THE MEANING OF SOBERNESS
Soberness is related to watchfulness. To be sober is to be clear about the situation in which we are fighting. It is to have a proper understanding concerning where we are and where the enemy is. It is to see how the enemy is attacking and how we should fight back. If we are sober, we shall be clear about our direction.
To be sober is to be clear about everything related to the battle. It is to be clear about where the enemy is, what the enemy is doing, and how the enemy is attacking. It is also to be clear about how to protect ourselves and how to fight back. Those who are sober are fully clear about their situation.
THE LACK OF WATCHFULNESS AND SOBERNESS
Most of today’s Christians do not have such a soberness. As a result, they are drugged, they are in a stupor, and they do not have the proper sense of direction. This is the reason it is often difficult to have fellowship with them. If you fellowship with certain ones about a particular matter, they will argue with you. Should you try to fellowship about something else, they may condemn you or even slander you.
In verse 6 Paul says, “So then, let us not sleep as the rest, but let us watch and be sober.” The word watch here is versus sleep in the following verse, and sober is versus drunk. As we talk about the hope of the Lord’s coming, we need to consider ourselves and ask whether we are watchful or sleeping, whether we are sober or drunk. Certain slogans on bumper stickers concerning the Lord’s coming indicate that many Christians are drugged and in a stupor. With respect to the coming of the Lord, there is no watchfulness or soberness. We, therefore, need to be on the alert. Are we fighting for the Lord’s interests? Are we watchful? Are we sober and clear about our situation? We need to ask ourselves questions such as these.
We have emphasized the fact that Paul wrote the Epistle of 1 Thessalonians in an elementary way, talking about basic matters. He speaks concerning the Lord’s coming and our being caught up to Him. But instead of stopping there, he goes on in chapter five to speak of watchfulness and soberness.
PUTTING ON THE ARMOR
If we are watchful and sober, we shall put on the armor. According to verse 8, we should put on the breastplate of faith and love and also a helmet, the hope of salvation. This breastplate protects our faith and love; the helmet guards our hope. Hence, by the armor, the basic structures of the Christian life—faith, love, and hope—are protected.
If we read 1 Thessalonians 5 carefully and compare it with Ephesians 6, we shall see that in 1 Thessalonians we have an elementary teaching concerning spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6, however, the teaching about spiritual warfare is much more advanced. Therefore, we need to go on from 1 Thessalonians 5 to Ephesians 6.
We have pointed out strongly that to fight properly is to be watchful and also sober. This fighting safeguards our Christian life; it preserves and protects the basic structure of the Christian life.
Some who formerly were with us in the Lord’s recovery put off the armor and thereby were exposed to the enemy’s attack. Because they had no covering, no protection, and no safeguard, they were defeated by the enemy. Instead of being watchful and sober, they were sleeping and in a stupor.
We need to be watchful and sober. This means that we need to keep on fighting. We also need to safeguard the structure of our Christian life by wearing the armor. Then when the Lord Jesus comes, we shall be saved from the sudden destruction.
God will one day judge the world, and Satan will seek to destroy it. If we read the book of Revelation carefully, we shall see that during the last three and a half years, God will be angry with this evil, sinful, and rebellious world and judge it. Moreover, Satan will not want the world to exist any longer and will seek to destroy it. The result will be sudden destruction.
In verses 9 and 10 Paul says, “Because God did not appoint us to wrath, but to the gaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us that, whether we watch or sleep, we may live together with Him.” Since God did not appoint us to wrath, we should watch, be sober, and fight to cooperate with God that we may gain His salvation through the Lord Jesus. As we have pointed out, salvation in this verse is not eternal salvation; it is salvation from the coming destruction and also from the slavery of the corruption of the old creation. We are waiting for salvation from destruction and from the slavery of corruption. Then we shall enjoy the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.
LIVING TOGETHER WITH THE LORD
In verse 10 Paul speaks of living together with the Lord. The Lord died for us not only that we may be saved from eternal perdition, but also that we may live together with Him, through His resurrection, a life that can save us from the coming destruction. We may live together with Him whether we watch or sleep, that is, whether we live or die. On the one hand, the Lord is away from us and we are awaiting His coming back; on the other hand, He is with us (Matt. 28:20), and we can live together with Him (Rom. 6:8).
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)