I die daily…. Be not deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:31–34—NKJV)

There are certain Bible passages that bear oft repeating. Verse 34 is one of them. Paul has an authoritative and attention-grabbing air in every word he chooses. You can almost see Paul’s eyes grow bright, hear his voice grow stern, and watch his hand rise and point to the sky as he dictates these resounding words to his secretary. He wanted Christians of all ages to heed his counsel.

We are all products of our time, but we must not be lulled into complacency and spiritual numbness by the coldness of the world around us. We must learn to be more like Christ every day, not more like the world. This means we have a constant battle within, a battle to stay spiritually alert and vibrant for God.

Perhaps the word that catches our attention first is the word “awake.” Paul’s choice in words is instructive. Paul could have chosen the same Greek word he used in Romans 13:11, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” That same word is found in Ephesians 5:14, “Therefore He says, ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” In both instances he uses a word that signifies awaking from slumber, either of restfulness or slothfulness.

But in our text Paul uses the word eknepho, “to return to one’s sense from drunkenness, to become sober…awake up righteously and sin not, suggesting a return to soberness of mind from the stupor consequent upon the influence of evil doctrine” (Vine’s). This same Greek root word is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:6f, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober…. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” 2 Timothy 4:5: “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Peter also uses the same root word in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

It is interesting to me that Paul uses the imagery of drunkenness rather than being a sleepy-head to describe the state of the worldly Christian. Apparently it is not just physical drunkenness that dishonors the Lord. Romans 13:12–14 states, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Proverbs 20:1 declares, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 warns, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

The words of Solomon in Proverbs 23:29–35 paint a clear picture of the deplorable condition of a drunk. According to King Solomon, he subjects himself to distracting trouble, loss, petty altercations, negativity, wounds, physical consequences, warped perception, faulty judgment, lying cover-ups, and he is ultimately loses himself into the addictions of an alcoholic. This state of the addict is what Paul applies to the worldly Christian. He is one who throws spiritual caution to the wind, embraces what appeals to his own interests, cannot discern danger around him, would rather believe lies, and refuses all forms of disciplined structure that would serve to enforce distance between himself and what his flesh craves.

Paul engages the drunken spirit of the Christian and commands, “Awake righteously!” In other words, it is fitting and proper that a believer be awake and not subject to that which dulls the senses, puts him to sleep, and lets others go merrily on their way to Hell. It is not just that unsaved people are lacking knowledge about God, rather Paul’s original words say that what they do have in their possession is ignorance of God. So much of what they know is not true, primarily because those who do know Him (the worldly Christians) do nothing to remove their ignorance of God. It is absolutely fitting that Christians be soberly awake and “be not sinning.”

What hints does Paul place in the surrounding verses that would allow the formerly “drunken” saint to make up for his shame? In verse 31 Paul declares “I die daily!” Not only was his life on the line for the sake of his testimony for God but he also chose the discipline of living Christ alone (Galatians 2:20). In verse 33 he encourages the saints to remember that not everyone, or everything, is a friend of grace. Being in the presence of corrupting influences (ones that corrode and rust) deteriorate moral virtue and must be avoided (Psalm 1). Awake, be not sinning—souls need Christ. Trust and obey.