LET US NOT SLEEP – LET US KEEP AWAKE AND BE SOBER – 1 Thessalonians 5


For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are NOT of the night or of darkness.

So then LET US NOT SLEEP, as others do, but LET US KEEP AWAKE AND BE SOBER.

For those who sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.

But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.

1 Thessalonians 5:5‭-‬10 RSV

Darkness is used here as antithetical to light, and very similarly to the writings of John; these passages refer not to literal darkness and light, but to the state of rebellion against God (darkness) and to the state of obedience (light).

But ye members of the church, living in the light, expecting the coming of your Lord (Matthew 25:10) cannot be surprised.

Your knowledge and faith lead you to be always ready.

The ASV in this place follows the rendition in KJV and this is good. As Morris said, “The KJV has better manuscript attestation … the sense of KJV is better.

These Johannine metaphors were known and used by all of the apostles. The uses of “sons” in such a metaphor indicate close connection or a resemblance, and are a Hebrew idiom.

Thus,`Son of God’ identified Jesus Christ as having the same nature of God and as existing on an equality with God.

“Sons of the day” means nearly the same as “sons of light,” except, it refers back to ‘the day of the Lord,’ with all that that means in terms of participation in the triumph of that great day.

Note too that Paul first stated the positive truth of their being sons of light, and sons of day, and then in the negative opposites of being not of the night or of darkness.

“Let us not sleep” refers to a state of spiritual deadness in which the whole pagan world of that era slumbered. It did not seem so, of course, to them that slept.

They were doubtless busy with many exciting and interesting things; but, as regarded the age of debauchery in which they lived and the signal of the summary end of it in the preaching of the good news of Christ; of that they were totally unaware.

They slept through it!

Only that person who is spiritually aware, having regard to the will of the Creator, and possessing a sharp consciousness of the moral and spiritual state of humanity – only such a person is truly awake.

The person thus awake is heeding Paul’s admonition here to “watch and be sober.”

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night.

There is no need to hunt metaphors here. These words are not to be taken metaphorically, but as a simple statement of fact – what occurs in ordinary experience.

Immorality, drunkenness and debaucheries of every kind are practiced principally at night.

Long before the Christian era, the association of drunkenness with night was so universally accepted that when Peter defended the apostles against a charge of being filled with new wine on Pentecost, he appealed to a universally accepted truth, “These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day” (Acts 2:15).

There has always been something about wickedness which makes it inappropriate to indulge in it in the daytime.

Night is the time for the deeds of darkness.

There are few of us who are not rather ashamed of our sins and follies as we look on the blessed morning sunlight, which comes to us like a bright-winged angel beckoning to us to quit the old path of vanity that stretches its dreary length behind us.

Amazingly, Paul here switched metaphors in the middle of a train of thought, a style characteristic of the blessed apostle and absolutely impossible of forgery or imitation.

Only Paul could have done a thing like this. As Paul was familiar with military operations, it would appear that his mention of “watch and be sober” triggered the thought of an armed sentry; and, as the “armor of God” metaphor was a favorite of his, he immediately combined it with the prime virtues of faith, hope and love.

The fullest development of the metaphor is in Ephesians 6:13ff.

Although the wrath of God was not elaborated in this paragraph, it is the background against which every line of it is written.

Some are appointed unto wrath, namely, the rebellious and sinful enemies of God and all righteousness; and a prerequisite of salvation is an awareness of its opposite.

Whoever thinks he can smile at God’s wrath will never praise him eternally for his grace.

One of the things that gave salvation so full a meaning to New Testament Christians was that they were sure of the wrath of God and knew that Christ had rescued them from a terrible fate.

“Obtaining of salvation” The natural meaning of this is `the acquiring of salvation,’ making it (salvation) to some extent to be a matter of human activity,which of course it is!

When the apostles exhorted people to “work out” their own salvation, and to “save yourselves” from a perverse generation, such were not idle words but present urgencies.

Nor did any of them pause to explain with every mention of what people were to do, that of course man cannot be his own saviour.

Our own generation has stressed the latter fact (and it is a fact) to the extent of failure to make it clear to every man that if he desires to be saved there are definitely some things he must do, the same being neither optional, unessential or unnecessary.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

Mark 16:16 ASV

Such a truth is inherent in what is said in this ninth verse.

“Whether we wake or sleep” Here the meaning is, “whether we live or slumber in the sleep of death” we shall participate in the fellowship of Christ at his coming.

When I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
John 9:5 ASV

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