Earlier in Ephesians 5 Paul used the contrast between light and darkness. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (Eph. 5:8-10) He tells us how we are to live and tells us it is important to find out what pleases the Lord.
Paul now turns to the contrast between wisdom and foolishness. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Eph. 5:15-17)
He tells us to not be foolish and to understand what the Lord’s will is. The foolish person has no strategy for life and misses opportunities to live for God in an evil environment. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Col 4:5) The foolish not only miss opportunities to make wise use of time; they have a more fundamental problem: They do not understand what God’s purposes are for humankind and for Christians. God’s purposes are a basic theme in Ephesians (see Eph 1:3-10). If we are to walk in wisdom then we must understand what pleases the Lord and what His will is for us.
The first thing the wise will do is listen to the Lord. Whenever He finished many stories Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” The fool despises wisdom and godly instruction. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7) As the Word of God is profitable for instruction in righteousness, the foolish won’t read His Word and apply it to their lives. However, the wise will so they can understand God’s will. The foolish (in their pride) believe they are self-sufficient. With this pride comes an insatiable desire to satisfy self, because self is always right and self should always get what self wants. “When pride comes, then comes shame. But with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
The truth of the Christian life is that it is not about self-fulfillment but about crucifying self. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) Walking in wisdom is about dying to self and selfish ambitions, and seeking our esteem in the Lord, not ourselves.
The truth is that all of the Law and Prophets are built upon two great laws. Those are to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). The unwise cannot do this for they are consumed with pleasing self and living for self. There is no room for ministering to, serving, or encouraging a neighbor. When we chose to indulge self instead of denying self, we place our will over God’s. With our actions, we are declaring that we are right and God is wrong. We are unwise every time we choose our will over His.
Wisdom can only be found from God through His Word. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) There is no other source of godly wisdom. And the first and most serious error made by those who are unwise, is the seeking of wisdom from anywhere or anyone else.
In the Word of God, we have been given everything we need to know God’s will. “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)
1. It is God’s will for His elect to be saved. Salvation is God’s choice (His purposes). He chose to love us and save us before we were even born, not based on anything we deserved, but by His grace. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30) If we are saved we are participating in God’s will.
2. It is God’s will for His elect to be Spirit filled. The Scriptures make it plain that it is God’s will for those of who are saved to be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are not to quench or grieve Him but are instead to be filled with Him and obedient to Him. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16) And in being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are to glorify Him in thanksgiving. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20)
3. It is God’s will for His elect to be sanctified. We have been saved as a result of God’s gift of grace, and according to His will and plan we will be sanctified (made holy). We will be conformed to the image of Christ through the Word taught to us, meditated upon, and through chastening when we sin and fail to be like Christ. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29a)
4. It is God’s will for His elect to be submissive. Above all we are to submit to Him. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Submission is difficult, and goes against our fallen will. Willingly deferring to the will of authority is God’s will for us. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by Him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:13-15)
5. It is God’s will for His elect to be humble: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) When we are humble, we let go of our pride. “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'” (James 4:6)
6. It is God’s will for His elect to be thankful. It is God’s will for us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18) He desires gratitude and humility. Plainly stated, God’s will is for us to be thankful no matter where we are, what we have, what we are doing, or how we think things are going!
God has made His will known to us, so now it is up to us to do what He has told us to do. As His elect, it is His will that we be saved, Spirit filled, sanctified, submissive, humbled, and thankful. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” and then do what He wills!