By Mike Willis
The apostle Paul commanded that Christians walk “circumspectly” in Ephesians 5:15. He said, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” The word akribos is translated “circumspectly” and is defined to mean “accurately, carefully, well” (Arndt and Gingrich) or “exactly, accurately, diligently” (Thayer). Thayer specifically says about this passage “to live carefully, circumspectly, deviating in no respect from the law of duty.” H.A.W. Meyer said that the meaning of “circumspectly” is explained by the words which follow – “not as unwise, but as wise” (503).
There are several reasons why men should walk circumspectly, not as foolish men but as wise. Here are some of them:
1. The Devil is seeking to destroy our souls. Peter said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). When we understand that the devil is actively trying to cause us to fall into sin, we see the need to walk circumspectly. The situation may be compared to a person walking in a den of snakes; he will watch every step he takes, making sure that there is nothing lurking in the shadows which might attack him.
2. Our example is influencing others. Others are watching how we live. Jesus taught us to use our influence when he said, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-16).
This matter of influence is not confined to preachers, elders, and deacons. Even the younger Christians influence others. Our 12-year-olds are not watching how the 44-year-old preacher combs his hair and dresses to learn how he will dress; his eyes are watching the 15-year-olds. The 15-year-old is watching the 17-year-old. How sad is the sight we witness when a worldly 17-year-old who attends worship shows his disdain for God, disrespect for his worship, and rejection of his commandments. This is sad not only because he will lose his own soul but also because he will influence those around him to live like he lives. Recognizing the power of one’s influence, a Christian should certainly walk circumspectly.
“Not as Unwise, But as Wise”
That many Christians stumble into sin is understandable. One can predict the fall because of the foolish conduct in which they are engaged. Here are some areas of concern which manifest that some are not walking circumspectly; they are walking foolishly.
1. In choosing their friends. The Scriptures warn us of the influence of our companions on our lives.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Prov. 13:20).
Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father (Prov. 28:7).
I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evildoers; and will not sit with the wicked (Psa. 26:4-5).
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Psa. 1:1).
Brother Irven Lee wrote of the impact of one’s companions on his future happiness in his book Good Homes In A Wicked World.
A young man will choose a wife from the crowd with whom he associates. If he is pure and clean and if his associates are pure and clean, then he will choose one for his life’s companion who is worthy to share his life. If, on the other hand, he is vulgar and cheap and his constant associates are the same type, he will not even have the acquaintance of a good, clean, pure girl, and therefore he will have no chance to choose one for his wife. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8). The reaping will continue for many decades after the sowing. The devil himself is the author of the idea that a young man must sow his “wild oats.” The Bible teaching is very different. It says, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Eccl. 12:1). The youth, who thinks that drunkenness, fornication, and other forms of ungodliness are the smart things to do in order to be popular with the crowd, is not likely to find himself happily married when he is an adult. Such a young man is destroying all hope for a happy marriage (27).
A person is not walking circumspectly, but like a fool when he makes the devil’s children his best friends.
2. In his playing with worldliness. A person is not walking circumspectly when he plays with those things which he knows will hurt him. Take, for example, the use of intoxicating beverages. The Lord warned his children of the dangers which they pose to one’s soul. He said, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Prov. 23:31-32). Again, he warned, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Prov. 20:1).
Despite these warnings, some Christians dally with sin, acting foolishly, not walking circumspectly. They are like foolish children who play with a rattlesnake and then act surprised when it bites them. These Christians want to “social drink” at the Christmas office party, have a martini with their lunch, and keep a six-pack of beer in the refrigerator. They cringe every time the preacher condemns social drinking. They argue that drinking is not wrong so long as a person does not get drunk, ignoring the teaching of 1 Peter 4:1-3 (which condemns drinking other than drunkenness) and the warnings of the dangers of intoxicating beverages. They tell themselves that they can handle their beer because they do not get drunk. Such men are not walking circumspectly as the Lord commanded; they are walking foolishly.
Another manner in which men show virtually no wisdom in their conduct is with reference to sensuality. Our age is consumed with sex; every deviant practice from fornication to homosexuality is commonly practiced. Yet there are some Christians who want to see just how close they can come to committing immorality without actually stumbling. They walk without circumspection; they walk as fools when they so act. I refer to those who practice various forms of lascivious behavior – things which stir the sexual passions. These Christians want to dress in immodest attire in public, wearing skin tight blue jeans, low cut blouses, shorts, or bathing suits. Not only do they wear such garments, they visit places where such immodest dress is common place the crowded beaches. Frequently, these same Christians will go to the dances which further stir their sensual passions. (The dancing of our age has gotten so sensuous that even the Hollywood producers call some of it “dirty dancing.” But there are still some Christians who say they see nothing wrong with dancing.) When they go on dates, they go to isolated places where they engage in heavy petting for hours. Is this circumspect conduct? This is the conduct of fools who are making little effort to guard themselves against the devil’s temptations. We are not surprised when those who act so foolishly fall into fornication and unwanted pregnancy.
I am confident that you can think of other areas where a Christian could avoid sin if he would give a little more forethought to the temptations of the devil if he participated in a given activity. As a person matures as an adult, he begins to see the dangers attendant with various forms of conduct; similarly, as a person matures as a Christian, he becomes more aware of the temptations of the devil which are associated with various activities. The text before us commands us to keep our eyes open to the devil’s temptations, using wisdom to avoid those kinds of conduct which tempt us to sin. Are you walking circumspectly?
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 22, pp. 674, 694
November 21, 1991