Ephesians Teaching Series

This beautifully constructed letter can best be understood by paying attention to its amazing structure.

19. Eph 5:17 Understand the Will of the Lord

  • The stories in Acts of Paul’s visits, plus what history tells us about Ephesus help us to see the life-changing power of these words.

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Video cover image by Austrian Archaeological Institute CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ephesians 5:15–21

  1. Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε, Watch carefully then how you walk:
μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι not as unwise
ἀλλ’ ὡς σοφοί, but as wise,
  1. ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
  2. διὰ τοῦτο μὴ γίνεσθε ἄφρονες, So do not be foolish,
ἀλλὰ συνίετε but understand
τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου. what the will of the Lord is.
  1. καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, and do not get drunk on wine, for that is wasteful loss,
ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι, but be continually filled by the Spirit,
  1. λαλοῦντες speaking
ἑαυτοῖς to one another
[ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες singing and making music
τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν with your hearts
τῷ κυρίῳ, to the Lord,
  1. εὐχαριστοῦντες giving thanks,
πάντοτε ὑπὲρ πάντων ἐν ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, to God the Father
  1. ὑποτασσόμενοι submitting
ἀλλήλοις to one another
ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ. out of allegiance to Christ.

Translation and structure by Andrew Fountain

  • We kind of skipped over v.17, so I want to focus on it today
  • But there are also two other much bigger things that we have skipped over in our series in Ephesians
  • And this is actually the perfect point to bring them all together
  1. We never talked much about the context of this city of Ephesus
    • What were the Christians there struggling with?
  2. There are some stories in Acts about things that happened when Paul was planting the church there
    • We should look at them
  • Then we will come back to v.17 and see how it addresses these issues.

Understand the Will of the Lord

  1. The City of Ephesus, and what the Christians faced
  2. Why they needed to “Understand the Will of the Lord”
  3. Why we need to “Understand the Will of the Lord”

1. The City of Ephesus, and what the Christians faced



Image source: Austrian Archaeological Institute

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

Image source: H Weber

  • Third largest city in the Roman Empire —only Rome itself and Alexandria (in Egypt) were bigger
  • Over 50 Gods
  • Particularly a center of magical practices, like putting curses on people
  • The primary god was Artemis
    • Her temple, outside the city, was 4 times the size of the Parthenon in Athens
    • One of the wonders of the ancient world

Artemis - Diana of the Ephesians

Artemis - Diana of the Ephesians

Image source: “Julian Fong”

  • The Stories of Paul’s visits in Acts

Visits to Ephesus

Acts 18 1st visit

  1. And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
  2. When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined.
  3. But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

Acts 19 2nd visit

  1. …Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus…
  2. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
  3. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
  4. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
  5. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,
  6. so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

Evil Spirits

  1. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”
  2. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.
  3. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”
  4. And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
  5. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.

Burning Magic Books

  1. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.
  2. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.
  3. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Riot by Idol Makers

  1. About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.
  2. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.
  3. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.
  4. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.
  5. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
  6. When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
  7. So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.
  8. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.
  9. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.
  10. Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
  11. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.
  12. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
  13. And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?
  14. Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.
  15. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.
  16. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.
  17. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.
  18. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.”
  19. And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

Acts 20 Sad Farewell

  1. Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.
  2. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
  3. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you,
  4. for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
  5. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
  6. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
  7. and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
  8. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.
  9. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
  10. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
  11. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
  12. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
  13. And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
  14. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him,
  15. being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

  • And these were Christians with evil magic books!
  • So we can see the context for the spiritual warfare in Eph 6

Ephesians 6

  1. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
  • Is this a problem for us in Toronto today?
    • It may not look exactly the same, but the same underlying problem
    • Satan’s main weapon is spreading false ideas – it was from the beginning
    • He is just as active in Toronto as he was in Ephesus—he has just gone underground

2. Why they needed to “Understand the Will of the Lord”

So what does it have to do with today’s verse?

Eph 5:17

  1. So do not be foolish,
      but understand
        what the will of the Lord is.
  • “understand” literally “fitting things together”

Will of the Lord – Eph 1

  1. having predestined us to sonship through Jesus Christ to himself,
    according to the pleasure of his will,
  2. that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight,
  3. having revealed to us the mystery of his will,
    according to his pleasure
  4. in whom we have also received an inheritance…
    according to the council of his will,

Eph 4 – The people of Ephesus

  1. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart…
  2. But you did not learn Christ this way
  3. given that him you have heard and in him you were taught:
    since the truth is in Jesus,
  • Do you see now how “understanding the will of the Lord” addresses these problems?

Satan attacks through false ideas:

  • … tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Eph 4:14
  • Let no one deceive you with empty words Eph 5:6

Ephesians 6

  1. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

How does Paul tell us to respond?

  1. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth

So let’s put on this belt now

  1. and take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
  • So this letter to the Ephesians is actually a book of truth to be used in warfare
    • It is the core of the message we need to know
  • So what do we need to know?

3. Why we need to “Understand the Will of the Lord”

  • Chapter 1 “Table of Contents” Past Present and Future
  • There are three key ideas

Truth 1 (past)
God’s love already given to you: Eph 2

  1. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he has loved us
  2. even though we were dead in trespasses
    made us alive together with Christ
    by grace you have been saved
  3. and raised us up together
    and seated us together
    in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
  4. so that in the coming ages he might display
    the immeasurable riches of his grace
    through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
  • Can you get this? JOINED! Grace!

Truth 2 (present)
You are now a key part of God’s masterplan

  1. …the plan… hidden through the ages in God, who created all things,
  2. so as to make known now… through the church,
    the manifold wisdom of God,
  3. according to the purpose of the ages
  • Can you see how important you are to his plans, especially as part of the church community?

Truth 3 (future)
The Spirit helps us grasp our inexpressible future: Eph 3

  1. that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
    with power to be strengthened, through his Spirit, in your inner being,
  2. for Christ to dwell, through faith, in your hearts
    in love, being rooted and grounded
  • Strengthened for what?
    • To do amazing miracles? Yes, maybe, but that is not what he is referring to here:

Eph 3 – Prayer

  1. that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints
    what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
  2. and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
    that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Last updated on 15 Oct 2023
Published on 15 Oct 2023