2 December 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

“put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 69:1-21


Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians is believed to be the earliest of his letters in the New Testament. He spent only a short time in Thessalonica, speaking to the Jewish population there in their synagogue (Acts 17:1-10). Although some of the Jews responded to his proclamation of the gospel, along with some Gentile (non Jewish) adherents to their faith, other Jews stirred up violent opposition towards the missionaries. Paul and Silas fled to safety. Despite this inauspicious beginning, a Christian community was established in Thessalonica, to whom Paul wrote his two letters, probably from Corinth, around 50 AD.

The Old Testament prophets said that on the Day of the Lord God would bring the present world to an end, and establish God's sovereign rule. In verse 2, Paul uses this phrase but he is speaking of the early Christian expectation of the return of Christ in glory. Although imminent, this will be unexpected. He likens it to the visit of a thief in the night, which draws on the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 24:43).

Christians have nothing to fear, as they live in the light of faith, not the darkness of unbelief. However there is no place for complacency. They must live in such a way that they are ready. Exercising the Christian qualities of faith, hope and love is the best way to be prepared. Elsewhere, Paul speaks of "the armour of light" (Roman 13:12) and Ephesians 6:10-18 expands on the military metaphor. The implication is that Christian life is a struggle, and we need all the help we can get.

Paul echoes the teaching of Jesus about being ready for the end, whenever it might come.

To Ponder

  • Paul speaks of the qualities of faith, hope and love in terms of ancient armour.
  • How would you reinterpret those qualities for the 21st century?
  • Are there aspects of darkness which you need to overcome in your life? If so, what might you do to overcome them?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Bielby

Richard is a supernumerary Methodist presbyter in Stockton on Tees. He is a part-time prison chaplain and also serves as a voluntary chaplain at Durham Cathedral.