And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.…
I. THE SLEEP. Sleep is a state which can only be declared of Christians. The unconverted are dead, and require not an awakening, but a resurrection. What does this injunction betoken? A state of —
1. Spiritual apathy. Sleep implies unconsciousness. There may be sublimities around the sleeper, but he sees them not; harmonies, but he hears them not; dangers, but he feels them not. So when Christians are asleep they are reduced to a state in which the religious senses are untouched.
2. Religious inactivity. There is a spot in the Atlantic called the Saragossa Sea, which is subject to long calms, and is covered with a thick, entangling seaweed; and nothing of all he has to encounter on the wide ocean fills the experienced mariner with more genuine dread than to be caught in the meshes of this region of dead calm and entangling weeds. The religious life has its Saragossa Sea, in which individuals and Churches too often lie becalmed and entangled in the weeds of conventional habits and formalism.
3. Dalliance with sin. The context shows a sad state of things, the reason for which was the recent conversion of the Roman Christians from heathenism, or the prevalence of Antinomianism. And while there is not now "the same excess of riot," still there is considerable proneness to conform to the customs of irreligious people in pleasure.
II. THE CALL TO AWAKE. This state of wakefulness is a condition the very opposite of the sleep referred to. It means, therefore —
1. Deep, intense religious consciousness.
2. Active, self-denying labour.
3. The mortifying of the flesh, and a clear, unmistakable protest against the evil ways of the world.
III. THE REASONS FOR WAKEFULNESS.
1. The nature of the Christian profession. "Let us put on the armour of light." Here the Christian is presented to us as a soldier. One of the duties of his life, therefore, is to fight. A work demanding real, earnest care and watchfulness, and calculated to draw forth our utmost energies. A drowsy soldier is a contradiction. It follows, then, from this symbol, that the Christian should not be asleep. We are now in the midst of the fray; let us, then, be awake, "putting on the armour of light," which alone will secure us the victory in the conflict with darkness.
2. The closeness of the end. "For now is our salvation nearer," etc. As the days slip from our grasp, each remaining moment should become more intensely precious to us.
3. The character of the times. "Knowing the time." Never did any age since the establishment of Christianity possess such claims upon the earnest, sober attention of the Church as the present. Our age is one eminent for —
(1) Its secular activities in the direction of commerce, science, and education. Shall the Church alone remain quiescent in the midst of this torrent of activity? It is here, as it often is with travellers by train, which, by its very swiftness, lulls to sleep, but as it slackens speed the sleeper wakens up and looks around. So the rate at which the train of secular pursuits hurries Christians along and lulls them into a state of obliviousness of spiritual things. Let us be as intrepid in the things of God as we are in those of our own.
(2) Its activity in the dissemination of error. The two grand errors of the age are priestism and scepticism — twin sisters, though not on very amicable terms with each other.
(3) Its abounding wickedness. Here, then, is a powerful reason for wakefulness. A living Church is the grand antidote to all the evils incidental to our civilisation. It is its duty pre-eminently to seek to leaven this civilisation.
(A. J. Parry.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.