How Can I be Wise? Lessons from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians


The Bible says a lot about wisdom. Proverbs tells us that wisdom is more precious than hidden treasures (Prov 2:4), and that by it you will understand that fear of the Lord. There are tons of books on wisdom, understanding, and insight. The how-to section in the book store is riddled with new insight on all sort of matters.

But how do Christians find wisdom? Is there a matrix by which Christians can pursue and grow in what is right?

Paul, in Ephesians 5:15-17, gives us some insight on this question. He says:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of your time, because the days are evil. Therefore do no be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is”.

There are some important things to notice here. First he defines wisdom: Walking carefully, and making the best of your time. A wise person is cautious, desiring to maximize every bit of their time. And if we tease out this statement in Ephesians 5, we can gather 3 things (at least) about a wise person:

(1) A wise person doesn’t waste their time

(2) A wise person spends the right amount of time on things

(3) A wise person spends their efforts on the right things

Not only does a wise person not waste time, but they spend their time effectively–implicit in this though, is that a wise person doesn’t spend time on things not worth spending time on (pretty simple right?). They expend their efforts on things worth expending effort on. They pour into things worthy of being poured into.

The problem is, what type of things should we spend our time on? I mean, how do we know if the things we give our time and effort to are really worth it?

Paul gives us a hint in his next verse:

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17)

Don’t be foolish (or, be wise), Christian, but understand the will of the Lord. How can we be wise and maximize our time? By understanding the will of God.

Here, Paul gives us a grid. What is a wise action? Whatever falls into this grid: the will of the Lord.

Ah, gotcha…but wait…what is the will of the Lord?

Luckily, we are not left in the dark about God’s will–Paul is assuming that if we are reading Ephesians 5, we have already read Ephesians 1-4. And Paul lays out in Ephesians 1 very clearly what the will of the Lord is. He says in Ephesians 1:3-10:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Paul here is taking away the veil, so to speak, and showing us God’s will and purpose in his great act of redemption. He says first in verse 5 that God adopted us in Christ, according to his will, for the praise of his glorious grace. So God’s will is that he may be praised for his glorious grace. But Paul then adds to this, and says that God has lavished grace upon us in all wisdom and insight, according to his purpose, that he might unite all things in Christ, whether they be in heaven or earth.

So here, Paul presents us with 2 aspects of God’s will–and really, they are just different layers of God’s will–first he says that God’s will is that his redeemed and adopted children may live to the praise of his glorious grace. God wills that his redeemed people may live a life that displays praise to the one true God who lavishes with grace.

But then, Paul says that God also wills that all things may be united (or summed up) in Christ Jesus. In other words, God has willed that all things be redeemed and renewed through Jesus’ death and resurrection alone, whether things in heaven or on earth.

These aren’t really two different wills, though. For in God summing up all things in and through Jesus Christ, he gets all the glory. In Christ’s death and resurrection, we find a humble and lowly God, taking on the curse and sins of his people, and raising up to new life in victory! He is the great King who has overcome all obstacles. He is the victor, who brings to a broken people redemption, renewal, and salvation.

And so we find that God’s will is that he may get optimal glory in and through Christ Jesus crucified and risen again.

His will is Christ-centered and God-glorifying.

How does knowing this help with wisdom? There’s a few things we can gather about a wise life from God’s will in Ephesians 1:

(1) A wise life is one that is Christ-centered, and God-glorifying

(2) In order to be wise, then, we must apply this grid to everything that we do.

(3) If anything that we do does not end in exalting Christ to the glory of God, then it is not worth our time or effort. We are not being careful in how we walk (Eph 5:15), and are being unwise.

Use this grid the next time you think about doing something: Is it Christ-centered and God-glorifying? If not, then you should either not do it, or change the means and motivation behind it. For this is the will of God, that he might sum up all things in Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace.

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