The sleep here spoken of by Paul is a shameful indifference to Christ, a spiritual, callousness into which true believers sometimes fall. Yes, men and women who truly love and trust Christ do sometimes, by their own sin and neglect of him, become indifferent to him. The wise virgins, like the foolish, are often found asleep (Matthew 25:1-13; Song of Solomon 5:2-3). And when they are asleep, it is impossible to tell the wise from the foolish.
Are you asleep? Have you, like the church of Ephesus, lost your first love? Have you forgotten the joy of believing? Has your grasp of the Savior lost the strength of freshness? Your doctrine may be very precise, though you sleep. If you are born of God, you have seen your sin. But has the fresh conviction of personal depravity and sin you once felt so deeply now become no more than a doctrine you acknowledge? You know the righteousness of God in Christ, but has the righteousness of Christ now become no more than a point of doctrine about which you debate? It was once a blessed garment of salvation you wrapped around your naked soul. You have seen God’s judgment of sin in Christ. How joyfully you once bathed your filthy soul in Immanuel’s precious blood! The atonement of Christ, his finished work of redemption, his precious blood were once more than doctrinal facts to you. They were your soul’s hope, joy, and peace.
All the doctrines of Christ are like roses on a bush. As long as they are on the bush, they are beautiful, sweet to smell, blooming with life. But we are not content to leave them there. We cut them, put them in our little vase, arrange them in an order that suits us, set them on a shelf in our little room, and admire them. But soon they wither, die, and begin to stink! So, too, the doctrines of Christ are beautiful, sweet, blooming with life in Christ, but only as they are seen in him. It is Christ we love. He is altogether lovely. Christ is life, not his doctrine. It is Christ to whom we must look. It is Christ who is our life. It is Christ who is beautiful. I do not suggest that we become indifferent to Christ’s doctrine. But we are terribly foolish if we become so enamored with the doctrine of Christ that we become indifferent to Christ! To sleep in a bed of doctrinal indifference is just as evil as sleeping in a bed of worldly care. “It is high time to awake out of sleep!”