Redeeming the Time

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Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians still applies. Christ wants us to take every opportunity to boldly confront our pagan culture so lost people can be redeemed.

Ken Ham

illustration by Viktor Miller-Gausa

Ken Ham
Answers in Genesis

Like many of the Apostle Paul’s letters, the book of Ephesians is divided into beliefs (chapters 1–3) and practice (chapters 4–6). One of the “practice” verses I remember my father using is Ephesians 5:16: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

My parents took this verse to heart and did their best to take whatever opportunity arose to proclaim God’s Word and the saving gospel message. As a young boy, when we visited my grandparent’s farmhouse in North Queensland, I remember my mother telling us how as a young teen, she would ride her bicycle to pick up two young girls who didn’t have any other way of getting to Sunday school. She would ride five miles with these children on her bike to ensure they could be taught God’s Word.

Just that story had a great impact on my life. My mother’s example challenged me to do whatever I could to ensure people heard the gospel message. So that I could help our children and our children’s children understand their heritage, I interviewed my mother on video when she was 87 years old. I specifically asked her about those two girls. She had met them again just a couple of years before my interview. One of them was really going on for the Lord, and the other said she was going to come back to the Lord. Those Sunday school lessons had a real impact on them.

Since my father was a teacher and transferred every three years as he was promoted, I watched my parents start Sunday schools in several different country areas, and bring in evangelists so that families could hear the truth of the Bible and the salvation message.

As I look back on this, I realize that my parents were doing what God through Paul instructs us in Ephesians 5:16. Look at the verse and the meanings of the three main Greek words:

Redeem has a meaning akin to buying someone out of slavery, just as Christ redeemed us out of slavery because of our sin. We need to buy up every opportunity to help people out of their bad situation.

The Greek word translated time isn’t about hours, minutes, and seconds. It’s not about wristwatches or other timepieces. It really means “opportunity.”

The Greek word translated evil means “hurtful, evil in effect, calamitous, diseased, derelict and vicious.” These same adjectives could be applied in our own culture when we look at the news headlines.

So we are being told in this verse to make the best of every opportunity, to do what we can to see people taken out of their bad situation. They are on the road to eternal separation from God as a consequence of sin and the effects of the evil world we live in.

And that’s my challenge to each of us. What are we doing in “redeeming the time”?

The church at Ephesus is mentioned specifically among the seven churches that received letters from the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation (2:1–7). The Christians in this church were diligent to hold to the doctrines of the faith. But our Lord warned, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

I believe this means they no longer had the zeal to reach the culture as they once had. In Ephesians 4–6 Paul had earlier told these Christians to apply their beliefs practically in three areas: in the local church (which Revelation 2 indicates they were still doing), in their homes (and I believe they were doing this also), and in the world (and this is where I believe they had lost their first love).

Paul set the example when he first visited Ephesus. He boldly preached against the idolatry of the day. According to Acts 19, many turned away from their idols when Paul unashamedly confronted the pagan religion of his day. But this caused an uproar. Paul was persecuted because of his boldness in doing whatever he could to “redeem the time” so people would leave their evil ways and receive Christ’s free gift of salvation.

Perhaps the Ephesians were no longer being bold in confronting the idolatry in their culture as Paul did. I suggest this is why they “left their first love.”

Yes, “the days are evil,” and our time here on earth is short. But reaching others with the saving gospel while we are here has eternal importance.

The battle between God’s Word and man’s word (that battle between good and evil), which started in Genesis 3, hasn’t changed. The gospel message hasn’t changed. The book of Ephesians is as much for individuals as it is for the whole church today. We need to stand on God’s Word and adhere to the doctrines God has revealed to us. And we need to apply God’s Word daily in our homes, in our local churches, and in the world.

What is each of us doing to “redeem the time?” Yes, “the days are evil,” and our time here on earth is short. But reaching others with the saving gospel while we are here has eternal importance.

Are we using every opportunity that comes before us to affect hearts and minds for the Lord, prayerful that many will receive His free gift of salvation and live in heaven with their Creator and Savior forever?

Ken Ham is the founder and president of Answers in Genesis–US. He has edited and authored many books about the authority of God’s Word and the impact of evolutionary thinking on our culture, including Already Compromised and The Lie.

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