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EPHESIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 14

Verse 14. Wherefore he saith. Marg., or it. dio legei. The meaning may be, either that the Lord says, or the Scripture. Much difficulty has been experienced in endeavouring to ascertain where this is said. It is agreed on all hands that it is not found, in so many words, in the Old Testament. Some have supposed that the allusion is to Isa 26:19, "Thy dead men shall live—awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for thy dew is as the dew of herbs," etc. But the objections to this are obvious and conclusive.

(1.) This is not a quotation of that place, nor has it a resemblance to it, except in the word" awake."

(2.) The passage in Isaiah refers to a different matter, and has a different sense altogether. See Barnes "Isa 26:19".

To make it refer to those to whom the gospel comes is most forced and unnatural. Others have supposed that the reference is to Isa 60:1-3, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come," etc. But the objection to this is not less decisive.

(1.) It is not a quotation of that passage, and the resemblance is very remote, if it can be seen at all.

(2.) That is addressed to the church, calling on her to let her light shine; this, to awake and arise from the dead, with the assurance that Christ would give them light. The exhortation here is to Christians, to avoid the vices of the heathen around them; the exhortation in Isaiah is to the church, to rejoice and exult in view of the fact that the day of triumph had come, and that the heathen were to be converted, and to come in multitudes and devote themselves to God. In the design of the two passages there is no resemblance. Some have supposed that the words are taken from some book among the Hebrews which is now lost. Epiphanius supposed that it was a quotation from a prophecy of Elijah; Syncellus and Euthalius, from some writing of Jeremiah; Hippolytus, from the writing of some now unknown prophet. Jerome supposed it was taken from some apocryphal writings. Grotius supposes that it refers to the word light Eph 5:13, and that the sense is, "That light says; that is, that a man who is pervaded by that light, let him so say to another." Heumann, and after him Storr, Michaelis, and Jenning, (Jewish Ant. ii. 252,) suppose that the reference is to a song or hymn that was sung by the early Christians, beginning in this manner, and that the meaning is, "Wherefore, as it is said in the hymns which we sing,

' Awake, thou that sleepest;

Arise from the dead;

Christ shall give thee light.'"

Others have supposed that there is an allusion to a sentiment which prevailed among the Jews, respecting the significancy of blowing the trumpet on the first day of the month, or the feast of the new moon. Maimonides conjectures that that call of the trumpet, especially in the month Tisri, in which the great day of atonement occurred, was designed to signify a special call to repentance; meaning, "You who sleep, arouse from your slumbers; search and try yourselves; think on your Creator; repent, and attend to the salvation of the soul." Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. But all this is evidently conjecture. I see no evidence that Paul meant to make a quotation at all. Why may we not suppose that he speaks as an inspired man, and that he means to say, simply, that God now gives this command, or that God now speaks in this way? The sense then would be, "Be separate from sinners. Come out from among the heathen. Do not mingle with their abominations; do not name them. You are the children of light; and God says to you, Awake from false security, rouse from the death of sin, and Christ shall enlighten you." Whatever be the origin of the sentiment in this verse, it is worthy of inspiration, and accords with all that is elsewhere said in the Scriptures.

Awake thou that sleepest. Arouse from a state of slumber and false security. Sleep and death are striking representations of the state in which men are by nature. In sleep we are, though living, insensible to any danger that may be near; we are unconscious of what may be 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 condition. So with the sinner. It is as if his faculties were locked in a deep slumber. He hears not when God calls; he has no sense of danger; he is insensible to the beauties and glories of the heavenly world; he is forgetful of his true character and condition. To see all this, he must be first awakened; and hence this solemn command is addressed to man. He must rouse from this condition, or he cannot be saved. But can he awaken himself? Is it not the work of God to awaken a sinner? Can he rouse himself to a sense of his condition and danger? How do we do in other things? The man that is sleeping on the verge of a dangerous precipice we would approach, and say, "Awake, you are in danger." The child that is sleeping quietly in its bed, while the flames are bursting into the room, we would rouse, and say, "Awake, or you will perish." Why not use the same language to the sinner slumbering on the verge of ruin, in a deep sleep, while the flames of wrath are kindling around him? We have no difficulty in calling on sleepers elsewhere to awake when in danger; how can we have any difficulty when speaking to the sinner?

And arise from the dead. The state of the sinner is often compared to death. See Barnes "Eph 2:1".

Men are by nature dead in sins; yet they must rouse from this condition, or they will perish. How singular, it may be said, to call upon the dead to rise! How could they raise themselves up? Yet God speaks thus to men, and commands them to rise from the death of sin. Learn then,

(1.) that men are not dead in sin in any such sense that they are not moral agents, or responsible.

(2.) That they are not dead in any such sense that they have no power of any kind.

(3.) That it is right to call on sinners to arouse from their condition, and live.

(4.) That they must put forth their efforts as if they were to begin the work themselves, without waiting for God to do it for them. They are to awake; they are to arise. It is not God who is to awake; it is not Christ who is to arise. It is the sinner who is to awake from his slumber, and arise from the state of death; nor is he to wait for God to do the work for him.

And Christ shall give thee light. Christ is the light of the world. See Barnes "Joh 1:4, See Barnes "Joh 1:9"; See Barnes "Joh 8:12"; See Barnes "Heb 1:3".


The idea here is, that if they will use all the powers with which God has endowed them, and arouse from their spiritual slumber, and make an appropriate effort for salvation, then they may expect that Christ will shine upon them, and bless them in their efforts. This is just the promise that we need, and it is all that we need. All that man can ask is, that if he will make efforts to be saved, God will bless those efforts, so that they shah not be in vain. Faculties of mind have been given us to be employed in securing our salvation; and if we will employ them as they were intended to be employed, we may look for the Divine aid; if not, we cannot expect it. "God helps those who help themselves;" and they who will make no effort for their salvation must perish, as they who will make no effort to provide food must starve. This command was indeed addressed at first to Christians; but it involves a principle which is applicable to all. Indeed, the language here is rather descriptive of the condition of impenitent sinners than of Christians. In a far more important sense they are "asleep," and are "dead;" and with the more earnestness, therefore, should they be entreated to awake, and to rise from the dead, that Christ may give them light.

{2} "he saith" "it" {d} "Awake" Isa 60:1

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