Redeeming the Time

In Ephesians 5: 16, Paul admonishes and encourages the saints in Ephesus who are faithful to Christ Jesus to live, “. . . redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” I believe this is a word for us today, to redeem the time, and to know that the days – the times – in which we live are fraught with evil. We understand that Jesus is our Redeemer, he has redeemed us from bondage to sin and death, from darkness unto life. Job based his endurance of the travails God permitted Satan to ravage upon Job and his family on this concept of redemption, Job 19: 25, where Job, answering his friend Bildad the Shuhite, who had spoken reproach to Job, said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” Job pitched his faith, his hope, his courage, his steadfast endurance of what life threw at him and his family, on the three things that are set out in this little passage: (1) God, Job’s Redeemer, is real, so real that He lives and has in Him the power of resurrection of the flesh: (2) Job’s knowledge of the reality and power of God; and (3) the yearning in Job’s heart for that day when he should be restored, resurrected, in his flesh and behold with his own eyes his Redeemer, his God, Jehovah!

And you have seen what all happened to Job, in the loss of family and wealth, and his health (Job chapters 1 and 2), and then the officious intermeddling, shall we say, of his friends who blamed Job, himself, for his troubles, and then the faithlessness of his wife, Job 2; 9, who mocked Job, her husband, and said, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?”, and then demanded of him, “Curse God and die.“ And you know that all this evil was visited upon Job and his life and family, even with God’s permission, yet directly by the hand of Satan. That was a time and season of evil days, to be sure!

Yet how did Job handle all that? First, he refused to yield to his wife’s hopelessness and faithfulness; Job refused to curse God or to give up his life. He did not charge God with wrongdoing in his troubles (Job 1: 22), nor did he sin with his lips (Job 2: 10). And in all this he accepted the sovereignty of God, Job 2: 10, acknowledging that God permitted Job to receive both good from God, and adversity from, in this case, Satan himself. Job handled all this as he did because he knew God’s reality and power; and his hope was entrusted to the knowledge of that reality and power of God. Job lived in the natural but did so, as he did, because of his knowledge and faith in the supernatural!

That is how he did it, how he endured all this: his knowledge of God’s reality and power, and his faith in them, were so huge in the choices of his life that he was enabled to live a life in which he overcame the circumstances of his life. Indeed, by his strongly- held faith, Job redeemed the time of the days of evil in his life.

In today’s times, so strongly influenced as we are by psychiatry and psychology, we would be tempted to say of Job, after all his losses and pains, that he needed counseling, he needed help to clear out his scar tissue, to remove the bad baggage of his life. But Job didn’t need that to help deal with his wife, his friends or with Satan – all Job needed was the wisdom of knowing the will of the Lord, and the yearning heart to seek with all he was and had, to live the will of the Lord – that’s it!

And you ask, appropriately, of Job, what did he do to redeem the time: the record does not say that he visited the sick and imprisoned, fed the hungry, gave shelter and food to the needy, or even visited the orphans and widows in their times of trouble. Not those things, but more than anyone else I know of, Job had reached the point described in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Surely, of all men, Job was in the evil day, and, in the armor of God, he was totally consumed with just standing his ground of faith – that was the call to duty, the calling, in Job’s life! In faithfully standing his ground, Job redeemed the time in the evil days.

We find the call to “redeem the time” also in Paul’s letter to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who were in Colossé, Colossians 4: 5, where Paul wrote, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.” These is the same foundation that Paul uses in Ephesians 5: 16, the lead text in our message today, which is based on Ephesians 5: 17, “Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” What is “wisdom” but having the knowledge to be “wise”? What is “lack of wisdom” but “not having the knowledge to be wise”/ And, what Paul is saying is that being wise, or having wisdom, is simply this, to “understand the will of the Lord”.

Job knew this much, as God Himself observed, Job 2: 3, as Job was “a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil . . . and (even after the loss of family and wealth) he still holds fast to his integrity . . . .” In that integrity was manifest Job’s understanding of the will of the Lord: he feared God and shunned evil, and therefore he was a blameless and upright man who walked, even through adversity, in his integrity of fearing God and shunning evil! Job, therefore, had wisdom, he was not unwise.

But these twin passages from Ephesians and Colossians, on wisdom and redeeming the time from evil days, give us some additional insights as well into how we redeem the time from evil days, with special application, I think, to the seasons when we have not done all we can do but stand in the evil day as Job did. I know of none of us in this room who have reached that point, so we have other things we can do to redeem the time from the evil days, and the guidelines are here for us in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 4.

In Ephesians 5, the context of this wisdom and this redemption of time from evil days, is darkness versus light, evil versus good, and the admonishment is, Ephesians 5: 8, to “walk as children of light”. This has two places for us, as we referenced in last week’s message – internal and external. It is “internal” in that the “internal” is where our integrity is, where our choices are made, where we resist the temptations of the flesh and the attacks of the evil one, in our spirit and in our character and in our emotions, and in our will and mind, and therefore in our bodies, yet where we are always judging ourselves and are quick to confession and repentance. That’s the “internal” aspect of walking as children of light. And you have to have that integrity in order to do the external things, for when we walk as children of light, that light is, inescapably, hitting the external world around us, with our example, and our help to others.

Paul explained it this way in Ephesians 5: 1, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.” That’s all it is, we need just so well understand the will of the Lord that we will be actual imitators of God here on earth, which is probably what the Godhead hoped for when they created man in their own image (imitator ≈image). And Paul explained that if we are imitators of God, walking as children of light, we will (Verse 2) “walk in love” sacrificially as Christ walked; we will avoid sinful behaviors (as detailed in Verses 3 -7), we will share (Verse 9) the fruit of the Spirit, in the expression in and through our lives and choices, “in all goodness, righteousness and truth”; (Verse 11), we will “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” and we will “expose them (the unfruitful works of darkness)”; and (Verse 15), we will walk “circumspectly, not as fools but as wise”.

And in Colossians 4, this explanation by Paul continues: Verse 1, be “just and fair” in your dealings with others; Verses 2- 3, “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving”; Verse 6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”.

James made it clear to us, in James 2: 26, that, “For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” And the Holy Spirit has enlightened my understanding of this passage: yes the Spirit brings life to the body, but the Spirit also brings the works to the body that enlivens our faith. The fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”) operates internally – our faith, our character and our integrity; and the fruit of the Spirit also operates externally – our works, our character and our integrity. And by our faith and our works, exercising both in wisdom, understanding the will of the Lord, and fearing God, we shun evil, do good, walk in the light as imitators of God, who, in Christ, is love: love of God and love of others.

That is how we redeem the time in the evil days. And, the good Lord knows, we are in the evil days. We are in the days, and not the only time in history, of II Timothy 3: 1-7 , “But know this, that in the last days perilous (read, “evil”) times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving , slanderers, without self-control. brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (Jesus Christ, the truth).

But, and here is the conclusion for today, we have come to the knowledge of the truth: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is who He says He is, and He is neither liar, nor lunatic, but Lord of all! This whole thing is much of the doctrine of reaping and sowing of which we here speak so often: Redemption was sowed in us and it is to be reaped from us as we imitate God, in love, walk in the light and choose to fear God and shun evil, sharing the fruit of the Spirit with those around us, both internally and externally. We know for the most part the will of God, for internal things and for external things, so we have wisdom available to us. So, again, share the fruit of the Spirit around you, share the love of the gospel of Jesus Christ around you, share the love of God around you, as you imitate Him, walking in the light, exposing darkness, walking in all wisdom, in the knowledge of the understanding of God’s will, and you will be redeeming the time, in the evil days of your life. You will be visiting the orphans and the widows in their times of trouble, and you will be feeding and clothing, and sheltering, and visiting and ministering to those in need. And you will be like Job, walking in your integrity – for that is what it means to be redeeming the time!

God bless you+ and Amen!