Christian Living

Time management advice from Ephesians 5

In last week’s article we looked at Paul’s instruction to “redeem the time” in Ephesians 5:16-17. I tried to let these verses speak for themselves. We saw that Paul is not endorsing our modern day fascination with time efficiency. Rather he’s calling us to live right now as citizens of the new, eternal age even though we still also live in the old age of sin and evil. Sometimes that will not look very time efficient!

If we’ve listened to those verses well, we should expect coherence across this whole chapter in Ephesians. So in this article we’ll look at all of Ephesians 5 under this idea of making the most of the time and find out what it means to live a citizen of the new age in the here and now. (It’ll be really helpful if you have the passage open next to you as you read.)

Citizen time advice—advice for the individual

Starting in verse 3, we see that making the most of your time means we live out the sexual lifestyle of the new age, rather than conforming to the impurity of the evil days.

From verse 4, it means we shape our speech by the new age of Christ’s kingdom rather than by the old age of evil days.

Then we come to verses 5 and 6 which emphasise this point… although it may at first seem like a bit of an intimidating threat: “Don’t do the bad stuff or God will punish you and you will miss out on the eternal Kingdom”. But that’s not the case.

God doesn’t bring about new age godly living by threats, but rather by graciously raising us to be part of the new age, and then encouraging us to live according to our new status. You are already in Christ—you have been rescued from the evil days by the precious blood of Jesus. You are now therefore seeking to live consistently with your new status in the new age.

Read this way, verses 5 and 6 are not a threat. They are a statement about the very reality we have been thinking about. Those who live only in this old, evil age will accordingly behave in evil ways. If they are not part of the new, eternal age they will not inherit the kingdom and the judgement of God is coming upon them. They don’t have a place in the new kingdom so, sadly, their behaviour is perfectly in line with their membership of the evil days of the old age.

Verses 7 and 8 confirm our view that verse 6 is not a warning or threat aimed at Christians. Paul can see that evil lifestyle in the pre-conversion lives of saved people, but salvation changes everything. Christians now live differently and we will want to use our time for completely different purposes because we belong to a different kingdom

Verses 9-13 remind us that the difference here is between light and darkness: people who only live in the old age are stuck in the darkness of sin and rebellion against God, but if you have been raised with Christ, the light has dawned in your life. Jesus raised you from the dead (v. 14) so that you could live out the lifestyle of the light and make the most of the time.

And amidst this darkness, we see in verse 12 that we need to imitate our God by walking in self-sacrificial love towards others and serving them.

Corporate time advice—advice for the whole body

In verse 14 we return to the poem about resurrection which moves us into the two key verses about redeeming the time. As we come out the other side of those verses, we move into what I am calling ‘corporate time advice’. Key to making the most of the time is actually our fellowship with one another.

That’s what verses 18-20 are all about—the old drunken behaviour of the old age is to be put away for new age, Spirit-filled living. This command to be “filled with the Spirit” in verse 19 is another verse where we often import our own ideas. But this verse is about our corporate gatherings being filled with the Spirit as we speak the Spirit’s word to each other.

Being filled with the Spirit is all about the corporate speaking of God’s word by addressing one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs and whatever other ways we can speak God’s word to each other. As Ephesians 6 tells us explicitly, the chief tool or weapon of God’s Spirit is God’s Word—the Scriptures. Being filled with God’s Spirit is all about being filled with God’s Word.

So, if we want to make the most of the time when we gather corporately, we need to speak the language of the new age—the Spirit-filled words of Scripture. It’s by that corporate speaking of the Word that the Spirit will grow us all in our understanding of the new age and the lifestyle appropriate for people who have been raised with Christ.

And that brings us to some strange final time advice.

The passage about headship and submission that starts in Colossians 3:18 flows straight on from our verses about redeeming the time. Because redeeming the time is all about living as godly citizens of the new age, it even encompasses behaviour like appropriately submitting to appropriate leadership.

Submission gets a bad rap in our world today. But it shouldn’t surprise us that those who have not been raised with Christ will struggle with godly patterns of leadership and submission. We don’t have time here to dwell on the beauty of loving, sacrificial leadership and submission, but I want to encourage you to trust God’s word on this one. Christian leadership and submission is a beautiful facet of new kingdom relationships, whether they be in the Christian home or in the Christian Church.

Christ-like submission and Christ-like leadership in appropriate circumstances are two of the ways that Christians can make the most of the time as we live in this old age as citizens of the new, eternal age.

Making the most of the time

In all of this I hope you can see that making the most of the time is not about being more efficient. It is about being more godly, as we let our citizenship in heaven shape every aspect of life now while we live in these challenging evil days. It’s my prayer that you’ll be encouraged right now to live in light of your heavenly citizenship, confident that this status before God is unchanging and can never be shaken.

This article is adapted from a talk given at the EQUIP Ministry Wives conference in 2020. You can find out more about EQUIP Women’s Ministry here.

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