“But since we are of the day, let us be clearheaded, having put on a breastplate of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of deliverance. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for gaining deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9)
Wrath is a severe word. For many, it conjures images of anger acted upon, and disturbing images of violent response. But this is not the biblical definition of wrath. Wrath is the result of incorrect action. It is not an emotion, it is a consequence of violating the way God has built this world.
For instance, gravity does not have a volitional component. Yet if you choose to step out of an airplane without a parachute at a high altitude, you will suffer gravity’s wrath. If gravity had reasoning ability, it would probably not want you to be harmed. However, if someone chooses a course that violates best practices with regard to gravity, the consequences will often be disastrous.
The same can be said about the principles which God released into this world at creation. There are behaviors outlined by the apostles in their letters that also release consequences into the lives of those who practice those behaviors. We often refer to the natural consequences of our actions as laws of sowing and reaping. When we sow good things into the soil of our lives, and the lives of the people around us, we can reap good things. If we sow negative things, we can reap negative responses. Those negative responses, built into creation, are a major part of the wrath that Paul describes.
Not to be trite, as Paul describes those who get drunk, we can easily see that hangovers are a reaping of behavior that has been sown. They are, if you will, a warning of worse things that can come if the behavior is not limited. The wrath involved in drinking too much alcohol is first a warning to step back from this behavior, but it is also a natural consequence of violating principles around how this world works.
The good news, as Paul outlines it, is that Jesus has made it possible for his followers to gain deliverance from those behaviors that release negative consequences, or wrath. He has done this by giving his Spirit to those who follow him. The Spirit aids us in stepping away from those behaviors that harm us or people around us. Of course, we must “deny ourselves” in this process, and that is still a choice. If we do, the Holy Spirit aids us, and we can gain deliverance from the negative impact of poor life choices.
Now, on to the translation of 1 Thessalonians 5.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-28
A Translation by Randal Cutter
5:1 Now about the times and strategic seasons,* brothers, you do not need me to write to you.
5:2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord* will come just like a thief in the night.
5:3 When they are saying, “Peace and security,” then ruin will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman who is pregnant, and they will surely not escape.
5:4 But you, brothers, are not in the darkness, so that the day surprises you like a thief.
5:5 For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night, nor of the darkness.
5:6 So therefore, let us not sleep* as the rest do, but let us stay alert and clearheaded.
5:7 For those who are sleeping, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.
5:8 But since we are of the day, let us be clearheaded, having put on a breastplate of faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of deliverance.
5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for gaining deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:10 who died for us, in order that whether we are alert in life or asleep in death, we will live together with him.
5:11 Therefore, encourage each other and build one another up, just as you are doing.
5:12 Now we ask you, brothers, to acknowledge those who labor among you, who preside over you in the Lord and admonish you.
5:13 Esteem them highly in love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
5:14 We encourage you, brothers, admonish those who avoid their responsibilities, console those who are discouraged, give attention to those who are weak, be patient with everyone.
5:15 See that no one repay evil for evil, but always pursue the good for one another and everyone.
5:16 Rejoice always;
5:17 pray relentlessly;
5:18 give thanks in all things; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
5:19 Do not suppress the Spirit,
5:20 do not treat prophecy* as if it had no value,
5:21 but test all of them; hold fast to the good,
5:22 keep away from every expression of evil.
5:23 But may the God of peace himself sanctify you through and through, and may the complete you, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5:24 The one who called you is faithful, and he also will accomplish it.
5:25 Brothers, pray also concerning us.
5:26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
5:27 I place you under obligation, before the Lord, that this letter be read to all the brothers.
5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
5:1 Strategic Seasons: There are several Greek words that can be used to describe God’s timing. The Greek word used here refers to seasons or times of opportunity or special import.
5:2 The Day of the Lord: Paul spoke of Jesus’ return at the conclusion of chapter four. As he continues, he refers to Jesus’ return, and the difficulties that the world would be experiencing at that time.
5:6 Sleep: Paul’s contrasts in this verse demonstrate that the sleep he is describing is not physical rest, but rather inability to be clearheaded and alert. In the next verse he seems to hint that this state of affairs is brought about by self-indulgent behaviors.
5:20 Prophecy: Paul lived in an era where those around him were comfortable with this type of supernatural revelation. However, since prophecy is easy to abuse, and can cause much trouble, it is also easy to treat it disdainfully. Those who walk in Christian streams today that still accept prophecy can attest to this. Paul cautions against dismissing all prophecy out of hand, but encourages a rigorous testing of it to ascertain its authenticity.
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Image credit: Bible by Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter