Guest article by Jacob Tanner

Our Lord Jesus has no time for lazy and idle followers. Scripture is replete with warnings against those who would be slothful. In the Old Testament, there are warnings such as Proverbs 24:33–34: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” In the New Testament, entire parables are devoted to warning those who are prone to wastefulness with God’s resources, as in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14–30), wherein a man who failed to do anything with the resources his master had entrusted to his care is judged and punished by his master. Jesus explains, in Matthew 25:29–30, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” The servant who lazily failed to do anything with what his master had entrusted to him is called worthless and cast into darkness and the one who fails to wisely use the time God has given them is an equally unprofitable and wicked servant of the Lord.

Time, then, is a gift from God and a resource to be utilized wisely to glorify the Lord and further His Kingdom on earth. Perhaps the greatest summary of this concept is offered in Ephesians 5:16. Here, we find a simple, yet instructive and instrumental commandment for God’s people: Redeem the time.

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Jonathan Edwards, that great American theologian, understood the necessity of redeeming the time that God has allotted to each one of us. One of his sermons, The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It, based on Ephesians 5:16, explains these concepts in depth. Examining the preciousness of time, he states the following truths:

Time is precious for the following reasons:

First, because a happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it…

Second, time is very short, which is another thing that renders it very precious…

Third, time ought to be esteemed by us very precious, because we are uncertain of its continuance…

Fourth, time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered. If we have lived fifty, or sixty, or seventy years, and have not improved our time, now it cannot be helped. It is eternally gone from us. All that we can do, is to improve the little that remains. Yea, if a man have spent all his life but a few moments unimproved, all that is gone is lost, and only those few remaining moments can possibly be made his own. And if the whole of a man’s time be gone, and it be all lost, it is irrecoverable.[1]

Time is precious because eternity depends upon our use of it. What exactly did Edwards mean by this? Nothing less than the fact that our eternity hinges upon what we do with our earthly lives. For example, the one who repents of their sin and, by faith, flees to Christ and cleaves to Him, will find their eternity provided for. Their sins will all be forgiven by Christ, eternal life granted, and where Jesus is, there they will also one day be (Jn. 14:3). But the one who rejects Christ has no such promises to cling to, but only a certain fearful looking for of the fiery judgment that awaits them (Heb. 10:27).

At the same time, though God in His sovereignty will bring His Kingdom to fulness, there is a sense in which the establishment of the Kingdom, the spread of the gospel, the saving of souls, and the reformation of society depends on Christians making the best use of the time they are allotted. This is why an eschatology of hope, like the one Edwards clung to, is so vitally important.

Far too many today are wasting the precious time God has gifted them with. They look at the evil around them and, instead of living by faith rather than sight (2 Cor. 5:7), they trust only what their eyes can see rather than what God has promised through His Word. “Oh dear me,” they regretfully lament, “Things are quite bad. Wars, rumors of wars… Critical race theory and an ever-expanding LGBTQ+ agenda… A godless society and turmoil all around… I thank God that He’s going to get me out of here before things really get bad.” And, then, with their eschatology of defeat in full view, they huddle together and sing “Kumbaya,” hoping Jesus comes back soon to get them out of the world.

What terrible waste of time! In their despair, they fail to grasp God’s promises by faith. In fear, they fail to proclaim the gospel. Afraid of being labeled a Christian Nationalist, they never lift a finger to see God’s Law become the laws of the land, or Scripture the basis of society’s worldview. They think they may put off until tomorrow what they ought to have done today, and fail to realize what Edwards belabors to explain in points two through four: Our earthly lives have a limit and we know not when that limit will expire!

Some, in their slothfulness, continually put off what ought to be done immediately. It is little surprise when the sinner puts off coming to Jesus; they cannot come, after all, except they be drawn (John 6:44). But how awful when the Christian puts off their coming to Jesus or their obedience to His Word. They ask, “Why pray when it can be done later? Why read Scripture when it can be done tomorrow? Why kill sin when it can be done the next time? Why share the gospel when I’m sure to see them again? Why go to church when it can be done next Sunday?” And they don’t realize that their laziness indites them before the Holy God of the Universe. They do not recognize that their presumption about there being a tomorrow, or a next time, is a sin of presuming upon the goodness and mercy of God (Luke 12:16–21). None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, let alone the next minute. So, we ought to continually live for Christ now.

We ought to be those who redeem the time by trusting God’s promises by faith, knowing that as bad as things may seem from our mortal vantage points, God is building His Church and the gates of Hell will never prevail against it (Matt. 16:17–19). With an eschatology of hope, the urgency of redeeming our allotted time is clear: Why would we want to be found idle or slothful when we know our Lord is both building His Kingdom and conquering His enemies?

For Edwards, the significance of time made it of far greater value than any other kind of earthly riches that might be obtained within this world. Again, he explained:

Eternity depends on the improvement of time. But when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it, or another space in which to prepare for eternity. If a man should lose the whole of his worldly substance, and become a bankrupt, it is possible that his loss may be made up. He may have another estate as good. But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. All opportunity of obtaining eternal welfare is utterly and everlastingly gone.[2]

It’s a profound truth. Lose all your money, and you may have a chance to build a new fortune. Lose all your possessions, and you may have the opportunity to buy new items. But, if you lose your time, there is no chance of recovery to be had. It is a precious commodity to be utilized well.

Jesus is the great example of one who understood the preciousness of time. He is also our example to understand what redeeming time looks like in the life of the Christian. During His earthly ministry, He walked the earth for about thirty-three years, and only a little over three of those years were devoted to public ministry. Even so, Jesus redeemed the time the Father had allotted Him. Through the Holy Spirit, He cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the gospel, ushering in His Kingdom. The four Gospel accounts of the New Testament do not lie: Jesus lived a life of redeemed time. He made the most of every single moment and did not fail to utilize His time wisely in accomplishing His mission.

Christians today have a mission from the Lord, summarized in both the “Dominion Mandate” of Genesis 1:28 and the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18–20. We are to go forth into the world and conquer it, in the name of Christ, taking dominion of the world through the making of disciples by the proclamation of God’s Word everywhere. The abundantly good news for the Christian is that this mission comes with a promise of guaranteed success, for the Father has said to the Son, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Ps. 110:1).

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The enemies of Christ are being conquered, even now. His Kingdom will come, and His will will be done (Matt. 6:10). Of this, there can be little doubt and only the utmost certainty. Our Lord reigns currently and He will continue to reign. His victory is our victory. Jesus will have every last soul that has been promised to Him (Jn. 6:37) and His Kingdom, over which He reigns as supreme, is going to be filled with Christians from every tribe, nation, language, and people (Rev. 7:9). Not only will the knowledge of God’s glory be poured out upon this earth like waters (Hab. 2:14), but the increase of Christ’s government and peace will see no end (Is. 9:7).

What great hope the Christian has! Each person who has been redeemed through faith in Christ should most earnestly desire now to go forth and do the work of an evangelistic dominion-taker. Let us be redeemers of the time. Rather than cowering in fear while waiting for the end, let’s look with hope upon the great harvest spread before us (Mark 9:35–38) and make the most of every moment to glorify our triune God in service to Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1]Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 233-234.

[2]Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 234.