Hey, Wake Up!

By Mark D. Roberts

July 23, 2019

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:11-14


“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” I can’t read Ephesians 5:14 without hearing echoes of my father standing at the foot of the stairs exhorting me to get out of bed. I don’t think my dad ever quoted this verse, but he certainly might have done so. When I was a teenager, needing ample sleep I rarely got, waking me up in the morning was rather like raising the dead.

someone leaning back on Capilano Suspension Bridge, West Vancouver, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, West Vancouver, Canada

Ephesians 5:14 includes a quotation, but not from a father urging his son to get up. Most scholars believe that the “Wake up, sleeper” quotation comes from an early Christian hymn, one that may well have been used in the context of baptism.

In Ephesians 5, this snippet from early Christian worship serves two purposes. I’ll examine the first today and look at the second tomorrow.

As you may recall, verse 14 comes at the end of a passage that uses the imagery of light and darkness to exhort us to “live as children of light” by refraining from partnership with “the fruitless deeds of darkness.” Instead, we are to expose them so that those who do them might be drawn to the light of Christ.

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw that the purpose of exposing dark deeds is not punitive, but redemptive. As the light shines upon the darkness, showing its true nature, those who traffic in darkness turn away from their evil deeds to the Lord and his light. They can become “light in the Lord” and “children of light,” just like those of us who have already turned to God and been transformed by his light.

Our message to those who live in darkness resonates with the ancient baptismal hymn: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” This is the good news we share with those who live in darkness, those who, according to Ephesians 2:1, are “dead” in their “transgressions and sins,” just as we once were. Through the light of our lives, we not only reveal the true nature of darkness, but also we invite the “sleepers” in darkness to rise from the dead and live in the light of Christ.

Thus the hymn in verse 14 underscores the redemptive purpose of exposing the darkness. We are saying to others, in effect, what was once said to us: Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the deadness of sin and its darkness. Turn to God and his grace, and Christ will shine on you. You too can become light in the Lord, light that shines into the darkness so that others might turn to the one true light, Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Something to Think About:

In what ways, in word and in deed, do you invite others to live in the light of Christ?

Do you see your life as an essential part of God’s redemptive work in the world?

How might this vision of life affect the way you work today? The way you treat your colleagues? The way you act in the world?

Something to Do:

Talk with your small group or a Christian friend about how you might live in such a way that people are drawn to new life in Christ.


Gracious God, thank you for waking me up from my slumber, for raising me from the deadness of sin. Thank you for shining on me with your light, transforming me so that I might be your child, a child of the light. Help me, Lord, to shine with your light into the world. May I be an agent of the good news of your redemptive love. May my words and deeds draw people to you. Use me, I pray, in your saving, renewing work. To you be all the glory! Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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