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Ephesians 5:14

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Wherefore he saith - It is a matter of doubt and controversy whence this saying is derived. Some think it taken from Isaiah 26:19; : Thy dead men shall live; with my dead body shall they arise; Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, etc. Others think that it is taken from Isaiah 60:1-3; : Arise, shine; for thy light is come, etc. But these passages neither give the words nor the meaning of the apostle. Epiphanius supposed them to be taken from an ancient prophecy of Elijah, long since lost: Syncellus and Euthalius think they were taken from an apocryphal work attributed to Jeremiah the prophet: others, that they made part of a hymn then used in the Christian Church; for that there were, in the apostle's time, hymns and spiritual songs, as well as psalms, we learn from himself, in Ephesians 5:19, and from Colossians 3:16. The hymn is supposed to have begun thus: -

Εγειραι ὁ καθευδων,π

Και αναστα εκ των νεκρων,π

Επιφαυσει σοι ὁ Χριστος.

Awake, O thou who sleepest,

And from the dead arise thou,

And Christ shall shine upon thee.

See Rosenmuller, Wolf, and others. But it seems more natural to understand the words he saith as referring to the light, i.e. the Gospel, mentioned Ephesians 5:13. And the διο λεγει should be translated, Wherefore It saith, Awake thou, etc. that is: This is the general, the strong, commanding voice of the Gospel in every part - Receive instruction; leave thy sins, which are leading thee to perdition; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will enlighten and save thee.

As a man asleep neither knows nor does any thing that can be called good or useful, so the Gentiles and all others, while without the knowledge of Christianity, had not only no proper knowledge of vice and virtue, but they had no correct notion of the true God.

As the dead can perform no function of life, so the Gentiles and the unconverted were incapable of performing any thing worthy either of life or being. But though they were asleep - in a state of complete spiritual torpor, yet they might be awoke by the voice of the Gospel; and though dead to all goodness, and to every function of the spiritual life, yet, as their animal life was whole in them, and perception and reason were still left, they were capable of hearing the Gospel, and under that influence which always accompanies it when faithfully preached, they could discern its excellency, and find it to be the power of God to their salvation. And they are addressed by the apostle as possessing this capacity; and, on their using it properly, have the promise that Christ shall enlighten them.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore he saith - Margin, or “it.” Διὸ λέγει Dio legeiThe meaning may be, either that the Lord says, or the Scripture. Much difficulty has been experienced in endeavoring 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 Isaiah 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 the notes on the passage.

To make it refer to those to whom the gospel comes, is most forced and unnatural. Others have supposed that the reference is to Isaiah 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 pagan 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 pagan 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” in Ephesians 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 Jennings (Jewish Ant. 2:252), suppose that the reference is to a song or hymn that was sung by the early Christians, beginning in this manner, arid 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 pagan. 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.

(The grand objection to this view of our author is, that the apostle evidently introduces a citation. In the writings of Paul, the form διὸ λέγει dio legeiis never used in any other sense. Whence then is the quotation taken? There is nothing absurd in supposing, with Scott and Guyse, that the apostle gives the general sense of the Old Testament prophecies con cerning the calling of the Gentiles. But Isaiah 60:1-3, bears a sufficiently close resemblance to the passage in Ephesians, to vindicate the very commonly received opinion, that the apostle quotes that prophecy, in which the subject is the increase of the Church by the accession of the pagan nations. The church is called to arise and shine, and the apostle reminds the converted Ephesians of their lofty vocation. It forms no very serious objection, that between the place in Isaiah and that in Ephesians, there are certain verbal discrepancies. No one will make much of this, who remembers, nat in a multitude of cases similar variations occur, the apostles contenting themselves with giving the sense of the places to which they refer. “Accordingly,” says Dr. Dodridge, “the sense of tire passage before us is so fairly deducible from the words of Isaiah, that I do not see any necessity of having recourse to this supposition,” namely, that the quotation was from an apocryphal book ascribed to Jeremiah.)

Awake thou that sleepest - Arouse from a state of slumber and false security. “Sleep and death” are striking representations of the state in which people are by nature. In “sleep” we are, though living, insensible to any danger that may be near; we are unconscious of what may he 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 the notes on Ephesians 2:1. People 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 speak thus to people, and commands them to rise from the death of sin. Therefore, learn:

(1) That people 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 the John 1:4, note, 9, note; John 8:12, note notes; Hebrews 1:3, note. The idea here is, that it 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 shall 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 wire 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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Filthy lusts must be rooted out. These sins must be dreaded and detested. Here are not only cautions against gross acts of sin, but against what some may make light of. But these things are so far from being profitable. that they pollute and poison the hearers. Our cheerfulness should show itself as becomes Christians, in what may tend to God's glory. A covetous man makes a god of his money; places that hope, confidence, and delight, in worldly good, which should be in God only. Those who allow themselves, either in the lusts of the flesh or the love of the world, belong not to the kingdom of grace, nor shall they come to the kingdom of glory. When the vilest transgressors repent and believe the gospel, they become children of obedience, from whom God's wrath is turned away. Dare we make light of that which brings down the wrath of God? Sinners, like men in the dark, are going they know not whither, and doing they know not what. But the grace of God wrought a mighty change in the souls of many. Walk as children of light, as having knowledge and holiness. These works of darkness are unfruitful, whatever profit they may boast; for they end in the destruction of the impenitent sinner. There are many ways of abetting, or taking part in the sins of others; by commendation, counsel, consent, or concealment. And if we share with others in their sins, we must expect to share in their plagues. If we do not reprove the sins of others, we have fellowship with them. A good man will be ashamed to speak of what many wicked men are not ashamed to do. We must have not only a sight and a knowledge that sin is sin, and in some measure shameful, but see it as a breach of God's holy law. After the example of prophets and apostles, we should call on those asleep and dead in sin, to awake and arise, that Christ may give them light.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 320

Jesus changed the mother's grief to joy when He gave back her son; yet the youth was but called forth to this earthly life, to endure its sorrows, its toils, and its perils, and to pass again under the power of death. But Jesus comforts our sorrow for the dead with a message of infinite hope: “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, ... and have the keys of hell and of death.” “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:14, 15. DA 320.1

Satan cannot hold the dead in his grasp when the Son of God bids them live. He cannot hold in spiritual death one soul who in faith receives Christ's word of power. God is saying to all who are dead in sin, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.” Ephesians 5:14. That word is eternal life. As the word of God which bade the first man live, still gives us life; as Christ's word, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise,” gave life to the youth of Nain, so that word, “Arise from the dead,” is life to the soul that receives it. God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Colossians 1:13. It is all offered us in His word. If we receive the word, we have the deliverance. DA 320.2

And “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. This is the word of comfort wherewith He bids us comfort one another. DA 320.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (EGW), 1165

26 (Psalm 51:10). How the New Heart Is Kept—One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the Word of God is that of David when he plead, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” God's response to such a prayer is, A new heart will I give you. This is a work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul. They are to labor earnestly and with humility of heart, each one looking to Jesus for guidance and encouragement. Then the building, fitly framed together, will grow into a holy temple in the Lord (Letter 224, 1907). 4BC 1165.1

1-10. What Can Man's Power Do?—At one time the prophet Ezekiel was in vision set down in the midst of a large valley. Before him lay a dismal scene. Throughout its whole extent the valley was covered with the bones of the dead. The question was asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” The prophet replied, “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” What could the might and power of man accomplish with these dead bones? The prophet could see no hope of life being imparted to them. But as he looked, the power of God began to work. The scattered bones were shaken, and began to come together, “bone to his bone,” and were bound together by sinews. They were covered with flesh, and as the Lord breathed upon the bodies thus formed, “the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Manuscript 85, 1903). 4BC 1165.2

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 95.2

If you are closely connected with Jesus Christ, the Source of light and wisdom, you may become strong men and women in Christ. We are so willing to be content without any special evidence of our nearness to God that we fail where we might make a success. Every provision has been made by Jesus that we might not only believe an unpopular truth but that we might have joy in Him. The truth works by love and faith works by love, and it purifies the soul.... TDG 95.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 451

What greater delusion can deceive the human mind than that in which individuals flatter themselves that they have the truth, that they are on the only sure foundation, and that God accepts their works because they are actively engaged in some work in the cause of God, when they are sinning against Him by walking contrary to the expressed will of God? They work mechanically, like machinery; but preparation of heart, the sanctification of the character, is wanting. Sacred and holy things are brought down to the level of common things, and a commonness, a cheapness, is working itself into our churches. The service is degenerating into little else than form. TM 451.1

The standard must be elevated. The work must have a higher mold. There must be a coming out from the customs and practices of the world and being separate. There must be a coming up upon a higher platform by both ministers and people. There must be much more of Jesus and His meekness, His lowliness, His humility, His self-denial, His purity, His true goodness and nobility of character, brought into the experience and characters of all who claim to be acting any part in the sacred work of God. TM 451.2

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