Walking in Wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-17)


“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:15-17)

In Ephesians chapters 4:1 through 6:9, Paul describes the spiritual walk of the believer. It is a walk characterized:

  • by unity (4:1-16),
  • by righteousness and true holiness (4:17-32),
  • by Christlike love and moral purity (5:1-7), and
  • by love of light (5:8-14).

In this message we focus on another characteristic: the need to walk in wisdom.

The Call to Walk Wisely

In this short paragraph (Ephesians 5:15-17), Paul makes two assumptions.

  1. First, that Christians are wise people, not fools.
  2. Second, that Christian wisdom is practical wisdom, for it teaches us how to behave.

Our walk is no longer to be according to the world, the flesh, or the devil (2:1-3), or like the unsaved around us (4:17).

The Bible defines a fool as a person who refuses to allow God to have His rightful place in his heart and life (Ps. 14:1). He may not verbally deny the existence of God, but he lives his life according to the desires of his own mind and flesh.

Such a person is a “practical atheist.” He may even be religious and talk about God and think he is a “Christian.” The tragic irony is that “the way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 12:15). Setting himself up as his own supreme court, the fool determines right and wrong entirely by his own fallen thinking and sinful inclination.

As a result, “he contaminates the rest of society with the ungodly foolishness that damns his own soul. He bequeaths his legacy of foolishness to his children, his friends, and his society – to everyone who falls under the influence of his folly.”

On the other hand, the wise person is one who has repented of his sins and received Jesus as His Lord and Savior. He is applying His heart and mind to God’s Word and is gaining the ability to make choices based on Biblical principles. Wisdom is said to “begin” when we choose to fear the Lord (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). It is by the fear of the Lord that we are enabled to depart from evil (Prov. 16:6).

The Characteristics of Walking Wisely

Paul mentions three things that Biblical wisdom teaches us.

A Wise Christian Knows the Biblical Life Principles by Which He is to Live

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (5:15)

The word “circumspectly” means we are to walk “carefully, diligently, exactly.”

Perhaps the best illustration of this I ever heard is the story a fellow preacher told me of his trip to South Africa. He was staying at a national pastor’s home just outside Krueger National Park. As he was preparing for bed, his host told him that the toilet facilities were outside. But he cautioned, “You must watch for alligators that crawl into the yard from the nearby river. Also watch for lions that might be lurking in the darkness. Be especially careful of the spitting cobras that have a venom range of 20 feet or more and excellent accuracy. They usually spit their venom into their victim’s eyes.”

His host told him he had just gotten out of the hospital after being attacked by one two weeks ago. “Oh yes, be very careful not to step on any black mambas (another deadly snake) for that would be fatal.”

In the middle of the night my friend awoke, needing to use the facilities. He went to the door, turned on the flashlight, and with one hand holding the light, the other hand covering one eye and partially shielding the other, he illustrated in a physical sense what it means to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.”

Paul is telling us that everything that is worth doing requires care. We must treat the Christian life as the serious responsibility it is. All is to be brought under the scrutiny of God’s Word. As we walk through the spiritual “mine fields” of this world, we must make sure we do not depart from God’s divine path.

A Wise Christian Knows His Limited Privileges of Time

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:16).

There are two Greek words in the New Testament for time:

  1. Chronos, from which we get our English word, “chronometer,” a device for measuring the passing of time, and
  2. Kairos, a fixed period of time which we call a “season” or a “window of opportunity.”

It is the second word that Paul uses here. He is urging all to make the most of each passing moment. God has set the boundaries to our lives, and our opportunity for service exists only within those boundaries. We can achieve our potential in His service only as we maximize the time He has given us. Paul said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

We also need to recognize time wasters and eliminate them from our lives. Ask yourself the questions, “What will be the fruit of this activity five years from now? What will be the fruit of this activity in eternity?”

Time invested in developing a deeper relationship with God, in pursuing Kingdom goals, in memorizing and meditating on His Word, or invested in helping and loving people is never wasted. We should maximize our use of time not just because our time is limited, but also because “the days are evil.”

Satan tries to get our minds immersed in the secular and ungodly media and amusements of the day, and to immobilize us in our fight against wrong. He knows that opportunities for doing righteousness are often limited.

Therefore he attempts either to blind us to the opportunity, or see to it that we are so encumbered with our own problems that our strength is sapped and we are too worn out to be involved in anything else.

A Wise Christian Knows His Lord’s Purposes for His Life

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (5:17).

A proper sense of urgency should cause each Christian to desire to understand “what the will of the Lord is” for his life. Rather than foolishly getting involved in every good cause that comes along, or allowing other people to recruit him for endless programs and projects, he will seek to know and follow the will of the Lord for his life.

First, we must distinguish between God’s “general” and “particular” will. “General” will means that which is revealed in Scripture and applies equally to all believers. For example, it is God’s will that all be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4). It is His will that all believers be sanctified (1 Thes. 4:3), be Spirit-filled (Eph. 5:18), be submissive to civil authority (1 Pet. 2:13-15), and to be submissive to leaders in the church (Heb. 13:17).

It most definitely includes giving thanks no matter what happens (1 Thes. 5:18; Eph. 5:20). Ultimately God’s desire in all these things is to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28, 29).

God’s “particular” will, such as what career we should follow, whom we should marry, etc., is different for each of us. God’s “particular” will for one’s life is found only by prayer and wise counsel. There are at least three necessary ingredients for knowing God’s will in the “particular” sense.

The first is given by Jesus in John 7:17. We must be willing to obey God’s will before we know what it is! The evidence of such willingness is revealed by the answers you give to the following questions.

  • “Are you walking in all the light God has given to you?”
  • “Is your conscience void of offense toward God and toward all other people?” (Acts 24:16; 2 Cor. 1:12).

The second ingredient for determining God’s particular will is the transformation of our thinking processes and our value system. God’s will is “good, acceptable and perfect” and is directly dependent on our not “being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rom. 12:2).

The third factor involves seeking advice and counsel from mature and experienced believers. This includes maintaining a submissive attitude toward all of your authority structures: parental, religious, and civil. If a person will faithfully keep these three ingredients operating in his life, God will make His “particular” will known to him.

In the meantime, “wait upon the Lord and delight thyself in Him and He will give you the desires of your heart“ (Ps. 37:4). You will discover that by following the above three ingredients, your desires are changing and aligning themselves with His Word.

Wisdom Review

God desires that each of us walk in wisdom. Three characteristics of such a walk are:

  1. Carefully following the Biblical life principles given in Scripture;
  2. Wisely using the windows of opportunity that occur within our limited privileges of time; and
  3. getting in sync with the Lord’s purposes for our life.



Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Allan Brown
Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.