Wednesday: Snapping Up the Bargains

Paul concludes Ephesians 5:1-20 with two clusters of exhortations, Ephesians 5:15-17 and Ephesians 5:18-20, completing a section with sustained interest in sexual purity. The first cluster begins with the exhortation, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15, ESV), restated as “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, ESV). In between is a call to make “the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16, ESV).

Consider Paul’s exhortations to live in a way that reflects prayerful, discerning wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-17). What is the difference between walking not as fools but “wise”? Also, what does “redeeming the time” mean?

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In Ephesians, Paul has repeatedly used the common Old Testament metaphor of “walking” for how one lives (Ephesians 2:2Ephesians 2:10Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:17Ephesians 5:2Ephesians 5:8). Here he uses the metaphor to encourage intentional discipleship. Just as you should “watch your step” when walking on a rough or darkened path, believers should “look carefully then how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15, ESV). Because Ephesians 5:15 finds a parallel in Ephesians 5:17, we may look there for a definition of what it means to live as wise people. We do not look within for wisdom. To be wise is to reach beyond ourselves, to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, ESV).

Paul also encourages intentional discipleship with a vivid image. In the phrase “making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16, ESV; compare “redeeming the time,” NKJV), Paul uses the verb exagorazo (compare Colossians 4:5). Drawn from the marketplace, it is an intensive form of the verb “to buy” and means “to snap up the bargains” on offer as we await Christ’s return. “Time” here is the Greek word kairos, which describes a moment of opportunity. The “time” until the end is a promising period to be used to the full. It is also a challenging time because “the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, ESV; compare Ephesians 6:13Galatians 1:4) and because “the course of this world” is dominated by “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2, ESV).

As believers look toward the return of Christ, they live in a difficult time, one that Paul portrays as a hazardous but rewarding marketplace. They are to be as attentive in their use of the time that remains as are bargain hunters during a brief sale that offers steep discounts. Though we can’t buy salvation, the imagery is still apt: take promptly what is offered us in Christ.

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