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What does it mean to walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15)?

walk circumspectly

As part of a challenging teaching on holy living, the apostle Paul writes, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17, NKJV). To be circumspect is to be wary; the word comes from a Latin word literally meaning “look around.” “Walk circumspectly” is Paul’s way of urging Christians to look very carefully at how they live and behave.

Paul acknowledges that we are living in evil, difficult times. Our fallen world is filled with dangers, deceptions, and temptations. If we aren’t cautious and attentive to what is happening around us and in us, we can easily be blindsided and fall headlong into any number of dangerous traps. Biblical wisdom teaches us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5, NLT) and to walk (or behave) as true believers amid perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1–5).

In the original Greek, the phrase translated as “walk circumspectly” means “to watch or look carefully at how you live, to be vigilant and mindful of your behavior, to be on the lookout.” The apostle Peter delivers a similar word of warning: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). With deliberate, vigilant determination, we must live rooted in God’s wisdom and an understanding of God’s will.

Paul uses the Hebrew concept “to walk” as a metaphor for behavior. The “Christian walk” refers to how we behave as believers. The will of the Lord is that we always live mindfully and judiciously so that our lifestyles line up with biblical teaching. To the Romans, Paul taught, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

If we are to walk circumspectly, we must discern the will of the Lord. How do we gain the wisdom to know God’s will? We start by asking for it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

We also gain wisdom for godly living through reading God’s Word: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). As we meditate on Scripture (Psalm 119:15) and diligently study God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), it becomes a guiding, illuminating force to direct our footsteps (Psalm 119:105).

God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). We must pay close attention to what the Lord has revealed in His Word because it is “a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19), able to show us God’s will and teach us how to walk circumspectly in these evil days.

Unbelievers walk according to “the futility of their minds. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!” (Ephesians 4:17–20, ESV). Christians are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

Believers are enabled to live wisely and walk circumspectly by the empowering of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27). Paul told the Galatians to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Holy Spirit lives in us, teaching us and leading us into all truth (John 14:17, 26; 16:13).

God has a good plan for our lives (Romans 8:28). We are created to do good works and to walk in them: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV). God lovingly reveals His plan to us so that we are “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9–10, ESV).

Believers can walk circumspectly—carefully watching how we live—because “by his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT). We don’t have to depend on our own strength. God’s Word provides the blueprint to follow, and His Holy Spirit fills us with the power to accomplish the Master Builder’s plan.

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What does it mean to walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15)?
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This page last updated: July 6, 2023