26 October 2012

Ephesians 5:15-33

"Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time…" (vv. 15-16a)


Being careful about how to live is an instruction which follows from what has been written a little earlier in this letter. The writer instructs readers to live as "children of the light" (Ephesians 5:8), and this must, of course, have implications as to how to behave. Some Bibles express verse 15 as "Look carefully then how you walk" (Revised Standard Version). That has quite a nice touch for those who are called to follow Jesus, and even to imitate God.

Firstly, make "the most of the time". There is a lovely sentiment in Rudyard Kipling's poem "If", which states: "If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that's in it …". How important it is to use one of the greatest gifts, namely the time which is given to spend on God's earth.

"Do not be foolish" (v. 17). That includes not getting drunk, but instead being filled up with God's Spirit. And that leads into instructions as to how to worship. Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are part of the mix. That is lively worship, involving all of the congregation. This is a bit of information about what happened in Christian worship at that time, and people with a special interest in hymns and worship pay special attention to it.

Some Christians find real difficulty with the advice about behaviour between wives and husbands (verses 22-33). It is important to acknowledge the cultural setting, and that Christians disagree about the interpretation of this passage, although marriage services sometimes still contain promises of obedience by a wife towards her husband.

However, love and respect are also integral to this passage, and it stems from the love which Jesus showed towards the Church.

To Ponder

  • In what ways do you think you could make better use of your time?
  • How do you think the advice for wives and husbands should be understood today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.