Redeeming the Time

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QUESTION: The apostle Paul states that Christians should be "redeeming the time" in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 16. What does this mean? How are we to do this?

ANSWER: The words "redeem" and "redeeming" occur at least 59 times in the King James Bible, with the overwhelming majority of uses found in the Old Testament. Additionally, in the KJV, the English word "time" appears in at least 563 verses. Interestingly, the apostle Paul uses the phrase in question at least twice in Scripture.

2. Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving . . . 5. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside the church (non-believers), redeeming the time (Colossians 4:2, 5, HBFV throughout)

15. So then, take heed that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as those who are wise, 16. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17. For this reason, do not be foolish, but understanding what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15 - 17)

Bible translations such as the Holman Christian Standard and the New American Standard render the first part of Ephesians 5:16 as "making the most of your (the) time." Other versions of Scripture, such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation, use the phrase "making the most of every opportunity."

What are the traits of the WISE?
What constitutes a MATURE Christian?
How do we become more like JESUS?
Comparison of Bible Translations

The Greek word exagorazo (Strong's Concordance #G1805), translated as "redeeming" in Ephesians and Colossians, means to rescue something from loss (Strong's). It can also mean to pay a price to recover (reclaim) something from another (Thayer's Greek Definitions). For example, let us say you want to borrow money from a bank and have to offer some land as collateral (meaning if you do not repay the bank loan, they can take legal possession of the property). When you repay the loan and remove any claim the lender has over the land, you have redeemed the property. The Complete Word Study Dictionary defines exagorazo as the following.

". . . by prudent and blameless conduct, gaining as much time and opportunity as possible in view of persecution and death. The word generally means to buy up, to buy all that is anywhere to be bought, and not to allow the suitable moment to pass by unheeded but to make it one's own"

One of the most well-known Biblical references to Jesus is as a Redeemer (Job 19:25, Isaiah 41:14, 59:20, etc.). He is called this because his perfect sacrifice pays the debt we humans owe because of our sins. The Bible states that those who have repented and become true Christians are "bought with a price" (1Corinthians 6:20, 7:23, 2Peter 2:1).

Paul states, "the days are evil" in Ephesians 5:16 because mankind, in general, is under the rule and deceptions of Satan the devil (John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2, 6:12). He admonishes Christians to not idly sit by and let the darkness of this world dictate events but rather to make a conscious choice to do good works and let the light of God shine through them (Matthew 5:14 - 16). Even if evil personally comes upon us, we are commanded to not respond in kind but instead overcome it by doing what is right (Romans 12:20 - 21).

Collage of Time
Collage of old clocks
Left: Old Town Hall clock in Prague
Top right: Exhibition of 14th-century time pieces
Bottom right: Part of late 15th-century clock tower

Concrete examples

What are some concrete examples of how Christians are to be "redeeming the time" as God wants us to do? Some of the many things believers can do are the following.


Doing what Paul states in Ephesians and Colossians is not without a reward. By zealously redeeming our time on earth, dedicating it to do as much good as possible, we not only bless others but lay up for ourselves eternal treasures.

19. Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust spoil, and where thieves break through and steal; 20. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven . . . 21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19 - 21)

Additional Study Materials
What are the signs of a SICK church?
Is there a right time to die?
Why does redeeming man require God DYING?
What is TRUE Christian leadership?

Redeeming the Time

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