Almost two decades deep into the exponentially increasing digital heights of the twenty-first century, I still wear an analog watch. I wake, sit on the edge of my bed, rub my eyes, and reach over to strap time to my wrist. This ticking machine keeps me partially bound to the illusion that the act of wearing a time ruler grants me some measure of control over its domain. With it, I can confidently push to be “on time” to meet my obligations or accomplish my desires. But the reality is that even as I press and discipline myself to be on time, I never truly am. Time is actually on me.
Time is something we generally consider a lot but think little about. What time is it? Our readiness to answer that question authoritatively is a testament to our widespread and general agreement of when it is. But if we ask the deeper question—what is time—authoritative responses become more difficult to provide. When our watches are not synchronized, coordination of effort becomes difficult if not impossible. Agreeing on the when of time drives the global economy and as such is a highly important cultural norm. But not understanding the what of time can expose us to a misplaced eternity.
Ephesians 5:13-17 KJV
13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
If I were to boil down verses 15 and 16 to the pithiness of a fortune cookie, I would write “Be wise, redeem time.” What could be more practical than making the most of every opportunity? Carpe diem! Seize the day! The aphorism is nothing less than a battle cry for success. But when we step back and view the apostle’s admonition in its context we begin to see the deeper implications of this deceptively simple concept. Verse 13 speaks of light, the essence of which defines the true passage of time in our creation. Verse 14 speaks of spiritual awakening and resurrection. It is in this backdrop that we are told to wisely redeem time—ransom it from foolish loss—by understanding the Lord’s desires.
In contrast with this, consider James Black’s classic hymn of hope, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”:
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
We sing of a when within which time does not exist and think it a good thing. But does it reflect a true biblical hope?
Colossians 4:2-6 KJV
2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
We need to make the mystery of Christ manifest through our deeds and words. But we only have a limited time (“the open door”) to do so. This is why we are told to redeem, to buy up, the time. As a shopper hunts for a good bargain, we are to seek out and pounce upon the opportune time to make the light manifest.
The Greek word translated “time” in Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5 is kairos. Another Greek term translated “time” in the King James Version is chronos. Kairos is a segment or season of time; chronos refers to the duration of time. One is the quality (kairos), the other the quantity (chronos). In one sense, kairos is to chronos what rhema (a word from God) is to logos (the whole counsel of God). A mastery over the words of God (rhema) helps us gain an understanding of the Word of God (logos). Conversely, an understanding of the breadth of the logos helps us put the rhemas in context.
In like manner, if we redeem the kairos moments of life, then our time (chronos) will be fruitful. If we have an understanding of the breadth of time (chronos), it will help us put the seasons (kairos) in context. The goal of this study is to gain an understanding of time to better appreciate our need to redeem it. Along the way we should arrive at a deeper awe of God, a true appreciation of what is at stake, an increased faith, and an increased hope.
What are the implications of time? Is time money? How are we to understand the will of the Lord? These are some of the questions we will consider in upcoming posts as we begin to dive into the depths of time.