“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15, 16
Time has an unrelenting hold on us. That is evident in our conversations. “Sorry, I’m late!” “I didn’t have time.” “The summer has flown by!” We complain that there just are not enough hours in the day. This is something that touches each of us, young and old alike.
Solomon expresses it so beautifully in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….” As we sing from Psalm 90, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.”
What are we doing with time? Are we simply living as the world lives—drifting along, living for the moment? Are we squandering the precious gift of time? Do we fail to see God’s purpose in time? The apostle Paul exhorts us to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time!
Redeeming the time
The calling to redeem the time sounds like a strange admonition. Literally, it means “to buy the time.” It concerns our use of time. The idea is that we actually take advantage of the opportunities that the Lord places before us.
Time, we must remember, was created by God in the beginning. While He is eternal, above time, He created time as a part of this earthly creation. The whole creation, and we along with it, are bound to time. It is an inescapable part of our lives, ruling us like a tyrant. Man, in his vain imagination, dreams of escaping time’s grasp by means of a “time machine” or a “fountain of youth.” But time controls all of our life, all that we do, and the whole creation in which we live. Everything is governed by the passing of moments, of hours, of days, of weeks, of months, of years. Already as young children, we are soon watching the clock. We find ourselves too busy. We never seem to have enough time.
Apart from Christ, time is an enemy! Time in our fallen world means change, death, decay, destruction. Time carries man to the grave. Apart from Christ, we could only cry, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).
But the apostle speaks of time here from the point of view of its interpretation, its significance in light of God’s purpose. He uses a word that would have us look at time as it is used by God to accomplish His eternal purpose. The goal of time is the end of this world, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the full realization of His kingdom.
It is this time that we are called to redeem. And that is possible because at the center of time and history stands the cross. In the fullness of time Christ came and through His cross and resurrection He redeemed the time. He is now ruling, exalted as the Lord of time. He directs all things unto the gathering of His church and the coming of His kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth where time shall be no more.
But for now, we as His children continue our pilgrim journey through time. And our calling is to redeem the time! If we fail to do so, we simply live as the world lives. We set our hearts upon the things that are below, which are passing away. We find no true peace, no real contentment. And as our days pass swiftly by, time will sweep us off into the vanity of the grave.
Being redeemed by the blood of the cross, having received new life that is the life of Christ, by the grace and Spirit of God, we redeem the time. We view all things in the light of Scripture. We understand that time is serving the coming of God’s kingdom. And we live with uplifted heads, longing for the day of Christ’s return that ushers in that kingdom.
We strive to live then using time in the service of the kingdom. Our hopes and desires are fixed upon the things of the kingdom of heaven. Practically speaking, that means that the church will be at the center of our lives. Now in time and throughout history the kingdom and cause of God are represented in the life and salvation of the church. Mindful of this, we will seek the welfare of the church.
We will work diligently in our daily calling to provide for our covenant homes and the causes of God’s kingdom. We will enjoy fellowship with our fellow saints that we may be mutually encouraged in our pilgrim journey. We will be involved in the life and activity of the church because she is our connection with Christ and His kingdom. Redeeming the time involves every sphere of life—our work, our recreation, our home, our education, our church.
To do this we are called to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” A wise man is one who reckons with reality and adapts his life to it. In contrast, a fool is one who, though he knows better, denies reality and lives in a way that is contrary to it. Reality is that time is under the curse of the eternal God leading to death and judgment apart from Christ. Reality is that time is redeemed by Christ who is coming quickly to realize His everlasting kingdom.
But a fool, though he is aware of this reality, ignores it. He continues to eat, drink, and make merry as if this world continues forever. Consciously he sets his heart upon the things that perish, the pleasures and treasures of this world.
Obviously, all who do not belong to Christ are fools. No matter how intelligent or wealthy they may be, they are fools! No matter how spectacular their earthly accomplishments, they are fools. Ignoring reality, they blindly stagger through life, plunging at last into judgment.
But the wise are different, though not by nature. Redeemed by grace, enlightened by the Word and Spirit of God, having received of God wisdom from above, the wise discern the times. They are able to see that this world is passing away with the lusts thereof. Reckoning with reality, they strive to walk as children of the light. According to this Word of God, they walk “circumspectly.” That means that they have their eyes wide open, spiritually speaking, looking all around. In contrast to the staggering fool, the wise walk very carefully, avoiding the spiritual pitfalls and snares.
Because they are wise, believers redeem the time. They cling to Christ and His cross. They rejoice in the power of His resurrection that delivers from the ravages of time. They long for the day of Christ’s return when time shall be no more. Meanwhile, the wise labor for the welfare of His church as they continue their pilgrim journey.
Are you walking circumspectly, redeeming the time? Every day there are opportunities along our pathway. Take advantage of those opportunities! Don’t let them slip by in the stream of time! This applies to all of us, regardless of our age.
Children are given time, time they must redeem. Now is the time for learning, learning the wisdom of God’s
Word, learning obedience. What a waste of time to spend hours playing video games or watching television!
Young people, God gives you time, time to redeem. John writes, “I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (I John 2:14b). Now is the time to become strong, spiritually strong. Don’t make excuses—“I don’t have time to learn my catechism; I don’t have time to prepare for Young People’s Society.” Now is the time to become convicted in your own hearts and minds of the truth!
For parents, now is the time for commitment to the spiritual welfare of your home. Redeem the time, precious time to nurture, instruct the children, by word and by example, in the way that they should go. God does not give us children simply to feed, clothe, and entertain them. Use the time God provides to teach them the wonderful works of God.
For all of us, in all of our life, whatever our age, position, and circumstances, let us redeem the time. Let us live and labor with a view to God’s kingdom, the welfare of His church. Help, encourage, exhort, edify one another. Pray for one another, for Christ’s church, and for the coming of His kingdom. Use every time of life, every experience of life, to the very best advantage, in the fear of God!
Because the days are evil
The apostle emphasizes the urgency of this calling. Redeem the time because the days are evil! They were at that time in the dark days of the Roman empire. The days are even more evil today, though man in his pride boasts that things are always and only getting better and improving. This is also the thinking of fools who ignore reality. As time marches on, the days become more and more evil. In connection with the amazing advances in science and technology sin abounds as wicked man uses all things in rebellion against God. The cup of iniquity is rapidly filling. When we see and hear what is happening today, we wonder that Christ does not return now in judgment.
Just think of the evil of our days—the lawlessness, the violence, the immorality, the apostasy, the persecution! The days are evil! Who can deny it? It is to the wise a warning not to set their hearts upon the earthly. Rather, they look to the immanent return of the Savior.
We sense the urgency of all this, do we not? Walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, for the days are evil! Let us seek the grace of God unto that end. For we must confess that we often fail so miserably. We squander so much time. We waste so many opportunities. We are so often poor stewards who have but little time for the most important things, the spiritual things.
This is not the time to walk carelessly! The very evil of our days should serve as a powerful incentive to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time. Look to Christ, the
Captain of your salvation. Watch and pray. Hear His Word, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).