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Biblical Soberness

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SIH STSTA ICONAlcohol abuse affects approximately 14 million Americans.  This represents approximately 5% of our population.    The effects of alcohol abuse in our country is clearly on display… 20 % of suicide victims are alcoholic, alcoholism is the third leading cause of preventable death in the US, over 2 million people drive under the influence in the US per year.  These and many other statistics can be found at

After getting  just a glimpse of the effects of alcohol on theUSpopulation, it becomes easy to understand while there is a consistent, steady call for “soberness” in our society.  In today’s society the idea of “soberness” involves abstinence from intoxication, or in many cases, the complete abstinence from alcohol. “Soberness” is almost always used in the context of alcohol usage and abuse.

However, in the Word of God, the idea of “soberness” carries with it a slightly different meaning.  In the New Testament to be “sober” is not used exclusively in relation to alcohol but it is used in many aspects of our lives.  Also, the original language of the New Testament (Greek) being “sober” carries with it a variety of ideas:

  1. One of the Greek words for sober is a word that carries with it the ideas of “self control”  and “moderation.”
  2. The other Greek word translated “sober” means “to be sensible”, “to be aware”, and “to be watchful”

Let’s see how the idea of being sober is explained to us in the Word of God.


2Cor 5:12-13; 1Thess 5:6-10; Titus 2:2-6; 1Pet 1:10-16; 1Pet 5:8-9


Being sober is referred to in five different texts in the New Testament.

In the first text, 2 Cor 5:12-13, we find this idea, “sober” is referring to a sound, self-controlled mind…

For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to [answer] them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.

Here, we find that Paul and the other ministers of the gospel did not try to defend themselves by explaining their sincerity and motives to the Church at Corinth.  Instead, they chose to allow their life and message to speak for itself.  Paul and the others allowed the church to decide on their own about the motives of Paul’s ministry.

For whether we be beside ourselves, [it is] to God: or whether we be sober, [it is] for your cause.

Paul then continued, if the ministers of Christ were accused of being out of their mind (“besides themselves” – Acts 26:24), they put up with this false accusation for God’s glory.  Or, of people recognized that they were really of sound, controlled mind (sober) they were ministering out of a heart of concern and love for the church’s wellbeing

In this second text, 1 Thess 5:6-10, we find “sober” referring to the need for Christians to be watchful and alert.

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.

In the context, the Lord’s second coming is in view (1 Thess 5:1-5) Here we are told of the Christians need to be watchful (alert) against the sin and darkness of this world and to be watchful (alert) for the coming of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul uses two examples of being unprepared and unsuspecting, sleep and drunkenness.  In both cases, you have individuals who do not have keen senses, nor are they in full control of their actions, thoughts, and speech.

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.

How does a Christian accomplish this responsibility of watchfulness and alertness?  By putting on the spiritual armor of God that enables us to remain faithful to the Lord while in the midst of a sin darkened world.  It is this same armor that gives us the ability to be consistently watching for Him to come at the second coming.  What is the driving motive for our watchfulness?  Christ’s death on the cross for us and His promise of an eternity with Him.

In Titus 2:2-6, we find that to be sober presents the need to be sensible or serious.

The idea of being sensible and serious about our lives touches every age group and gender…

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

Old men are to be keenly aware of their influence on the lives of others.  As older men, who are held up as the wisest in society, they were to be to sensible about their outward testimony and take it very seriously.

Note all the other aspects of their testimony being described is outward in nature…

Grave – honest

Temperate – self-controlled

Sound in faith – doctrinally sound in teachings and beliefs

Charity – self-sacrifice for others, servant spirit

Patience – willing to suffer long for the sake of another

The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach

Just as older men must sensibly take their testimony seriously; so too, aged women are to do likewise.  Also, their outward actions are being emphasized in Paul’s instructions:

Becometh holiness – to be attractive based upon morality and separate from sin

False accusers – not to deceitfully defame others

Not give to much wine – No alcohol abuse leading to uncontrolled behavior, no drunkenness

Teachers of good things – Instructors of things pleasing to the Lord.

The older women were to teach the young women through their actions and words…

the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.  

The younger women were to take their testimony seriously as well.  They may not be as influential in general society due to their lack of maturity; however, they are extremely influential in the lives of their families (husband and children).  This is why they are to…

Love husbands/children – be willing to sacrifice themselves for their husbands and children.

Discreet – self controlled in mind and actions

Chaste – modest

Keepers at home – to guard, watch over, rule home

Good – morally upright and pleasing to God

Obedient to husband –  to recognize and submit to husband’s authority/responsibility to God.

By doing all of these, the young woman isn’t the cause of the Word being spoken against or defamed

Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

After listing several times, the basic issues involved with being sensible and serious minded about our testimonies; the younger men are now instructed to follow the same basic principles that we have seen in the preceding teachings.

In our fourth text, 1 Pet 1:13-16, we find watchfulness and preparedness being a key aspect to being sober.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

In the previous context, the person and work of Christ was clearly revealed in Old Testament prophesies.  Based upon these miraculous OT revelations of Christ, the Christian responsibility is two fold:

Firstly, we are to serve Him in the midst of this sinful world.  To do this we are to strengthen our weak and vulnerable areas and be watchful and alert to the temptations and workings of Satan  in our lives.

Secondly, we are to be alert and watchful, as well as retain our confidence about the future promises He has given to us.

As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

By being watchful and prepared for service and His second coming we are children that are pleasing to Him.  Also  we are separating ourselves from this sinful world for His use.  By doing this we can follow His example and strive for consistent holiness in all areas of our lives.

Finally, in 1Pet 5:8-9 we find being sober is referring to being sensible and controlled.

Be sober, be vigilant;

Here, the responsibility handed to the Christian involves being”

Sober – sensible, serious and self controlled

Vigilant – to be on guard and expectant

As Christians, we are to be sensible, serious, controlled and on guard because…

because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Satan is “out to get us” and destroy our testimony and service to the Lord. He is searching with care and deception trying to bring us to ruin.

Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

This is why we must solidly stand against him.  We are to realize we are not alone in this fight, but Christians everywhere are being tempted and opposed in their service as well.



For those who are saved …

In our study we have seen the importance of living sober lives, which involves:

  1. Living controlled lives of moderation by…
    1. Keeping our minds and desires under control as we serve Him.
    2. Be serious and sensible about our testimonies for Him.  We can do this by taking care to live Godly lives which include, but is not limited to, no drunkenness; it also includes honesty, love, patience, doctrinal soundness, modesty, and spiritual alertness, among others.
    3. Taking the threat of Satan and His workings seriously.  He is out to destroy us we are to recognize His workings and affects in our lives and the lives of others.
  2. Living watchful, and alert lives that are…
    1. Against the sin and temptation of this world through the use of spiritual armor given to us by the Lord.
    2. Focused on and confident of the second coming of Christ.

Are you living a sober life of service to our Lord?

For those who have yet to be saved…

As you can see from our study, the only way to live a spiritually sober life is through the divine intervention of Christ alone.  Without His presence in your life and His intervention through the indwelling Holy Spirit, none of us can lead a spiritually sober life.  Do you desire His presence and intervention?  Realize you have failed Him, and your sin is a great offense against Him, turn from your sin and turn to Him in faith, believing He will save you from your sins and submit to His Lordship for your life…

Matt 11:28-30 (KJV)

28) Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30) For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.


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  1. Hi Rob.
    Thanks for a very detailed and thorough explanation of an important aspect of the Christian life – one that seems to be seldom seen today.
    Maybe part of the problem is a misunderstanding of the word sober. People seem to think that if they are sober they are no longer allowed to be happy and joyful, whereas a mark of a believer is joy, even when in difficulties. However, I think (as I’m sure you do) that the real problem is the matter of self and a reluctance to abdicate the right to self rule.

    • Rob Barkman says:


      You are exactly right… to submit ourselves to the control fo the Lord is absolutely an issue of reluctance to give up ruling ourselves. Very good point indeed. Over the years, I’ve seen that in my own life, as well as the lives of others, the issue of self rule is what stands between our faithful service to the Lord and living a carnal lifestyle.

      May the Lord continue to bless you Angela. Thanks once again for great input.

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