February 17, 2019
Richie Stark (Downtown Campus) | | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.—1 Thessalonians 5:1–11
It has been such a great privilege to serve you as the Downtown Campus Youth Pastor. I love this church and my family has been encouraged, loved, and supported by many in this church. It is my aim to do the application of this passage: “Encourage one to another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If you are in a time of life that is good because you feel your situation is great, I want to encourage you. If you are grasping at straws to hang on to you faith, I want to encourage you.
You, Bethlehem, have shown me and my family love through fun times and some hard times in these past 2.5 years, and I want to use this morning to encourage you.
Mainly my goal is to encourage you to grasp on to what Pastor Ken gave us last week. Remember his 5 words, “Jesus died and rose again.” This is a saying, I pray, that all of us in this room can all get behind. This slogan is so powerful, it has the ability to break down the dividing wall of hostility between a black man and white man, between a Latino and a Latina, between all cultures and colors. Between a man in a mid-life crisis and students in the basement. It unites those of us with a lot of hair and to those of us in the struggle in that capacity. We can rally around, “Jesus died and rose again.” I am telling you that I can bear witness in the past couple of weeks to the supernatural power of the Name of Jesus among our congregation.
A preacher hardly ever goes to the end of the passage and mentions the application first. But here I am verse 11. The result of this passage is that we encourage each other, and that is my goal this morning. If, by the end of the sermon, you can’t turn to your neighbor and encourage them that “Jesus died and rose again” for them, then we have failed to capture the illocution of this passage. My goal is simple: To encourage you.
Now all that being said, there are some hard things in this passage. About the Day of the Lord, some birth pains that cannot be escaped that come about abruptly, about what it means to life in darkness and light. I want to encourage you, not just as an individual, but as a family. All of us as a unified church, a family of people. We are to be, along with the Thessalonian believers and with the help of the Apostle Paul, encouraged to grasp on to this saying, “Jesus died and rose again.”
Let’s Pray ...
Father, I pray that your people would be unified to you and each other. Father I pray that the work of the Holy Spirit would be evident in this room both convicting and encouraging. I am asking for just the right prick of conviction plus encouragement would fall upon this room so that no one here would be lost on the last day. That birth pains would not come upon them so suddenly so that they would not be able to escape. Father would you please have your kingdom reign in our hearts today. In Jesus name Amen.
Just to be very precise, the “we” Paul is writing about is the Thessalonian believers and the authors of the letter—Paul, Silas and Timothy. So lets just take a minute to expound on the we in verses 7–11 and see what characterizes their life. If you look, as I have already mentioned, you’ll see that we are to encourage each other. Two times at the end of this passage Paul writes to the Thessalonians that they are to encourage each other and build one another up. My question is this: To what end are we to encourage each other and build one another up? It’s not always a good thing to encourage one another—because encouraging each other in the wrong direction is not a good thing.
This is one of the things we struggle with in the Basement. The proverb is true: Birds of a feather flock together. And in the Youth Basement, we struggle with students who are into some difficult things. Where do they seek comfort? From other students who are struggling with the same things. For their acceptance they feel good for a moment because they are justifying each other’s actions, but they are encouraging each other in the wrong way.
Believe it or not, I lived this during my high school years when I had to transfer to a private school. In my senior year, my class was pretty small, and I finally made a friend who was the principal’s son. Sparky is what I nicknamed him. And Sparky was so funny and encouraging, but it seems like after doing some of the things Sparky encouraged me to do I wound up in the Vice Principal’s office.
Let’s just be clear, if we are prompting one another to sin, this is not the type of encouragement that Paul is talking about.
What I want to propose to you this morning is that we need to encourage each other in the direction of the content in verses 9 and 10. Here is the great gospel encouragement!
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.—1 Thessalonians 5:9–10
This is just like Pastor Ken showed us last week with his five words. “Jesus died and rose again” This is our slogan! I would propose that we could add two words to this slogan because it could be helpful in promoting unity and love: “Jesus died and rose again for us.” We are all together in this is our message to the world. And it’s free. Anyone can come in here and hear us trumpeting our slogan: “Jesus died and rose again for us!”
Now how encouraging is that? Christian, you were not destined for wrath. Rather you were made to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
I love this last phrase, “Whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him,” for two reasons: 1) It assures us that we will be with the Lord whether we have passed away before Jesus comes back or whether we are alive when he comes back. And I also love this phrase, because if you take that phrase and couple it with the encouragement in verse 11, you see that we have a parallel passage to the passage that Pastor Ken preached last week. You could set …
1 Thessalonians 4:17 right next to 1 Thessalonians 5:10 and
1 Thessalonians 4:18 right next to 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Paul writes these things because he wants to encourage his readers. One of the main reasons commentators say Paul writes to the Thessalonians is to comfort the Thessalonians over the death of their fellow Church members. It answers the question: What happens to Christians when they sleep and Jesus hasn’t come back yet? Last week, we saw that we can be comforted because of the hope of the resurrection. This week Paul is answering the question of what happens to us who are still alive when Jesus comes back? And we can be encouraged and encourage each other with this slogan, “Jesus died and rose again for us.” No matter if we have passed away or are alive when Jesus comes back, we are going to be with Jesus.
I think this raises a very good question: Richie, how do you know that Jesus died and rose again for us? Well, we know because we follow this command: We are striving to be sober.
A side note: There is a difference in growing in assurance and achieving our salvation. Who achieves our salvation? “Jesus died and rose again for us”: JESUS. God makes a way by grace through faith for us to be saved. But as we live out our faith, we can grow in assurance that we are actually included in the “us.”
Look at verse 8 and we are going to try not to spend the rest of our time here in this one verse:
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Sober is a great idea of what this verb means, but I think it would be better if we thought about this as vigilant or even “self-controlled,” but I like vigilant even better. This word is used for an athlete who is prepared for competition or a soldier who is prepared for a battle. They are not just sober, as in “not drunk,” rather, they are positively prepared and ready for the competition or the battle. This is what Paul is commanding himself, the other two writers, and his readers to do: Be vigilant.
How are we preparing ourselves to be ready, vigilant for our task? We need to put on our armor! You may be able to see here in verse 8 that we have armor. With this armor, you may be able to imagine the Thessalonians are picturing a Roman soldier. But this armor is different from the Roman soldiers’ armor. Different armor for a different campaign slogan. This is the very armor that, when they are in fact putting it on, it will enable them to know that Jesus died and rose again for them. We grow in assurance by obedience. We know because we are his because we obey the command to be vigilant. We know because we obey the command to be awake and alert and to use our battle armor. We know because my battle armor contains 3 spiritual weapons, faith, love and hope that are of great help to us. We know because of the first part of the battle armor is faith. How do you know if the armor fits unless you try them on?
You know family, faith, which is a part of the breastplate, is a very underrated element of the Pauline Triad. Faith can seem underrated. Consider …
I was trying to teach our students two Wednesdays ago about the Bible. What it is? How is it authoritative, inerrant, and clear? But before we were able to start that discussion, I wanted them to think about how they know what they know. This is important, because I didn’t and don’t want to have to try to prove that the Bible is authoritative, inerrant, and clear. I want the students to know it because they believe it. So I made the statement that you cannot know anything—secular or religious—without first believing it. They got to thinking about that, and we really had an enjoyable discussion. I still have work to do—so you can pray. In the middle of our discussion, I thought I would do what I do with Reformed, Bible-believing adults to convince them: Quote Augustine. Just a side note, if you are ever teaching teens, you can’t just quote Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgy, or Edwards if you want to get your point across. Rather, first you have to make them care. Then you have to make them think; then you can quote.
Now Augustine writes: “I believe in order to know.” Now here is an educated, Reformed, Bible-believing adult. Would you agree that everything you know you believe to be true? This maybe another topic for another day, but I think this is what the author of Proverbs means when he writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
I would argue that, in this text, you can know and hang your hat on our campaign slogan “Jesus died and rose again for us” by being sober-minded, keeping watch, keeping guard, and wearing your spiritual breastplate of faith. If we believe in our message, if we believe in our campaign slogan, we will be included in it. But we have to believe it in order to know it. And, I would argue, that you have to believe it in a way that is active, not just a mental ascent to faith in Christ. We know this because James writes:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace be warmed and filled.” Without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.—James 2:14–17
He also continues in the same passage (v. 19):
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
Your faith has got to make a knowledge sandwich. Knowledge being the meat, and faith being both pieces of the bread. The first layer of bread is mental assent faith. The second part of the sandwich is the meat of knowledge. The third part of the bread is the top bun that makes the cheeseburger look so delicious. You know, like those pretzel buns? But that top part is the faith that produces action. And this faith sandwich is part of your battle armor.
Another reason, family, you can know that verse 9 is true is love: I would say, not only can you know our campaign slogan is true by our love, but I would argue that the world can know our campaign slogan is true by our love—by being vigilant and wearing your breastplate that contains love. I would say this is not underrated in the Pauline Triad, especially if we are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13.
But the knowing part of how we would know Jesus died and rose again for us is not always evident … unless we consider the writings of the Apostle John. John writes that in his Gospel the words of Jesus saying,
By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.
This one-another-ing—this loving each other—will be evidence to the watching world that “Jesus died and rose again for us.” Also consider 1 John 3:14. John writes that love can be assurance just like faith:
We know that we have passed from death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
By putting on love you can know that our families’ campaign slogan is true for you.
Are you struggling in faith and love? Are you struggling in assurance? I think one of the real practical things that you can do is look back on your life and see some of the ways that you have practiced your faith and you love. Even if you have practiced these things in the slightest bit because you believe that “Jesus died and rose again for us,” you can have assurance that you are a believer. I know we haven’t got there, but we really don’t want verse 1 Thessalonians 5:3 to be true for us.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 is a figure of speech that shows a contrast to the command that we receive in verses 7 and 8: “For those who sleep, sleep and night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.” This is not referring to “don’t drink” or “don’t sleep.” Sleeping at face value at night is a really good thing for you. This is when we see Paul using an analogy. What do they both have in common? They are generally nighttime activities. If you are going out to prepare for battle, you don’t put your pajamas on to go to sleep for eight hours. You become vigilant and put your armor on and get ready for battle like a soldier. We have a campaign slogan to defend!
In verse 6 there are three more commands that further describe the verb in verse 8. “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” You see the vigilant verb is stated first here in verse 6 then quoted in verse 8 and further elaborated on in the rest of verse 8.
Verses 4 and 5 make up the second part of our outline—the “you” section of our passage. Note that these are indicative statements that Paul is making about the Thessalonian readers. See another sandwich here forming from the “you are” statements on the inside and with the “you are not,” the bread of the sandwich. Take a listen:
But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.—1 Thessalonians 4:4–4
This is so encouraging for a couple of reasons: First, of all putting on this armor and vigilantly staying awake to fight does not make us children of light. We already are children of light, so this is what we do. Second, if we are children of light, this day that is coming will not come upon us like a thief. And believe me, we do not want to be among those whom this day surprises.
Now what is that all about this day coming upon us like a thief? Here, we’ll focus the final section of our sermon: the people. We will see the great contrast between the People and Us. Lets read it: starting in verse 1.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman and they will not escape.—1 Thessalonians 5:1–3
I have a key question: Who are the people in verse 3? I do not want to be among these people on that Last Day: Do you want to be among the people? I think it is important for us to encourage each other not to say what they are saying so that we are not among these people. We can see now that these people are people who are the sleeping and drinking—the people who do not stay awake and are vigilant and put on their armor because Jesus died and rose again for them. Rather, they are saying, “There is peace and security.”
When I first read this, it was really convicting. Do I care about peace and security? Many times when I go to bed, I am very thankful for the place we live and the bed we have, and the day we have lived. And yet, maybe at times I have made an idol out of peace and security. I think that if I just work hard and do a great job, there will be peace and security for my family and their future. I especially don’t want to say anything challenging because maybe I have thought too highly of peace.
Now peace and security are not in and of themselves bad things. These are things to be promoted. In fact, we read in Ephesians that peace is a fruit of the Spirit. If this is true, we should be encouraging each other and building one another up with peace. The key understanding this saying is to figure out what type of genre it is. A little explanation of can help.
The first part of this verse is an unfortunate translation. The second part is good, but the first part is unfortunate. You see, in verse 3 when Paul writes, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’” and you see that the content of what Paul is quoting in English is a complete sentence, that is what is unfortunate. In the original language, it is just two nouns without a subject and a verb. A better translation would be, “peace and security.” So verse 3 should read, “While they are saying, ‘peace and security.’” Some other English translations do this. I will point out why that matters, but first I want to answer the question: Who in Paul’s day is saying this?
Who is Paul quoting? Well, many people before the last decade have just assumed that this is the apostle Paul quoting the Old Testament: Paul is a Pharisee of Pharisees and he quotes the Old Testament frequently in his writings. There is even a pretty parallel passage in Jeremiah 6:14,
They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Commentator Jeffery A.D. Weirma has been a great help with this, pointing out a couple of problems with thinking that Paul is quoting Old Testament in 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
1) Nowhere in the Old Testament do prophetic warnings deal with both false claims of “peace and security.” So there is nothing from the Old Testament to quote. You would think that would be proof enough, but I would just like to share some more of why Paul’s quote cannot be from the Old Testament.
2) Paul does not anywhere else introduce an Old Testament quotation or even an allusion with, “Whenever they say …” [translated, “While people are saying …”].
3) Paul is writing to predominately Gentile believers. We see in Acts 17:4 that Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica led some Jews to Christ, but the text says a “Great many of the devout Greeks ….” The congregation in Thessalonica was largely Gentile believers, so to introduce an Old Testament quote would have been foreign to them.
4) That leads to a final reason this cannot be a quote from the Old Testament. Nowhere else in Paul’s correspondence to the Thessalonians does he quote the Old Testament. For all these reasons, it is safe to conclude that this in not an Old Testament quote.
What is it? I want to propose to you, again from Weirma’s help, that this is a different campaign slogan. An opposite campaign slogan. A campaign slogan pumped out by the Roman Propaganda Machine. Many of us, in school, have learned about the Pax Romana—and that is exactly what we have here. The peace and security of Rome was printed on their coins. (“Peace” more than “security” was printed on coins but “security” was definitely printed on coins.) Monuments were also constructed by Rome that promoted “Peace and Security.” One statue in particular was found honoring Pompey in the ancient city of Troy with the campaign slogan, “Peace and Security,” in Greek just like it is found in this text. This monument would have been erected before the Apostle Paul passed through Troy in Acts 16 on his way to Thessalonica in Acts 17.
So my question is this: Why is promoting the Roman Campaign Slogan so bad? The Thessalonian believers were not to trust in Rome. Rome is not their home. The Peace of Rome and the Security of Rome is not what they were to be about. Caesar was not their king, ultimately. They had a new King, a King with real power, a King who doesn’t just conquer lands but a King who conquers sin and death. They were to be proclaiming “Jesus died and rose again!” We are not to trust in manmade peace. There is nothing wrong with peace. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. But this peace, this political peace, this heavy-handed peace—a peace done at the cost of suppressing others and injustice. This peace is not to be coming out of their lips.
Bethlehem, what type of campaign slogan are we trumpeting? Are we trumpeting a political campaign slogan? Have you ever considered what is minted on our coins? Have you ever looked at a quarter and seen in humongous capital letters, LIBERTY? Now liberty is not a bad thing, especially when you are thinking along with the Bible about freedom from sin. But “LIBERTY” right next to a picture of a slave owner?
What type of agenda do we post on our social media? Is it Republican is it Democrat? Is this how we love each other? Is this how we encourage each other? Are we putting up political agendas in order to create unity among the brothers and sisters here at Bethlehem? What if you Democrats post negative things on you social media about the current president? What if you Republicans posted negative things about the past president? Is this love? Have you ever scrolled through your social media and seen something that put you in a bad mood? Why do we do this to each other? Why do we promote slogans that divide the church and not promote slogans that unite us like “Jesus died and rose again for us!”
I would encourage you with all of my being: Understand our campaign slogan. Trumpet our campaign slogan, be vigilant and put the battle armor of our campaign slogan on. Try it on to see if it fits. Believe that Jesus died and rose again for us. Love your brother, Love your sister. Don’t be among those who are saying. “Peace and Security.”
I have even heard some say that we are on a slippery slope and that we are getting soft. But I do not believe that putting on such armor as a way of being a vigilant soldier and preparing for battle to defend our campaign slogan “Jesus died and rose again for us” is becoming soft. For what types of slogans are we putting on armor?