1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary

Have you ever had a dream in which something really awful happened?

This past week as I was preparing this message I had a dream one night where I got shot by some random guy in the neck. I was lying there in my dream thinking that I was going to die. I thought of my wife and family, which was of course a sad thought that I was going to die and leave them. …

And then I woke up! Can you imagine how I felt? I felt a great sense of relief and gratitude. For all I knew – when I was actually in the dream – that dream could have been reality.

There’s a great sense of comfort associated with coming to terms with the worst reality possible and then becoming aware that you yourself are not going to experience that reality.

This is what the apostle Paul leads us through in this next passage in 1 Thessalonians. So, please turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5. We’ll be studying verses 1-11.

It’s in this passage that we’re confronted with the reality of the Day of the Lord – a time period unparalleled in the history of mankind wherein God’s punishing wrath will be poured out on the world.

But the refreshing and wonderful reality that we’re going to see here is – because of the teaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerning the Rapture of believers before this event – you are not going to experience this wrath.

So, let’s behold the nightmare that is the Day of the Lord – and then be comforted by our guaranteed escape from this terrifying event as we read the passage and then examine the details.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Text of Verses 1-11

1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 AV 1873

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 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.
4 But ye, brethren,are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8 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.
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 5:1 AV 1873

1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5.1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But of”

5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

5.1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

Starting in verse 1, we see the fourth question or issue that Paul needed to address with the Thessalonians. He got word somehow – probably though Timothy – that the Thessalonian believers wanted or needed to know about this matter. Just like they wanted or needed to know about sexual purity, brotherly love, and those who died in Christ before his return.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “ye have no need that I write unto you”

ye have no need that I write unto you.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

But Paul says that they actually don’t have any need for anyone to write anything to them about this matter – just like he said concerning brotherly love earlier in chapter 4.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the times and the seasons”

the times and the seasons

τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν

The matter that they don’t need anyone to write to them about is this issue of “times and seasons”.

This phrase is used in Acts 1:7 where Jesus had just risen from the dead and had been with his disciples for about 40 days. They asked, “Is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel”? In other words, would Jesus be setting up his Millennial kingdom right there and then?

His response was that you and I aren’t permitted to know the “times” or the “seasons”. That’s the Father’s realm of knowledge, alone. Our job is to serve as witnesses to our fellow man concerning the truth about Jesus Christ.

So, these times and seasons have to do with Jesus’ coming to set up his kingdom on this earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “ye have no need that I write unto you”

ye have no need that I write unto you.

οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι, 

But again, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they have no need for anyone to write to them about this.

Why is that?

Well, I think first of all, because Jesus himself says that we shouldn’t be people who are concerned with setting dates for his return. It’s not for us to know the times and season as he said in Acts 1:7.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 5:2 AV 1873

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

2 αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε ὅτι ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For yourselves know perfectly”

2 For yourselves know perfectly

2 αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε

But second – and explicitly in this passage – is this matter of what the Thessalonians already knew about this situation…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the day of the Lord”

the day of the Lord

ἡμέρα κυρίου

The Thessalonians had no need of anyone writing to them about the times and seasons – because they already knew something about this event known as the Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. It’s a time of divine judgement. It’s when God moves to set things right in his creation. Because things are so wrong with this world, setting them right is going to take an extraordinary amount of judgement and punishment of wickedness. It’s an unprecedented time in this way. It’s described elsewhere as “great” and “terrible”. It’s described as “dark” and “gloomy” and dangerous – for evildoers.

Despite its title, it seems that this is not a one-day event. It’s a period of time in which the Lord moves in very definite ways in order to work back towards an equilibrium of righteousness in his creation.

Don’t you want to know the exact date and time in which this will happen? The Thessalonian believers did, apparently.

And others throughout the history of this world have wanted to know the precise date of this event and have even made claims to know what the date was going to be.

When I was in Israel in 2011, I saw signs on billboards declaring that May 21 was going to be “the end”. That was due to the fact that an American Christian radio host named Harold Camping was claiming that the Rapture and Judgment Day would take place on that very day, and that the end of the world would take place five months later on October 21, 2011. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_end_times_prediction)

That didn’t happen, as you know.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “so cometh as a thief in the night”

so cometh as a thief in the night.

ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται

If only that man had listened in on this letter from Paul to the Thessalonians where these believers had already been taught by Paul and Silas that this eschatological event of the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

In other words, no one is expecting it. No one expects a thief in the night. You go to bed every night and I imagine that the vast majority of those nights you are not expecting a thief to show up.

Even if a thief does show up some night, there’s no way to predict that. If you live in a crime-ridden part of a city, maybe it’s likely that a thief will appear at some point. But still you can’t predict when it will happen.

So too, no mere mortal can predict the date of the Day of the Lord. We believers are convinced that it’s coming. We just don’t know when.

But for the lost world, they won’t suspect a thing…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 5:3 AV 1873

3 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.

3 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.

3 ὅταν λέγωσιν· Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια, τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For when they shall say”

3 For when they shall say

3 ὅταν λέγωσιν

This is what’s going to happen to lost humanity some day. “They” will say this. “They” will experience this. Not “us”. I’m jumping a little ahead of the passage but “we” will not experience this.

What will those apart from Christ experience that we won’t?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Peace and safety”

Peace and safety

Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια

Well, it starts off pretty pleasant for them. This world is going to come to the point where they can all together claim, “peace and safety!” At least, that will be the prevailing sentiment in the hearts of most of the residents of this world.

Can this be said of the world today? Are people throughout the world enjoying near-universal peace?

Not yet.

Even in our relatively peaceful nation, from within we’ve been torn by riots and bitter partisanship that’s starting to sound more and more like literal war talk. Externally, we have numerous nations that are actively attempting to destroy us. And it’s much less peaceful elsewhere, as you know.

How about safety? Is the world today experiencing a general sense of safety? To consume any of our mainstream media these days is to be bombarded by all of the supposed realities that cry out to you that you are not at all safe in any way.

But there’s coming a time when unregenerate humanity is going to be able to credibly cry out in unison, “peace and safety!” And it won’t be an empty boast.

This is not explicitly taught in this passage, but it’s likely that this peace and safety will be brought about by a character known in Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica as “the Man of Sin”. The apostle John refers to him as the Anti-Christ. He’ll come on the world scene promoting peace and safety. What he’ll demand in return is worship.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “then sudden destruction cometh upon them”

then sudden destruction cometh upon them

τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος

But it’s at that very time – as the world comes to the point where it feels so safe and secure apart from Christ – that God will bring sudden destruction on them.

Jesus actually warned his Jewish audience concerning this time in Luke 21:34-36. He was speaking in the Temple to the Jews – some of whom were his disciples and the rest were not. He warned them about this day.

To a mixed group – spiritually-speaking – he urged them that they needed to be on their guard and not have their hearts weighed-down with drunkenness and unbridled indulgence and even the worries of this life. If they gave in to those things, this day that Paul’s speaking of in 1 Thessalonians 5 will close down on them like a trap! And Jesus says there in Luke 21 that this day is going to overtake all those who live on the earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape”

as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν.

There will be no escaping this sudden destruction from God – as Paul says back here in 1 Thessalonians 5.

It’s just like when an expecting mother begins to experience true labor pains. When they start in earnest, there’s no reversing that situation until the process has run its course.

So too, when this Day of the Lord begins, there’s no stopping it.

If I’m speaking to a group that has both lost people and saved individuals, I would warn every one like Jesus did – Be on your guard. Stay alert. Seek to escape this doom. It’s coming. And if your life is characterized by care-free sinning then what reason do you have to think that you’ll escape what’s coming on the world of care-free sinners?

What we’ve considered to this point has been pretty heavy. It’s terrifying, really, to consider lost loved ones and friends who – through their refusal to receive Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins – put themselves in the position where they’re going to bear the full brunt of this Day of the Lord.

But here’s the reality that ought to have all of us crying “glory!” from our hearts. You and I who know Jesus Christ personally – who have trusted him for the forgiveness of all of our sins – we are not going to experience this aspect of the Day of the Lord…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 5:4 AV 1873

4 But ye, brethren,are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

4 ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But ye, brethren”

4 But ye, brethren,

4 ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί,

Let’s do a little exercise. Look at verses 1 and 2 and spot the personal pronouns (I, you, s/he, it, we they/them). Which of those are used in verses 1-2? I count 3 “you’s” in those verses.

What about verse 3? I count 3 “they’s” or “them’s”.

And on to verses 4-6. I count 6 “ye’s” or “you’s” or “we’s” or “us’s”.

The point is that verse 3 here is not for believers. Verses 4-6 give an alternative for those of us who are trusting Christ.

Instead of experiencing this sudden destruction that’s to come upon the whole world, we’re not going to experience that.

How is it that we believers in Christ are somehow going be exempt from this inescapable sudden destruction?

That’s where our last message comes in. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 happens first. Then 1 Thessalonians 5:3 occurs.

Believers who have died will be raised to the clouds and we who are still alive at that time will be instantaneously changed and meet those believers and the Lord in the air and be with him forever. In other words, the Rapture will occur.

After that, the punitive destructive aspect of the Day of the Lord will begin for those who are left on the earth.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… ye … are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief”

… ye … are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

ὑμεῖς … οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ

God gives us every reason to believe that those who are in Christ will not suffer through the Great Tribulation – which is another title given in Scripture to the Day of the Lord.

We are not in darkness. You used to be. You were pictured as just sitting in darkness (Matthew 4:16). It was so dark for you morally that you had no idea where to go. You couldn’t even stand and walk. So you just sat there, doing nothing for the Lord.

You actually loved darkness rather than the light (John 3:19).

But then Jesus graciously gave you light and guided your feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). He did this when you believed in him (John 12:46).

Because of this light that you received from your Savior Jesus Christ, this Day of the Lord – which is going to come upon this earth like a thief – will not overtake you.

This is not saying that you won’t be surprised as God starts pouring out his wrath on this world. As if you’ll be just fine while God begins to punish this world and there you are right in the middle of it. But – hey – at least God’s going to preserve you through it and you’re not going to be surprised like you would be by the coming of a thief.

No. Taken together with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, this is telling you that you won’t even be present as the Day of the Lord commences in all of its full fury and power.

As this day sneaks in, you will already have sneaked out, so to speak.

So, negatively you are not in darkness anymore.

Positively, you are light…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 5:5 AV 1873

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

5 πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας. οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους· 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day”

5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day

5 πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας

This is what you are, brothers and sisters. You are children of light and of the day. In other words, you are characterized by these things, morally speaking.

You are characterized morally as being in the light and in the bright day.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “we are not of the night, nor of darkness”

we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους· 

Negatively once more, you are not characterized as being morally benighted or darkened.

The darkness and the night spiritually are things of the past for you.

Now, you might feel like you’re in the dark or that you’re stumbling through what seems to be a kind of night in your life. But listen to God. The reality is that you are not in the dark and that you are not in the night. Who’s correct on this matter? God or your feelings?

If you trust Jesus Christ and he’s forgiven your sins, you are bright and light and day. The light has been turned on for you. The darkness has been cast off.

This is really what is the case in your life and in your eternal soul.

This is all of us – every single believer is like this in actuality. It’s not that some of us are of light and of the day and the rest of us are still kind of in the dark. We’re all together in the light spiritually.

But oftentimes our outward physical existence needs to synchronize with our true inward spiritual condition. Which is what Paul exhorts these believers to in verse 6…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 5:6 AV 1873

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

6 ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί, ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others”

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others

6 ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί

In chapter 4, Paul used this word sleep to describe the physical death of a believer. But that’s not what he’s saying here. He’s rather urging us to shun living your life as if you were asleep spiritually.

This can happen in the life of a believer. If it couldn’t, then Paul would have no need to warn against it.

It’s possible for any of us to get to the point where we’re just tired and lulled into a sense of sleepiness, spiritually. You’re just snoozing through your Christian life and wasting all sorts of opportunities to serve the Lord and others.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but let us watch and be sober”

but let us watch and be sober.

ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν.

That’s no way to live, believers. We’re called out of our practical sleep – which is a potential for any believer – and into a life of watchfulness and sobriety.

•           Watch – like a man who has discovered that a thief is coming to his home at a certain time. And he’s ready with methods of self-defense.

•           Watch – like Noah did as he built his ark and waited for God to send the flood which he knew was coming.

•           Watch – like those ten unmarried ladies who were all waiting for the bridegroom to come. But some dozed off and showed themselves to be foolish and unprepared. They were not watchful.

•           Watch – like someone who knows of the presence of a lion walking around on the streets outside your home.

But if you hear these admonitions and still willfully choose to sleep morally and refuse to watch and be sober, then understand what that’s indicating about you…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 5:7 AV 1873

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

7 οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν, καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν· 

Paul is stating a physical reality that most of us are aware of.

Sleeping tends to happen at night. I know there are people who work third shift. But the normal average human sleeps at night.

And for those who get drunk – this tends to happen at night as well. Again, there are exceptions. I lived for several years in a secular college town and saw the shamefulness of people being drunk all sorts of times – and even in the day.  Yet, even there, the night was by far the preferred time for drunkenness for those people.

So, this is just how it is. This is the reality in this fallen world. Sleeping – which is amoral – and drunkenness – which is immoral – both tend to happen at night.

And if you – as a professing Christian – are not characterized by a life of watchfulness and sobriety (verse 6), then you are declaring without words your true spiritual condition as being benighted and in the dark – as asleep and drunk…

But as the author of Hebrews says, we are persuaded of better things concerning you and things which accompany salvation.

So, Paul once again contrasts the “they’s” of verse 7 with the “us” of verse 8…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 5:8 AV 1873

8 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.

8 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.

8 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν, ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας· 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “But let us, who are of the day, be sober”

8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober,

8 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν,

We need to be sober because that’s just what goes along with being “of the day” – belonging to the day rather than the night, morally- and spiritually-speaking.

How are we to be sober?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation”

putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.

ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας· 

We need to put on some clothing, metaphorically. The clothing is described as a breastplate and a helmet – typical armor for the soldiers of Paul’s time.

The breastplate protects your heart and the helmet protects your head.

What’s portrayed as protecting your heart? It’s these two Christian virtues of faith and love.

And what protects your mind is the third Christian virtue of the confident expectation of salvation.

Faith, hope, and love are attributes in yourself that demonstrate that you are in fact living soberly.

Now, it’s evident that neither a breastplate nor a helmet are offensive weapons. The drowsiness and temptations toward spiritual inebriation are themselves on the attack. Our faith and love and hope are viewed defensively in this text.

One more issue to explore here is – in what way are we to hope for our salvation? Because, of course, once you trust Jesus, he saves you. What are we to be confidently expecting after that?

The answer that we’ll see in verses 9 and 10 is surprising. Paul is going to include the concept of the Rapture back from chapter 4 in with the total package that is our salvation. We might tend to think that the teaching on the Rapture of the Church and even what we’ve been hearing in this chapter concerning our absence from the earth during the Day of the Lord – that maybe these matters are secondary issues. Maybe their importance isn’t all that great. After all, so many good people disagree on these matters.

But we’re going to see Paul actually lump in with this concept of salvation – that we’re to be confidently expecting – his teaching on the Rapture of the Church so that we won’t have the Day of the Lord overtake us. We’ll see this in verses 9 and 10…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 5:9 AV 1873

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

9 ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “For God hath not appointed us to wrath”

9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath,

9 ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν

If there’s one verse in this whole section that clinches the idea that believers aren’t going to experience the punitive Day of the Lord, this would be it. God has not appointed you and me to wrath – neither eternally nor temporally. You – as a believer in Jesus Christ – right now are no longer under God’s wrath. Neither will you ever on this earth be subject to God’s wrath.

But that’s exactly what the Day of the Lord is all about. It’s God pouring out his wrath on this wicked world that resolutely and relentlessly rejects him.

You have not been appointed to receive that same treatment.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”

but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

Rather, God has appointed you to salvation – the very thing you were said to be confidently expecting in the last verse.

Salvation from our sin is multifaceted. One monumental aspect of our salvation is that we have been removed from the realm of God’s wrath. We are no longer in God’s cross-hairs. He has removed the noose from around our neck – granted a pardon just minutes before the execution was scheduled to occur.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “by our Lord Jesus Christ”

by our Lord Jesus Christ,

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 

He has granted you eternal escape from his wrath through Jesus Christ. And if he’s done this in your life, then he has also granted you temporal escape from his wrath through that same Jesus Christ.

Are you confidently expectant of this reality in your life? God’s not angry at you any more. Nor will he ever again be- in eternity or here on earth.

And this has all been brought to pass through of our wonderful Savior Jesus Christ …

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 5:10 AV 1873

10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

10 τοῦ ἀποθανόντος περὶ ἡμῶν ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν

Jesus’ death ensures that we will not be subjected to God’s wrath.

It guarantees – on the other hand – that we will be with him forever.

Paul ties together everything he’s said since chapter 4 and verse 13 in this verse.

The reference to being awake or asleep really doesn’t fit with what we’ve been studying in chapter 5. Because in this chapter, the wakefulness or the sleepiness under discussion has involved moral and spiritual aspects.

But this verse here is getting back to the way that Paul spoke of waking or sleeping back at the end of chapter 4 where the waking or sleeping was referring to physical death and life.

So, this verse – by capping off all that’s been said since chapter 4 verse 13 – gives us another reason to see this larger section as two sides of the same coin.

You have chapter 4 telling you about the Rapture of believers – dead and alive – to meet the Lord in the air and to forever be together with him.

Then you have the other side of that – which is right after the Rapture occurs, the Day of the Lord sets in and God starts pouring out his wrath on this world of unbelievers.

Of course, you as a believer wouldn’t be there because God hasn’t appointed you to wrath but to obtain salvation from that wrath.

But don’t forget – it was the death of the Son of God which procured all of this for you: Deliverance from wrath and eternal bliss in his presence with all of his saints.

Does that affect your heart at all? Does this teaching have any impact on your inner person?

God intends it to – as he closes this section in verse 11…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 5:11 AV 1873

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

11 διὸ παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἷς τὸν ἕνα, καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε.

This section from chapter 4 verse 13 to here in chapter 5 verse 11 is meant to comfort us – and to help us in comforting one another.

Unfortunately, I think this passage is used very seldom by Christians for this purpose. Instead, there’s just endless debate – on the one hand – or an apathy that leads to ignorance of what’s actually here for us – on the other.

But what can be more comforting than to realize and truly believe in your heart that you will never ever experience God’s wrath – although you deserve it? You will be caught away before God’s wrath is finally poured out during the Day of the Lord. And you’ll be with your fellow-believers and with the Lord Jesus who died for you – forever.

This is comforting. It will build you up – it will edify you… if you believe it. If you doubt, you miss out on the comfort and the edification that God gave his own Son for you to experience.

He wants you to be comforted and edified by this section of his word. Are you? Will you use this section of Scripture – and attempt to help others along as well?

[S] May the Lord help us to fully believe what he’s revealed and to apply this teaching to our lives and the lives of our fellow-believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Peaceful Relations with Men and God

Recently the nation of Israel was celebrating Jerusalem Day. This holiday celebrates the annexation of the city of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967.

The group from whom that land was taken are of course not happy about it. So, in the past week or so to commemorate in their own special way that fateful day from decades ago, the Palestinians resorted to launching rockets into Israel indiscriminately.

In response, Israel has targeted the folks behind the rocket launches with air strikes, killing a number of people.

The United Nations is currently in the process of drawing up terms of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. But until that happens or one of the sides is pounded into submission, war will continue.

… Many of God’s people in this nation haven’t had to experience real-life warfare like that, thankfully. But for too many believers, their experience in Church might bear unfortunate resemblance to the scenario I just described – though instead of literal bombs, the ammunition is words or looks or attitudes.

And so, as Paul the apostle and his helpers Silas and Timothy begin to conclude this letter to this young church in the ancient Macedonian city of Thessalonica, they are going to take 11 verses wherein they request and admonish those believers toward Peaceful Relations with Men and God.

Let’s read the passage and then study the details.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Text of Verses 12-22

1 Thessalonians 5:12–22 AV 1873

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

16 Rejoice evermore.

17 Pray without ceasing.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

19 Quench not the Spirit.

20 Despise not prophesyings.

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

From verses 12 through 22 of 1 Thessalonians 5 we have Paul likely addressing an assortment of other situations that he became aware of through Timothy’s visit to that church.

He had already addressed matters of their moral purity, brotherly love, what happens to departed believing loved ones when Jesus returns, and matters concerning the Day of the Lord.

Now, and lastly, he turns his attention to a smattering of various matters that make for peace in the local church. Paul’s going to talk about the believers’ relationship to those with pastoral gifts in their midst, to one another and outsiders, to God, and to prophetic utterances.

After addressing such lofty matters as the Day of the Lord and the Rapture of the Church, Paul turns back to the immediate and practical matters in verse 12…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 5:12 AV 1873

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

12 Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς, 

Now, verses 12 and 13 are focused on one group on individuals who are identified as carrying-out three activities – and how believers are to act towards and think about them.

Who are these folks? And what do they do? We’ll answer the last question first…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which labour among you”

them which labour among you

τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν

These individuals are said to labour among you. This word is used in the New Testament of work in both the physical and spiritual realms.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which … are over you in the Lord”

them which … are over you in the Lord

τοὺς … προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ

These folks are also said to be over you in the Lord. This is speaking of exercising a position of leadership – in the church or in the home.

Like the bishops (or pastors) and deacons are required to rule their own houses well (1 Timothy 3:4,12). Even though all bishops (or pastors) are supposed to do this in the church, there are certain elders (or pastors) who are said to do this “well” and thus are worthy of double honor – especially those elders who labor (the word we just previously mentioned) in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17).

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “them which … admonish you”

them which … admonish you

τοὺς … νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς

Finally, this group in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is said to admonish you. This is “to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct” (BDAG).

Admonition is an activity that Paul engaged in frequently with the people to whom he ministered. It’s also an activity he expects every Christian to do with one another – as we’ll see later.

… So, the group in view here exerts physical and spiritual efforts among you. They exercise a position of leadership among God’s people. They counsel you about inappropriate conduct where necessary. Who is this group?

I think it’s obvious that this is your pastors – though that title isn’t used in this passage. In the New Testament this group can also be called bishops or elders or overseers. We tend to call them pastors. So, this is the group under discussion.

Well, what are we to do with these individuals?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “to know them”

to know them

εἰδέναι τοὺς

We’re to know them.

Paul isn’t urging you to simply acknowledge their existence. He’s calling on you “to recognize [their] merit, [to] respect, [to] honor” them (BDAG).

It’s not their official position alone that should move to you honor your pastors. Instead – as we’ve seen Paul draw attention to their actions in this passage – it’s their work and character that should move you to recognize their merit and to respect and honor them.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And we beseech you, brethren”

And we beseech you, brethren

Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί

Paul says that he and Silas and Timothy – in the KJV – beseech the Thessalonians to do this. Actually, in the Greek this is the rather more bland word – “to ask”. Paul and his co-workers are requesting that the Thessalonians honor those who are working in the role of pastor among them.

And yet, this polite request has apostolic weight and authority behind it. Paul took this more gentle polite approach back in chapter 4, verse 1. where he politely asked the Thessalonians to walk and please God more and more. This is in keeping with the way that Paul dealt with these relatively new believers – as we saw in the first three chapters of this letter.

… So, Paul and his company – and the Lord himself – wanted the Thessalonians to recognize the merit of those exercising pastoral gifts among them. By extension, the Lord wants you to be doing this with those among us who serve in this capacity.

I appreciated Brother MacDonald’s prayer on Sunday where he led the congregation in praying for our pastors. And he’s not alone – whether it’s our congregational prayer or prayer among the men on Saturday mornings – I’ve heard numerous times where our congregation is praying for our pastors. This is commendable. It’s apostolic practice.

So, you’re to recognize the merit of your pastors for their work’s sake.

Here’s what else a New Testament congregation is called to do for its pastors…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 5:13 AV 1873

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

13 καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν. εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake”

13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

13 καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν.

Again we’re to think of them in a certain way. That’s the concept behind that word esteem. It’s “to engage in an intellectual process, [to] think, [to] consider, [to] regard. (BDAG)”

But where some would indeed think about their pastors – but in ways that approach a despising attitude with a very low view of those men, Paul calls you to have high thoughts about your pastors. You’re to hold them very highly in your mind.

The reality that should motivate you to hold them in that position in your mind is – again – not their title of “pastor”. It’s rather this matter of their work. This is certainly referring at least to the three activities that we saw this group engaged in back in verse 12.

… Do you know that it’s God’s special gift to you that you have multiple gifted men who labor among you and who are over you and who admonish you to follow the Lord?

Maybe you tend to despise this gift. Maybe in your fleshly mind you tend to compare your pastors to others that you’ve had or that you’re somehow aware of. There might be a tendency in your heart – with the Corinthian church to say, “I am of Paul”, “I am of Apollos” – and to inappropriately identify with one gifted pastor over another.

If that’s the case, Paul reminds you that your thinking regarding your pastors needs to be both high – and loving. You are to esteem your pastors highly in love.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And be at peace among yourselves”

And be at peace among yourselves.

εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 

When a church is able to achieve this kind of mindset about their pastors, there will be peace in the congregation. You will be at peace among yourselves.

Have you ever been in a congregation where the people are not on the same page as the pastor? Where the pastor is not being highly esteemed in love and where he’s not being respected by his people? It’s a virtual impossibility for there to be peace in a context like that.

God has called us to peace. Therefore, it’s no insignificant thing for you concerning how you think about and treat your pastors.

This is Paul’s message thus far in verses 12-13.

So, we’ve heard about the work of the pastors in the congregation so far and how you’re to relate to them.

Going forward in this passage to the end of it in verse 22 we’re going to hear about the work that’s expected of each one of us within the body of Christ and how we’re to relate to one another.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 5:14 AV 1873

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

14 παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους, παραμυθεῖσθε τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους, ἀντέχεσθε τῶν ἀσθενῶν, μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Now we exhort you, brethren”

14 Now we exhort you, brethren

14 παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί

Our thoughts about our pastors had Paul requesting certain things of you in verses 12 and 13.

But now in verse 14 Paul and his company are going to exhort all of you to be engaged in four activities.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “warn them that are unruly”

warn them that are unruly

νουθετεῖτε τοὺς ἀτάκτους

Interestingly, the first item for us to be engaged in within our church is this matter of warning – which is the same word as was used of the activities of our pastors – “admonish” is how it’s translated at the end of verse 12.

Our pastors are tasked with warning and admonishing us. But we also – each one of us – has a duty to carry-out this ministry toward others in our assembly.

You’re to engage in this ministry with those within our congregation who are described as unruly. This is the label given to someone who could be characterized in any way as “… being out of step and going one’s own way, disorderly, insubordinate” (BDAG).

You can see how this can tie back to how Paul started this section back in verses 12 and 13 regarding our pastors. They admonish and warn. Most will listen and yield – especially if the admonition and warning are biblical. But some might not.

What should happen when a professing believer doesn’t heed the repeated patient admonition of his pastors concerning biblical instruction? The congregation is to step in and reiterate God’s desires for that person.

That’s uncomfortable! You might hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe they’ll disagree with you.

And yet, this is God’s will for you. It’s not just the pastors’ job. It’s the loving responsibility of each one of us who is a member of this church. And the fact that this is uncomfortable is why the apostle has to exhort us on to do this. It doesn’t feel good. But it’s a vital ministry when there really are those who are truly unruly within a congregation and not responding to the admonition of the leadership of that church.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “comfort the feebleminded”

comfort the feebleminded

παραμυθεῖσθε τοὺς ὀλιγοψύχους

But that’s not your only job! Kind of on the exact opposite side of the spectrum of interpersonal verbal dynamics as what you were just exhorted to – Paul commands that you additionally comfort. You’re called to “console” and to even “cheer up” (BDAG) certain people in this church.

The recipients of this comfort and consolation are also very different from the previous group of those characterized as being unruly. Those folks don’t get any comfort in their current state. Here’s the group that gets comfort and consolation – the feebleminded.

These are people who are “faint-hearted” or “discouraged” (BDAG). Do you know anyone like that? Have you considered ministering comfort to them? Maybe you’ve already done just that! That’s exactly what they need. And they don’t need a pastor to minister it to them, necessarily. You yourself can do this. Indeed, you are exhorted to do it.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “support the weak”

support the weak

ἀντέχεσθε

Further, you’re exhorted to support the weak.

Those experiencing some incapacity or limitation (BDAG) need this from you. Whether this weakness is physical or spiritual probably doesn’t matter all that much. Where there’s weakness in the body of Christ in any way, there needs to be support.

Consider the human body and what happens when you injure a part of it. If you were to injure your right foot, your whole body instinctively kicks in to support that injured member. So too, the body of Christ is to kick in to support it’s fellow-members who are injured or out of joint or wounded in some way.

… Now, whether you’re engaged in warning or comforting or supporting… and whether you’re finding yourself ministering in the body to the unruly or to the feebleminded or to the weak… it can be difficult work. People can be messy and problems troubling. Folks – even believers – can turn on you for trying to serve them for Christ’s sake.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “be patient toward all men”

be patient toward all men

μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας

Your reaction to your fellow-believers can be irritation or even exasperation. That’s why Paul exhorts you to “be patient toward all.”

Be patient toward the weak, toward the feebleminded – yes, even toward the unruly and insubordinate! You are “to bear up under provocation without complaint, [to] be patient, [or] forbearing” (BDAG).

But you probably want to do just the opposite in your flesh! That’s why Paul continues the way he does in verse 15 where he has to tell you – don’t do that!

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 5:15 AV 1873

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

15 ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδῷ, ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “See that none render evil for evil unto any man”

15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man

15 ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδῷ

As you’re engaged in warning and comforting and supporting various people in this church, you might get your feelings hurt. You might have your best-intended ministry to others rebuffed and thrown back in your face.

Your tendency at that point can be to adopt the tactic of render[ing] evil for evil. They give you evil – they do wrong to you… Therefore, you’re going to do wrong to them. It’s payback. And in this world there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, the world might look at you as if there’s something wrong with you if you don’t render evil for evil.

But God wants you to take a different approach. When someone in the church slights you or despises your attempted ministry, do not pay them back in kind. You’ve been called to turn the other cheek – as your Lord Jesus Christ did to those who literally pulled the beard from his face. Even when professing believers do this to you, this is your calling.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men”

but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men

ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας

Instead of paying evil back for evil received, you are called to ever follow that which is good.

Pursue the good of others. Continue – even when rebuffed – to seek what is God’s absolute best for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Where you’re tempted to carry-out bad upon them – instead seek good for them.

This is certainly what God wants happening in the church. But it’s also what he wants you doing in society at-large. God wants you to pursue the good of others – both among yourselves [that is, amongst your fellow believers], and to all men.

Not only are Christians to be the recipients of your ministry – you’re called to do this to the lost world of people around you.

Maybe you have someone who’s very disagreeable toward you in your neighborhood. Maybe your neighbor or family doesn’t agree with your faith in Christ. And where that faith impacts your life in various ways, they express  disagreement. There might be some form of persecution that you’re facing because of stands you take on various issues because of your regard for the Lord.

When anything about the way that you’re living your life for Christ causes those outside the Church or even within the body of professing believers – to start mistreating you for it, remember this. God does not want you to take your own revenge. God does not want you repaying evil for the evil that you’ve received from others – whether they be in the Church or not.

Rather, he wants you to pursue their good – and thereby imitate your Savior who died for you when you were yet a sinner. You – who pursued Jesus Christ to death with all of your awful sins. He – with great love and patience – bore with you and bore all of your sins in his body on the tree.

… Now, verses 14 and 15 as we’ve seen have been very man-focused, by God’s design. You’ve had verses 12 and 13 which prompted you to respect and highly esteem your pastors. You then had verses 14 and 15 which directed you as to how you ought to treat your fellow-man, both inside and outside of the Church.

And now going forward into verses 16-18 we’re going to see three more commands for you – which all seem to have more of a view directly to God.

So, it’s been you and your pastors (vv 12-13). You and your fellow-believers / fellow-man (vv. 14-15). And now you and the Lord (vv 16-18).

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 5:16 AV 1873

16 Rejoice evermore.

16 Rejoice evermore.

16 πάντοτε χαίρετε

You’ll notice the all-encompassing nature of each of these three commands in verses 16-18. “Evermore” – or “always” – in this verse. “Without ceasing” in verse 17. “In every thing” in verse 18.

There are no exceptions then. There’s never a time when it’s not God’s will for you to rejoice. You as a Christian can rejoice under any circumstance.

There are two times that Jesus commanded his disciples to rejoice. The first situation involves when we’re facing the trial of being persecuted. You can and ought to rejoice even then. Jesus said you should.

How’s that even possible? It’s because of the second cause of your rejoicing that Jesus mentioned – the reality that your name is written in heaven. What can you and I not face with a settled determined rejoicing in this life if we’re truly believing this – that your name is written in heaven? How can things on earth shake us so much as to hinder our rejoicing when in reality our names are solidly fixed in heaven?

Peter ties all of those thoughts together when he tells you to not think it some strange thing as you’re experiencing trials. Instead, rejoice because you are suffering in the same way that your Savior did. And when he returns, there will be no more suffering for you forever – but rather complete and total joy (1 Peter 4:12-13).

I don’t want to get ahead of the text in 1 Thessalonians 5, but this rejoicing in every circumstance – the good and the bad – is God’s will for you. We’ll address that more in verse 18.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 5:17 AV 1873

17 Pray without ceasing.

17 Pray without ceasing.

17 ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε

Not only is your joy to be unending. So is your communication to God. You’re to pray without ceasing.

Ceaseless constant prayer is what God wants from you. As you’re going throughout your day – no doubt – you find yourself doing this. If not with your lips verbally, then with your heart.

The reality that you’re rejoicing constantly does not mean that you can’t petition God about anything that’s a concern to you. God wants to hear from you – about anything, even things that threaten to hinder your rejoicing.

In fact, one reason that a Christian is able to rejoice always (v 16) is that we have this relief valve of prayer in our lives. As you cast all your cares on the one who cares for you – and as you’re anxious for nothing but instead praying about everything – there is that peace the Lord gives that passes all understanding and allows you to rejoice with an unburdened soul.

This also is God’s will for you (v 18) – to pray without ceasing.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 5:18 AV 1873

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. 

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “In every thing give thanks”

18 In every thing give thanks

18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε

And lastly, God’s will for you is to give thanks in everything.

You can find reasons to thank God in very unpleasant situations.

Personally, when I’m experiencing even anxiety-causing situations I am mindful to thank God for them – for the fact that those painful and uncomfortable situations in my life lead me to trust God more. And when you consider that the basic desire of God for mankind is that they would come to trust him – that’s a very good thing for me to learn over and over again in new and deeper ways.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. 

This rejoicing and praying and giving thanks is all the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

It’s God’s will for you to be doing these things – as we heard that it was God’s will that we become more and more holy back in 4:3.

I think it’s safe to say that these three activities did not characterize your life before Christ. You weren’t joyful. You weren’t prayerful. You weren’t thankful. So then, this matter of you accepting God’s will to engage in these activities more and more constitutes a growth in holiness and sanctification for you.

These three activities in themselves are God’s will for you. And as you engage in them more and more you are growing in sanctification – which itself is also God’s will for you.

… Moving into our last sub-section within the broader section of material that we’ve been focused on this evening, Paul’s going to end this by focusing on the matter of prophesying or prophetic utterances – the very activity predominantly engaged in by those pastors back in verses 12 and 13.

We’re to respect and love those pastors in our lives for their work’s sake. And part of their work is taking what God has revealed and delivering it to us.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 5:19 AV 1873

19 Quench not the Spirit.

19 Quench not the Spirit.

19 τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε

Paul begins this consideration of your relationship to prophesying – not in terms of your actions toward the human agent who is proclaiming the message – but rather your approach to the Spirit of God.

You are commanded to not quench this third person of the Trinity. As if he were a fire acting within you and within the church – and you actually have the power to tamp him down in your life.

God – who is unlimited in power – yet allows his creatures and even his redeemed to resist him.

You don’t want this – do you? You don’t want to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit within your life and within the life of this church.

So, what can you do to avoid this result?

Here’s one thing…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 5:20 AV 1873

20 Despise not prophesyings.

20 Despise not prophesyings.

20 προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε· 

We must not despise prophesyings or prophetic utterances. Because the Holy Spirit is doing his work through this very activity in the church.

Recall that this letter to the Thessalonians is probably the earliest letter of Paul’s. Probably most of the other epistles in our Bibles hadn’t been written by this time. Revelation wouldn’t be penned for several more decades. The materials in the gospels would certainly have been known in the church by the testimony of eye-witnesses but it probably hadn’t been inscribed on scrolls just yet. Paul himself was still actually living-out what ended up being recorded into the book of Acts.

The point is that the blessing that’s ours – in having the completed word of God in our hands in the form of the 66 books of the Bible – was not a privilege that could have been enjoyed by these Thessalonian believers. Instead, God was still revealing his word to his people through New Testament prophets.

Now, some of what those who had the gift of prophesy would engage in was foretelling the future. We’ve seen that even in this epistle where Paul is revealing information about the Rapture and Tribulation – both future events.

But a lot of what prophets did was to “forthtell”. It wasn’t all futuristic. A good deal of what prophets did was to reveal God’s will to God’s people – just like Paul is doing here in this section of his letter.

So, as Paul or as the men acting as pastors among the Thessalonian church would utter prophesies telling the believers what God’s will was and even what he’s going to do in the future, they were to not receive it in a certain way.

Prophesies are not to be despised. In other words, one temptation of God’s people – both ancient and modern – is to hear what the messenger is proclaiming and then to lightly dismiss it – to not consider it worthy of your attention.

And that can happen in this church. It can happen in a Christian educational environment. You can hear the message proclaimed by a man with the gift of prophesying – of proclaiming God’s word and God’s will to you – and you can disdain it.

Maybe you don’t like the speaker’s personality. Maybe you compare him to someone else and he doesn’t quite seem to match up. Maybe you simply are made uncomfortable by the message. You might be hung up on something so trivial as the way he looks.

But let me urge you to actively resist anything in your heart that moves this way. Because when you despise prophesyings you actually are not despising that simple man who’s up behind the pulpit or podium proclaiming his simple message. You are quenching the Holy Spirit of God in your life.

Do you want God’s Spirit to burn like a fire in your soul? Then take heed to the messages that he sends you week after week through the mouth of his modern-day prophets – who are themselves doing no more than simply unfolding for you what God’s ancient prophets were given by the Holy Spirit to speak to his church through all these centuries.

So, don’t despise prophesyings.

And yet, that doesn’t mean that we’re to accept everything that anyone says in God’s name uncritically and without any sort of evaluation…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 AV 1873

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “Prove all things”

21 Prove all things

21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε

You’re to prove all things.

You’re to make a critical examination of prophetic utterances in order to determine the genuineness of it.

In Paul’s day – as the canon of Scripture wasn’t yet closed – as any self-proclaimed prophet would get up and give his message, the people would need to evaluate what he said based on what other truth from God that they knew.

In our day, now that the canon is closed and God has made clear the final form of his word in these 66 books, you can prove or test or examine whatever a man gets up and says based on the Scripture itself.

There are ways to come to the task of preaching with your own ideas and you just try to find some text from which you can launch into your own ideas. Much better to come to the text and explain and apply what’s actually there.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “hold fast that which is good”

hold fast that which is good.

τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε

The extent to which a congregation can see – that what a pastor or preacher or teacher is saying based upon the Scripture itself – determines whether that prophesying is good and therefore ought to be held fast.

In order to not quench the Spirit, you need to test and examine the Scriptural accuracy of any message you hear. Anything that passes the test you need to not be indifferent to – or despise. You rather need to firmly adhere to the truth communicated in those messages and act accordingly (BDAG) – if you want to avoid quenching the Holy Spirit.

But what about religious folks who have a message for you – but it doesn’t seem to line up with Scripture?

What if some nicely-dressed folks show up at your door and tell you that Jesus is a god but not the God? Or they tell you that you too can be a god some day and have your own universe to rule over? Or some religious person on TV or the internet tells you that it’s always God’s will to heal you of your diseases?

In those situations – and many more – you need to activate the command of verse 22…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 22

1 Thessalonians 5:22 AV 1873

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

22 ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε.

In the context, Paul isn’t now suddenly switching his train of thought to exhort us to stay away from some nebulous evil “out there”. Instead, following the flow of the text, Paul is commanding you to abstain from every appearance or manifestation or type or variety or sort of evil. And that evil is related – in the context – to prophetic utterances.

There are all sorts of evil messages given in the name of God. Your job as a discerning Spirit-filled Christian is to examine those messages and not just accept all of them without any sort of evaluation.

The messages that do pass the test of whether or not they align with Scripture – hold firmly to. Anything else ought to be avoided or kept at a distance from you.

Messages that are evil in terms of not passing the test of being Scriptural are not to be held firmly to (kateco in Greek) – but rather they’re to be abstained from (apeco in Greek).

[S]… So, if we want to avoid church settings that emotionally and spiritually resemble battlefields, we’d do well to be constantly pursuing Peaceful Relations with Men and God. May the Lord help us to do just that as a church in the days ahead.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Have you ever considered what you might want your last words to your loved ones to be? What would you say? What would be the most important thing in your mind for them to be reminded of or to hold on to in your absence?

… The apostle Paul had a lot of “goodbyes” – both in person and via letter. Because he wrote numerous letters to various congregations of believers, he was likely often considering what he wanted to say to end his correspondences with them – what his last words to them should be.

This morning we’ll be considering the last words of his first written letter that we have record of in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.

In this passage we see Paul offering Prayer and Encouragement Toward Peaceful Holiness.

Let’s read the text first.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary Verses 23-28 Text

1 Thessalonians 5:23–28 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 23

1 Thessalonians 5:23 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;

23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς,

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “And the very God”

23 And the very God

23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς

The phrase “And the very God” is found one other place in the New Testament. We saw it back in 1 Thessalonians 3:11.

You may recall that 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 was the conclusion of the first three chapters in this book where Paul ended his more personal portion of this letter with a prayer / wish / desire to God for these believers – just like we have here in chapter 5.

In that conclusion, Paul desired three main things of God concerning those believers. First, Paul desired that God would allow him and Silas and Timothy to see the Thessalonians once more. He also desired that God would cause the love of those believers for one another and for all people to grow more and more. Paul lastly desired that God would strengthen their hearts in holiness and cause them to be blameless when Jesus returns.

So, we saw even back there Paul’s emphasis on peace and holiness among the believers in that city.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “sanctify you”

sanctify you

ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς

But here at the end of the book, Paul has only two requests of God for these believers.

First is the sanctification or holiness of these folks.

What is sanctification?

Things that are said to be sanctified in the New Testament include: God’s name (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2), the gold and gifts brought to the temple (Matthew 23:17,19), Jesus Christ himself (John 10:36), believers in Jesus (John 17:17, 19; Acts 20:32; 26:18; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.), the members of your body as a believer (Romans 6:19), your actions as a believer (Romans 6:22), the unbelieving spouse of a believer (1 Corinthians 7:14), the very food we eat as believers (1 Timothy 4:5), and in our hearts the Lord God ought to be sanctified (1 Peter 3:15).

So then, what is it to sanctify something?

At its heart, the concept expresses the idea of setting something apart from the rest of what is common.

God’s name and character are to be set apart in the eyes of his human creatures. The gold and gifts brought to the temple were to be set apart for special use to God. Jesus Christ didn’t come to live his own life and do his own things – his life was totally set apart for the purposes of the Father. We believers have been set apart to be used for God’s special purposes in our lives. So have the members of our bodies and our every action. Any of us who has a spouse who is not a believer – the mere fact that you are a believer and you are still with your spouse sets him or her apart in a special way that might just result in their salvation. Even things that seem common – like our food – are set apart in a special way in the life of a believer. And in our perceptions, God needs to be thought of in our hearts as being set apart from all that is common and ordinary.

So, how does this sanctification – that Paul is praying for the Thessalonians to have – happen in the life of a believer?

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in John 17:17

John 17:17 AV 1873

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

As Jesus was praying to the Father in John 17, he noted that we believers don’t belong to the world just like Jesus himself didn’t belong to the world. This world is not our home.

Since this world is not our home, you might think that we should be taken out of the world. But Jesus says that he doesn’t want that for his followers. Instead, he asked the Father that you would be kept safe from the evil one – that is, Satan.

How is that going to happen? Jesus asked the Father in that context that you would be sanctified in God’s truth – which is God’s word.

Your relationship – then – and activities regarding God’s word is what Jesus will use to fulfill both his prayer to the Father concerning you – as well as Paul’s prayer to the Father here in 1 Thessalonians 5 concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in Acts 26:18

Acts 26:18 AV 1873

18 to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

In Acts 26, Paul’s standing on trial before King Agrippa. He’s recalling the time when Jesus came to him while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. Jesus had other plans for Paul – namely, for him to proclaim the gospel to Jews and Gentiles. The end goal was that these people would receive forgiveness of their sins and a share of the inheritance which all those who are sanctified receive.

How is it that these folks become sanctified? The last few words of verse 18 say that this sanctification or setting apart for special use happens by faith in Jesus.

I think that it’s important to note that the New Testament speaks of sanctification as it does of salvation. That is, God talks about this action in a believer’s life in some places as if it’s a done-deal and in other places as if it’s a process to be engaged in throughout the entire life of the believer.

So, a passage like Acts 26:18 seems to be speaking of a one-time act in the life of someone who just then trusted Jesus. They are sanctified. The deed is done.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Corinthians 6:11

1 Corinthians 6:11 AV 1873

11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Or a passage like 1 Corinthians 6:11 where Paul says that while you used to be engaged in all sorts of vile sin – at some point in the past you were sanctified from all of that – just like you were justified once and for all as a one-time act in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.

As I’ve said, this concept is spoken of in these terms sometimes – as once and for all.

But in other contexts, God portrays sanctification as an ongoing process.

We’ve actually seen this ongoing aspect of sanctification in this book of 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:3

1 Thessalonians 4:3 AV 1873

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

The ongoing process of you abstaining from sexual immorality is God’s will. This is one aspect of the continual sanctification process that God would have for you now that you’re a believer.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:4

1 Thessalonians 4:4 AV 1873

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Paul went on in that passage to speak of each believer handling his physical body – especially in regard to sexual purity – in a sanctified, set-apart manner. This again is God’s ongoing will for the believer.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4:7

1 Thessalonians 4:7 AV 1873

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

And Paul ended that discussion on the ongoing need of sanctification in the life of the believer this way. God called you to holiness – which is our word sanctification.

He called you with a purpose – sanctification. Therefore, live out that purpose constantly in your life.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 5:23

1 Thessalonians 5:23 AV 1873

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, back to our passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

There’s one more thing that God will often use in the life of a believer in order to continue and perfect this process of sanctification that was begun the moment you trusted Jesus.

And that is prayer. Your prayers for your fellow-believers’ sanctification is something that God will use in order to accomplish his purpose in their lives.

If God didn’t use your prayer to grow your brethren in sanctification, then why would the apostle Paul himself do it? He’s praying this way because he knows that God wants to answer this prayer in the lives of his true believers.

So, pray for one another – pray for me – for this sanctification being worked out in our lives more and more. That he would do this “wholly” – in every way. In every sphere of your life. There’s no aspect of your life in which God doesn’t want to meddle and redeem for himself. He’s making all things new in your life – in every deep dark hidden area, even. This is what he’s after with you.

So, Paul’s first prayer for these believers to end this letter is that God would continue to sanctify them – set them apart more and more from what is common and unclean – and set them apart to his good and holy purposes.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “the … God of peace”

the … God of peace

ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης

And the one who alone is ultimately able to sanctify you is given this title, “the God of peace”.

Wouldn’t you think that Paul should describe him as “the God of holiness” or something like that in order to follow-up on what he’s just been saying?

But I think this points to the reality that not all was peaceful in the church in Thessalonica. And they needed the God of peace to rule over their lives in a special way if they were to achieve this growth in holiness.

Some of them were defrauding one another in the area of moral purity. We’ll see later in this letter that there was some reason that Paul had to adjure them to make sure that every one of the believers there got this letter read to them. He needed to command them to greet every believers in their midst and not leave anyone out. Why would he need to do that if there wasn’t some tendency in some in that church to exclude others in an unloving manner?

One reality this points to – that the God of peace is being called in to this situation – is that in order for us to be holy we also need to be peaceful people. Holiness and peace go hand in hand. When you see an agitated Christian who is at odds with all sorts of believers, holiness is maybe not the first thing that comes to your mind.

So, not all was as peaceful as it ought to have been in the Thessalonian church. And therefore, there was a lack of holiness there as well.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on God of Peace in 2 Corinthians 13:11

2 Corinthians 13:11 AV 1873

11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Something similar was happening in a church south of Thessalonica – in the city of Corinth.

Paul ended the letter of 2 Corinthians with this term “God of peace.” And there, he tied together the necessity of that church to live in peace with one another – … with God showing himself to them as being the God of peace.

If you live in peace with other believers, then God – who is the God of peace – will be with you in a special way.

… So, Paul’s first prayer in this conclusion to his letter requests that God would sanctify those believers. And part of that sanctification would include their own peacefulness among themselves. Peaceful Holiness.

Paul’s second prayer for them is similar.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… be preserved …”

…  be preserved …

… τηρηθείη. 

Paul’s great desire for these believers – in addition to their sanctification – is that God would keep or preserve them.

There are numerous admonitions to believers to keep or preserve themselves in various ways.

You’re to keep Jesus’ commandments (John 14:21). You’re told to keep yourself pure (1 Timothy 5:22). God wants you to keep yourself unspotted morally by the world (James 1:27). You’re on some level to keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 21).

But in this passage, Paul isn’t telling the believers to do this to themselves – to keep or preserve themselves. The wording is not “preserve”. Rather, it’s “be preserved”. It’s passive. The action of being preserved is happening to you by God.

It’s God who keeps you ultimately and he does so in part by protecting you from Satan (1 John 5:18). Jesus prayed that your Father would keep or guard or protect his believers whom he was leaving behind here on this earth (John 17:11). You’re preserved or kept in or by Jesus Christ (Jude 1).

God has plans to do this in your life – to keep or guard or preserve you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… blameless …”

… blameless…

… ἀμέμπτως…

And he plans to preserve you blameless.

Just like Paul and Silas ministered among the Thessalonian believers in a way that was above reproach, God is determined to make and keep you blameless and above reproach. He is working in you so that this might be the case with you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… your whole spirit and soul and body …”

… your whole spirit and soul and body …

… ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα …

He’s working in your life in such a way that there’s no part of you that he’s not targeted for this blamelessness. It’s your spirit and soul and body that he’s after to make this way.

Some people have seen in this statement proof that you as a human are comprised of three parts – spirit, soul, and body. While it’s fairly simple to note the difference between your non-physical spirit/soul as opposed to your physical body, determining where the spirit ends and where the soul begins is probably more than anyone can successfully accomplish. Especially in light of passages that seem to break down human nature into the material – the body – and the immaterial – the soul or spirit or mind – it’s probably best to see your human nature as bipartite (two parts) rather than tripartite (three parts).

So, then why does Paul mention three aspects of yourself that he wishes for God to preserve? I think he’s pointing to the completeness of this desired preservation.

All that makes up who you are is what Paul wants to be kept and protected by God in a blameless fashion. Not just your inner being but your outer one as well. All of you! It’s your whole being that God wants to preserve blameless.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on “… unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”

… unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

… ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ …

Now, when we preserve things, it’s typically for the purpose of using that thing in the future. You preserve your food in the refrigerator so that you can eat it later. You preserve pictures – physically or digitally – so that you can enjoy looking at them later.

For believers, God is preserving our entire being for the following event – the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul doesn’t say that God is preserving us until we die or until we’re called home to be with the Lord. He says that we’ll be preserved and protected and kept right up through the time when Jesus Christ returns to this earth – whether at the first part of his second coming where he doesn’t touch down on the earth but comes only for his people – or the second part of his second coming where he rescues his people Israel and established his thousand-year reign on earth.

And if you or I happen to be taken to be with the Lord before that time, we now have no reason for concern about that – because we heard the teaching in chapter 4 concerning that reality of believers dying before Jesus returns. And we learned that people like that won’t miss a thing. Those who die in Christ before his return will also join the living believers at the time of Jesus’s coming.

… Does this seem too hard a thing for God to do? Maybe it’s too much for your mind to even comprehend him keeping you blameless until the coming of his Son.

If you’re doubtful or uncertain as to whether this will actually happen – that you’ll be preserved blameless and be made completely holy – then Paul gives you assurance in the next verse…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24 AV 1873

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

24 πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. 

God’s calling of you has to do with your salvation from sin. God is the one who called or saved you.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in Romans 9:11

Romans 9:11 AV 1873

11 (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

Often in Scripture there’s this contrast between works and faith in terms of how you were saved. You’re not saved from your sins by your works, but by faith in Christ.

But interestingly in Romans 9:11 Paul contrasts works – not with faith – but with God’s calling you.

So, were we saved by our works? No. Were we saved through faith? Yes. Were we saved through God’s calling. Also, yes.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in Galatians 5:8

Galatians 5:8 AV 1873

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

In Galatians, Paul is battling a pernicious false doctrine that had crept in to those churches in that area to the effect that you can be saved through your keeping God’s law in the Old Testament. Which is an utter impossibility!

And so, Paul says there that that kind of teaching does not originate with the one who called you. The God who saved you by grace through faith does not now somehow expect you to save yourself!

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Calling in 1 Thessalonians 2:12

1 Thessalonians 2:12 AV 1873

12 that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

That brings us back to the letter that we’re finishing-up here.

Back in chapter 2 of this letter, Paul recalled how he dealt with the Thessalonian believers when he was with them. He treated them like a father would his own children. He urges them to walk worthy of this God who saved them. And he speaks of that salvation in terms of being called to God’s future kingdom and universal glory.

… God has called you to salvation. You have a place in God’s coming kingdom. It will be glorious. And you did nothing to earn it. All you did was trust Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24 AV 1873

24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

So, Paul’s point now – to get back to the end of this letter – is that the God who has faithfully called you to eternal glory and joy and bliss – he’s not going to come up short.

As a result of his saving you, he has also determined to sanctify you wholly and preserve and keep and protect you blameless until the coming of his Son.

This is something you can count on by faith – because he himself is faithful. You can trust this promise because the one giving it is fully trustworthy.

… Now, I think it’s clear that verses 23 and 24 represent the same thought unit in this passage.

And what will become equally clear is that the rest of this chapter is an assortment of quick short remarks from Paul to these dear believers to close this first letter of his to them.

And yet, there is a unifying theme even in these short statements. And that is still the concept of their peaceful holiness.

This starts in verse 25…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 25

1 Thessalonians 5:25 AV 1873

25 Brethren, pray for us.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

25 Ἀδελφοί, προσεύχεσθε περὶ ἡμῶν. 

Just like Paul just uttered a prayer for these believers, so too now he’s requesting that they pray for him.

Could you imagine if you were alive back in Paul’s day having this preeminent apostle asking you to pray for him? You might wonder what you could possibly do to help this unusually-gifted apostle carry out his work for the Lord. The answer would have been – pray for him.

That’s the case for anyone in the body of Christ – no matter how new to the faith he is or how mature he is. We all need the prayers of one another.

On the flip side, we also all need to be humble enough to recognize and state to others our need for them to pray for us.

In Paul’s second letter to this church he requests that this church would pray for the success of his spiritual work. So, that ought to be a focus of ours as we pray for our fellow-believers – that our spiritual work and service to others for God’s sake would be effective.

Paul then turns back to the Thessalonians and their interactions with one another in verse 26…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 26

1 Thessalonians 5:26 AV 1873

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

26 ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 

The practice of greeting others with a kiss is rather foreign to us. When we greet others – at least before COVID-19 – it’s typically done with a handshake. Post-COVID it might be an elbow-bump. Maybe you greet someone with a hug if you’re really familiar with that person. Otherwise, the greeting is probably just verbal.

In the New Testament, there are numerous times where believers are told to greet other believers – with no reference to a kiss.

But we also have numerous instances of greeting others with this accompanying physical action.

Jesus actually rebuked the pharisee who invited him to his home because when Jesus entered that home he didn’t greet him with a kiss (Luke 7:45). Jesus was expecting that kind of appropriate reception.

Judas greeted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss (Luke 22:48) and no one thought anything strange of that. This was a customary way of greeting others in that day.

Four times Paul commands believers to greet one another with this accompanying action and Peter does so once.

Every time Paul commands it, it’s called a “holy kiss”. When Peter commands it, it’s called a “kiss of love”.

So, should we be practicing this?

I would say that where the cultural expectation would be to greet others with a kiss (https://www.cntraveler.com/story/a-guide-to-kissing-etiquette-around-the-world), you ought to do it.

But that’s not the culture we live in. And so, a warm handshake should generally suffice, or – depending on your level of concern with COVID – an elbow-bump.

Now, it’s interesting that for Paul and Peter, 4 of the 5 times that they collectively command this kiss to be accompanying the greeting of fellow-believers, they say that this action should be taken toward “one another”. There’s only one time where they need to clarify that this is for “all the brethren”. And that one time is right here in 1 Thessalonians 5.

And I think that’s interesting to note because we’ll now see in the next verse another reference concerning what these believers ought to do to “all the brethren”…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 27

1 Thessalonians 5:27 AV 1873

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

27 ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολὴν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς. 

Those who first received this letter needed to read it to all the brethren there.

That word “charge” here is pretty strong. It’s related to pressing someone into taking an oath.

Paul then is strongly commanding them to read what he just wrote and sent to them – to every believer in their assembly.

This seems to indicate that there may have been some divisions forming among them. As we’ve noted before, maybe some of them were at odds with others of them due to the violations we read about in chapter 4 where they were told to not defraud others in relation to moral purity. Maybe some were despising prophesying and those who did the prophesying – and so divisions had formed around that issue. In that context back in chapter 4 – as he’s doing here – Paul had to admonish them to be at peace with one another.

Whatever the case was, Paul sensed enough of a potential division forming where he had to adjure them to make sure that every one of them got this letter read to them. Because this letter – with God’s help – was intended to remedy some of these interpersonal issues.

And yet, a mere letter won’t ultimately do anything to mend broken relationships and strained fellowship among believers. Only God’s grace can do such a thing. And that’s just how Paul ends this letter…

1 Thessalonians 5 Commentary on Verse 28

1 Thessalonians 5:28 AV 1873

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

28 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθʼ ὑμῶν.

For us to truly accomplish anything of what we’ve seen in this letter – or anything that God wants us to do – we need grace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

[S] So, may his grace be abundant to you and to all of us as we attempt to do his will in this world – especially as we endeavor for peaceful holiness in our lives. Faithful is he who calls you who also will do it!

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