The Life of Discipleship
1st Thessalonians 5:8-11
8 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.
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
We tend to distance ourselves from the reality of the Christian Life, We are prone to imagining how the believers at the time of the Apostles must have lived and felt. There is nothing wrong with remembering their circumstances (which much harsher than our own, in most cases.) But we have to live in such a way as to apply these truths today, not just imagining how they might have lived, two thousand years ago.
Be Sober (v. 8)
What does it mean to “be sober,” today? It does not just mean “don’t get drunk,” though it could include that idea. It means to take the Christian life seriously…not as “weekend entertainment,” or as social “gamesmanship.” We are not to attempt to position ourselves as “more pious” than others. (Somehow, “I’m more humble than you” is a contradiction in concepts. Humility would never harbor such a thought. Sobriety instantly recognizes the spiritual trap in the temptation to see oneself in that warped “amusement park” mirror.
Romans 12:3 says, “3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
This is the same writer (Paul) using the same terminology. But, in the Romans passage, he begins to explain the idea. “Thinking soberly” is offered in contrast to self-aggrandizement. It means seeing yourself through honest eyes. It means seeing yourself as God sees you.
Sober eyes look at reality and they see reality. They see themselvez neither more highly nor more lowly than simple reality. Sobriety is neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic. It is realistic. And, in light of that reality, we are called to respond to life in a serious manner. We must see it all against the backdrop of the spiritual battle that is taking place. And yet we are called to rejoice in the ultimate victory that Jesus secured for us at the Cross.
Armor (v. 8)
A short version of the Armor of God is mentioned here. But in Ephesians 6:13-19, Paul lays out what he calls the “whole armor of God.” He names seven pieces, making up the whole of that armor:
- Belt of truth
- Breastplate of Righteousness
- Shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of Peace
- Shield of Faith
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit
- Prayer for one another and ourselves.
And, in 2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5, he says that this armor ‘is not Carnal but is mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.’ Through it, we are to cast down imagination, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Through it we are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Our Position (v. 9)
Not Appointed to Wrath
We have a secure position in Christ. The Tribulation (which Paul warned about in verses 1-3 is surely coming.) But we are not going to be part of it. Our suffering, such as it is, will come before that time, and we will be taken out of the World before the judgment of the Daniel prophecy begins. We are not appointed to wrath…why?
We are Appointed to Obtain Salvation through Christ (v. 9, 10)
We who have trusted in Christ in this age are appointed to be taken out of the world, as we saw in the previous chapter: His sacrificial death for us guaranteed that we will be with him whether we are alive or dead. Jesus made the clear promise of this hope when He said, “He that hears my word and believes on Him who sent me, has eternal life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has crossed over from death into life.” That single promise covers our past, our present and our future!
Our Source of Comfort (v. 11)
Back in 1st Thessalonians 4:18, Paul said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Here in 1st Thessalonians 5:11, he repeats the command. But we need to remember the means by which we are commanded to comfort one another. We are not called to simply “pat one another on the shoulder and say, There, there!” We find our comfort in the Person of Christ who is the Living Word of God, and in the Holy Scriptures which are the Written Word of God.
Our Need for Comfort
We live in a dark world: Philippians 2:15, 16 says we are to shine as lights in that darkness, reflecting the “Light of the World” which is Jesus Himself. In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
“Following Jesus” is what enables us to shine in that darkness. We can shine because we are not walking in darkness…we have the light of life. His presence as the Light of the World is what gives us comfort and direction. If we don’t walk with Him we are in darkness. (1st John 1:6.)
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have Peace. In the World ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.”
How much easier is it to bear up under the load of harsh reality in this World, when we know that Jesus predicted exactly that, and that He offers us the comfort (Peace) of knowing that the victory is already won? Jesus already defeated all our enemies at the Cross!
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you: Not as the World giveth, give I unto you: let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Comfort in Security
And we have the additional comfort of knowing that, even if we “collapse under the load,” and “quit,” in despair, He will not quit, nor will He ever give up on us! Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus said, in John 6:37, “He that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” And two verses later, in John 6:39, He said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” He will cast no one out, and will not lose a single person who comes to Him in faith!
John 10:27, 28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.”
How did we enter into that relationship?
John 5:24 says, “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life.”
If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, believing that His blood sacrifice was God’s chosen sacrifice for your sins, then Jesus says you have crossed over from death into life. He says you will never be condemned by God, and that you now have everlasting life. It is a “done deal,” and permanent…as in “Eternal!”
Finally, remember Romans 8:38, 39 “8 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God says, no creature (Meaning, no “created thing:” including all the demons, Satan himself, any imaginable physical hazards… and even YOU, as a sinning believer… Nothing! )can separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ. How is that for a foundation for Comfort in Christ?
How do we Comfort One Another?
Notice that the command was not for us to comfort ourselves, but to comfort one another. Are we to also comfort ourselves? Yes, we are to find comfort in the Written Word of God, and then be able to share that Comfort with other believers. (Turn to 2nd Corinthians 1:3-11, please.)
Comforted with the purpose of comforting
2 Corinthians 1:3-11 says, “3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: 10 Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; 11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”
What does it Mean, to “Edify” One Another? (v. 11)
We can easily overlook the last command in verse eleven. It says we are to “edify one another.” We don’t often use that word in English today: but it means to “build up.” (The word “edifice” still means a building, but we don’t hear that word very often, either.)
How do we “build one another up?” (That is what the command actually says!)
When we fellowship with other believers, our partnership with them is not only about common interests, in the natural sense. We need to share with one another regarding the Word of God, and what we are learning from God. We can share our comforts as it says in 2nd Corinthians 1:4. You see, those are the sorts of things by which we strengthen one another and build one another up to be stronger in our faith.
When Kristen Flemmer admonished me saying, “Never forget the shield of Faith!” she strengthened me! When Chuck reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that Jesus Alone is responsible for the well-being of the Church, he builds me up, making me stronger. He is encouraging me to look and see Jesus at work. Ann strengthens me constantly, simply by her faith, and her constant love and support for me. And each of us can do that for one another.
But, if we are not feeding ourselves on the Word of God , then we will not have much to work with when it comes to strengthening others. We need God’s Word to feed on, to grow, and to mature as believers. Faith in His Word, as a working reality, is what strengthens us against the assaults of the enemy.
Count the cost, but look to Eternal Values!
In 2nd Corinthians 4:17, 18 there is one last thing for us to consider: “17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Our sufferings, whatever they are, are temporary. Life is short. Eternity is forever. Last week we mentioned the hymnist Margaret Clarkson, who lived her entire life in pain, from migraines and arthritis. (Her first spoken words were “My head hurts!”) But, as a disciple, she saw that all the suffering was temporary.
Paul tells us to maintain that perspective and know that (though it is beyond our understanding) the eternal weight of glory for having walked with Jesus, is where we need to attach our hope. The afflictions we endure here are minor, compared to the Eternal Weight of Glory to come.
Lord Jesus, please teach us Your eternal perspective on life. Stir our hearts to comfort and edify one another by Your Word and by Your Grace. Amen