4. The practical application of oneness, 4:1-6:9

v] Living in the light


This passage summarizes the argument so far and serves as a bridge to the exhortations on relationships within the family. Living "a life worthy of the calling you have received", 4:1, entails living carefully and wisely: redeeming the time, 5:16, understanding the will of the Lord, v17, and being filled by the Spirit, v18. Paul goes on to explain the idea of the Spirit's filling in four clauses, v19-21. Each clause is introduced by a consecutive participle - "speaking", "singing and making music", "giving thanks" and "submitting."


i] Context: See 4:1-16. The exhortation to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received", 4:1, is expounded in detail through to 6:9. Our passage for study is a summary of the argument so far and serves as a bridge to the more practical issues covered in 5:22-6:9.


ii] Background: See 1:1-2.


iii] Structure: Living in the light:

The aim - make the most of every opportunity, v15-16.

The practice of a wise walk, v17-20:

Know the mind of Christ, v17;

Be filled by the Spirit, v18:

Communicating, v19a;

Singing, v19b;

Thanking, v20;

Submitting, v21.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul again uses the verb peripatew, "to walk", to introduce another aspect of the Christian life. He has called on his readers to walk in unity, holiness, love and light, and now he calls on them to walk in wisdom, "circumspectly", Hoehner. This is all about using the mind, thinking, adopting a proper perspective that enables an understanding of our corrupted environment, and to then make the best use of the limited opportunities we possess in service to our Lord.

Two elements that enable this walk are identified. The first is knowing the Lord's will, knowing the mind of Christ through the study of his word. A walk in wisdom is governed by a mind which is instructed by the Word of God - knowing the mind of Christ enables our walk with Christ. The second is being filled by the Spirit. Alcohol does stimulate the senses, although we are very aware of its downside, but the inspiration of the Spirit is a far more reliable stimulant for the senses because it empowers our walk in wisdom.

Paul amplifies this filling with five participles: communicating, singing, making music, thanking and submitting. Although they are often translated as imperatives (attendant circumstance participles, attendant on the imperative "be filled [by the Spirit]"), it is more likely that they are adverbial, consecutive, expressing the result of this filling, so O'Brien; "Spirit-filled Christians are people whose lives are characterized by singing, thanksgiving and mutual submission", O'Brien. The last participle, "submitting", is applied to marriage, family and business obligations, 5:22-6:9. It is best to start the section on marriage, family and business obligations with v21, but it is also important to remember that "submitting" modifies the imperative "be filled by the Spirit."


Filled with / by the Spirit: The preposition en causes some confusion here. It seems best to follow O'Brien who argues that the filling is not "with" the Holy Spirit, but is "by" the Holy Spirit, ie., instrumental, expressing means. A large number of commentators support the instrumental sense, such that the filling is undertaken by the Spirt, although they tend toward the view that the content of that filling is the Spirit, so "by" + "with"; Hoehner, Best, Robinson, Snodgrass, Lincoln, Bruce, Fee, .... If we follow O'Brien then the content of the filling is unstated. He argues that in Paul's letters fullness relates to being filled with the fullness of God, 3:19, or particularly Christ, Col.1:19, 2:9, ie., the Spirit is the one who facilitates the filling, he mediates the fullness of God / Christ to believers. "Paul's readers are to be transformed by the Spirit into the likeness of God and Christ", O'Brien. The means of this transformation seems likely to be the Word of God, its hearing, teaching and assimilation. Paul has explicitly stated this fact in v17, such that the wise walk of a Christian is a circumspect walk where the Word of God shapes Christ-likeness in a believer through / by means of the renewing work of the Spirit. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom by means of Spirit-inspired psalms, hymns and songs", Col.3:16.

Charismatic and Pentecostal brethren see "filled with the Spirit", along with "baptized with the Holy Spirit", as a second work of grace in the life of a believer. It is widely held that a person believes in Jesus and is forgiven, and then later receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hard-line Pentecostals believe that this gift of the Holy Spirit (given through prayer and the laying on of hands) involves regeneration (being "born again") and so they believe that most mainline Christians aren't really Christians at all because they haven't received the "second blessing." Most Charismatic believers do not take such an extreme position. They believe that the Spirit is given, as a second work of grace (the first being regeneration - the washing of the Spirit to make a person a born again child of God), to empower the believer to live the "spirit-filled" life. Before the turn of the century, the Holiness movement taught that the Spirit-filled life showed itself in holy living, even sinless living. Today, Charismatic believers focus on the "gifts of the Spirit", particularly the miraculous gifts, initially demonstrated in tongue speaking.

This two-level way of viewing the Christian life is less than satisfactory, given that "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ", Rom.8:9. When a person believes in Jesus they are indwelt with the Spirit of Christ, Act.2:38,39. At that moment they are born anew and may access the full potential of the Spirit's endowment. None-the-less, Charismatic brethren have rightly identified a substantial failure within mainline Christianity, namely, the failure to access the full potential of the Spirit's gifting.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:15

Walk wisely, v15-21: i] The admonition, v15-16. Paul encourages his readers to be wise, thoughtful, circumspect, when dealing with life's difficulties, and to do so maximizing the opportunities for wise living, especially as the time is short - judgement is near, 1Cor.7:29. Make the most of every day and do so wisely.

blepete (blepw) pres. imp. "be [very careful]" - watch [carefully, diligently, well]. "Give close attention to your behavior."

oun "then" - therefore. An inferential sense, as NIV, is possible, although a resumptive / transitional function, serving to introduce a new section / paragraph, is more likely; "Pay careful attention to the kind of life you live", Barclay.

pw:V "how" - how, in what way. After a cognitive verb this particle indicates an indirect question, "how", as NIV, but also a dependent statement, "be careful that you walk, not as unwise, but as wise." A variant reading exists where "how" is placed before the adverb "carefully" so modifying "live (walk)" rather than "be (watch); "see then that you walk circumspectly", AV.

peripateite (peripatew) pres. "live" - you walk. Conduct yourselves; "you must take very special care about your conduct", Mitton. This is the fifth and final usage of this verb in Ephesians. As already noted, Hoehner uses it as the key to the structure of the ethical section in Ephesians; walk in unity, holiness, love, light, and now wisdom.

all (alla) "but" - [not as unwise] but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction. Note the repeated counterpoint structure of v15, 17, and 18, namely, mh ...... alla, "not ...... but ....."

wJV "as" - as [wise]. This comparative particle expresses a characteristic quality here rather than a comparison; not "like" wise people, but "as" wise people, ie., live wisely - denoting manner. The wise understand God's purpose and apply their life to it, while the foolish ignore it. So, the first thing a believer should pay close attention to is an understanding of the mind of Christ. "Do not live like ignorant people, but as wise people", TEV.


This "evil age", Gal.1:4, is a time invaded by the powers of darkness, and as such, its time is short - its judgement is near, 1Cor.7:29. So, we must make the most of every day.

exagorazomenoi (exagorazw) pres. part. "making the most of [every opportunity]" - redeeming [the time]. The prefix ex intensifies, so O'Brien. The participle is probably adverbial, possibly instrumental, expressing the means by which the reader is to be "wise", "by means of ...", but it could also be modal, expressing manner, how to walk wisely. The participle may even be attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the imperative "look [carefully how you walk]", in which case the participle would serve as an imperative, so Barth; "make the best use of time." "Making the most / redeeming / seizing the opportunity", is a word that comes out of commercial life, of making a good deal when the opportunity presents itself. So, the exhortation encourages believers to grab onto every opportunity to live wisely, isolating the moment for the Lord rather than wasting it. cf., Dan.2:8. "Make the best of the present time, for it is a wicked age", NJB.

oJti "because" - because [the days are evil]. Here causal. The complete phrase picks up on the scriptural description of life in the here and now in the terms of "this present age", "the present evil age", an age that is "morally reprehensible." Of course, it is not the "days / time" that is evil, but those who operate in these days, ie., sinful humanity, so Best. There is the possibility that an eschatological sense is intended, ie., the "evil days" = "the last days", the time of tribulation before the return of Christ when believers must make the most of every moment, so "because we are living in the final moments of human history."


ii] Practical instruction, v17-21: a) Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is, v17. To shape practical morality in the life of the individual it is essential to be able to "test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will", Rom.12:2. In our age, the divine will is revealed to us in the scriptures.

dia touto "therefore" - because of this. Inferential rather than causal, so "therefore", as NIV. Often used to introduce an important proposition.

mh ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "do not be" - do not be [foolish]. The fool, in Old Testament wisdom, is the person who does not recognize their place under the Lord; they do not recognize that "the beginning of wisdom is the fear (respect) of the Lord." "Don't be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord", Phillips.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

suniete (sunihmi) pres. imp. "understand" - think about, reason something through, gain insight, comprehend. The present imperative is best rendered "try to understand", NEB. God reveals his will, in this context his moral purpose, and the task of the believer is to understand it. As is always the case, "knowing" is more than intellectual assent.

tou kuriou gen " of the Lord" - [what is the will] of the lord. The genitive may be classified as verbal, subjective, God does the willing, although better adjectival, possessive, of characteristic truths possessed by Christ, "the Lord's will", TNIV. Although usually "God's will", here referring to Christ. Paul is again making the point that a believer's life is shaped "in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus", 4:20, 21. This idea has nothing to do with personal guidance, cf., TEV, but rather God's plan to gather a people to himself by grace through faith. The way of salvation is the truth we must understand.


b) Don't get drunk with wine, but be filled by the Spirit; speaking, singing, giving thanks and submitting, v17-21. "Understand the Lord's will", or to put it another way, "be filled by the Spirit." As noted above, although the phrase often appears as "filled with the Spirit", as if the Spirit is the content of the filling, it is best taken as "filled by the Spirit", in the sense of the Spirit doing the filling. He fills us with "the fullness of God", fills us with Christ, in that he "leads us into all truth" and shapes within us the character of Christ, characteristics of "power and love and self-control", 2Tim.1:7.

mh mequskesqe (mequskw) pres. imp. "do not get drunk" - [and] do not get drunk. The present tense here is best taken as gnomic, so "don't get yourself drunk", rather than "stop getting drunk." The present imperative here does not mean that Paul's readers are necessarily getting drunk, but rather serves as a prohibition against a particular course of action. This prohibition comes out of the blue. Does Paul know something of his readers? It is more likely he is using the prohibition as a foil for the following exhortation. The phrase reflects a quote from Prov.13:31 and expresses a sentiment often found in the New Testament, Lk.15:13, Tit.1:6, 1Peter.4:4. "Don't destroy yourselves by getting drunk", CEV.

oinw/ (oV) dat. "on wine" - with wine. The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "with wine", ESV.

en wJ/ "which" - in / by which. This prepositional phrase, expressing result, refers to getting drunk due to an excess of wine, not to the wine itself. The use of the preposition en here is unusual as eiV would be expected when expressing purpose / result; "that way debauchery lies", Barclay.

aswtia (a) "debauchery" - reckless living, dissipation, debauchery, extravagance [is]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be, Getting drunk "will only ruin you", TEV.

all (alla) "but" - Concluding the third counterpoint construction; "not ..... but ....."

plhrousqe (plhrow) pres. imp. "be filled" - be filled. The present tense, being imperfective, durative, may express "be continually filled with / by the Spirit." As already noted, we are not told what this "filling" entails, although the phrase has already been used in this letter. We must be "filled with all the fullness of God" and this filling is achieved when we "let the word of Christ dwell in" us. The word of God's grace in Christ makes us gracious, makes us Christ-like, makes us like God. The Spirit, as a work of grace through faith, shapes us into the image of God, makes us Christ-like, enables us to become what we are already in Christ. So, the filling by the Spirit, of the fullness of Christ, here refers to a process which begins at a believer's conversion and continues as the believer accesses the Spirit in their day-to-day life.

en pneumati "with the Spirit" - in / with / by spirit. Clearly the Holy Spirit is intended rather than the human spirit, or psyche. The preposition en my be locative, space / sphere, "in", or more particularly content, "with", or instrumental, "by". Armitage Robinson suggests the last two meanings are intended, but is this likely? Bruce opts for "with", O'Brien opts for an instrumental sense, "by". In 2:22 and 3:5, en is obviously instrumental and is therefore translated "by the Spirit". In 6:18 it is also probably instrumental where "praying in the spirit" means praying under the Spirit's influence, guidance and assistance. So, here in 5:18 are we secure in following the NIV and most other translations by translating the phrase "with the Spirit"? Wallace, in his syntax, argues that there are no instances in the New Testament where en, "in", + the dative is used for content, the Spirit being the content of the filling. So, "Be filled by the Spirit", O'Brien.


Those of the darkness, filled with wine, will sing songs of drunkenness, celebrating the joys of Bacchus; those filled by the Spirit, will sing songs of praise to Christ.

The following set of participles, "speaking", "singing and making [music]", giving [thanks]" and "submitting" are often regarded as imperatival, (we are being exhorted to sing etc.), ie., attendant on the imperatival verb "be filled", v18. Taken adverbially, other possibilities include either means, manner, or result. Result seems best, so O'Brien, Hoehner, Larkin, Lincoln, Merkle, ..., identifying the outcome of the action of the main verb "be filled", although modal, expressing manner, should not be discounted. In Colossians we are to "teach and admonish" rather than "speak". Presumably the context for this meaningful communication is Christian worship.

lalounteV (lalew) pres. part. "speak / speaking" - speaking [to one another]. The first quality resulting from a person being "filled" by the Spirit, is their "speaking" to one another in song; "addressing one another .....", ESV.

en + dat. "with" - in. Variant reading, although the following datives indicate an instrumental intention; "by means of."

yalmoiV kai uJmnoiV kai wJ/daiV "psalms, hymns and [spiritual] songs" - psalms, hymns and [spiritual] songs. Some commentators like to distinguish between the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, but they are probably just different terms for religious songs. None-the-less, some commentators argue that Paul, in this passage, gives us a glimpse of a normal church meeting. The members sing to one another, ie. antiphonally. The singing is offered to the Lord, rather than to each other (Note how many modern hymns are not hymns of praise to God, but are rather prayers, exhortations, ..... even love songs). "Singing truth to one another in Old Testament psalms and Christian compositions."

pheumatikaiV adj. "spiritual" - spiritual, This adjective probably qualifies all three nouns, although Fee does not agree. "Speaking to one another in spirit-inspired psalms, hymns and songs", O'Brien.

yallonteV (yallw) pres. part. "make music" - making music. See the participle "speaking" above. "Singing songs" and "making music" express a single idea and are best treated as a parallel idea to speaking to one another. So, being filled by the Spirit entails "singing truth to each other." When believers meet, they meet with Jesus, and in that meeting they adore (worship) him. This they do in prayer, thanksgiving, hearing, and as here, in songs of praise. Praise expresses one aspect of "Spirit filled", not so much because of its structure, but because of its content - ie., it is of truth.

th/ kardia/ (a) dat. "in / from [your] heart" - in the heart [of you]. A variant preposition en exists. The NIV has opted for space / sphere, "in", while the TNIV has gone with a Hebrew influence giving the sense "from", eg. Ps.9:1. Instrumental seems best, means, so O'Brien, but possibly accompaniment; "with your heart", ESV.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "to the Lord" - to the lord. Dative of indirect object; "the singing is directed to the Lord", Hoehner.


The second characteristic of the Spirit's filling is thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is to be offered "always", or better constantly, even regularly, and for "everything", for all things, in all circumstances. As is typical of prayer, the thanksgiving is offered to the Father through Jesus. It is offered "in the name of", that is, by / under the authority of the person of Jesus.

eucaristounteV (eucaristew) pres. part. "giving thanks" - giving thanks [always]. The participle, as for "speaking" above. Giving thanks serves as the second characteristic of a person filled by the Spirit. Modifiers describe the thanksgiving: a) "always", it is regular, or better it is "constant"; b) "for everything", it is comprehensive. This does not mean that the Spirit's filling is displayed in giving thanks for disasters; c) "in the name of the Lord...", it is directed to God through Christ.

tw/ qew/ kai patri dat. "to God the Father" - the god and father. An example of Grenville Sharp's Rule, where two coordinated (linked by kai) singular personal, but not proper nouns, are associated by the use of an introductory article. Dative of direct object after the participle "giving thanks", indicating the direction of the thanksgiving.

uJper + gen. "for" - for [all thing]. Expressing either advantage, "for" (taking pantwn as masculine; "for all people"), or representation, "on behalf of", or possibly reference / respect, so Merkle. Possible "for all people", but more likely "everything". A nice stab at a possible sense is "always and everywhere giving thanks", NJB.

en + dat. "in [the name]" - in / by the name [of the lord of us, jesus christ]. Here instrumental; "by the authority of the name." The "name" represents the person, and in the case of "the Lord", his authority. The genitive "Jesus Christ" stands in apposition to "Lord". The genitive pronoun uJmwn, possibly expresses subordination, "the Lord over us, Jesus Christ."


The final characteristic that results from the filling by the Spirit is "submitting." The NIV opts for a strong imperative (attendant circumstance), but as indicated above, adverbial, result, is more likely. The verb describes the submission of someone to another who is above them in authority, eg., military rank. The meaning here is hotly debated, particularly in its close proximity to headship in the home, 5:22ff. "Submitting to one another" either refers to mutual submission in the sense of reciprocal subordination, or submission to those in authority over us, eg., an apostle, prophet, pastor / teacher. The Spirit-filled believer will, of course, tend to do both, ie., both are a characteristic of the Spirit's filling. None-the-less, mutual / reciprocal subordination is most likely intended, so Bruce, Lincoln, Barth, .... contra O'Brien, Hoehner, who hold the view that "submitting" here is "ordered relationship submission - submission is not mutual but is according to appropriate authorities", Merkle.

uJpotassomenoi (uJpotassw) pres. part. "submit" - being submissive. The participle is adverbial, consecutive, expressing result.

allhloiV dat. pro. "to one another" - Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "out of [reverence]" - in [fear, reverence, respect]. Although not common, the preposition is probably causal here; "prompted by your reverence for Christ." The word "fear" certainly carries the sense of awe, but also carries a sense of intimidation which is not implied in the original meaning, but is carried in the English word "fear". Eschatological "fear" may be intended which would make "respect" or "reverence" a bit soft. None-the-less, Paul probably has in mind the Old Testament notion of "the fear of the Lord" which, as an expression of piety, takes the sense of "respect / reverence / awe. "Honor Christ and put others first", CEV.

Cristou (oV) gen. "for Christ" - of christ. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, as NIV, but possibly attributive, so specifying the type of fear in mind.


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