AWAKE! ARISE FROM THE DEAD!
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-17-57 7:30 p.m.
Now, in our Bible let’s turn to the fifth chapter of the Book of Ephesians. Ephesians 5, we’re going to read the text. We’re going to read the context, the first twenty-one verses. Next Sunday morning, we’ll begin at the twenty-second verse. The text tonight is Ephesians 5:14. Awake! Arise From The Dead! Ephesians 5, do you have it? We’re going to read the first 21 verses. Ephesians 5, all right, let’s read it together.
Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children.
And walk in love as Christ also hath loved us and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.
(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.)
Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Submitting yourself one to another in the fear of Lord. Amen.
Now, the text, "Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give the light." Luther said that there are some texts in the Bible that are little Bibles in themselves, like John 3:16, like Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
This verse, if it is not a whole Bible in itself, is certainly a sermon in itself. First, the sinner and the backslider are addressed. First, they are described. They are asleep. And they are dead. Second, the sinner and the backslider are addressed. "Thou that sleepest, awake. And thou that are dead, arise." And third, the promise and reward of Christ is given. "Christ shall give thee light." That’s a whole message in itself in that one, fine, beautiful and pertinent verse.
So let’s follow it like that. The sinner and the backslider are described. It says, "Thou that sleepest and thou that are dead." A sinner and a backslider is alive and awake to everything in the world. I see so many who are most sensitive and quickened to whatever a profit might be made. Why, they’ll stay up all night long figuring out how to make more money. They’ll turn the night into day. They’ll work all of the hours of Sunday and Saturday just as they would on Monday and Tuesday if there is any idea, any persuasion, any prospect of making any profit in it. They are very alive and very quickened to the prospect. There are many who are most alive and most quickened, they are awake to all of the pleasures of the world.
You can invite them to any kind of a sharing of a happy worldly time, and they’ll be there to help plan it. They’ll be there to pursue it. They’ll drive miles and miles to share it and they’ll stay up all or half or most of the night indulging in it. Just let the world call. Just let the world beckon and they are there with all quickening interest, alive and awake.
But let God call. Let the Holy Spirit call. Let the church call. And they are dead as they are asleep. It’s like talking to stones, "Come, come." They can’t hear. "Please, please," and they’re not awake. "Listen, listen," and they are dead. Why, that is just as fine a characterization of the world as you can ever read. When it says here in my text, "Thou that sleepest," that backslider and, "Thou that are dead," this lost man in trespasses and in sins.
Now, this text addresses them, "Sinner, arise, from the dead," and, backslider, "awake, thou that sleepest." We are to awake to light, and life, and salvation. There’s something to awaken unto.
Do you remember reading in the newspaper – was it two weeks ago, three weeks ago – do you remember reading about that engineer that was driving his train through eastern Oklahoma and at six o’clock in the morning? He pulled that whistle and it blew and it blew. And all of the villagers of the town awakened in madness and in fury; that crazy engineer blowing that whistle; that was at six o’clock in the morning. And at 6:04 in the morning, there came on to that town a tornado that wiped it out. And the only thing that saved them was the blowing and the blowing and blowing of the whistle by that engineer.
I say there is something to awaken to. Here’s a drunk in his stupor, lying between the rails of an oncoming, onrushing train. Wake him. Shake him. "Sir, you lie in the path of a certain oncoming death." That’s exactly what God says about the sinner and the trespasser and the man who’s asleep and dead in trespasses and in sins. Eternity is rushing upon him. The great almighty Day of the Lord is at hand. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, you that are dead." We are to awake. Backslider, we are to awake to the service and ministry and work of our Lord. Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead.
It is impossible to serve God otherwise. A man may talk in his sleep. I’ve heard them. A man may walk in his sleep. I’ve seen them. A man can even preach in his sleep. I’ve heard about it. And I’ve seen preachers in the pulpit – they wish anything in the world they could go up there and rouse him, or shake him, or wake him up, up there, patting some pusillanimous, worn out thoughts and phrases. You can preach in your sleep. But there’s one thing you can’t do, you can’t work in your sleep. You can’t do it. To work, you have to be wide awake.
When the Lord God found Moses, he was tending his father-in-law’s sheep. And when God found Gideon, he was in the threshing floor. And when Elijah found Elisha, he was plowing with oxen. And when Jesus found Simon Peter, he was fishing. And when Jesus found Matthew, he was at the receipt of customs. And God can’t use us if we are dead and if we are asleep. We have to be awake. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead."
Now, in this task and in this ministry of the Lord, I may not have all of the ingenuous wisdom and knowledge that I need, but I can be at ease after it and I can be alive and I can be quickened and I can be awake. I can be interested. I can be there with my eye open. I can be there ready, interested to help, to encourage, do anything I can with a living personality, a throbbing heart and a dedicated soul and life, and I’d be able to contribute.
You know what? When I go around here and look at some of these people, they remind me of that thing that I saw over there in Disneyland about a week ago. Nothing would do those preachers out there but that I would go to Disneyland. So they made an extra trip over there for me to go through Disneyland. Well, you ought to go. If I have a little boy or a little girl, it would be worth a trip to take a vacation out there and take them through Disneyland.
Well, right in the middle of Disneyland, they have an old-time village, just like it was in the pioneer days. And you go around there and it looks exactly – they’ve got an exact replica with everything as it was hundred years ago. And you walk around there.
Well, of the things that you’ll see as you walk down Main Street in Disneyland, in that part of it where they built those pioneer villages, one thing is they have a wooden Indian stuck out there, right in front of an old-time cigar store. Now, I’d seen them advertise antiques and I heard it referred to, but I never had seen a wooden Indian before in front of a cigar store. That’s the way they used to designate a cigar store. They’d take a wooden Indian in front of it.
Well, I walked over there and got acquainted with him. There he was, standing out there in all of the likeness of life. And as I looked at him, I thought, "Chief Powwow, whoever you are, you remind me exactly of some of my Sunday school teachers. You remind me of some of my Training Union leaders. You remind me of some of like some of my church members." Oh my soul, I could make them in a carpenter shop. I could. I could. I could whittle on them. They’d be just as wooden as they could be. Whatever they do, they do dull and lifeless and mechanically. Ah, "awake thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead."
I say, we may not have all of the knowledge that we’d like and all of the ingenuous experience and wisdom that we’d like, but anybody can be awake. Anybody can open his eyes. Anybody can act interested. Anybody can put a zeal into it.
When you sing, sing. And if Billy doesn’t like it because you sing too loud, bring the case to me. We’ll change Mr. Souther. Sing. And when you come to church, come to church. And when you work in the Sunday school, work in it. When you are work in the Training Union, work in it. The WMU, Brotherhood, work in them. Be alive. Be quick. Don’t be dead. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead."
You know, when you go around and look at folks some of them are like a pile of shavings and you pour kerosene on it and for just a while it just burns furiously and then it’s all gone out again. Oh, we don’t need that. We need a great commitment; today, tomorrow, and the next day. Right down here, zealous and alive, interested, glowing with great enthusiasm. Oh, we have our down time, and we have our up, too. We have our discouragements, but we have our encouragements, too.
We have our defeats, but we have our victories, too. It comes night, but the day is just beyond. It’s in the winter, I know, but spring is just on the other side. That’s the spirit. That’s the way. Stay in with the thing.
I heard an old farmer describing his well. He said, "You know, that’s the best well in all of the world. That’s the best well in all of this world." He said, "It’s the best well in all of this world except this, it freezes up in the winter time and it dries up in the summer." That’s the way with some of my church members. They’re the best church members in all of this world. The only thing is, it is too cold for them in the wintertime and it is too hot for them in the summertime. Ah, let’s not be that way. What a great open door God hath committed to us and that enter in and to stay with it zealously, and triumphantly, and wonderfully, and gladly.
In my reading, I came across once again that great, old veteran missionary, Dr. Duff who had spent his life in India. And now, an old-white-haired man, he had come back to Scotland where they had sent him out and he was making an appeal to the General Assembly meeting in Edinburgh. And while he was pouring out his life and his soul in behalf of the evangelization of the world, the old man collapsed and fainted there in the pulpit and they took him out.
And the doctors worked over him and after a while, he came back to. And when he came to, he looked around him and he said, "I haven’t finished my speech. I haven’t finished my message. Take me back." And the doctor said to him, "Sir, if you do that you do it at the peril of your life." He said, "I said take me back."
And he stood up and they escorted him back into the great auditorium, and when he walked into the door and on the platform, that great, old veteran missionary, with his hair white as snow, the thing I read said that all of the people spontaneously stood up. And when he walked up into the pulpit again to finish his message, unbidden tears came to all of their eyes as they listened to the impassioned appeal of the old veteran white-headed missionary. That’s what we need. That’s what we need. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead."
And the second part of that, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise: And arise." It is possible. It is imaginable. It is thinkable that somebody could awake, but he wouldn’t arise. I could think of that with regard to a lost man. He is quickened by the Spirit and he hears the message of the preacher and he knows the plan of salvation. And there is conviction in his heart. "And I know I ought to be saved. I ought not to die lost. I ought to give my heart to God. I want to trust the Lord as my Savior." I can imagine that. He’s awake. He’s been quickened. But I can also easily imagine that he’d say, "No, no, not tonight, some other time. No, not today, some other hour."
"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise." Come to the Lord. Bless my soul, here I am up and on the way. Arise, arise, arise. And I can imagine that also in regard to some of us who are Christians who are awake. We are awake. We are sensitive to the work of the Lord, but we haven’t arisen, we haven’t committed ourselves. We haven’t done it.
Ah, the field and ripe unto the harvest, but we haven’t put in our sickle. I can imagine that. That’s thinkable. I just see it all of the time. Somebody could easily say, "But Pastor, I’m not on the soul-winning committee. I haven’t been elected to such and such position."
Tell me, if you were to see a house on fire, would you wait to be appointed on a committee to say, "Fire, fire, the house is burning down?" If you saw a man fall in the river and he’s struggling for his life, would you wait to be appointed on a committee or elected to an office to save the man’s life? Would you? It is just as logical to say, "I have to be elected by the church and I have to be appointed officially on a committee of the church before I put in my sickle into this white unto the harvest field." O my brother, we’re all elected. We’re all elected back. We all are committed men. We all are chosen of God. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise."
Any day is a good day to work for the Lord. The organization of a church is incidental. It is just by the way. The great, main purpose of the church is its witnessing to the lost of the world, and in that all of us are called and all of us can share. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise. Arise, and Christ shall give thee light, light, light," the light of life, and of salvation, and of glory, and of reward, and of eternity. "In Christ thou shall give thee light." [Ephesians 5:14]
Some of you have been initiated into a great and famous fraternal order. In that initiation, you are led into darkness. And the one that leads says in the midst of that darkness, "And what do you seek?" And your answer is, "Light, light."
"And Christ shall give thee light." When we wake up to all of the import and meaning of the gospel message of Christ, it first is a fearful thing. Awful thing. When we first are quickened and awake and open our eyes to see, and the revelation of God falls full upon us, oh, the fury of those consuming, thundering, mountainous revelations. God is a consuming fire. And the wrath of the Almighty and the judgment day of the Lord and the abyss of hell, ah, what fearful and awful things do we read in God’s Book.
That’s why so many times in the modern ministry and in the modern pulpit, you never hear any sermon nor ever hear any reference to the judgment of Almighty God. It is a fearful thing and we push it aside.
Cleopatra used to kill all of the messengers that brought to her bad news. Jeremiah was never popular. There is in this Word of God a fearful and an awful revelation. To die outside of Christ is to die forever. To face God without an advocate and a Savior is to be shut out forever. And however a man might minimize the fires and the fury and the flames of hell, they are real if the other is real. If there is no fire in hell, there is no gold in heaven. If there is no Satan, there’s no Savior. If there is no damnation, there’s no salvation. They’re all in the same language, in the same Book, in the same revelation.
Any man that walks in this world, he’ll find the things just exactly like God says. There is sin here, and darkness here, and damnation here, and separation here, and tears here, and sorrow here, and death here. I see it everywhere. Shall I therefore close my eyes to God’s revelation of that meaning? I say, when we first awaken to that revelation of God, it is an awful thing.
Here’s a man living in this world and he’s oblivious to the abyss. He’s oblivious to the fires of hell. He drinks and he carouses and he lives in pleasure and sin. But it longs to receive him, Hell is moved to receive thee at thy coming. He is awakened and quickened, and lo, then a fire burns and the awful night and the darkness and the judgment and wrath of Almighty God.
"And they cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them, for the great day of His wrath has come and who shall be able to stand? [Revelation 6:16, 17] But ah, that’s the message that we preach. "Awake, thou that sleepest." Arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee the glory light of life, and salvation, and deliverance. That’s the message of Christ. Sin is real. And judgment is real. And hell is real. And the fire is real. And the day of our final rendezvous there with God is real.
But there are other things that are real. Jesus is real. And the cross is real. And the resurrection is real. And His ascension is real. And His intercession, His mediatorship is real. And His coming and triumph are real. And His saints are real. And His salvation is real. And the change that can come in a man’s heart is real. And the things that God can do for a man are real. They are not fictitious. They are not just things that you thought up. They are things that we have experienced that we know and by thousands we can testify here every Lord’s Day.
There, there, and there, and men and women and everywhere, the realest thing in my life, this gift of God in Christ Jesus. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
Would you stand up tonight? Somebody you; a family you, would you stand up tonight? Would you come down that aisle? Arising, "Here I come. Here I am. Bless God, bless God, here I come and here I am." Would you? Would you? "Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." It could come tonight in your soul and heart. It’ll burst into a dawn, greater, sweeter, and more beautiful than the earth on the Lord’s Day next.
And when I see you again, it will be still finer and greater and sweeter dawning unto the perfect day, sweeter as the years go by. I say again, I’ve stood by the side of these saints of God who have lived their lives in the faith of the Lord. And I never heard one yet, not yet, say to me, "Pastor, I regret the day I walked down the aisle and gave the preacher my hand and my heart to God."
I’ve never heard it said, never. But I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard them say, "Pastor, I settled that with Jesus years and years ago. And this is now the day of my final victory." This is triumph. This is glory. This is homecoming. This is God. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light," dawning, brighter, fuller, until we see the effulgence of Christ Himself, the vision beatific. Would you? Would you? While we stand and while we sing.