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Be Careful How You Live -- Ephesians 5:15-20

There is a sharp contrast in Ephesians between the "light" and the "dark" (cf. 5:8). There is only one way to live-not as the "Gentiles," in "futility of mind" (4:17), but "in Christ," the goal and source of our maturity and spiritual growth (4:15-16).

Those who live "in the light" are "in Christ." They are alive (2:5). God's action leads them (2:4ff). God raises up those in the light and seats them in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (2:6). There are immeasurable riches in the age to come for those in the light (2:7). God's gift is given to them (2:8) and God has prepared things beforehand for them (2:10). The emphasis is on "now" and "in Christ" for those in the light (2:13); they are "brought near" into unity, oneness and peace (2:14). They are rooted in the truth (4:21), renewed in the spirit of their mind (4:23). They have put on the new self (4:24) and it is clear that they live in the light (5:8-15).

This is in sharp contrast to those who are in darkness. They are dead through sin (2:1) and the emphasis is on the past ("once"; 2:2). They follow the spirit at work among the disobedient (2:2). They are the children of wrath (2:3). They are without Christ, aliens and strangers, and have no hope and are without God (2:12); they are "far off" (2:13). Among these people there is division and hostility (2:14). They experience a futility of mind in their thinking (4:17). They have a "darkened understanding" and are alienated from God with their hardness of heart and lack of sensitivity (4:18-19). They participate in every kind of impurity (4:19) and use empty words (5:6). They live in darkness and thus experience the wrath of God (5:6, 8-14).

In view of this sharp contrast, Paul does not mince words in 5:15-20: The life of living in the light, in Christ, is not both/and but either/or. Either you live in the light or in the darkness. For the disciple of Jesus, who was "once" in darkness but "now" is in Christ, the path is always and only to follow Christ (2:12-13).

Thus, we should "be careful" how we live (5:15). The darkness is very real, is very present, is out there trying to extinguish the light of those in Christ. Paul counsels caution, carefulness in view of darkness. We ought to walk carefully and avoid the darkness of sin. He offers three contrasts to help us discern the light from darkness in our lives.

We should live not as unwise people but as wise people (5:15). Make the most of the time, being prepared and tuned in to the challenges that can gain the upper hand in our lives and prevent us from living in the light. Common challenges that we experience every day show us whether we stand in the light or the darkness. The days are evil-will we make the most of them by pursuing the light of Christ, or by stumbling around in the dark? Will we give up the pleasures of the darkness in favour of the clarity of the light?

We should live not as foolish people but as understanding people (5:17). We should know and understand the will of the Lord. The will of God instructs in light-living, in spiritual growth in Christ. We learn the will of the Lord through prayer and meditation on scripture and in community with each other (5:15-16).

The disciple of Jesus should be lead a disciplined life, not an undisciplined one characterized by pursuit of the momentary, wherever one's passions and desires lead at the time. Thus, we should live not as drunken people but as those filled with the Spirit of God (5:18). Drunkenness is debauchery; it characterizes a life led by passions and not by discipline.

A disciplined life is focused on unity among believers and thankfulness and gratitude to God. The church promotes unity among itself when it sings psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, teaching each other the gospel in their worship and lives together. Such an act also promotes unity with God, as the believers lift their collective heart to God in an act of worship that focuses on thankfulness. Prayer and meditation, together with communal unity characterized by worshiping God in gratitude will help us discern the light from the darkness.

So let us be careful how we live, pursuing the light of Christ at all times, and offering thanks to God for the immeasurable gift of Christ.

Jeremy Hoover is a proofreader and book reviewer. He proofreads and reviews religion books, poetry, and most fiction. Contact him at or Hoover Reviews for proofreading rates or to request a review.

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