COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 5:8 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. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." NKJV
(1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)
How are those in Christ to conduct their lives? How should life itself be approached? The answer to these questions is found in the reason for which Christ died for us - the ULTIMATE reason. In our text, the Spirit propels us to the time when the heavens and earth that now exist will have passed away, and the new heavens and earth will be revealed. From another viewpoint, He addresses our lives AFTER we die, or "sleep." Lifting us beyond time and circumstance, we are reminded why Jesus died, and what God has really intended for those in Christ Jesus. These are realities that are related to "the day," where there is illumination and understanding. It is apparent from this passage that living in this world tends to cast men and women into spiritual stupor, dulling their sense of eternal realities. The Spirit therefore shouts them awake, so they can see matters the more clearly. A listless life, lived in apathy or indifference to the truth of God, is not acceptable to Him. Neither, indeed, is there any safety for the soul in such a manner of life. Even when the saints are persecuted and experience great difficulties in this world, they must be reminded of why Christ died for them, and what God has determined for them.
THE PROPER APPROACH TO LIFE
" 5:8 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." NKJV Having reminded us of the type of activities that take place in the night, the Spirit now turns our attention to how living in the light influences the way we live. There is no place for ignorance and misdirected lives in the light!
OF THE DAY. By saying we are "of the day," the Spirit means our new lives are adapted to live in the light of the Lord's presence. New hearts and minds are well suited to live with God's countenance upon us (Num 6:26; Psa 4:6). We are born again to "walk" in the "light of" His "countenance" (Psa 89:15). That is, we have been made to survive the scrutiny of God, living with His eye upon us. For many, this is a disconcerting and frightening thought. However, in Christ, we have been re-created to live under the watchful eye of the Lord who weighs, or evaluates, the "actions" of men (1 Sam 2:3).
Notice how the Spirit reasons with us: "let us who are of the day." He recognizes the work of God within us, and addresses us from that point of view. Like all men, the Thessalonians had a part that needed to be subdued, but they were addressed as those who were well adapted for the light and for the day. In doing this, our attention is drawn to what we are in Christ, not what we are in Adam. This perspective is necessary to do what He now admonishes. Many a poor soul has been weighed down with such exhortations because they were not convinced they were "of the day." They were laboring for Divine acceptance instead of because of it. The Spirit reasons with us as those who have already been received by God.
BE SOBER. This is an especially appropriate word for our time. Much of the religion of our day actually encourages a lack of sobriety. It lulls people into spiritual sleep, like Delilah lulled Samson to sleep on her knees. The word "sober" means discreet and watchful. It is remaining calm and collected in our spirit, not rattled by life's difficulties. It is being free from mental and spiritual excess and confusion. It is being self-controlled, clear-headed, and self-possessed. All of that means the individual is not pulled about by circumstances, or tossed too and fro by the winds of life. Their minds are not hyped up by substances or intoxicating pleasures. Nor, indeed, are they dull and listless because of indifference and disinterest. The "sober" person is alert, sensitive, discerning, and aware of what is going on.
In verse six we were admonished to not sleep, "as do others; but let us watch and be sober." This sobriety particularly has to do with watching and waiting for the Lord's return, that it not catch us unawares. The Spirit admonishes "aged men" to "be sober" (Tit 2:2). "Young women" are also exhorted to "be sober" (Tit 2:4). "Young men" are admonished to "be sober" (Tit 2:60. All saints are told to "gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:13). No part of our lives is to be lived so as to make Christ's return a surprise to us. To live in such a manner us to fail to "be sober." How needful this exhortation is in our times.
THE BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE. The child of God needs protection for the heart, soul, mind, and strength. Walking in the light does not mean there are no hazzards! Because we are to love the Lord our God with all of these capacities, they have become a target for the evil one. The Lord has, however, equipped us with marvelous protection. The "breastplate" is a spiritual covering for the heart, soul, mind, and strength - the vital parts of our inner beings. Here, that protection is "faith and love." Both have to do with an embrace of the Lord Himself. "Faith and love" are frequently put together (1 Tim 1:14; 2 Tim 1:13; Gal 5:6; Eph 6:23). Faith connects us with the Lord and Divine resources now. Love is our response to the love of God, which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5; 1 John 4:19). This is our love for God. It is revealed as we "keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3). Spiritual life cannot be lived without a vibrant connection with the Lord and a strong love and preference for Him and His Word. Where either of these is missing or weak, the person becomes vulnerable to the devices and harassment of the wicked one.
THE HELMET OF THE HOPE OF SALVATION. This helmet protects the mind from delusion, fear, doubt, and being anxious. It is the persuasion that we are saved, accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6), the sons of God (1 John 3:1), and with our names written in heaven (Lk 10:20). This involves "the full assurance of understanding" (Col 2:2), "the full assurance of hope" (Heb 6:11), and "the full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22). This is the "confidence and rejoicing of the hope" that is to be possessed "firm unto the end" (Heb 3:6). The person who wears this marvelous "helmet" is convinced that the Lord's death, resurrection life, and present enthronement at God's right hand, is for him. Such know they have been delivered from the power of darkness, and have been placed into the Kingdom of God's dear Son (Col 1:13).
APPOINTED TO OBTAIN SALVATION
" 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." Whereas the first part of our text was an exhortation, this verse confirms the reasonableness of that exhortation. The Spirit shows us that what we have been admonished to do perfectly accords with the very nature of salvation. It is unreasonable to do otherwise.
GOD DID NOT APPOINT. God does make appointments! He appointed the world of Noah's time to destruction by water (Gen 6:7). He appointed the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:17). In both cases, there was no way to avert the destruction-the appointment to wrath. The only hope for Noah was found in the ark, which would survive the judgment of God. The only hope for Lot was to flee from the city, separating himself from it. There are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Rom 9:22). But those in Christ are not in that number. When God made Jesus "a curse for us" (Gal 3:13), all who "receive Him" (John 1:12) were excluded from God's cursing and wrath.
OBTAIN SALVATION. Exclusion from the curse is not an end of itself. The objective is not simply to be exempted from wrath, but to "obtain salvation." Inherent in this word is the fact that the fulness of our salvation has not yet been received. The "day of salvation" includes nourishment in the light, as well as deliverance from darkness (2 Cor 6:2). We are presently "heirs of salvation," ministered to by a vast company of angels in preparation for what is to come. In its fulness, "our salvation" is "nearer than when we believed" (Rom 13:11). Presently, we are being "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet 1:5). That is salvation in its fulness, and for which we are presently being prepared and oriented. The revelation of this salvation will take place when Jesus comes "the second time," "to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him " NIV Heb 9:28).
The salvation to which those in Christ have been appointed is "with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:10). That is, God has appointed us to be "glorified," as affirmed in Romans: "and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom 8:30). It should be readily apparent that we have not yet been glorified. That means there still is some saving to be done! When Jesus returns, He will "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil 3:20-31).
Obtaining salvation involves being "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). It includes an eternal reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12), and being given "the Kingdom" (Dan 7:18,22,27). It involves having every vestige of the curse removed, when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev 21:4).
All of these benefits are presently "tasted" in the first-fruits sense. However, their fulness is yet to come. Whatever we experience in this world is only the beginning, not the culmination. As good as the things are now, they will be better in the world to come. Then we will receive the fulness of what we now have tasted. As Jesus Himself said, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting" (Luke 18:29-30). Faith, love, and hope, bring us "more in this present time." It also prepares us for "the world to come," and for glorification.
Until that "eternal glory" is experienced, and as long as we are in "this present evil world," we are in a situation that requires sobriety, "the breastplate of faith and love," and "the helmet of the hope of salvation." These three abiding graces, "faith, hope, and love" (1 Cor 13:13) are to be found in increasing measure in us as we wait for the return of our Lord.
THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The salvation that is yet to be "obtained" will be administered "by our Lord Jesus Christ." KJV This is not a mere technicality, nor is it something that happens by rote, or automatically. The idea is that Jesus, who is presently bringing us to glory (Heb 2:10), will soon bring glory to us. He will "receive" us unto Himself (John 14:3), change our vile bodies (Phil 3:21), and bring His reward with Him (Rev 22:12). He will lift us from the cauldron of conflict, destroy our adversaries, and usher us into His presence. The glorious things for which we are presently being prepared will be brought to us. How precious is the admonition, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be BROUGHT TO YOU at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:13). That is when we will "obtain" the salvation being ministered by the Lord Jesus.
That is the aim of being made a "new creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 5:17). It is to "obtain" the fulness of salvation - not merely in this world, but in the world to come, the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwells righteousness (2 Pet 3:13). Let no one be moved from this hope, or lapse into spiritual sleep that leaves one thinking only of this world.
THE REASON CHRIST DIED FOR US
" 5:4 Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." NKJV The Spirit further develops this thought, namely that of being readied for eternity with Jesus - "so shall we ever be with the Lord" (4:17).
WHO DIED FOR US. The "doctrine of Christ" (Heb 6:1; 2 John 9) will never take us where the death of Christ is not a primary consideration. This was a death that occurred in "due time," or at the "right time" (Rom 5:6). It is associated with a specific time because it was intended to fulfil a specific objective. Sufficient time was allotted to confirm that we were, in fact, sinners, and in sore need of a Savior (Rom 5:8). He "died for our sins," in order to rid us of them, and remove them from the face of our God (1 Cor 15:3). In that death, the head of the serpent was bruised (Gen 3:15). He was "wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa 53:5). In His death, He "gave Himself a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). He purchased the church with His own blood through His death (Acts 20:28), bringing them justification through His blood (Rom 5:9). We were "reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom 5:10), and "bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20). Jesus gave Himself for our sins to "deliver us from this present evil world" (Gal 1:4), and "redeem us from the curse of the Law" (Gal 3:13). Because of the death of Christ, we have been "brought near by the blood of Christ" NKJV (Eph 2:13). Jew and Gentile have been drawn together in one body because of that death (Eph 2:14), and the "law of commandments contained in ordinance" has been "abolished" as a means to righteousness (Eph 2:15; Rom 10:4). Jesus gave Himself for us that He might present us to Himself "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27). Our Lord "made peace through the blood of His cross" (Col 1:20), in order to present us "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Col 1:22). In His death, Jesus also "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:10). Now the Spirit will enlarge on this most wonderful truth - the voluntary death of Christ.
WAKE OR SLEEP. This refers to our condition when Jesus returns. The word "wake," or "awake" NASB, refers to those who are "are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" (4:15,17). This is the generation that will not experience death in the normal sense, but will be "changed" from mortality to immortality in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:51-52). The word "sleep" refers to those who have died, being "absent from the body" (2 Cor 5:8). This does NOT refer to those who "sleep in the night," indulging the appetites of the flesh (5:7). Regardless of the condition of "the elect" (Mk 13:22; Col 2:12), whether they have already departed from the arena of battle, or remain in a state of sobriety and readiness, a common destiny is reserved for them all. This is the ultimate objective for Christ's death.
LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM. This is an eternal perspective. While we do have fellowship with Christ now (1 Cor 1:9), and He dwells within our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17), that is not the life to which the Spirit now expounds. This refers to our "gathering together unto Him" (2 Thess 2:1). This is the time to which Jesus referred when He said, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). Until that time, and by faith, Jesus dwells with us where we are, making His abode with us (John 14:23). However, this is not the ultimate aim of Christ's death, even though it is most blessed and absolutely indispensable. We will "live together with Him" when we are "glorified," receiving our resurrection bodies, made to be "like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). Any person who comes short of this has lived in vain. Then we will be complete, will reign, and will never again be subjected to weakness.
It is a tragedy beyond description that so very little is being said these days about this aspect of Christ's death. He died in order that we might "live together with Him," in fulness, uninterrupted satisfaction, and an unchallenged reign. If this hope is taken away from God's people, they will not be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Persecution will become too weighty for them, and this world will not appear as evil as it really is.
The sum of the matter is this. Christ died in order that we might share in His life, and do so eternally. He had no temporal benefits for us in mind when He died. He set His face toward the future, when His joy would be brought to its peak by being joined together with His bride - "the joy set before Him" (Heb 12:2). Child of God, live for that day, for that is why Christ died! Uproot your affections from the passing realm (1 Cor 7:31), and place them in the heavenly places, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Col 3:1-3). That is where Jesus wants you. If that it where you want to be, He will lead you there!