1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
St. Paul writes of two classes of people whose conditions correspond respectively to night and day. Many associations of gloom and evil and ignorance gather round the image of night, while their opposites - brightness, goodness, knowledge, etc. - are suggested by the idea of day. One advantage of the metaphorical language of Scripture is that it gives to us richer and more suggestive ideas than could be conveyed by bare abstract phrases. Subsidiary notions, like chromatic chords in music, give tone and richness to the main idea impressed upon us by a manifold and significant image. This is apparent with the use of the images light and darkness by St. John. St. Paul would have us think that the unspiritual and godless world is in general like a people of the night, while the Church is like a city of light. But probably the enlightenment of revelation, the daylight of spiritual knowledge, is the prominent thought in the mind of the apostle. For we find that in previous verses he has been referring to the shock of surprise to the world which will not be shared by enlightened Christians. On the fact of their greater enlightenment he now founds an exhortation to conduct worthy of it. The fuller light demands the holier life. Sons of the day' have not the excuses of children of night.
I. THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT.
1. These are in darkness. The darkness is not confined to the illiterate. Nor is it confined to the inhabitants of heathen lands. People in Christian countries, who are familiar with the language of the New Testament, may be totally ignorant of its spiritual thought. Such people, though they sit in university chairs as professors of divinity, are blinded with midnight blackness. Was not Faust in the night?
2. Some of the children of the night sleep. These are the thoughtless and careless. They may be awake to secular business. But they slumber over moral and spiritual subjects. If they think of them at all it is with dreamy unconcern.
3. Others of the children of the night are awake only to evil. They spend the night in drunkenness. They hide shameful practices under the cloak of darkness.
4. The guilt of the children of the night is mitigated just in proportion as their benighting is not willful. If it arises from their unhappy circumstances, these unfortunate people cannot be condemned to the same doom as that of men who sin with their eyes open, or as that of those who willfully put out their eyes because they love darkness.
II. THE SONS OF THE DAY.
1. These are enlightened. They may not be brilliantly intellectual nor highly educated. They may be illiterate in human lore. But the "eyes of their hearts" (Ephesians 1:18) are opened. By faith and love and obedience they have come to know what God has revealed through his Spirit.
2. Sons of the day are expected to be wakeful. It is natural to sleep in the night. Sleep in the day betokens sinful indolence. The indifference of spiritually ignorant people is natural. That of Christians on whom has risen "the Dayspring from on high" is monstrous.
3. Sons of the day are expected to be sober. It is bad enough to be drunken in the night, but a debauch which is not shamed by the light of day proves itself to be scandalously depraved. There are excesses of passion, of self-will, and of worldly excitement which Christian people who have escaped the coarser sins fall into. These are not excusable in the children of the night, but they are much less excusable in the sons of the day. Sobriety becomes the enlightened Christian. This sobriety need not consist in Puritan rigor; much less should it partake of sourness, gloom, or prim formality. The sober Christian should remember that the typical citizen of the kingdom of heaven is a little child. Sobriety is just the opposite to unrestrained passionateness of pleasure or anger.
4. Sons of the day are provided with armor. The three graces - faith, hope, and love - constitute the armor of the Christian. They protect the two most vital parts - breast and head. Faith and love come together, for they interact. Faith working by love protects the heart. Hope, the hope of final deliverance from trial and temptation, is the helmet, because it protects the head by keeping the thoughts clear and calm. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.