1 Thessalonians 5:8
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.
I. THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF THE PRESENT LIFE AND OF THE BEST PREPARATION FOR GETTING THROUGH IT.
1. Life is a battle. There is peril of some sort. Men do not want a breastplate and helmet sitting under their own vine and fig tree in unbroken repose.
2. Life is a great and noble thing, but a wise man, observing the spiritual faculty in man, gets the idea that it is not an ultimate state. It is full of beginnings. Things do not seem completed. Wonderful as the universe is, it does not fill the soul, but leaves a continual yearning for something more. Man is capable of forming an idea of what mind might become, and then he looks abroad and sees himself a little man among little men, being pulled down by the worser part of his nature, and tempted to rest satisfied with the present condition of things.
3. See, says the apostle, that you are not engrossed by the lesser to the neglect of the greater. Guard those sublimer parts of your nature, that head and heart, those thoughts and affections that wander through eternity.
(1) Put on the breastplate of faith and love. Have within you the principle of faith which shall penetrate the material and visible and realize the spiritual, substantial, and eternal, and in the midst of all that greatness and splendour remember that faith will bring before you God, infinitely holy; and along with faith there will be a love which shall bring your moral being into contact with all good; the love of infinite excellence will raise you above the present and bring you into harmony with itself.
(2) But more: You must have a personal interest in the infinite future "for a helmet," etc. You must not be satisfied with looking about this universe and thinking that it has been from and will be through eternity, and that you are just come to appear for a little moment, and then pass away, as some philosophers allege; you are yourself to be eternal. A hope of this sort will preserve you from those temptations to grosser forms of folly and sin. You will not be satisfied to associate with them that are drunken, and who enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season. Combine these, and you have an element of strength which will preserve you amidst all spiritual danger.
II. WHENCE MAN IS TO GET THIS EQUIPMENT FOR THE BATTLE OF LIFE. By the actual revelation and interposition of God. In this dislocated world I want a Divine hand to put it right. If I am to have faith to realize the infinite, love to bring me in harmony with the good, and hope to secure a personal interest in eternity, then I want God to speak, to help. Christianity comes and delivers such a message as we want: "God hath not appointed us unto wrath," etc. (ver. 9).
1. I could take that the world over, and call to guilty men, "Forsake your sins, for God hath not," etc. God hath spoken to you and acted for you. While you belong to the natural system it goes on, and you with it. The law takes its course, and there is nothing but destruction for you, for you have broken it. But God has interfered and enforced a remedy by which you may be saved. If you accept that, then you may escape the result which must otherwise ensue; for God's design is your salvation.
2. But this is true in a more emphatic sense of those who have received the gospel. In a higher and profounder sense "God hath not appointed you," etc. — the very object for which it was offered and by you believed. You have come in contact with this Divine element, and by it you are preparing, while here, for the everlasting blessedness which is the future adornment of saved humanity. Christianity, then, is not merely a system; Christ is more than a perfect Teacher and Example: He has died for us and wrought out for us a redemption. Men may take their stand on the abstract improbability of the thing; but let them reject the Bible also, for if there is one thing clearer in that than another it is that Christ has made an atonement for sin. Christ's death is the point upon which the salvation of humanity turns; we may not be able to say how, but the thing is uncontestable.
III. THE SORT OF WORLD TO WHICH WE ARE PASSING AND THE KIND OF THING OUR LIFE IS TO BE (ver. 10).
1. "Awake or sleep" means alive or dead. The great object of the gospel is that as long as you live you should live with Christ, have a Divine life from Him, and walk in harmony with Him, and that when you are dead you shall be with Him also.
2. But Paul meant more than this. He had in his mind 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and his object was to show how the great end of the gospel was to be answered, and that the death of the disciples would not frustrate its accomplishment. When Christ is manifested, whether they are alive or dead the result will be the same: they will all be alive together with Christ.
3. Here, then, is —
(1) Immortal life for man. Though I may die and see corruption, I shall rise up like Christ into a glorious and eternal life. That is something like a consummation. There is something ultimate about that, with which I can be satisfied; so different from this world of beginnings, temptations, warfare and dislocations, where the spiritual is dragged down to the flesh.
(2) Life of the noblest and Divinest sort; life with Christ. You cannot make a man more miserable than to take him out of his own sphere in society and put him in one opposite; but to place a Christian in the immediate presence of Christ is to bestow upon him the highest happiness. His sanctified and glorified nature will find itself at home by the side of Christ.
(3) Life of the highest character in respect to general society. We shall not only live with Him, but "together." It will not be a solitary blessedness. A multitude which no man can number made like each other, by Christ having made them like Himself, will live together in harmony, love, and mutual confidence, and their happiness will be complete.
IV. CHRISTIAN MEN HAVING THIS FAITH, LOVE, AND PROSPECT, SHOULD —
1. Edify one another, which implies that there is a foundation laid, upon which the edifice is to be built. Christians should help each other to become temples for the Holy Ghost. Now, a glorious thing like that could never have sprung up in a world like this: it must have come from God.
2. Comfort one another with the testimony we have received — under trial, under loss of friends, in the family, and in Christian intercourse. Conclusion:
1. The perfect beauty and harmony of the Christian system as a theory. If one could not believe it true, it would be relinquished with regret. What a glorious thing, then, to feel no such pity, but to be certain of its truth.
2. The strong feelings of gratitude, hope, and determination which ought to inspire us with respect to life.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.