The New Testament commands us to “watch.” It’s usually the translation of two Greek words gregoreuo and aprupneo, which have similar meanings for stay awake and to be sleepless. These two give us the strength needed to withstand temptations and carnal struggles.
Both Jesus and the disciples encouraged us to be ever watchful, and in fact, Jesus rebuked the disciples for not being able to stay awake during the one hour prior to his arrest. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth,
- “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13, NKJV).
In a spiritual sense we’re told to be vigilant and on guard, fully awake, aware, alert, and intently focused. In Matthew the meaning of the word watch is primarily physical.
- “And He took with Him Peter and sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” (Matthew 26:37-40, NKJV)
In the above Scripture, Jesus was reprimanding the disciples for not understanding the time in which they were living. What Jesus said next had a deeper, spiritual meaning, as He shifted the emphasis of the need to be watchful for themselves.
- “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Jesus was letting them know that mere human willpower to stay awake, to be watchful is inadequate at best. It is spiritual watching that is needed. This type of watching is done through the power of the Holy Spirit when we ask for it, and through prayer.
Staying awake and being ever watchful is synonymous with righteousness or not sinning.
- “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34).
Paul was letting them know that even true Christians succumb to spiritual sleeping. He was also warning the church at Corinth that the time was closer than they thought saying,
- “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).