Saturday, 15 October 2016
Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:14
This verse is another which is troubling to scholars. Paul begins with “Therefore He says…” The “Therefore” is setting a contrast to verses 11-13, and is being directly aligned with verses 8-10. We are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,” while at the same time we are to “walk as children of light.” In order to do these things, he then gives the next words, “He says.”
This implies a citation of Scripture, as it is always used in this manner. However, no such citation exists. The closest we can get is a combination of two verses from Isaiah –
Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead. Isaiah 26:19
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1
Some scholars see one or another being loosely cited, others see both being combined and loosely cited, and still others find either of those options nonsense. There is actually nothing unprecedented about two citations being combined into one. This happens elsewhere in the New Testament. There is also nothing unusual about a rather loose citation. This also happens elsewhere in the New Testament.
The main key to understanding this is Paul’s use of the word “Christ.” If he is citing the Old Testament, then the word “Christ” is an obvious interpretation of that citation. He is taking a known set of words and applying a prophetic meaning to them in the work of Christ. And so we are assured that it is Isaiah that is being quoted. But more than that, it is a quote which then asserts the Incarnation. The “glory of the LORD,” meaning Yehovah of the Old Testament, is being directly equated with “Christ” of the New. What was concealed in the Old is now revealed in the New.
However, what is more probable is that he is referencing the account in Jonah where the captain of the ship comes to wake Jonah from a deadened sleep. There in Jonah 1:6, it says –
“What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps the God will shine on us, so that we may not perish.”
In that verse, the captain uses the word ashath. It is a verb which means “to shine.” This word, ashath, comes from a primitive root which means “to be sleek” and thus glossy and hence through the idea of polishing to shine. And so the translation should read, “Arise, call on the God; perhaps Paul was thinking of this account when he penned these words.
By shining the light, everything is made manifest by the light. Despite being in a real storm in the sea of chaos, and despite being under physical harm, there was a spiritual connotation that was being drawn out, even by that pagan captain. There was disharmony between them and God which needed to be rectified.
Though they didn’t know of the gospel, they knew that there was a need for the gospel. The light of the gospel message is the only way to make things which are indecent appear as they really are. Once the truth of the gospel shines on the deeds of wickedness, they are exposed and can be compared to that which is right, holy, and proper.
Understanding this, the citation is saying that walking as children of light (which occurs by arousing from the sleep), and having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (which occurs when we “arise from the dead”), is what will cause Christ to give us light. We are to actively pursue Christ, and actively shun the darkness of the things of this world. As we do, we will be given the light of Christ.
Life application: There is no stagnation in our walk towards our eternal home. We are either moving towards godliness, or we are moving away from it. Each moment is a new moment in which we are to continue to press forward with our eyes on Jesus. In Him is light, and in order to know Him, we must pursue Him through His word. Reader, you are admonished to get your nose into the word and pursue it daily. And then, think on what you have read as you go about your daily walk.
Precious Heavenly Father, You have told us that in walking as children of light, and in having no fellowship with the deeds of darkness, Christ will give us light. One thing is for certain, we can’t know how to do those things, unless we know what they involve. And as Your word is what explains them to us, we would be O so wise to spend our time in Your word. Who doesn’t want more light from Christ! And so, instill in our hearts a great desire to know Him through Your precious word. Amen.