1 Thessalonians 5:4
But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
It is universally admitted that the extent of our responsibility is to be measured by the amount of our privilege. Hence our Lord said, "To whom men have committed much, of him will they ask more." It is in harmony with this that the apostle makes the appeal in our text.
I. OUR PRIVILEGES AS A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. "Not in darkness," but in light as regards —
1. A knowledge of the true God. This lies at the foundation of religion. It is only by knowing God that we come to know ourselves. Had we no perfect standard of what is pure and lovely, were we allowed to frame some model of perfection, each would select that character for imitation, which reflected least discredit on his own. But tell us what God is, and you tell us what God loves; and what He loves man should love also. But the Thessalonians not only enjoyed through the gospel light a correct doctrine of God: they, as are all true Christians, were brought into an experimental knowledge through peace with Him.
2. The Word and ordinances of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:12).
(1) By the use of these we foil the craftiness, which would "carry us about with every wind of doctrine"; we set at nought the schoolmen who would "teach for doctrine the commandments of men"; whilst we bind and fetter the discursive genius of infidelity, by allowing no objection to be valid unless founded on the Word.
(2) Nor is it of use to vindicate our faith to others only; it serves much to confirm and strengthen it in ourselves. The humblest Christian who loves his Bible because he has felt its power, finds in it many things hard to be understood; but he can repose with child-like confidence in the thought — "Hard as these things may seem, the Lord hath spoken them;" and He would never have left a mystery where plainness would have made me happy. He has told me all that concerns my comfort here, and will reveal hereafter what I know not now.
3. We can understand now the propriety of this appeal. "Once ye had no knowledge of God and Divine flyings. This darkness has passed. Yours must be the fault, therefore, if the day should overtake you as a thief."
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH SHOULD URGE US TO THE RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES.
1. Their tendency to promote personal religion.
(1) We are so much the slaves of habit, the mind so easily slides into the ordinary occupations of life, that without some periodical admonition that it has higher objects to seek, its power would be expended in considering "What shall we eat." We might know that "We have no continuing city" and that it is our duty to "Seek one to come," but if we were not occasionally reminded, every week would find us less punctual, and at last we should neglect it altogether. But how the hour of prayer, the Sabbath, etc., rouse us to the call of duty.
(2) A disposition to slight these outward means is a concealed aversion to the religion which enjoins them. It is an index of that self-sufficiency which will only accept a blessing if obtained in a way of our own choosing.
(3) Men ask "Why cannot I be religious without going to church? I can go forth into the fields and look through nature up to nature's God." Possibly you can, but will you?
2. The danger that we may suddenly lose them. The "day" here is the day of judgment, but practically for us that is the day of death. When that will come we know not; but lest it should find as slumbering, let us be on our guard always, and not flatter ourselves with a false peace.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.