“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (I Thessalonians 5:5-10).
The first eleven verses of this chapter speak of the coming of the Day of the Lord. This is the Day when the dead in Christ shall rise and the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. What a Day that will be! The present universe will be destroyed in the fervent heat of the fire of God’s wrath. This is the Day of the final judgment. The ungodly shall be cast into hell forever and the children of God will enter the joy of their Lord in the new creation.
The question is, Are you prepared for that Day? Not will you be prepared, but are you prepared right now? We do not know the day of the Lord’s coming. Of the times and season, the time when the Day of the Lord comes, of that the apostle says, “there is no need that I write unto you.” Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 24 that no man, not even the angels in heaven, knows the day or the hour. What we do know is that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. When the world is saying “Peace and safety” sudden destruction will seize them and they shall not escape.
But that is not true of the children of God, for you are not of the darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. You are children of the light. Because we are children of the day the Scriptures exhort us here in our text.
The exhortation is “Watch and be sober.” One must be sober in order to be able to watch. It is only in the way of being sober and thus watching that you shall be prepared for the Day of the Lord. To be sober is the opposite of drunkenness. That means that you are never to be drunk. This is a terrible sin about which the Bible says, “No drunkard can inherit the Kingdom.”
The apostle is here figuratively speaking. The figure is of a drunkard who cannot see clearly nor think straight. His actions are impaired so that he cannot control himself. He reels about unsteadily and is not able to see reality. The drunkard pictures the ungodly who belong to the night of sin. They are drunk with the wine of the pleasures and treasures of this world. Their entire life is a frantic and frenzied reaching out for the satisfaction of their own lusts. This we clearly see today. The spiritual drunkenness of the ungodly explains the drug addiction, the crimes, the immorality, and the desperate search for release from the pressures of modern living. This is certainly true of the ungodly youth of today. Thus this warning not to follow in their way.
With the godly youth of the church it should be different for in distinction from the children of darkness who are drunken in the night of sin and death, they are of the day and are children of the light. They have been redeemed out of that darkness and taken into the light of God’s fellowship. Therefore, be sober. That does not mean that you may not be happy or that there is no joy for the children of God. You, the youth of the church, have every reason for joy, real happiness which cannot be diminished or taken from you.
You must be spiritually temperate which means six things. 1) You must constantly fight those sinful lusts which remain in you. 2) You must be of sound mind, clear-headed spiritually, so that you are able to discern the reality of the coming of the Day of the Lord. 3) You must look forward with a full measure of joy for the coming Day of the Lord. 4) It means that you are strangers among the drunken ungodly. 5) It means that you are constantly putting off the old man of sin and putting on the new man. 6) Finally, it means that your joy is in God and not in the world.
Therefore, watch! The drunken ungodly are sound asleep, reveling in all their wickedness, in mad pursuit of the perishing things of this earth, totally oblivious to the coming of the Day of the Lord. When the church speaks of the coming of that day they scoff and say, “Where is the promise of his coming? All things continue as in the beginning.” Peace and safety is their cry. We will solve all the problems. If we can put a man on the moon, we can surely clean up the environment. If we devote enough energy, we can solve the overpopulation problem. With enough expertise we can do something about the shortage of natural resources. We are able to eradicate hunger and get rid of crime. Day of the Lord? Foolishness! That is the attitude of the sleepers. They belong to the night.
The children of God, however, WATCH. They are alert, wide awake. That means that you pay strictest attention to yourselves and to what is happening all around you. Literally the text says, “Keep on watching.” It must be a constant activity of the children of the light.
You do this by putting on the armor of God. There are three virtues to this armor. The first is faith which essentially is the bond that unites us to Christ through which flow all the blessings of salvation. It has two elements: certain knowledge of God and a hearty confidence that he is my God. The second virtue is love which is the bond of perfectness that exists in God first of all. That love he sheds abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit so that we love God and our fellow saints as members of the one body of Jesus Christ. The third virtue is hope which is a certain expectation of our final salvation. It is a reaching out with eager and intense longing for the glory of the coming of that Day. In hope God’s children look away from the perishing things of the earth to the abiding realities of the kingdom of heaven. In hope we pray, “Come Lord Jesus, yea come quickly.”
That is your armor. Faith and hope are your breastplate; hope is your helmet. These are defensive pieces of armor. To put these on there must be active faith, love, and hope. You are best protected when you are actively on the offensive, cultivating faith, love, and hope. Put these pieces of armor on. As to faith, grow in the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. Then you will have more and more confidence that you belong to him in life and in death. As to love, more and more yield yourselves to the service of God; love him with your whole being and reveal that love among your fellow saints. As to hope, turn from the perishing things of the world of sin and darkness. Hope to the end for the grace of God to be revealed in you. Let your life be a reaching out for the glory of the final salvation. Then you are strangers in the earth, children of the light in the midst of darkness, looking for the Savior to appear.
How do you put these on? It is by the means of grace. By the preaching of the Word you hear the voice of Christ and he by his Spirit increases your faith, love, and hope. Through the mighty power of the Word preached your faith grows stronger, your love for God and for your fellow saints deepens, and your hope is encouraged. And this, young people, includes catechism, which also is the official preaching of the Word. Do not neglect your study of it in any way. It is only in this way, the way of putting on faith, love, and hope that you, sober and watching, are prepared for the coming of the Day of the Lord.
The ground for all of this is that God hath not appointed you to wrath, but to obtain salvation. This means that God has predestined you to obtain salvation by your Lord Jesus Christ. That is the heart of the gospel. What a comfort for God’s sober, watching, armed saints in this night. Time marches on, but sin’s power has been destroyed. There is no more death for you and nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Whether you are awake or asleep, that is, alive or dead, you are together with Christ. This is the gospel. Do not be afraid. Do not be anxious and despairing as you walk in the darkness of the night. Rather, be sober. Watch for the Day of the coming of the Lord. That will be glory for you. There will be no more sin, no sorrow, no crying, no pain. That cannot fail for God has appointed you to obtain salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ who died for you. In that faith, out of that love, and with that hope go on being sober, watching, and praying, “Come Lord Jesus.”