Ephesians 5:14: To Whom Is the Exhortation Addressed?

The fourth ζήτημα/question that I proposed in § 1 is, Whether the speech here is directed to the regenerate and believing alone; or to the unregenerate, who, in a natural state after the fall, yet lie insensible in their errors and sins in the sleep of spiritual death? An answer to this question is almost able to be returned from those things that have already been set forth in § 11 for the illustration of the oracle of Isaiah, Isaiah 60:1-3.  That the twofold or repeated admonition of Paul is to be referred to the same class of men, by whom it was to be turned into practice, I think to be sufficiently evident, because the address is made under only one name, ὁ καθεύδων, thou that sleepest, to which καθεύδοντι/sleeper it is commanded, ἔγειρε καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, awake and arise from the dead.  Moreover, one may observe that a twofold metaphorical expression occurs here, whereby, if we wish to speak properly, the Apostle will exhort to conversion and repentance:  it is well-known that grand duty of the sinner eager for salvation is wont to be set forth in diverse metaphorical expression, borrowed from natural matters quite diverse.  But, that Repentance and Conversion are either first, or second and daily:  that hence this same duty in the same words is wont to be imposed both on natural men, hitherto destitute of all spiritual life, faith, and practice of good works, who require a change of their entire state and life; and on regenerate believers, but either fallen again into a great sin, or, because of the indwelling remnants of native corruption and the flesh, still often, indeed daily, stumbling and tottering, who hence always have a need to put off and cast away the relics of the old man:  novices have learned from the first principles of theological training.  Thus in particular both sleep and death are common emblems in the Sacred Books, both of the natural state of misery after the fall, comparing Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Matthew 8:22; Ephesians 2:1; and of spiritual torpor and carnal security in the regenerate, through which these are yet made like unto ψυχικοῖς/sensual men externally, comparing Song of Solomon 5:2; Matthew 25:5; Revelation 3:1:  just as sleep elsewhere comes figuratively for the natural death of the body, comparing John 11:11, 13; 1 Corinthians 11:30, and is able to be used metaphorically in various respects, either for the cessation of natural life simply (see ÆLIAN’S[1] Variam Historiam, book II, chapter XXXV, Ὁ Γοργίας ἔφη· Ἤδη με ὁ ὕπνος ἄρχεται παρακατατίθεσθαι τῷ ἀδελφῷ, Gorgias[2] said, Just now sleep is going to deliver me up to his brother, SCHEFFER[3] everywhere), or for the welcome peace and refreshment that believers enjoy in death, or for the want of spiritual life and motion and the errors arising thereupon:  and both sleep and death are able to be taken in a spiritual sense more or less intensively, either of a total lack of life and activity, or of the remainders of native corruption and of the very tenuous indications of spiritual life, but through which one, himself ἡμιθανὴς/half-dead and quite similar to the dead, escapes.  Moreover, in the same manner the situation holds with the duties that will be prescribed to the sleeping and the dead of this sort, Awake and rise from the dead; in which words the Apostle summarily requires that sleepers, with torpor shaken off, show themselves living and eager in fulfilling every good work in a manner agreeable to the welcome day that had begun to dawn upon them; an admonition of which sort again is able to be directed both to natural men and to regenerate and believing men according to the style of Sacred Scripture, each of whom according to that is bound to comport himself in a manner in keeping with his spiritual state, comparing 2 Timothy 2:26; John 5:25 in comparison with John 11:43; Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Romans 6:13; Revelation 3:2.  But I think that now the Apostolic use of this prophetic admonition in our text, which appeared to have been established skillfully and in a manner agreeable to the argument of the Isaianic prophecy in § 11, implies of itself that men, hitherto altogether destitute of spiritual life and devoid of faith and every truly good work, understand the same thing to be said to them in the fullest sense and with the utmost emphasis; but that at the same time true believers, spiritual men, hence learn to walk worthily of their state and vocation, and gather just how disgraceful it is for them to return to their former state of spiritual sleep and death; and so they shake off all torpor and sloth, watch against the weakness and slowness of the flesh, and proceed in subjugating the remnants of native corruption, and in exercising whatever spiritual operations pleasing to God with the greatest alacrity.  Neither on that account does any inane tautology, unworthy of the sacred Writer, obtain here, although the twofold admonition be referred to the same subjects, each in their own way, and exhort to one great duty in the totality of the matter.  But the Apostle thus makes use of synonymy or exergasia, a figure well-known to Rhetoricians, and common and a favorite to all the best writers; so that this admonition might sound so much more gravely and eloquently, and under a twofold, diverse metaphor there might depict more elegantly and vividly their miserable native and former state, from which he wishes to turn each one, and their holy and fitting duty, which he is eager to inculcate concerning the same.  That to this matter the force of the words קוּם/arise and ἐγείρεσθαι/arise furnished amply opportunity, which are used of the rousing and aring from sleep and death equally, has already been treated in § 11.  And that by the emblem of sleep conjoined with the state of death there is no lessening of the magnitude of native corruption, of the impotence of man in the state of the fall to accomplish spiritual good, and of the divine power requisite for the conversion of man, TRIGLAND warns against the Remonstrants, Antapologia, chapter XXXI, page 432a; but, as these things are signified by the emblem of death and of resurrection and vivification from that by the Spirit; so he observes that the emblem of sleep especially makes for the detestable idleness of man to be converted.  CHRYSOSTOM, in Epistolam ad Ephesios, homily XVIII, page 128, tome II, the edition of Montfaucon:  Διὸ λέγει, ἔγειραι ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός· καθεύδοντα καὶ νεκρὸν, τὸν ἐν ἁμαρτίαις φησί· καὶ γὰρ δυσωδίας πνεῖ, ὡς ὁ νεκρὸς, καὶ ἀνενεργητός ἐστιν, ὡς ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ οὐδὲν ὁρᾷ, ὡς ἐκεῖνος, ἀλλ᾽ ὀνειρώττει καὶ φαντάζεται. Ἀλλ᾽ οὐ περὶ τῶν ἀπίστων τοῦτο μόνον φασί· πολλοὶ γὰρ τῶν πιστῶν, οὐδὲν ἧττον τῶν ἀπίστων τῆς κακίας ἔχονται· εἰσὶ δὲ, οἱ καὶ πολλῷ μᾶλλον. διὸ καὶ πρὸς τούτους ἀναγκαῖον εἰπεῖν, ἔγειραι ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός, Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light: By the sleeper and the dead, he means the man that is in sin; for he both exhales foul odors like the dead, and is inactive like one that is asleep, and like him he sees nothing, but is dreaming and forming illusions.  But he is not saying this of unbelievers only, for many believers, no less than unbelievers, are held fast by wickedness; indeed, some far more. Therefore, to these also it is necessary to exclaim, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

[1] Claudius Ælianus (c. 175-c. 235) was a Roman rhetorician and teacher.

[2] Gorgias (c. 485-c. 380 BC) was a Greek Sophist of Leontini, Sicily.

[3] Johannes Schefferus (1621-1679) was a Swedish humanist.  Schefferus produced notes on some portions of Ælian’s Variæ Historiæ.

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