Living Ready and Rightly
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, with emphasis on 5:6-11
1. Recognize the Context:
Previous context: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
In verse 1, Paul addressed those still alive at the Lord’s return. He claimed he didn’t need to write about times and dates, then he explained why. In verses 2, Paul affirmed their knowledge that the day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night. The phrase “day of the Lord” has Old Testament roots. God’s people were oppressed by foreign nations. They prayed and longed for the day when God would deliver them and bring judgment on those who oppressed them.
Here again, Paul reinterpreted an Old Testament concept in light of the risen Christ. For Paul, the “day of the Lord” was the second coming of Christ (4:15). The phrase, like a thief in the night, illustrated the unexpected danger of not being ready and watchful for the Lord’s return.
Verse 3 appears to be an indictment against the Roman Empire. They promised peace and safety to all of their conquered subjects. However, Roman peace and safety were achieved and maintained by the sword. The day of the Lord will overturn any human attempt at peace and security and bring the destruction of judgment, as suddenly and intensely as a woman experiencing the pain of childbirth.
In verse 4, Paul presented a contrast using darkness and day imagery and continued the thief imagery from verse 2. In verse 5, the Thessalonians are described as children of the light and the day, not as those of night or darkness.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, with emphasis on 5:6-11
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
Because the Thessalonians were “children of the light and day,” they were to conduct themselves differently. Those who “belonged to the night and darkness” lived as though they were asleep. Here the word translated asleep is different from the word found in 4:13-14, and it means someone who is “spiritually indifferent.” Paul’s contrasting exhortation is for the Thessalonians to be awake and sober, meaning alert and self-controlled. The watchful expectancy of the Lord’s return should lead to living in a godly way.
In verse 7, Paul continued the sleep and nighttime imagery to describe the opposing lifestyle of the “other” (verse 6). He contrasted this with day imagery to describe the Thessalonians in verse 8. Here Paul added military imagery. The influence of this metaphor seems to come from Isaiah 59:17. In Isaiah, God is the Divine Warrior, wearing these specific pieces of armor. Paul has reinterpreted this imagery in light of Christ and applied it to his followers.
In verse 8-9, Paul echoed chapter 1 and brought various themes full circle. He returned to the triad of faith, hope, and love (1:3), as essential to the life of a child of light. He also mentioned salvation in Christ (2:16) and being rescued from the coming wrath (1:10).
Verses 10-11 provide a summary and connect 5:1-11 with 4:13-18. Paul reminded them of Christ's return, and that all believers will be united with him. Finally, the Thessalonians were again urged to encourage one another with these words, as they indeed were doing.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider the contrast of being spiritually awake and alert versus asleep.
Today, prayerfully revisit the notion of a life characterized by faith, hope, and love with this military armor imagery of a breastplate and helmet.
Today, prayerfully thank God for his salvation that comes through Christ.
To do: (with the Holy Sprit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.
Who specifically can you encourage with these words today? Be prayerfully on the lookout.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the passages).
Read and study Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul's well-known chapter in Ephesians on the armor of God.