Question: "Why are we supposed to be sober and vigilant (1 Peter 5:8)?"
Answer: First Peter 5:8 reminds us to “be sober, be vigilant” (NKJV). The verse explains why Christians must live this way: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Although the devil cannot take away our salvation, he attempts to damage our faith and ministry. His schemes seek to shake our trust in God, affect our submission to Him, and destroy our testimony. It is important to remain sober and focus on the truth as God makes us “strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
Our salvation is secure. John 6:39 tells us that Jesus will not lose a single person whom God has entrusted to Him. Although Satan cannot separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39), he actively attempts to affect the rest of our lives. The Greek word for “devour” means to “destroy” or to “swallow.” The devil wants to shake our faith and make us ineffective followers of Christ, which is why it is important to be sober and vigilant.
Peter’s command for us to be sober and vigilant echoes Jesus’ command to him in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus told the sleeping disciples just before His arrest (Mark 14:38). Satan desired to “sift” the disciples like wheat (Luke 22:31), prompting Jesus’ prayers on their behalf (verse 32) and the exhortation to watch and pray. Be sober. Be vigilant.
Being sober and being vigilant are closely connected. The call to be sober is found in multiple places (1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:2, 6; 1 Peter 4:7) as is the call to be vigilant or alert (Mark 13:33; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Peter 1:13). The term sober literally means “free from intoxicating influences.” To be sober means to not allow ourselves to be influenced by anything that leads us away from God’s truth and sound judgment. Sobriety is a state of being. To be vigilant means “to keep careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.” Vigilance requires action. A vigilant person actively pays attention to what is vying for his attention and what affects his heart and mind. We must keep a clear mind as we vigilantly keep watch over our lives and the world around us.
Ephesians 6 also reminds us to be sober and to be vigilant, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10–18). We must live aware that we have an enemy—yet we do not need to live in fear of him. Rather, the armor of God helps us stay alert and stand firm against the devil’s schemes. Our faith in the truth of the gospel protects us, and knowing and applying God’s Word give us what we need to combat our enemy.
God’s truth makes us stand firm in our faith and helps us carry on with a clear mind. Instead of allowing our thinking to be clouded with lies, foolishness, feelings, and empty pleasures, we should be sober and vigilant, keeping our mind on what is true and eternal. We can choose to abstain from practices that would lead into sin. Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable . . . excellent or praiseworthy.” These things edify and strengthen us.
We have a spiritual enemy, likened to a rampaging lion, who continually seeks our destruction, but we do not have to live in fear. Instead, we can be sober and vigilant. We can live godly lives and experience the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17). We do not need to be tossed to and fro by deceit (Ephesians 4:14) but can remain firm in the promise that He who is in us is greater than the one who seeks our demise (1 John 4:4).