“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16 (KJV)
“… the devil appears to have obtained tyrannical sway;” wrote John Calvin, “so that ‘time’ cannot be dedicated to God without it being in some way redeemed“.1 The word redeeming or redeemed can be further understood from how it has been used in Galatians 3:13, and I quote “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (KJV). Accordingly, Albert Barnes explains, “ The word rendered here as “redeeming,” means “to purchase; to buy up” from the possession or power of anyone; and then to redeem, to set free – as from service or bondage“.2 The second part of the verse says, because the days are evil. How does this part, relate to the first? And what is the scripture really intend to teach? We shall learn this, when we learn what redeemed time means.
The devil appears to have obtained tyrannical sway:
The Apostle Paul explains, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world” (Romans 5:12, NLT). Sin not only reigns in natural man, but in the natural world, where the natural man inhabits. We further find the reason for this in Genesis 3:17, where YHWH spoke, “cursed is the ground for thy sake” (KJV). Therefore, the time that governs such cursed-fallen world, is evil. And so, in the Apostle Peter’s exhortation, we find these words: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, KJV). The devil therefore, reigns his tyrannical sway over the natural world, and the natural man, by enticing him to pursue, one desire after the other. And through such tyrannical sway, the natural man is kept in a constant loop of pain and suffering, ad infinitum. Because the natural man only cares for carnal desires, that only leads to death (James 1:14-15).
Similar to Peter’s exhortation, the Apostle Paul’s own exhortation follows; and I quote: “Walk in wisdom… redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5, KJV). Or in other words, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15, ESV). Note that this instruction comes just before the verse on “redeeming the time“. To paraphrase Paul, for a better understanding, this would mean – redeem your time from the unwise and their ways. Why? Because the unwise live under the tyrannical sway of evil days.
Time cannot be dedicated to God without being in some way redeemed:
The unwise, in complete disobedience, ignore the nature of evil days. They live under the impression of being free – and free to choose what is right or wrong. They live in complete insubordination of God’s sovereignty. The reason is because, these evil days are under the tyrannical sway of the devil. These evil days are filled with effortless allurements and temptations to revel from one desire to another, until finally, it leads to death. Therefore Paul wrote, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh … For to be carnally minded is death” (Romans 8:5-6, KJV). And so, this is the dire condition from which Jesus redeemed us. The scripture says, we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). Further, Paul in his epistle to the Colossians wrote: “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamebale and unreproveable in his sight” (Colosians 1:20-22, KJV).
In simpler words, what this means is that, you are redeemed from the tyrannical sway of the devil. Jesus has brought you to life, from the death. He has redeemed you. You have been bought. And so, the remainder of the time you were meant to spent in these evil days, has been redeemed as well. You are no longer slaved to the tyrannical sway of fleshly desires that leads to eternal condemnation. You have been saved, so that the remainder of your time here on earth could be spent on your sanctification. Hence, the redeemed time, by definition is this: your time on earth that was destined to be spent on the cycle of death destined desires, has now been redeemed for your sanctification.
The reason why we went through a great deal to understand the concept of redeemed time is because, nobody can please God in the flesh. Romans 8:8 clearly states, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (KJV).
In order to please God, one needs to be born of the spirit; and that is something that happens only by the spirit. John 3:6 states, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit” (KJV). Because, God does not listen to sinners (John 9:31), because it is only the prayer of the righteous that He hears (Proverbs 15:29). Righteous, on the otherhand, is one who has been reconciled by Jesus Christ, to whom, the righteousness of Christ is imputed in exchange of his sins (Philippians 1:11). Being that the reason, one cannot redeemed time for pious reasons, until and unless, it has been redeemed for him. Because YHWH is sovereign. He owns time, along with everything on earth or in heaven. Remember, there is even an account of God stopping time (Joshua 10:13). Therefore, a person who is dead in sin, and under the tyrannical sway of the devil, cannot thought to be in a position to redeem time for godly purposes. Simply because, he is dead. There is no time to be redeemed.
Therefore, this verse, i.e. Ephesians 5:16, cannot be taken as a literal commandment to the unsaved. This verse is a reminder, to the brethren, stating, see – your time has been redeemed, and saved from the evil days. So focus, reorient yourselves, least you forget, to use your redeemed time for godly purposes. Because He owns it. And He redeemed it according to the pleasure of His will, and for the glory of His name. This is an exhortation, to remind oneself, the death we have been saved from. So that we may not live like the unwise who know not their slavery to sin. And so, we see in the following verse, Paul says, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (v.17, KJV); to live as the children of light (v.8), by being filled with the Spirit (v.18), encouraging one another in the Word of God (v.19), being grateful for the work of salvation (v.20), and finally, submitting to the fear of God (v.21).
Christlikeness in redeeming time:
When the disciples raised a concern for persecution upon the idea of returning to Judea, Christ replied “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” (John 11:9, KJV). Jesus in such reponse showed an immaculate display of God’s soverignty over time. He knew when His time was (to be cruficied), and that day wasn’t it. Jesus made every hour of His earthly sojourn accountable to the doing of the Will of the Father. Note, at this time, Lazarus whom He loved was also reported sick and on the verge of dying. And even that didn’t sway Jesus from the Will of the Father.
Therefore, lastly, when we use our time knowing that it has been redeemed, we redeem it from our sinful impulses, into doing the Will of the Father. And in doing so, we mirror at best, the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Barnes, hence, beautifully wrote, “He that has a soul to be saved from eternal death, need not have one idle moment. He that has a heaven to win, has enough to do to occupy all his time. Man has just enough given him to accomplish all the purposes which God designs, and God has not given him more than enough.“3 Such is the mind, one born of the Spirit has; for they that are born of the Spirit, has in mind, the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5).
Redeemed time, is a sacred gift, given freely only to the chosen few, to seek Him, and to serve Him; to be more like Him, so that, when the time comes, one may inherit the Kingdom of God, both as His child, and co-heir. We ought to understand, our time has been redeemed, and given to us, freely as a sacred gift. It is not because of who we are, but because, He chose to have compassion on us. We ought to understand, this time is holy, and every hour, minute, and second of it will be held accounted for. This is His time, given to us, for His glory alone. Such understanding should wisen us, seeking deeper into His divine Will, for the employment of such holy time. Such understanding should fill us with a holy fear, knowing, the remainder of our time on earth is not ours but of a God who is thrice Holy. And finally, such understanding should fill us with gratitude (and humility), that as undeserving as we are, a vile sinner, we’ve been given the opportunity to please Him.