January 15, 2023 Pastor Steve Behlke

Ephesians 5:15-21

Ephesians 5:15-21

We’re going to talk about several big subjects: God’s wrath in the world today. Understanding God’s will. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. All in order to help live wisely or thrive today.

Let’s pick up from last week’s passage… 

Ephesians 5:6 … The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  

Not by sending floods or bombs to their cities but, as Paul explained to the church in Rome, by giving people over to their shameful desires and unbelief. 

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God IS REVEALED from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became  futile in their speculations , and their foolish heart was darkened.  

At some point in the life of certain peoples, nations, empires, God gives them over to their sins,  

Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…

So they eventually become more wicked, more impure, less open to God,

Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…

So they become more shameful, though they deny any shame, and deny God

Romans 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,

It seems God "may" be doing this with western society. It’s quite stunning how rapidly things are changing. People calling good evil. Calling evil good. Normalizing the most bizarre and unnatural. Selling the most destructive behavior. 

But in His wrath, God gives entire cultures over to their sinful desires which, in time, ultimately destroys them.

Therefore do not be partakers with them. 

Ephesians 5:7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light… 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.

Even expose them, not to themselves. Not in judgment. Not shouting at a spiritually deaf and defiant world, but in protective love. How, by exposing to the church the lies and propaganda that the world calls good and healthy when according to God it is evil, unnatural, and harmful to individuals, to children, marriages, and families. 

So, the world is in a very dark place. It's amazing how committed our society is to a self-destructive, godless mindset, and will not tolerate any dissent.

Therefore be careful how you walk.

Ephesians 5:15 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.  

That said, what do we do? 

How do we keep the faith, and follow Jesus in an increasingly godless world? How do we live wisely and make the most of our time? Paul lays out two must-dos for every believer to thrive today.

Ephesians 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

The first must-do is to understand God’s will.


God wants you to know Him. He’s saying, “If you wish to live well in an evil age, know Me. Understand My view on things. My order. My goals for you, for My Son. Understand what I love, what I despise, what I want for you.”  

God’s will can be understood in two ways.

God's Sovereign Will. His Sovereign Will shall happen. It cannot not happen. He is sovereign. All knowing. All powerful. If He decrees something to happen, nothing can stop it from taking place… 

God's Preferred Will. God also commands us to do things. Believe in My Son. Love one another. Forgive one another. Don’t be angry. Don’t be anxious. This is sometimes called His preferred will, His revealed will.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality…

While His sovereign will cannot fail. We can and often do fail to obey Him.

God wants us to understand His will, particularly in His commands, His directions for how we live. Understand this takes time…

So, get to know God; spend time in His Word, and in Christian community. For seriously, we discuss God’s will together every Sunday and in life groups. 

Again, the days are evil. God wants us to live wisely. How do we keep the faith, and follow Jesus in an increasingly godless world? How do we live wisely and make the most of our time? It starts by understanding God’s will.

A second must-do, we must be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

This is super important, so let’s talk about being filled with the Spirit.

First, grammatically, this is an imperative verb. “Be filled” is a command. 

We’re never commanded to be indwelled by the Spirit! Or to be baptized or sealed by the Spirit! God does each of these the moment you trust Jesus. But He commands us to be filled with the Spirit. We’re each responsible for this. 

Second, to be filled is a present, passive, command. It's the present tense, so, right now, be filled. It's in the passive mood, meaning, we don’t actually DO the filling ourselves—we are called to let it happen.

The command to be filled with the Spirit is more like—allow God to act in your life. Be constantly ready and willing to allow God’s Spirit to lead you wherever He leads.  

The third thing to know is that the phrase “be filled with the Spirit” is not what we typically think. When we hear “be filled,” we think of filling up our gas tank or filling up our plates, which de-personalizes the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an it, a power or food or a thing.

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. He is Christ in us. He is not a substance; we never run out of Him. But we may not pay attention, care, or listen, or agree to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, to “be filled with the Spirit” is not an ecstatic experience where we are transported to heaven or we collapse under His power. This is not a feeling.

Don’t over-spiritualize this, nor depersonalize the Holy Spirit. 

The command to be filled with the Holy Spirit can be understood as “Be open to God’s leading, prepared to walk with Him, understanding God’s will. Be constantly ready and willing to let God’s Spirit lead you wherever He leads.  

At times it is a conscious choice to trust God. Particularly when you want something contrary to God’s will, something tempts you, you want to act one way yet you realize or hear that God says no.

YOU have a choice to trust God, yield to God, be filled with His Spirit, or to give into your flesh.  

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 

So it’s an act of trust. The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, self-control. 

How are we filled with the Holy Spirit?

Individually, we can do this by reading and praying, knowing God and His will.  

Paul shows us how this takes place communally, when the church is together on Sundays, in life groups, when two or more gather in Jesus’ name.


Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [do it together] 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [in] your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks [“giving thanks at all times] for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and being subject or submitting] to one another in the fear of Christ.

Everything Paul tells us to do to be filled with the Holy Spirit prioritizes relationships in the church.

Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs,” E.g., sharing God’s Word with each in encouraging ways, ways that stick and make sense. This is before the NT was written. He’d add that now. Reminding each other of God’s truth, goodness, and who we are to Him. 

Singing” and worshiping together, “Making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Being full of praise. Having a heart made glad through worship and praise.

Sunday worship music may not be your preferred musical style, but coming together intentionally as Christ’s body, lifting our hearts out of our stress, anxiety, busyness, or emptiness to exalt Jesus, motivates and prepares us to follow Him, opening ourselves to His love, influence. That's being filled.

Giving thanks at all times for all things,” to God the Father for His salvation and love and His abundant grace to us in Jesus Christ. Be full of praise. Be full of thanks. This is what we do together. This is how we are filled with the Spirit together. This prepares us to follow Jesus in the week. 

Each of these verbs are participles flowing together to fulfill God’s command—Be filled with the Spirit. 1) Speaking, teaching, discussing God’s Word. 2) Worshiping together. 3) Thanking, praising God for all things. And… 

Submitting to His love, His authority, by trusting God and “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” Submitting to one another’s words of love, gifts and help, to one another’s love and wisdom.  

Verse 21 completes Paul thoughts, but he then leans heavy into the power and beauty of submitting to one another—who? why? what’s that mean?  

We’ll pick that up next week. 

But as we started, the days are evil. So be careful how you walk. 

Understand God’s will. Be filled with His Spirit. And that really means, be knowledgable of God’s will and open to God’s leading. Be prepared to walk with Him, trusting Jesus, Christ in you, and willing to follow.

And see how important of a role the whole church plays in being filled with the Spirit.

So continue to meet with your church family. Worshiping together. Listening to God’s Word together. Centering ourselves on Christ. Building relationships and giving a few godly friends access to influence you. All helps us be in a frame of mind and position to be led by the Lord during evil days.