A Commentary by John Stott
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. c). Foundations for Christian hope: God’s appointment and Christ’s death.
How is it possible for us to put on as our helmet *the hope of salvation*? On what foundation is our Christian hope built? Some of the Thessalonians were afraid of the Parousia, because to them it spelled judgment; how could they be confident that it would bring them salvation instead? It was to answer these questions that Paul wrote verses 9 and 10.
*For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him*.
So far Paul has based how we should behave (awake, alert, self-controlled, well-armed) on who we are (children of the day and of the light). Now he goes on to base who we are on who God is and on what he has done for us. He makes two great statements.
First, *God did not appoint* (or ‘destine’) us to suffer wrath (to endure the fearful condemnation our sins deserve) *but to receive salvation* (a rescue from God’s wrath and judgment, and the corresponding gift of a free forgiveness) *through our Lord Jesus Christ* (9).
Secondly, this Lord Jesus Christ *died for us so that…we may live together with him* (10). There is no developed doctrine of the Atonement here. Nevertheless, some important truths are taught. To begin with, he died *for us*, on our behalf and for our benefit. This must mean ‘for our sins’, the phraseology Paul used later, since throughout Scripture death is the penalty for sin (E.g. Rom.6:23). He died that we might live. Thus his death and our life are deliberately contrasted and inseparably connected. Our life is due entirely to his death, and the kind of life he has won for us is a life lived *together with him*. So he died our death that we might live his life. Through his death we have been not only reprieved but reconciled. And the fullness of this life with him will be ours *whether* at the Parousia *we are awake or asleep* (10). The metaphor here must refer to our physical condition (whether we are alive when Jesus comes or have died beforehand, as in 4:13-15), and not to our spiritual and moral state (whether we are self-controlled or self-indulgent, as in verses 6-8). That is, the time of our death is irrelevant. At the Parousia the Christian living will have no advantage over the Christian dead, and *vice versa*. Both groups will equally receive the fullness of salvation and life.
It is helpful to bring the apostle’s two statements together. First, God appointed us to receive salvation (9). Secondly, Christ died for us that we might live (10). Thus our future salvation depends on God’s purpose, and our future life on Christ’s death. Our ‘hope of salvation’ is well founded, therefore. It stands firmly on the solid rock of God’s will and Christ’s death, and not on the shifting sands of our own performance or feelings. The ultimate reason why we should be bold rather than faint-hearted in anticipation of the Parousia lies not in who we are (children of the day and of the light) but on who God is, as revealed in the cross (the giver of salvation and life).
Tomorrow: 1 Thessalonians 5:11. d). Conclusion: a community of mutual support.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.