1 Thessalonians 5:6
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Let us not sleep.—The metaphor here expresses not so much actual sin (Ephesians 5:14) as carelessness in spiritual and moral things. “Let us not say, ‘Peace and safety,’ and resign ourselves to indifference about Christ’s coming.” St. Paul (as always) indicates that it was possible for “children of light” to be converted back into “children of darkness.”

Others.—Rather, the rest, as in 1Thessalonians 4:13 : so also Romans 11:7; Ephesians 2:3.

Watch and be sober.—The comparison of night now suggests to the writer another thought besides that of sloth, namely, that of dissipation. Christians are not to turn day into night by debauchery any more than by sleep.

5:6-11 Most of mankind do not consider the things of another world at all, because they are asleep; or they do not consider them aright, because they sleep and dream. Our moderation as to all earthly things should be known to all men. Shall Christians, who have the light of the blessed gospel shining in their faces, be careless about their souls, and unmindful of another world? We need the spiritual armour, or the three Christian graces, faith, love, and hope. Faith; if we believe that the eye of God is always upon us, that there is another world to prepare for, we shall see reason to watch and be sober. True and fervent love to God, and the things of God, will keep us watchful and sober. If we have hope of salvation, let us take heed of any thing that would shake our trust in the Lord. We have ground on which to build unshaken hope, when we consider, that salvation is by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, to atone for our sins and to ransom our souls. We should join in prayer and praise one with another. We should set a good example one before another, and this is the best means to answer the end of society. Thus we shall learn how to live to Him, with whom we hope to live for ever.Therefore let us no sleep, as do others - As the wicked world does; compare notes, Matthew 25:5.

But let us watch - That is, for the coming of the Lord. Let us regard it as an event which is certainly to occur, and which may occur at any moment; notes, Matthew 25:13.

And be sober - The word here used (νήφω nēphō) is rendered sober in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 5:8; and watch in 2 Timothy 4:5, and 1 Peter 4:7. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means, to be temperate or abstinent, especially in respect to wine. Joseph. Jewish Wars, 5. 5, 7; Xenophon, Cyr. 7. 5, 20; and then it is used in a more general sense, as meaning to be sober-minded, watchful, circumspect. In this passage there is an allusion to the fact that persons not only sleep in the night, but that they are frequently drunken in the night also. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, when he comes, will find the wicked sunk not only in carnal security, but in sinful indulgences, and that those who are Christians ought not only to be awake and to watch as in the day-time, but to be temperate. They ought to be like persons engaged in the sober, honest, and appropriate employments of the day, and not like those who waste their days in sleep, and their nights in revelry.

A man who expects soon to see the Son of God coming to judgment, ought to be a sober man. No one would wish to be summoned from a scene of dissipation to his bar. And who would wish to be called there from the ball-room; from the theater; from the scene of brilliant worldly amusemet? The most frivolous votary of the world; the most accomplished and flattered and joyous patron of the ball-room; the most richly-dressed and admired daughter of vanity, would tremble at the thought of being summoned from those brilliant halls, where pleasure is now found, to the judgment bar. They would wish to have at least a little time that they might prepare for so solemn a scene. But if so, as this event may at any moment occur, why should they not be habitually sober-minded? Why should they not aim to be always in that state of mind which they know would be appropriate to meet him? Especially should Christians live with such vigilance and soberness as to be always prepared to meet the Son of God. What Christian can think it appropriate for him to go up to meet his Saviour from the theater, the ballroom, or the brilliant worldly party? A Christian ought always so to live that the coming of the Son of God in the clouds of heaven would not excite the least alarm.

6. others—Greek, "the rest" of the world: the unconverted (1Th 4:13). "Sleep" here is worldly apathy to spiritual things (Ro 13:11; Eph 5:14); in 1Th 5:7, ordinary sleep; in 1Th 5:10, death.

watch—for Christ's coming; literally, "be wakeful." The same Greek occurs in 1Co 15:34; 2Ti 2:26.

be sober—refraining from carnal indulgence, mental or sensual (1Pe 5:8).

The apostle draws this inference from the foregoing verses in a twofold duty:

1. Negative; Let us not sleep, as do others; sleep is not proper for the children of the day, but of the night. And as the night and darkness are to be taken metaphorically, so the sleep. And though it hath several acceptations in Scripture, yet it is here taken for security. As the natural sleep binds up the senses, and men are not aware of approaching danger, so doth the sleep of the soul: it darkens the mind, stupifies the spiritual sense, that men prepare not for the coming of Christ, nor to avoid the destruction that will then come suddenly upon them. Romans 13:11,12, is a place parallel to this: It is high time to awake out of sleep, & c. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. &c.

2. Positive; Let us watch: watching stands contrary to sleep; the senses are then in exercise, which were bound up by sleep. When the soul is watching, the faculties are in a spiritual exercise to apprehend both our interest and our duty, to take hold of that which is good, and to avoid the evil, the evil of sin and the evil of suffering. But watching here in the text especially refers to the coming of Christ, to prepare for it, that we may not be surprised as others will, and to be in a readiness to be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless, 2 Peter 3:14.

And be sober: sobriety is reckoned to be one branch of temperance, and one of the frnits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:23, and one link of the chain of grace, 2 Peter 1:6. It hath its name in the Greek, signifying either soundness of mind, or continency of mind; a mind kept or held within its due bounds. It is usually taken for moderation in meats and drinks, setting bounds to the appetite; but it extends to all earthly things, as honour, riches, pleasures, to have our affections to them, our cares about them, our endeavours after them, kept within due bounds; and all this upon the account of Christ’s coming, as a necessary preparation for it: see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 1 Peter 4:7. Sobriety and watching are here joined together, and so 1 Peter 4:7 5:8. For as intemperance in meats and drinks makes the body dull and sleepy, so without temperance and sobriety the soul will be disenabled to watch. Therefore let us not sleep as do others.... As the rest of the Gentiles, as unconverted persons, who are in a state of darkness, and are children of the night; let us not act that part they do, or be like them; which professors of religion too much are, when they indulge themselves in carnal lusts and pleasures, and are careless and thoughtless about the coming of the day of the Lord; and get into a stupid, drowsy, and slumbering frame of spirit; when grace lies dormant as if it was not, and they grow backward to, and slothful in the discharge of duty, and content themselves with the bare externals of religion; and become lukewarm and indifferent with respect to the truths and ordinance of the Gospel, the cause of God, the interest of religion, and glory of Christ; and are unconcerned about sins of omission or commission: and are willing to continue in such a position, being displeased at every admonition and exhortation given them to awake; but this is very unbecoming children of the light, and of the day:

but let us watch; over ourselves, our hearts, thoughts, affections, words and actions; and over others, our fellow Christians, that they give not into bad principles and evil practices; and against sin, and all appearance of it; against the temptations of Satan, the snares of the world, and the errors of wicked men, who lie in wait to deceive; and in the word and ordinances, and particularly in prayer, both unto it, in it, and after it; and for the second coming of Christ, with faith, affection, and patience; and the rather, because of the uncertainty of the time of it;

and be sober; not only in body, abstaining from excessive eating and drinking, using this world, and the good things of it, so as not to abuse them, or ourselves with them; but also in mind, that the heart be overcharged with the cares of this world; for men may be inebriated with the world, as well as with wine; and the one is as prejudicial to the soul as the other is to the body; for an immoderate care for, and pursuit after the world, chokes the word, makes it unfruitful, and runs persons into divers snares and temptations, and hurtful lusts. The Arabic version renders it, "let us repent"; and the Ethiopic version, "let us understand"; as intending the sobriety of the mind, repentance being an after thought of the mind, a serious reflection on past actions with sorrow and concern; and thinking soberly, and not more highly than a man ought to think of himself, his gifts, his attainments and abilities, in opposition to pride, vanity, and self-conceit, is very becoming; and shows a true and well informed understanding and judgment, and that a man is really sober and himself.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 5:6 infers from the Christian’s character as children of the light, the duty to behave conformably to it, i.e. to be watchful and sober, that they might not be taken unprepared by the day of the Lord.

καθεύδειν] denotes, under the image of sleep, carelessness about the eternal salvation of the soul. In Ephesians 5:14 it is of the sleep of sin.

οἱ λοιποί] the others (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Ephesians 2:3), i.e. the unbelievers.

γρη γορεῖν and νήφειν are also conjoined in 1 Peter 5:8. νήφειν is the opposite of μεθύσκεσθαι, 1 Thessalonians 5:7. Oecumenius: ἐπίτασις ἐγρηγόρσεως τὸ νήφειν· ἔνι γὰρ καὶ ἐγρηγορέναι καὶ μηδὲν διαφέρειν καθεύδοντος.1 Thessalonians 5:6. To be alert, in one’s sober senses (νήφειν), is more than to be merely awake. Here, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:8, the Christians are summoned to live up to their privileges and position towards the Lord. “There are few of us who are not rather ashamed of our sins and follies as we look out on the blessed morning sunlight, which comes to us like a bright-winged angel beckoning us to quit the old path of vanity that stretches its dreary length behind us” (George Eliot). In one of the Zoroastrian scriptures (Vendidad, xviii. 23–25) the cock, as the bird of the dawn, is inspired to cry, “Arise, O men!… Lo here is Bushyasta coming down upon you, who lulls to sleep again the whole living world as soon as it has awoke, saying, ‘Sleep, sleep on, O man [and live in sin, Yasht, xxii. 41]! The time is not yet come.’ ”6. Therefore] More exactly, Accordingly then. The double conjunction here employed is an idiom peculiar to St Paul, which appears once in 2 Thess. (ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:15), eight times in Romans, and twice besides in his Epistles. It combines the logical and practical inference,—that which both reason and duty require.

let us not sleep, as do others] the rest (R. V.); as in ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:13, see note. “Sleep” is natural to those who are “of the night” (comp. Ephesians 5:11-14); it is symbolic of the insensibility and helplessness that sin produces. Comp. Romans 13:11-12 : “It is high time to awake out of sleep … Let us put off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.” In this sense we may well pray the prayer of Psalm 13:3, “Lighten Thou mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.”

but let us watch and be sober] Lit., let us keep awake. It is our Lord’s word of warning and entreaty in the Garden, Mark 14:34; Mark 14:37-38; comp. Luke 12:36-37, “Be ye like into men looking out for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding … Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.” It indicates the wakeful activity of a mind devoted to Christ’s service and busy with thoughts of His coming. Of such “watching” prayer is a necessary accompaniment (Mark 14:38; Colossians 4:2).

“Be sober” gives the moral, as “watch” the mental side of the attitude enjoined in view of the coming Day; comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:8; also 1 Peter 5:8. Soberness, in its narrower sense the opposite of drunkenness (1 Thessalonians 5:7), includes habits of moderation and self-control generally. It excludes, for one thing, morbid excitement and unreasoning credulity about the Parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).1 Thessalonians 5:6. [28] ΚΑῚ ΝΉΦΩΜΕΝ, and let us be sober) This denotes the state, ἀνανήφω, ἘΚΝΉΦΩ, the act, 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Corinthians 15:34.—ΝΉΦΩ is a milder term.

[28] Καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσι, and they shall not escape) how anxiously soever they might desire it.—V. g.Verse 6. - Therefore; because we are the children of the, light and of the day, because we have been enlightened and purified, we ought to be watchful and sober, so that we may not be unprepared for the day of the Lord. Privileges will avail us nothing, unless we use them and walk up to them. Let us not sleep. Sleep is here evidently used metaphorically to denote religious carelessness. As do others; the unbelieving and ungodly. But let us watch and be sober; evidently to be understood metaphorically of spiritual vigilance and sobriety: watchfulness denoting wakefulness from sleep, and sobriety freedom from intoxication. Both must be combined: we must be watchful, on our guard, and we must be sober, armed and prepared; "for even by day," observes St. Chrysostom, "if one watches, but is not sober, he will fall into numberless dangers." The same exhortation is given by Peter, but in the reverse order: "Be sober, be vigilant" (1 Peter 5:8). Others (οἱ λοιποί)

The rest, as 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Let us watch (γρηγορῶμεν)

See on Mark 13:35, and comp. Ephesians 5:14.

Be sober (νήφωμεν)

Primarily in a physical sense, as opposed to excess in drink, but passing into the ethical sense of calm, collected, circumspect. Alert wakefulness and calm assurance will prevent their being surprised and confused by the Lord's coming, as by a thief in the night.

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