Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, May 7, 2023
The Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
General Theme: Living Righteously While Waiting Patiently for Jesus to Return
Sermon Title: No Fear of God’s Wrath
Sermon Text: First Thessalonians 5:4-11
Subject: Spiritual watchfulness
Complement: When believers maintain a watchfulness over their souls, they will fight as victorious spiritual warriors
Dominating Idea: Watchfulness keeps us safe and strong.
Overview & Review
I. Spiritual leaders prove their concern for the church. (1:1a)
II. Spiritual leaders provide care for the church. (1:1bc)
III. Spiritual leaders pray for the church. (1:2-10)
IV. Spiritual leaders pattern a life of loving service unto the church. (2:1 – 3:13)
V. Spiritual leaders prescribe exhortations for the church. (4:1 – 5:28)
A. Exhortations regarding practical sanctification (4:1-12)
B. Exhortations regarding eschatological concerns (4:13 – 5:11)
1. What happens to Christians after they die?
2. Will the church experience “The Day of the Lord”? Our Focus Today
C. Exhortations regarding ecclesiastical [church] responsibilities (5:12-22)
The Hibernia oil platform in the North Atlantic is 189 miles east-southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. It is owned by six different companies [i.e. ExxonMobil Canada, Chevron Canada, Suncor, Canada Hibernia Corporation, Murphy Oil, and Statoil Canada]. As a fixed structure, its total height is 738 feet; 264 feet to the ocean floor and rising 474 feet above sea level. And at its peak production, Hibernia can produce 220,000 barrels of oil a day [that’s over 9,000,000 gallons].
“Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, an oil platform that sank in 1982 with all aboard (84 men) lost at sea, the Hibernia’s design incorporates a GBS (gravity-based structure) which anchors it to the seabed. The structure does not move. It is an artificial island.
The Hibernia was built as a stationary platform because it sits right in the middle of what scientists call ‘iceberg alley.’ Some icebergs, the size of large ocean liners, regularly pass along these waters.
Therefore, “sixteen concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth can distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed. The Hibernia is built to withstand a 1,000,000-ton iceberg (expected every 500 years), and designers claim it can actually withstand a 6,000,000-ton iceberg (expected once in 10,000 years) with repairable damage.
“Even with all these protection measures, Hibernia’s designers take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles (45 kilometers). Any that come close are “lassoed” and towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship’s high-pressure water cannons or with propeller wash. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, Hibernia will never allow an iceberg even to come close. Procedures are in place to ensure that all the safety devices never get used.” 
Just as Hibernia’s designers took no chances constructing this massive oil platform, while defining specific procedures to ensure the platform’s safety, Jesus Christ continues to build perfectly His church, instructing His disciples to maintain spiritual watchfulness always. Therefore, when the church is spiritually watchful, she will not be overcome with any surprises, especially with “icebergs” [trials and tribulations] of life and ministry.
However, there is a terrible surprise waiting for this sinful world that is filled with unbelievers who are not maintaining spiritual watchfulness over their souls. The “icebergs of sin” will destroy them. Know this, God has ordained a time in the future, the Day of the Lord, where He will personally execute judgment upon every unbeliever who has not believed in His Son, Jesus Christ. And that day is fast approaching!
As we direct our focus to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we have learned that shortly after Paul was forced to leave the young Thessalonian Church, and barely escaping with his life, false teachers converged upon the young, vulnerable church, teaching them that the Day of the Lord was upon them and that the Rapture would occur at the end of God’s Day of Wrath.
These young believers were surprised as they were afflicted for receiving the Word of God (1st Thessalonians 1:6). Consequently, as they grieved over the deaths of loved ones, they also asked questions like, what happens to Christians when they die? And, will Christians experience God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord?
Therefore, with a quill in hand and a parchment before him, Paul wrote this letter with his pastor’s heart to comfort many bereaved Christians and to inform other saints who may have been prone to deception, regarding the Day of the Lord.
Several months later, Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonian Church to provide further insights concerning the Day of the Lord.
Last week, this pulpit addressed three truths about the Day of the Lord as revealed in 1st Thessalonians 5:1-3.
1. The Day of the Lord is a date that remains secret with God.
2. The Day of the Lord will come suddenly, without warning, without assurance, without
protection and without escape [for unbelievers].
3. The Day of the Lord is characterized as “God’s Day in Court,” being associated with
condemnation, desolation, and restoration.
So that the church would not be taken by surprised, as when a thief suddenly and unexpectedly breaks into a someone’s home, Paul encourages the Thessalonian believers to maintain a spiritual watchfulness, especially as God’s coming judgment upon this world draws closer every day.
You may be asking, but why must I maintain a spiritual watchfulness, especially since the Bible teaches the church will be raptured before the Day of the Lord? What is spiritual watchfulness, anyway?
Spiritual watchfulness is related to warfare. Paul employs several metaphors in our text (1st Thessalonians 5:1-11) related to fighting and warfare. In other words, Christians are amid a great cosmic, spiritual battle. Christians are at war with the forces of darkness, who attempt to lead astray God’s people…
…with the values of this world
…through our fleshly desires and
…by the cunning schemes of the devil
Satan and his forces of darkness know their day of judgment is coming. They are not going to surrender. Rather, the forces of darkness are “stepping up their game!” Even though the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ have sealed the final victory against Satan, Satan and his demonic forces are employing a scorched earth policy – to destroy everyone and everything so as to prove God is a liar and to thwart God’s sovereign will to fulfill His promises by establishing His Millennial kingdom on earth, with His Throne in Jerusalem.
When our nation’s military warriors are deployed to fulfill its mission, they maintain a watchfulness because they know the enemy is all around. They can never let their guard down, especially in the middle of a firefight.
Like these warriors, you and me and every Christian need to know that we are caught up in in this cosmic battle. I wish to God that He would open the church’s spiritual eyes so that we could see and understand this reality more clearly!
That said, here are four principles to support the dominating idea,
Watchfulness keeps us safe and strong.
I. Spiritual watchfulness reveals the nature of Christ. (1st Thessalonians 5:4-5)
II. Spiritual watchfulness reflects the lifestyle of Christ. (1st Thessalonians 5:6-8)
III. Spiritual watchfulness rejoices in the salvation from Christ. (1st Thessalonians 5:9-10)
IV. Spiritual watchfulness revitalizes the believers in Christ. (1st Thessalonians 5:11)
I. Spiritual watchfulness reveals the nature of Christ (1st Thessalonians 5:4-5).
“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.”
(1st Thessalonians 5:4-5)
A. Believers are not children of darkness.
Every Christian ought to understand that their nature is rooted in Christ! Therefore, believers are not children of darkness but belong to the Light of the world – Jesus.
Metaphorically speaking, “darkness” skotos (Strong’s #4655) refers to the intellectual and moral ignorance associated with unregenerate people [unbelievers]. Unbelievers walk in darkness because they are ignorant of God’s Word and their hearts are hardened against God’s revelation. Consequently, they reject the gospel, give themselves over to licentiousness, and to work all uncleanness with greediness (Ephesians 4:18-19). Therefore, apart from the work of God the Holy Spirit in the life of an unbeliever, unbelievers will always choose to remain in darkness. Jesus said,
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing
evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed”
Since unbelievers know not the things of God but love darkness, they remain “lost” in their sins and prefer to live their lives according to their own understanding. As a result, they ignore Scripture thereby believing erroneous teachings about God and fall prey to demonic doctrines and influences.
Sadly, these unbelievers live lives without the hope of God’s salvation. Moreover, they do not understand God’s glorious purposes for their lives.
B. Believers belong to the Light of the world.
Even though unbelievers live in spiritual darkness, the Thessalonian Church was composed of sinners who had been “born-again” and no longer lived in darkness. A profound change took place in them. This change did not result from the sinner’s effort to come to God; but by the sovereign grace of God the Father, Who “draws” helkō (Strong’s #1670) unregenerate sinners by divine and powerful impulses with loving kindness (John 6:44) to His Son and gives them to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Here are five purposes as to why God transferred sinners from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light:
1. To turn others from darkness to light; Paul witnessed to King Agrippa (Acts 26).
“I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).
2. To remind believers of their sanctification; Paul exhorted the Corinthian Church not to
forget their sanctification in Christ, when he wrote:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2nd Corinthians 6:14)
3. To beware of the spiritual battle against demonic forces; Paul writes:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
4. To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord; because Paul reminds us:
“He [God the Father] delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love…” (Colossians 1:13).
5. To proclaim the excellencies of Jesus; Peter writes:
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1st Peter 2:9).
Therefore, as “sons of light” and “sons of the day,” Christians are to have nothing more to do with spiritual darkness because of their deliverance by Jesus, The Light of the world. Paul writes:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…proving what is acceptable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8, 10).
Therefore, Christians, you have nothing to fear because you are “partakers of the divine nature” (2nd Peter 1:4); walking in the light of God’s Word. You are safe in Christ, because of Christ. And when the Rapture occurs, believers will be caught up to meet Jesus Christ in the air. Believers, you are “sons of God,” “sons of light,” and “sons of the day” unlike unbelievers, who belong to the night and darkness.
Since unbelievers do not guard their hearts against spiritual darkness or think about the coming judgment, when that Day comes, it will be too late for them, for they will be “overtaken” katalambanō (Strong’s #2638) by God’s tsunami-like judgment, which will come like a thief in the night,
Watchfulness keeps us safe and strong.
II. Spiritual watchfulness reflects the lifestyle of Christ (1st Thessalonians 5:6-8).
“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.
(1st Thessalonians 5:6-8
Since believers have been given such heavenly blessings and hope, their conduct [manner of living] ought to reflect the Person of Christ while revealing the believer’s character. After all, people live what they believe. Or if we reverse this axiom, the same is true: Our lifestyle reveals our beliefs.
If people profess to know Christ but godly fruit is consistently absent, then that person ought to consider Paul’s words written to the Corinthian Church: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves…” (2nd Corinthians 13:5a). Jesus taught that the “fruits of our life” reveal our character and destiny (Matthew 7:15-23).
Therefore, Paul exhorted the Thessalonian Church to behave properly, so as not to be caught off guard at the Parousia, and to be spiritually watchful much in the same way Jesus lived His life. How?
A. Do not become spiritually lazy.
The call to spiritual watchfulness is a call to guard one’s heart, not a physical watchfulness – gazing into the heavens for the coming of the Lord. Paul writes, “…let us not sleep…” The word “sleep” is katheudō (Strong’s#2581) means “carnal indifference to spiritual things.” It is a condition of insensitivity to divine things involving conformity to the world.
In other words, don’t become lethargic to the things of God; neglecting to cultivate spiritual disciplines (i.e. devotional time with God; praying; reading and meditating on Scripture; witnessing; fasting; etc.).
God did not save sinners so that they may remain in their ignorance, unbelief, and dominated by sin, which would eventually lead to rebellion against Him. This behavior is expected of unbelievers because it is their nature. But, not so for Christians who are “sons of God,” “sons of light”; the things of darkness have no place in the life of a Christian. Read Romans 13:12-14.
B. Maintain spiritual alertness.
Paul writes, “…let us watch…” The word “watch” is grēgoreō (Strong’s #1127), which means to maintain a spirit of vigilance and expectancy towards the things of God. It is the opposite of being indifferent to God and His Word. While every believer will live with Jesus, when He calls us home, those who have “slept” [remained lax towards the things of God] will suffer loss. Read 1st Corinthians 3:15; 9:27 and 2nd Corinthians 5:10.
It’s interesting to trace this word in the NT and identify some of the areas where Christians are to maintain spiritual alertness:
…against false teachers (Acts 20:28-31)
…towards their lives of faith (1st Corinthians 16:13)
…regarding our prayer life (Colossians 4:2)
…concerning the “things of God” (1st Thessalonians 5:6)
…against the devil (1st Peter 5:8)
…towards the spiritual life in the church (Revelation 3:2)
…towards the Scriptural truths received (Revelation 3:3)
C. Be Self-Controlled.
The third way in which Paul exhorts the Thessalonian Church is, “…and be sober.” The word, “sober” nēphō (Strong’s #3525) means to be free from all intoxicants of the world. In other words, Christians are alien ambassadors, not worldly citizens, seeking to grab all the gusto of this life, but to do God’s will and fulfill His purposes.
In the context of this passage, Paul is obviously not referring to drunkenness (though there are several other passages that condemn drunkenness) but by way of an analogy, exhorting Christians to be under the control of God, not the values of this world (Read 1st John 2:15-17).
Spiritually speaking, believers are “morning people” of God; they are not sleepwalkers intoxicated by the world [Keith Krell]. Rather, unbelievers, spiritually speaking, are those people who “sleep” (indifferent to the things of God), who “watch” out for themselves not exercising spiritual alertness, and who “get drunk” (being intoxicated by this world) because they are of the night and darkness.
Reemphasizing the same truths in verse 7, Paul calls out to the Christian community with a cry: To arms! To arms! by having each believer “put on” enduō (Strong’s #1746) the armor of God. God does not dress us with the armor; He equips us. It is up to each believer to put on the armor of God every day. The best way for Christians to prepare themselves for the Lord’s return is not to guess at dates but to remain spiritually alert and well protected [Andrew W. Young].
D. Put on the armor of God
While Paul identifies only two vitally important pieces of armor in this letter, the rest of the armor is identified in his letter to the Ephesians.
…Breastplate of faith and love (breastplate of righteousness)
…Helmet of hope of salvation
…Belt of truth
…Shoes of the Gospel
…Sword of the Spirit (Scripture)
…And an attitude of praying and watching
When our faith is weak, our love grows cold while our hope turns to despair. My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we ignore God’s call to arm ourselves for spiritual battle and allow ourselves to become spiritually lazy, dull of heart, and not maintain proper priorities, our testimony is worse than unbelievers. No wonder God is grieved.
III. Spiritual watchfulness rejoices in the salvation from Christ (1st Thessalonians 5:9-10).
“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.”
(1st Thessalonians 5:9-10)
This portion of Scripture reveals two reasons why Christians will be delivered from the wrathful Day of the Lord and eternal death.
A. Christians are not appointed to wrath.
God has not “appointed” tithēmi (Strong’s #5087) Christians to experience divine wrath. The word, “appointed” reinforces the idea that God chose us before the foundations of the world were established. Believers have been called by God (Romans 8:28-30) and predestined to be God’s sons (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Second, the word “wrath” orgē (Strong’s #3709) is not the same as the synonym, thumos (Strong’s #2372) which means an outburst of anger. The text says, “For God did not appoint us [Christians] to wrath.” The word “wrath” is orgē is not a sudden outburst but a settled, abiding condition of the mind whereby God takes revenge over an extended period of time. This sounds like the Great Tribulation that will be unleashed on earth prior to Christ’s return where He rules over this world from Jerusalem for 1000 years.
The point is clear: God has not appointed His “sons” and “daughters” of light to experience a prolonged wrath against sin. Jesus took our punishment for sin upon Himself and suffered God’s wrath in our place.
B. Christians are appointed to salvation.
Scriptures clearly teach that God elected some sinners for eternal life, according to His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Through the general call of the gospel, those individuals whose names were written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12), will respond to the effectual call of the Holy Spirit and obedience in Christ. Those who are predestined to God’s salvation will be called with His irresistible grace and justified by God (Romans 8:30).
Clearly, Jesus died for us [Christians]. Therefore, whether believers are spiritually sleeping or awake, the Christian’s salvation is not dependent upon our manner of life but all of God. God’s purpose for the believer is to be united with Christ, in this life and ultimately in death.
In other words, whatever condition the believer may be experiencing when the Lord comes for the Church or when the believer dies, that believer will go home to be with the Lord. Read Romans 8:1.
IV. Spiritual watchfulness revitalizes believers in Christ (1st Thessalonians 5:11).
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
(1st Thessalonians 5:11)
A. Comfort One Another.
The word, “comfort” is parakaleō (Strong’s #3870) meaning to come alongside another person to produce the desired effect. In the context of this passage, we are called to encourage and comfort each other when tragedies enter our lives.
B. Edify One Another.
The second act is to “edify” oikodomeō (Strong’s #3618) meaning to promote spiritual growth within the community of faith. Believers are to restore other believers who have been overtaken by sin (Galatians 6:1-2). Believers have been given eternal life and the hope of salvation. Since we have been blessed by God, let us live up to the calling of God (Ephesians 4:1).
Watchfulness keeps us safe and strong.
In his work, “Words to Winners of Souls,” Horatius Bonar [1808 – 1889] writes, take heed to thyself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. You know a sound body alone can work with power, much more a healthy soul. Drawn from this work, here are four applications by which the child of God is to care for his soul.
- “Keep a clear conscience through the blood of the Lamb.” Our conscience is the soul’s warning system. Moreover, our conscience belongs to Christ. Therefore, our conscience needs to be…
…protected (1st Corinthians 8:12)
…informed by the Word of God (2nd Corinthians 4:2)
…connected to faith (1st Timothy 1:19; 3:9)
2. “Keep up close communion with God.” A believer cannot minister out what he does not have within his soul. Fellowship with God comes first, then fellowship with others.
3. “Study likeness to Him in all things.” Give yourself to prayer and get your texts and thoughts from God. Someone has said, we cannot keep what is on the inside from showing up on the outside. Read Proverbs 23:7).
4. “Read the Bible for your own growth first, then for your people.” Just as the disciples exhausted all their resources when it came to feeding the multitudes before turning to Jesus, so must each of us rely NOT on our own strength, wisdom, and resources; rather, let us go to God – first. Read His Word then feed and serve others in Jesus’ name.
Watchfulness keeps us safe and strong.
There are only two classes of people in all the earth:
…saved and lost;
…saints and sinners;
…believers and unbelievers;
…children of God and children of the devil;
…forgiven sinners and condemned sinners;
…those who live in the light and those who love darkness, because the darkness hides their sin.
There are only two destinies for people:
…heaven or hell;
…Abraham’s bosom or the Lake of Fire;
…Kingdom of God or the domain of darkness;
…heavenly comfort or everlasting torment.
If the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures have enabled you to see the light of God, then surrender your life to Christ. Call out to Jesus Christ Who died for you and was resurrected from the dead. He will forgive you and give you life, eternal life.
Come unto Jesus, now, and be saved.
 www.hibernia.ca, “5 things about Hibernia you probably didn’t know” [doc online]; https://context.capp.ca/energy-matters/2017/hibernia_5-things, accessed 2023, May 2.
 Robert Kiener, “Marvel of the North Atlantic,” [doc online]; https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/december/12147.html, accessed 2023, May 2.
 Vine, W.E., Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996), p. 41.
 Horatius Bonar, “The Four Ways of Spiritual Watchfulness,” [doc online]; http://headdibs.blogspot.com/2004/08/four-ways-of-spiritual-watchfulness.html, accessed, 2023, May 2.