/ Jeffrey A Stivason

Stay Awake!

When the Lord says in Luke 12:35, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning…” we immediately begin nosing around the text looking for what it means to “stay dressed” and keep the “lamps burning.” In other words, what is the action we are looking for that requires us to steer clear of bedclothes and keep the energy bills high?  What are we being charged to do?  What is required of us in this text? Such questions deserve our mental energy.  So, take a minute to open your Bible to Luke 12:35-40 and ask yourself, “What is the action for which I am to be prepared?” What is the thing I must do?

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Did you find it?  Yes, we are to “gird our loins” or tuck our robes into our belt so as to be ready to move and we are to keep the lights on so as to be ready, even in the night. But ready for what? Ready to do what? The fact of the matter is the text doesn’t say. So, Biblical scholars often go backward in their search for the action.  Thus, girding up our loins means ready to tackle anxiety (v. 22ff), being ready to fend off greed (v. 13ff), or having the boldness to acknowledge the Lord before men (v. 8ff). All of these things come earlier in chapter 12, but the fact is they are not part of the 12:35-40.  So, what does that text say about the action for which we are to be ready?

The answer is simple. We are to be ready to open the door, whether on the second or third watch of the night.  We are to be ready to open to the Master no matter what time it is. So, again and put simply, we are to have our loins girded so that we might be ready to open the door for the Master!  Now, what is being said? What is being taught? The lesson is about saving faith. In other words, Jesus is telling us that we must have faith. Faith alone saves (Romans 3:22, 25; 10:30-32; Phil. 3:9) Now, this behooves us to ask about the nature of faith. What is it?

Well, let’s stay with the text. What does Luke 12:35-40 say about the nature of faith? Clearly, this text says that faith has two components or aspects. First, it is receiving the Master, that is Christ, when he comes. Second, it is resting in the Master’s presence. Perhaps you understand how we arrived at receiving the Master but how do we come to the aspect of resting? Notice what happens when the Master returns home. In verse 37 we read, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table and he will come and serve them.” Did you read that? When the master returns, he, the master, will dress for service and the servants will recline or rest at table while he ministers to them. That is marvelous. But it also points up the aspect of resting in the Master.

Now, for those familiar with the Confession and Catechisms of Westminster this will not have been a surprise. The Westminster Standards are clear as to the nature of faith.  In question 72 of the Westminster Larger Catechism we read, “Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” What is more, this faith is merely the instrument by which we receive and apply Christ and his righteousness. It is not an evangelical obedience or any other form of merit.  Benjamin B. Warfield was fond of saying that we are not saved by faith, but we are saved by Christ through faith and this faith is not of our own doing. Rightly understood, Luke 12:35-40 gladdens the heart because we realize that if we are saved it is by Christ through faith alone.  What is more, it is the Master who has enabled us to receive Him and rest on Him. Praise Him.

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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