5:10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
5:11 Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.
5:14 We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly,
encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all.
5:15 See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone,
but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.
5:16 Rejoice always.
5:17 Pray without ceasing.
5:18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.
5:19 Don't quench the Spirit.
5:20 Don't despise prophesies.
5:21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good.
5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.
5:25 Brothers, pray for us.
5:26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
5:27 I solemnly charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the holy brothers.
5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
1Thess 5:1-3 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
It seems despite the repeated emphasis of not making a big deal about times and dates, Christians have always made a big deal about times and dates. Christians and related groups have continually set dates for Christ's return . The date comes and goes to their own shame and humiliation. Now it's the new Millenium that has renewed this zeal of setting dates. There always a certain arrogance about people who claim to have special knowledge of future events. It's a common attitude in gambling. Often I think God does something a little different just to humilate them.
But what does it mean that he will come like a thief in the night? It's not that it will be secretive. For "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Mt 24:27 and indeed in the previous chapter Paul described Christ's coming as visibly coming down from the clouds with a loud trumpet blast. Rather what it means is that people will be caught by surprise - as he implies in verse 3. And "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." 2Thess 1:8,9
"Peace and safety" will characterize the world.There may be a one world government and those of the world will be united but will persecute the believers under the guise of "political correctness" and the demand for religious unity centered around the anti-Christ, as Revelations describes.
1Thess 5:4,5 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
Whenever He comes, it won't be like a thief in the night to genuine believers. Not that they would have known when he would come, but that they would have always been prepared by doing his will. Jesus exhorted us saying, "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night." Luke 12:35-38 And even if Christ does not return in our lifetime, yet death itself is a like event to be prepared for since "everyone must die once and after that comes judgement." Heb 9:27
But it is not so much as an obligation to watch as it is simply characteristic
of those born of God. For it is in the nature of a child of light to behave
in an enlightened manner. John writes, "This is love
for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for
everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1John 5:3,4 But
it is not natural for unbelievers to behave in this manner. Jesus said,
is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead
of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the
light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be
exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it
may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." John
1Thess 5:6,7 "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night."
"Sleep" here appears to mean "to yield to sloth and sin" or "to be indifferent
to one's salvation". We should be alert both with regards to sin, given
its insidious nature, and for Satan as Peter warns, "Be
self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring
lion looking for someone to devour." 1Peter 5:8 And
with regards to opportunities to serve God. "For
the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It
teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and
to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present
age, while we wait for the blessed hope— the glorious appearing
of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem
us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his
very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14
1Thess 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
Faith, Hope and Love, these three are often spoken of in combination as characteristic attributes of Christians. "These three remain: faith, hope and love" 1Cor 13:13 and as he said in chapter 1, "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 1Thess 1:3
But here Paul portrays these attitudes defensively. There will be attacks
on our Christian life, whether from the world, the flesh or the devil.
But by applying our faith in love with our hope being set not upon this
life, but upon that which is to come, such attacks will be twarted.
1Thess 5:9-11 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Christians have no wrath to look forward to. "There
is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Rom
There is no punishment for sin, for under the New Covenant not only are sins forgiven but forgotten. "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." Heb 10:16,17
An interesting bit of Exegesis
There's a double meaning in verse 10 of "awake" and "asleep" which Paul may have intended though it may not come out as strongly in the translation. "Awake" is actually the same word translated "alert" in verse 6, and of the 22 times this word is used in the New Testament, only in this case is it translated "awake". The translators assume the Paul was talking about being alive or dead and so translated the word which elsewhere is translated "alert" or "watchful" into the word "awake". But the Thessalonians would have likely read "whether we are alert or asleep".
"Asleep" is the same greek word "sleep" in verse 6 which is a different word than what Paul uses in the previous chapter where he referred to the death of believers. In verse 6 he used the word to refer to "yield to sloth and sin" or "to be indifferent to one's salvation". Though at times it is used to refer to death. (Actually there's a similar double meaning of this word in Eph 5:14)
Thus the context would give the impression to mean that "Eternal life and salvation by Christ does not depend on our watchfulness, so it shall not be hindered by the sleepy, drowsy frame of spirit the children of God sometimes fall into." (John Gill) Though alertness and an enlightened behavior comes naturally to children of God, yet from time to time those born of God sleep, failing to keep alert, and consequently fall into sin. But even so, such will not suffer wrath, because that is the nature of the grace given believers.
The Eternal Security that Paul alludes to here gives us hope. For though the faith that saves is that faith that works, and there are inevitable effects of being born of God, yet Christians are not under the bondage of legalism whereby one must constantly live up to certain standards to obtain or maintain our salvation status, though granted there are other consequences to be concerned about.
And this is an encouraging fact, which is why Paul mentions it. We should
all be involved in encouraging and building one another up, following the
example of the Thessalonians. If you're not around such Christians, then
who will wake you up when you fall asleep? Who will keep you alert? "Two
are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If
one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!" Ecc 4:9,10 Furthermore "Though
one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold
cord is not quickly broken." Ecc 4:12
1Thess 5:12,13 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
Likewise it is written, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." Heb 13:7 and "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." 1Tim 5:17 So "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." Heb 13:17
Are you under a human spiritual authority figure? There are such positions.
But those in authority should not simply rely on their position to gain
respect, but should be working hard and should be involved in admonishing
others. Why should you hold them in highest regard? Because of their work
and consequently because of the example they set. True that there are the
prideful who just seek praise from men who lead gullible Christians to
reckon them infallible and their teachings above scrutiny, but there are
also those "not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
not lording it over those entrusted to them, but being examples."1Peter
5:2,3 Peaceably cooperate with them, which will be to your own benefit.
1Thess 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Apparently idleness was a problem among the Thessalonian Christians (too much socializing), which he mentioned also in the previous chapter (1Thess 4:11), and he mentions again in his second letter saying, "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat." 2Thess 3:11,12
Realize of course that you shouldn't deal with every issue the same
way. Some people need "a kick in the butt". Commanding, urging, warning,
these are the kind of ways to deal with idleness. But there are also those
who just need some encouragement, and for them it may not be appropriate
(and may in fact be counter-productive) to treat them the same as the idle.
(Throwing the timid into the water to teach them to swim may just make
them more afraid of water) Don't be overbearing with the weak. And give
people time to change. Sanctification is a process, not an event.
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Be joyful always;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
While the world pays back evil for good, Christians should not even seek the vengeance to which they may feel entitled. "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Rom 12:21
"be joyful always" is not the same as "feel happy always". Rather "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:2,3
Was Jesus jumping for joy when he endured the cross? Was he smiling and laughing when they pierce his hands and feet? Was he exuberant? It doesn't appear so from his words. For even in Gethsamane he prayed not to have to go through it. Yet there was an internal joy when he thought of the outcome. For on the cross he quoted Ps 22, which starts hopelessly with "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me", but ends with "Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it."And his last words were "it is done!"So also our joy is placed on the perspective of what we will be. You can't measure real joy simply based on outward appearance of the flesh. "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy." Pr 14:10
As for "pray continually", Paul gave examples of this in his own prayer life in Rom 1:9, 1Th 1:3, 1Th 2:13.
"Give thanks in all cirumstances"It
doesn't say to give thanks for all circumstances, although it does
say, "we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his
purpose." Rom 8:28 So I wouldn't rule that out despite
difficulties. This is also one of the few commands that are explicitly
stated as being God's will. So what is God's will for your life? To give
thanks in all circumstances.
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;
do not treat prophecies with contempt.
Test everything. Hold on to the good.
Avoid every kind of evil.
People with the gift of prophecy are often despised in a church. For, much as with the Old Testament prophets, they tend to point out sin. And they speak with absolutes, quoting the Bible, which may conflict with people's opinions and thus bring conflicts. Thus prophets are suppressed, often through institutionalism dictating who is allowed to speak and who is not. As popular Christianity is dominated by a spirit of ecumenical pluralism, such prophecies that demand unity on the basis of Biblical truth, rather than political correctness, are suppressed. Let them speak.
However, only the Bible is above scrutiny, and even so interpretations, applications, comments and preachings and teachings based on the Bible should be scrutinized. And this includes those who speak prophecies. "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge."1Cor 14:29 So both speaking and judging should be allowed. One without the other is not in balance. Of course only men are allow to prophecy in the public assembly, as it says, "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says." 1Cor 14:34 (And if prophecy is "the declaration of an application of scripture", consider this a prophecy)
Christians must learn discernment in many things and not get discouraged by accusations of being too judgmental. Christians should be able to discern false doctrine and false teachers. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."1John 4:1
As for avoiding every form of evil, there are those who take this too
far in saying that this means to avoid any kind of circumstance in which
people might falsely accuse you of evil. But Jesus said, "The
Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton
and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom
is proved right by her actions." Mt 11:19 There are those
who accused Jesus of violating the Law concerning the Sabbath, and like
things. The fact is that if you're going to minister as Jesus did you're
going to end up being falsely accused by others of doing evil. That's not
something you should necessarily avoid. What you should avoid is committing
sin. But test everything, and don't discard that which is good.
1Thess 5:23,24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
The three-fold nature of man being spirit, soul and body is an image
of the three-fold nature of the Godhead.
To be sanctified is to be cleansed of sin, and not simply forgiven of sin.
Sins of the soul deal with sins of the mind, the will and the emotions. For example, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matt 5:27,28
The physical committing of adultery would be a sin of the body, but the lust would be a sin of the soul.
In my opinion, the spirit deals with the intuition and the conscience. These are associated with feelings, but different than the "emotions" of the soul. Guilt for example is a feeling of the conscience. Thus when it comes to "gray" areas in which one has to simply follow one's own conscience, violating the conscience is a sin of the spirit.
Having been justified by faith, God makes it his job to sanctify us
in these areas, and he will faithfully do that despite the resistance he
often has to put up with. So try not to make his job too hard. This verse
itself, being a prayer, implies that praying along these lines helps along
the process of sanctification. Do so now.
1Thess 5:25-28 Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
Paul asking for prayer from these new Christians demonstrated a good deal of humility as well as giving them a sense of their value, power and responsibility to minister. He exhorts also that Christians should greet one another warmly in friendship and with respect, but with sincerity, the kiss being a token of such given in the culture at the time, but such tokens vary from time and place.
Having this letter read to all the brothers includes the Christian community today. While Paul's letters were addressed to particular churches at particular times, they apply to all and apply even today. In fact as Paul saw it necessary to write to them for their edification, so also our own living of the Christian life is related to our study of the New Testament letters.
His final prayer is for grace, which is what life is about. May God
be gracious to you all.