The Armor of Light

1 Thessalonians 5:8  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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" But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet the hope of salvation."—1 Thess. 5, 8.
In the outset of this epistle, the three cardinal principles of Christianity, " faith, hope and charity (or love ')," are presented as formative of the divine life of a believer here on earth, of which the epistle itself affords us so striking an example.
It was, in all likelihood, the first inspired writing of the apostle, and it exhibits the ardent glow of his affection toward those who, in so powerful a way, had received the testimony of the gospel through him; and at the same time exhibits the bright and lovely freshness of that morning of Christianity, to which its testimony specially belongs. With delighted heart he says of these Thessalonians, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." And he adds, " Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."
It is comforting to find, in a subsequent epistle, the apostle declaring that, amidst much that would pass away that distinguished the history of the early church, the three great principles, that figure so prominently here, would remain as long as Christianity should remain, as its characteristic power and force. " And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love." " Faith," that lays hold of God's past and present revelations of Himself and of His ways, that brings to the soul " the evidence of things not seen," abides; for, without it, His salvation is unrealized and Himself unknown. " Hope," too, abides, and is the power of patience to the soul. As the apostle says, " If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." So essential is it to the Christian life, that he says, if the future, which is hope's province, were once with-drawn, the most absolute misery would be his tot. " If in this world only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." And, blessed be God, " charity," or love, abides. For when faith shall have gone with us until we pass the veil that hides the world unseen; and hope shall have no further aspirations, because all that was once longed for has become the scene of present and eternal enjoyment; love will still abide. Faith.' may drop its glass, and hope may quench its torch —they were our needed companions and instruments in a world of darkness and of sorrow—but for love to depart would " unheaven heaven." For " God is love," and heaven is the place where love eternal and universal reigns.
" The Lamb is there, my soul—
There God Himself doth rest,
In love divine diffused through all,
With Him supremely blest."
And where is the heart that has not known enough of strife and sorrow to make it long for a world of perfect peace and goodness-a world of perfect love? This I know, that I would gladly pillow my aching heart on the bosom of eternal love. Well, the day will come, and till then E wait.
But the order of these three principles is different in the epistle on which we for the moment rest. Here their energetic and appropriate action is presented as forming the life of the believer in this world. " Remembering,," says the apostle, "your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father."
Each aspect of Christian life is here seen taking its spring from its own true and legitimate source, and linked with its appropriate heavenly object. They were distinguished not only by work and labor and patience; these might exist in the Church's life, and yet leave room for reprehension. " I know thy work, and thy labor, and thy patience." But then is it added, " nevertheless, I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love." But here it was work in which faith was the direct and immediately inspiring power. It was labor that was undertaken and continued at the bidding of heavenly love. It was patience that sustained itself by a constant gaze toward the object of Christian hope. This is seen where the apostle describes the utter revolution which the reception of the gospel wrought in their hearts and lives, their habits and their aims. He says, "They themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead." Here, without naming them, the apostle presents faith's work, and love's labor, and hope's patience; and how needful is it in a day like this to watch that they be not in their action divorced from their divine and essential spring!
But I pass from this to notice how these three principles, in altered aspect, reappear in the close of the epistle. Having given us the bright picture of Christian life, as exhibited in these converts to its power in the early dawn of that day of which we have nearly reached the troubled close, the apostle turns to present by prophetic ken what would be the condition of the world, and the thoughts of men in the midst of which Christianity had run its course. He says, " But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you; for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."
Christianity does not alter the circumstances of the world, nor change its course; but, by its own intrinsic power, it raises the Christian above the world, by the impartation of a life which is divine, and whose whole energy results, as we have seen, from its connection with God and Christ, and the things which are eternal and unseen. It was of force in early days to detach the heart from earth, and from all things that are seen, and to set the soul to battle its way to immortality and a crown; moreover, it furnished him with armor to contend against principalities and powers; who would fain prevent his enjoyment of the portion to which he is brought by the travail and victory of his Lord. And in that sphere where fighting is not his work, but the quiet expectancy of deliverance by the coming of his Lord, it holds forth to him " the armor of light "—the attire of those who are " the children of light, and the children of the day." For it must be remembered, when the world is in question, separation from it, by the energy of grace, is that which is enforced, and not conflict with it in its own arena. When the surroundings of evil and the false security of men, whom the clarion of judgment will alone awake to listen to the claims of God, are contemplated, what is the rightful position of the Christian's soul? It is not to evolve some new truth or power in Christianity that he has not known before, but simply to take its cardinal principles, and to bind them the more earnestly to his heart: " Putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation," and thus to stand forth a child of light-a child of day.
God grant that it may be so more and more with us all!