Ephesians was written to an audience of Gentiles. The Ephesians weren’t familiar with Jewish law codes, so this letter introduces them to the concepts of faithfulness and obedience. This particular passage contrasts being a wise and thankful person with being a foolish and riotous person. A key aspect of being a faithful Christian is to act in the ways of wisdom: being kind, grounded, diplomatic, and worshipful. Verse 16 states that our time on earth is short, so we need to make the most of the time we have by acting in ways that carry out God’s desire for our lives.
The author plays up the contrast of wisdom and foolishness, a common theme throughout scripture, by pointing to the example of drunkenness. Modern readers often get stuck on this aspect of the passage, either using it to insist on sobriety or by becoming angry that scripture would try to control their behavior. However, what’s important in this passage is not necessarily the drunkenness itself. The takeaway, instead, is a contrast between the drunk people rioting about and the faithful people singing songs of praise. Verse 17 is telling the reader not to be absorbed into the behaviors of their culture but to live in a way that is visibly different. Instead of participating in debauchery and lacking self-awareness, followers of Christ should use their energy to offer thanksgiving to God through song. Instead of focusing their hearts on fleeting desires—such as wealth or momentary pleasures—the Ephesians should focus on opening their hearts toward God and the gifts God gave them through the life of Christ.
Revealer of Wisdom, your will is pure, and your truth is abundant. Guide us in our obedience. Forgive us in our foolishness. Fill us with songs to sing out of gratitude so that we may serve as models of your will obeyed, bringing your comfort and order to places of pain and chaos. Amen.
If you could ask God for one thing, what would it be? God offered this chance to Solomon, and the king asked for wisdom to rule God’s people well. God honored this request by giving Solomon many other gifts too, as long as the king followed God’s ways. (Later on, unfortunately, Solomon lost his way.) The psalmist tells us that wisdom begins with understanding who we are and who God is. Ephesians addresses practical implications of wise living: follow the will of the Lord, be filled with the Spirit, encourage one another, and be grateful to God. The Gospel passage continues Jesus’ metaphorical description of himself as the Bread of Heaven. Here Jesus anticipates the sacrament of Communion, in which we partake of his body and blood by faith.
Read 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. Do you hesitate to ask God to show you your call? Why?
Read Psalm 111. Where have you seen God’s faithful and just actions in your life? In the world?
Read Ephesians 5:15-20. How do you live wisely and make the most of the time?
Read John 6:51-58. What is the significance of Holy Communion in your life of faith? How has your understanding of this sacrament changed over time?
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