The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
September 23, 2012
1) Ephesians 5:14-17 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
In Ephesians 5:14, Paul declares, "For this reason it says, 'Awake,
sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.'"
Though as a paraphrase rather than verbatim, this quote appears to
be an allusion to Isaiah 60:1,2: "Arise, shine; for thy light is
come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee. For,
behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the
peoples; but Jehovah will arise upon thee, and his glory shall be
seen upon thee."
"Sleep" is used in various senses in the Bible. It is used, of
course, to refer to actual or literal sleep. However, it is
also used figuratively for physical death. One example of this
is that of Lazarus in John 11:11-13: "...'Our friend Lazarus has
fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep.'
The disciples therefore said to Him, 'Lord, if he has fallen asleep,
he will recover.' Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they
thought that He was speaking of literal sleep."
In addition, "sleep" is also used figuratively to refer to a worldly
indifference toward spiritual things, or spiritual lethargy or
sluggishness, as seen in these following definitions: Noah
Webster, for instance, shows that "sleep" also means "to be
careless, inattentive or unconcerned; not be vigilant." And
W.E. Vine defines the Greek word as used in Ephesians 5:14 to mean
"of carnal indifference to spiritual things on the part of
believers." It appears that this is how it is also used in
Romans 13:11, where the command is to "Do this, knowing the time,
that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now
salvation is nearer to us than when we [first] believed." In
other words, as that great day approaches, shouldn't we be even more
concerned with being spiritually-minded and ready to meet God --
with each day that passes? So if we have any unconcern about
spiritual things, we need to arouse ourselves from that apathy and
become spiritually alert.
Compare this also with 1 Thessalonians 5:4-10: "But you, brethren,
are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief;
for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night
nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us
be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at
night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are
of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith
and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has
not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our
Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or
asleep, we may live together with Him."
In just this one passage, "sleep" appears to be used in three
different ways: worldly indifference toward spiritual things (v. 6),
literal sleep (v. 7), and physical death (v. 10).
But how is "sleep" being used in Ephesians 5:14? The term
"awake," in the same verse, helps us to understand that. Vine
defines the Greek word for "awake" in this passage, as well as in
Romans 13:11, to mean "metaphorically, 'of awaking from a
state of moral sloth.'" So "sleep" in Ephesians 5:14 connotes
a worldly indifference toward the spiritual; and sleep makes a
pretty good figure for this. For, as Albert Barnes observes,
"In 'sleep' we are, though living, insensible to any danger that may
be near; we are unconscious of what may he going on around us; we
hear not the voice of our friends; we see not the beauty of the
grove or the landscape; we are forgetful of our real character and
In his article, entitled, "We Need Arousing," Olen Holderby cites
Ephesians 5:14 and comments on the word "awake" by saying,
"Obviously, Paul is trying to stir the Ephesians to active
opposition to the immorality of their day, and especially that
immorality that was in their midst. They were to arouse from their
state of slumber and false security. This writer is persuaded that
the Ephesians had no greater need to be aroused than do we today."
So these who are asleep are to arise from the "dead." Death
also has various meanings in the Scriptures: It is used, of
course, with reference to an actual, physical death. But it is
also used to describe a spiritual death: For example, 1
Timothy 5:6 declares, "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure
is dead even while she lives." Spiritual death is what
accountable people have before becoming a Christian, according to
Ephesians 2:4,5: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great
love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our
transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you
have been saved)."
In addition, the captivity of the Jews, while away from their
homeland, is viewed as a type of "political" or "national"
death. This we see in Isaiah 26:19, "Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout
for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will
give birth to the departed spirits."
Commenting on this passage, E.M. Zerr writes, "The preceding
paragraph dealt with the conditions in the time of the
captivity. This verse predicted the release of the nation from
that bondage and likened it to a resurrection from the dead.
...All of the leading words in this verse are figures to illustrate
the glorious recovery of the Jewish nation from its political death
and burial in the country of Babylon which was referred to as its
Death representing the Jews in captivity is also seen in Ezekiel's
vision of the dried bones; and Israel's return to their homeland is
then depicted by these dried bones receiving sinew, flesh, and life
(Ezek. 37:1-12). While Jeremiah prophesied in Jerusalem,
Ezekiel was in Babylon, during the time of the Babylonian captivity,
which lasted 70 years.
And death is also used to refer to a lack of spirituality. For
the Greek word (nekros) also means "inactive as respects doing
right...destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative"
We are reminded of what was said years later to the church at Sardis
in Revelations 3:1: "...'I know your deeds, that you have a name
that you are alive, but you are dead." They were, therefore,
told to "Wake up" and "repent" (vv. 2,3).
So these Ephesians are being exhorted to arouse themselves about
spiritual matters, which is also seen in what Paul goes on to say in
Ephesians 5:15-17: "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise
men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are
evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the
Does this not contrast with what we previously saw in verse
14? For rather than being asleep or inattentive toward
spiritual matters, the exhortations is to be "careful" about those
things. And, perhaps, we can see this contrast even better
with the phrase in the KJV "that ye walk circumspectly."
Circumspect is defined as "watchful and discreet; cautious;
prudent." It is "being watchful on all sides." But how
can one do that if he is spiritually asleep? So these terms
are in contrast.
The need to be "careful" is often seen in the book of Deuteronomy
with relation to the Law of Moses, which the Jews were to keep
during the Old Testament Period. For instance: "Whatever I
command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor
take away from it" (Deut. 12:32).
Sometimes people were not careful to do things God's way, and they
suffered the consequences, as a result. For instance, Nadab
and Abihu were consumed in a fire by God when they used a fire that
the Lord did not authorize for the incense (Lev. 10:1,2).
Also, Uzzah was fatally struck down by the Lord for touching the ark
of the covenant, which was nearly upset in the ox-cart (2 Sam.
6). In Numbers 15:32-36, a man was stoned to death for having
gathered some sticks on the Sabbath Day. All of these
infractions might seem very trivial to many people today, but they
were violations of God's law, which resulted in their deaths and
instill within us the need to be careful to do things the way God
commands -- rather than changing or ignoring His instructions.
This is also seen in Joshua 1:8: "This book of the law shall not
depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in
it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will
In the New Testament, we see in Ephesians 5:15 that there is still a
need to be careful for how we live -- for how we "walk" is how we
live. Also, Jesus is the foundation of the church, which every
Christian is being built up upon; and Paul cautions that "...each
man be careful how he builds upon it" (1 Cor. 3:10). We also
need to be "...careful to engage in good deeds," according to Titus
So if we strive to put God's word into practice in our lives, we
then will be acting as wise men, instead of foolish. This
might also remind you of what Jesus states about the wise and the
foolish in Matthew 7:24-27. Jesus uses these terms to sum up
every accountable person. For one is either wise or
foolish. And in this passage, the wise are those who not only
hear God's word, but also do it; while the foolish are those who
only hear, but do not obey.
But by doing God's will, as Paul goes on to show, we will be "making
the most of" our "time" (Eph. 5:16). The KJV renders this as
"Redeeming the time." But we probably understand it better as
"making the most of your time" or "making the most of every
opportunity," as the NIV expresses it. Since we can't live in
the past and tomorrow is not here yet, the best time to be living
for the Lord is always now.
The reason Paul gives for why we need to make the most of our time
is because "the days are evil." As J.W. Shepherd writes, "Evil
days mean days in which evil abounds." So especially in
situations like that, we need to be even more careful and strive to
do good, lest we succumb to temptation.
We need to remember, too, that the term "evil" can involve more than
sinful things. As Thayer shows, the word can also mean "full of
labours, annoyances, hardships...pressed and harassed by
labours...bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of
peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and
trouble." So in other words, "evil" can refer to various
adversities of life that can try our souls by putting us in
difficult situations that will test our faith.
Therefore, in order that we can be wise and use our time wisely, we
need to acquire a good understanding of the word of the Lord -- and
cling tenaciously to it. So that evil times won't shake us
The importance of having the proper understanding can also be seen
in Matthew 13: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does
not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has
been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside
the road" (v. 19). "And the one on whom seed was sown on the
good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it;
who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some
sixty, and some thirty" (v. 23).
What is implied in the latter passage about the man who understands
and bears fruit? Since fruit is borne by our compliance to
God's word, then to truly understand the Scriptures, it should lead
to our obedience to it. Compare, for example, Psalm 111:10:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good
understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise
endures forever." Notice that the Psalmist doesn't say a good
understanding have all those who know God's commandments; but,
rather, "do His commandments." The proper understand should be
manifest in one's life: "Who among you is wise and understanding?
Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of
wisdom" (Jms. 3:13). Note, too, what Job 28:28 declares:
"And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding." Solomon also shows
how one can increase in understanding: "He who neglects discipline
despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires
understanding" (Prov. 15:32); and Proverbs 15:22 also shows the
value of having understanding: "Understanding is a fountain of life
to one who has it, But the discipline of fools is folly."
So as we consider Ephesians 5:14-17, if we need to awaken from an
indifference toward spiritual things, let us do so promptly, and
carefully strive to live wisely unto the Lord by knowing His will
and making the most of our time by carrying that will out in our
lives. For then Christ truly will shine on us!
News & Notes
Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember in prayer
R.J. Evans and his wife Jackie were involved in an automobile
accident on their way to church last Sunday evening. Their car
was totaled by another vehicle that had run a red light. R.J.
was okay; and Jackie was taken to the hospital for a cat-scan to be
sure she didn't sustain any head or neck injury. Everything
checked out fine, but they will be doing some follow-up tests for
her. Let us pray that no problems will develop from their
Let us also continue to remember Pam MacDonald who is to be
seeing her doctor this week, due to serious back trouble; Linda
Lefort (Harris Lefort's sister-in-law) who has throat cancer
and is receiving hospice care; Bill Barfield (Virginia
Fontenot's brother) who was admitted to ICU last March and has been
in a step-down unit ever since; Jean Calloway who has
been having a foot problem; Shirley Young, who continually
experiences fibromyalgia; and Cheryl Crews, who is now
undergoing therapy three days a week for some of her physical
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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