' (John 1:4) So how does it happen? What role do we play in this filling? As mentioned we must acknowledge our need to the Father and ask for the filling of His Spirit. But there are also practical things we can do that enable the Spirit to have His way in our life. Our passage mentions a few. Most commentators speak of these things as the results of being filled... and that they are.4 But they are also an enabler of that event. What am I talking about?
- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs - that is, allow your thoughts and conversation to be filled with God's word. Pray the Psalms... they are God's direct word!
- Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord - where is the biggest battlefield going on today? In the mind of the believer. We must renew our minds with the truth and what better way that to sing spiritual songs in our hearts as we go about our day! Instead of the doom and gloom of the world's songs, sing that which uplifts your spirit and turns your mind onto Him once again.
- Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything - Wow! Always giving thanks? For everything? Really? It doesn't mean that all things are good but all things can be used for good with God. Therefore we should give thanks. In all things! This is actually a command of the Lord and is stated as God's will for you... and note that in this verse it is connected with putting out the Spirit's fire if we don't do these things: 'Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire.' (1Th 5:16-19 )
When faced with the seemingly overwhelming task of feeding the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, how did Jesus do it? He offered the situation up to God and gave thanks5... and God did the rest. When faced with an overwhelming army coming against them, how did Judah prevail over their enemies in the days of Jehoshaphat? Well, in an amazing way... They sent the singers and worshipers out first!
2Ch 20:21-22 After consulting the people (and previously with the Lord), Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." (22) As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” A.W. Tozer
"True Worship: All that I am, responding to all that He is—in gratitude and praise." Adrian Rogers
There are so many stories of singing to the Lord, giving thanks and having gratitude in your hearts! Instead of that which grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit, like complaining, bitterness and ingratitude ('attributes' so common among the Israelites as they walked in the wilderness) praise and thankful is oxygen to the fire of the Holy Spirit within! But I like this verse and it seems an appropriate place to end, remembering that believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit today.
2Ch 5:13-14 The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever." Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud... for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
I am mindful that when we hear a message that we enjoy and someone asks us what it was about, our repose it often...'um, well it was... it mentioned the argh... it... the speaker started with the... actually I can't remember!' So as we conclude I don't want to give you too many things to remember! "Keep it simple stupid" is a great motto! So just try to remember the 'time' mentioned above in which we currently live. Know the time, redeem the time and you'll reap in time.
- Know the time - Rom 13:11-12 We are to know that we live near the return of Jesus Christ. All things are coming to a head. These are difficult days to be a believer and spiritual sleepiness abounds, but recognizing the time should push us closer to the Lord, dependent on Him and His Spirit. That is the only way in which we will remain a light in these dark times. We should know the time.
- Redeem the time - Col 4:5, Eph 5:16 Realizing, as scripture says, that the days are evil, we are to have the spiritual sight to see and wisely use the opportunities that come to us for God's glory. But we do so realizing that it is only through His Spirit that any progress can be made. We must be filled with God's Spirit to wisely use the opportunities that come our way. So we redeem the time.
- Reap in time - Gal 6:9 God rewards His own for the work they do and we shall reap in time. Today is the day of seed sowing but the day of reaping the rewards is not far off! We shall reap in time if we do not grow weary and sleepy!
As remember, as you go about your journey, to 'strike a light' as Great-heart did as they came near the Enchanted Ground where the air was thin and those on their pilgrimage often got sleepy. You can strike a light by following what Ephesians tells us to do. Renew your mind with the truth... with Psalms and hymns. Sing and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. Give thanks to Him in all things... continue to do so and His Spirit will guide you through the darkest of times! May God bless!
We often think of Jesus' love, forgiveness and healing ministry and so we should. He treated even the outcasts of society in a way they had not experienced before and attracted the masses around Him. But He exposed the evil hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Read the seven woes that Jesus announced publicly upon these so-called 'leaders' and see how Jesus exposed their deeds that kept the masses in darkness while coming over like the teachers of truth. ↩
"Now, we are to take more than just a passive attitude towards darkness. When someone comes and starts to tell a dirty story and it is obvious from the look in their eye and the sinister smile that it is going to be one of the dirty ones, stop them, reprove them, don't just listen and then smile politely and chuckle. Say, "That is filthy." There are some men whose minds are like racehorses; they run best on a dirt track. Don't let them pour out their filth on you. Don't have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, reprove them, speak up, tell them that that is wrong, you don't appreciate it. That way you will keep them from coming back with more filth later."
Pastor Chuck Smith
Believer's Bible Commentary states: "Sometimes in the Bible, the filling with the Spirit seems to be presented as a sovereign gift of God. For instance, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luk_1:15). In such a case, the person receives it without any prior conditions to be met. It is not something for which he works or prays; the Lord gives it as He pleases. Here in Eph_5:18 the believer is commanded to be filled with the Spirit. It involves action on his part. He must meet certain conditions. It is not automatic but the result of obedience.
For this reason the Spirit's filling should be distinguished from certain other of His ministries. It is not the same as any of the following functions:
1. The baptism by the Holy Spirit. This is the work of the Spirit which incorporates the believer in the body of Christ (1Cor 12:13).
2. The indwelling. By this ministry the Comforter takes up His residence in the body of the Christian and empowers him for holiness, worship, and service (John 14:16).
3. The anointing. The Spirit Himself is the anointing who teaches the child of God the things of the Lord (1Jo 2:27).
4. The earnest and the seal. We have already seen that the Holy Spirit as the earnest guarantees the inheritance for the saint, and as the seal He guarantees the saint for the inheritance (Eph 1:13-14)."
Again the Believer's Bible Commentary gives a good overview of the results of being filled with God's Spirit:
"These then are four results of the Spirit's filling—speaking, singing, thanking, and submitting. But there are at least four others:
1. Boldness in rebuking sin (Act 13:9-12), and in testifying for the Lord (Act 4:8-12, Act 4:31; Acts 13:52-14:3).
2. Power for service (Act 1:8; Act 6:3, Act 6:8; Act 11:24).
3. Generosity, not selfishness (Act 4:31-32).
4. Exaltation of Christ (Act 9:17, Act 9:20) and of God (Act 2:4, Act 2:11; Act 10:44, Act 10:46).
We should earnestly desire to be filled with the Spirit, but only for the glory of God, not for our own glory."
Just a few other important scriptures to remember on giving thanks:
“I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1
"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High," Psalm 50:14
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col 3:17