Ephesians 5:15-21 Walk in Wisdom

Ephesians 5 covers three principles for learning the Christian WALK.

1. The Imitation of LOVE (v1-7). As love-children of a love-God, WALK IN LOVE as Christ did.

2. The Illumination of LIGHT (v8-14). As light in the Lord, WALK IN THE LIGHT (in purity and fellowship), not sleeping in darkness - a sleep-walker with eyes closed (going round in circles, getting nowhere, producing nothing).

3. The Infilling of the WORD and SPIRIT (v15-21). As wise, WALK IN WISDOM, being filled with the Word and Spirit.


“See therefore (take care, be watchful, be alert) that you WALK circumspectly (accurately), not as (careless) fools(who don’t think about how they live) but as WISE (skilled in life)” (v15). Wisdom is the skillful application of God’s Word to our lives. We are WISE in Christ, so we are to walk in wisdom, skillfully plotting our course through life. This requires care and attention to detail so that we live out our Christian life with accuracy. We take care over things that matter to us. Don’t be careless in Bible study, prayer and doing good. If we are careless we will keep wandering off the course God has prepared for us (Eph 2:10) and we will miss God’s best for us. 

(buying up) the time (‘kairos’ = ‘appointed season’) because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise (unthoughtful, reflective) but understand what the will of the Lord is ” (v16,17).

A parallel verse in Colossians says: “WALK in WISDOM toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (4:5). Be alert and diligent to receive guidance from God as to what you should do, for we live in an opposing world-system. God opens doors to do good (to do His will), that open for a ‘kairos’ time but then close again and the opportunity passes. If you are careless or asleep it will pass you by. Be ready to make the best use of every opportunity, investing yourself when it arises. You must rescue (redeem) each day for good by applying yourself wisely, or else evil will take it. 

Guidance comes from two sources:

1. The General Will of God (true for all) - comes from God’s Word.
2. The Special Will of God (for your special situation) -comes as wisdom from the Spirit of God.

So, we can find and know the complete will of God for our lives (with the power to do it) by being FILLED with the WORD and the SPIRIT (these both will agree and enhance each other). We cannot live the Christian life by our own cleverness or power. We cannot live on empty.

Thus, we must be filled with the Word and the Spirit (see v18 and its parallel in Colossians):
Colossians 3:16: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” 
Ephesians 5:18: “Be (being) filled with (controlled by) the Spirit.” 

Some Christians focus just on the Word but not the Spirit, and show little spiritual life, while others focus on the Spirit, making no effort in the Word. They don’t want teaching. All Word, no Spirit - we dry up. All Spirit, no Word - we blow up! We need to be filled with both the Word and the Spirit.

Note the parallels between Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16-18:
Colossians (1) “Let the WORD of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom 
Ephesians (1’): “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the SPIRIT”

Colossians (2) “teaching and admonishing (encouraging) one another” 
Ephesians (2’) “speaking to one another”

Colossians (3) “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”. 
Ephesians (3’) “in psalms, hymns & spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”

Colossians (4) Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father by Him”
Ephesians (4’) giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father”

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation” 
(v18a). People turn to drink because they feel empty and unhappy. They want to be stimulated with something to lift and enliven them. They need something to fill them, helping them get out of themselves. They are empty, needing resources and life from outside themselves. God wants to meet this need with His own Spirit but in unbelief man often turns to substitutes that don’t work but destroy.Drink was the main one then. The word ‘drunk’ means to be ‘soaked’, as skins were soaked in oil to stretch them.‘Don’t get soaked in alcohol’. Why not? Because alcohol is a depressant which depresses the higher centres of the brain, releasing their control over the baser parts, which over time get more and more dominant. Thus it looses destructive behaviour, bringing ‘dissipation’ (wastefulness). He throws away his life, and will have nothing to show for it. This is the same word used for the ‘riotous’ living of the Prodigal Son. He throws away his time, energy, morality - all for nothing. Don’t throw your life away on drink and drugs but be WISE, GUIDED and FILLED.

Instead of being under the influence and control of wine we are told:

“But be (being) filled with (controlled by) the Spirit” (v18b).  

Luke 1:15: "He will be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Colossians also tells us to overdose on the Word! We can’t live on empty - if we just stop being drunk with wine we will be controlled by something else in the natural. You can be drunk on food, worry etc (wine is just one key example). The only way to be free, to live as we should, is to be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit activates our higher feelings, our mind, will and emotions. He will bring forth who we really are in spirit.

This is the great contrast between being filled with wine and Spirit. 

But there is also a similarity:‘Don’t be drunk (soaked) with wine but instead be drunk, be saturated (soaked) with the Spirit.’ We can replace and break natural addictions by becoming dependent on the Spirit. Wesley said: ‘I want God-intoxicated men.’ Paul wants us drunk with God, to have our godly feelings released, our tongues loosed in singing and rejoicing. God wants us filled to overflowing. This happened to them at Pentecost and they were accused of being drunk. In a sense they were but not as their critics supposed: 

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance...Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." But Peter said: "these are not drunk, as you suppose, but this is what was spoken by Joel: `it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh- on My menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Acts2:4-18).

“But be (being) filled with (controlled by) the Spirit” (imperative, plural, present continuous, passive):

1. Imperative: Yes, we are commanded not to be drunk, but we are commanded just as much to be continuously filled with the Spirit. This is not an optional extra.
2. Plural: This is for all, not just some elite. We should all come to church filled ready to give.
3. Continuous Present: We are to stay (abide) under the influence of the Spirit. Don’t just be filled once, but follow the example of Acts where they were refilled again and again especially after praying.
4. Passive: ‘Let yourself be filled (controlled), yield yourself to the control of the Spirit.’  So, we are to consciously and continually let ourselves be filled with the Spirit. 

What does this mean? If God commands this, then the Spirit must be continuously available to fill us! The command is also a promise. He lives in us. He doesn’t force Himself on us but waits on us as our Helper, so we must lean back on Him, asking (trusting) Him to fill us. It’s not like we ask and then have to wait. It’s a moment by moment lifestyle. It’s not necessarily an emotional experience but a FAITH-DEPENDENCE on the Spirit, trusting Him to strengthen and guide us. On the basis of Ephesians 5:18 we can receive a filling (take a drink) by faith-anytime. When we ask Him to fill us, He fills whatever we give Him. Each Christian has the Spirit but he must let the Spirit have all of Him. 

2 Questions naturally arise:

First: ‘How do I know I am being filled with the Spirit?’ 
Second: ‘How can I maintain this filling?’

Paul answers both with the same answer. How can I know? Look at the overflow (v19-21) - we are ‘full of’ what we are full of. When full, our heart overflows in our life and lips (Luke 6:45). The results or evidences of being filled are also the keys 
to staying filled. As we overflow in these ways we stay filled, living under the control of the Spirit. 

Four results of being filled (the overflow of the Spirit):

(1) “Speaking (ministering) to one another,

(2) “In Psalms (Old Testament Psalms are designed as a launching pad for praise) and Hymns (Christian Hymns and Choruses - use tapes, C.D’s, song-books) and Spiritual Songs (‘spirit songs’- spontaneous singing in the Spirit), singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”    We minister (1) to each other and (2) to the Lord. We sing as we live the Christian walk.

(3) “Giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (v20). The content of our words and songs is thanksgiving. Thanksgiving filters the negative out. We can’t be thankful and covetous.  A false doctrine using this verse says that we should thank God for everything even if it’s evil (like sickness, sin etc) but we should only acknowledge and thank God for what He has done and given. The context is giving thanks for all that is in Him (‘in the name of Jesus’).

(4) “Submitting to one another in the fear of God”(v21). Blessed, harmonious relationships result as we are filled by the Spirit of humility, respecting others, working for their good, ready to yield place when they’ve something to give, not proudly pushing for our own way all the time (see v22on).



About Us



Bible Commentary





OBC Office

363 Banbury Road
Oxford - England - UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 515086
Fax: +44 (0) 8721 107068
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sunday Services

Sundays at 11am and 6pm
Cheney School Hall
Cheney Lane - Headington
Oxford - England - UK