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1Thessalonians 5:12-28 NOTES

1 Thess. 5:12-15 - EXEGESIS


CONTEXT:  These are among the closing verses of this letter. Paul is taking the opportunity to include several brief admonitions-and to emphasize a few things of special importance.

In chapter 4, Paul urged the Thessalonian Christians to live lives pleasing to God-holy lives. He specifically mentioned abstaining from fornication (4:3). He commended them for loving one another, to include loving brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia (the province in which Thessalonica was located) (4:9-10). He counseled them to live quiet lives, to attend to their own business, and to work with their own hands, "that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing" (4:11-12). Quiet diligent work will enhance their witness to Christ as well as their spiritual and material prosperity.

Paul's call for them to work with their own hands is related to a problem in Thessalonica to which Paul alludes in this first letter-and which he will deal with at more length in his second letter. The problem has to do with Christians who, anticipating that Jesus will return soon, have quit working and are relying on charity for their support.

Paul calls on the church to "admonish the disorderly" (Greek: ataktos) (5:14). The word ataktos combines the Greek a (not) with tasso (to set in order), so disorderly is a good translation. Ataktos was used in other documents of the time to refer to people who were idle or absent from their post, and that is what Paul means here. In his second letter, he will talk about how he and his colleagues "worked day and night, that we might not burden any of you" (2 Thessalonians 3:8). He had urged them to follow that example, but he had heard" of some who walk among you in rebellion (ataktos), who don't work at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are that way, we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12). So it is clear that, when Paul uses ataktos, the disorderly people are slackers who have, in their idleness, become busybodies.

Paul goes on to say, "See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all" (5:15).


1 Thess. 5:12-15 - CHRISTIAN CONDUCT


12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.

Note:  If you've been around churches for a while, you begin to see that many of them have sick or unhealthy community dynamics. Sometimes you even find factionalism, judgmentalism, and power plays of various kinds. We've got to get our church communities healthy if we expect to attract people to Christ and create an environment in which they can be discipled effectively.

Respect Your Leaders (5:12-13):  But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

Verse 11 transitions from the passages about Christ's coming to a discussion of healthy Christian communities.

From Paul's exhortation, they apparently have a problem with respecting leadership. This doesn't necessarily mean that they had bad leaders. You may have great leaders, but could have people in the congregation who covet power for themselves.

Such people speak ill of a leader behind his back and may act disrespectfully to his face. Their theory, often

not thought through, is that if I can diminish the leader's respect and power, then I can increase my own influence. But it's a worldly view that seeks to increase one's own influence at the expense of another. The best and most godly way is for the leaders to work together, speak well of one another, and build up each other's influence. Leadership is not a "zero sum game." There shouldn't be just a single winner; everybody can win.  Paul points to the role of leaders of the congregation in three ways:

  1. They labor among you. "Work hard" (NIV), "labor" (NRSV, KJV) is kopiaō. In classical Greek it carries the idea of "to grow weary, tired, exhausted" with toil or burdens or grief. In the New Testament it mostly carries the extended meaning "to exert oneself physically, mentally, or spiritually, work hard, toil, strive, struggle."[189] Sometimes laypeople think that their pastor only works when they are present. Wrong!
  2. They "have charge of you" (NRSV), "are over you" (NIV, KJV). The verb is proistēmi, "to exercise a position of leadership, rule, direct, be at the head (of)."[190] The word is used of fathers managing families (1 Timothy 3:4, 12) and of exercising leadership in a congregation, here, Romans 12:8, and 1 Timothy 5:17. There are people -- sometimes we ourselves -- who don't like to submit to the leadership of others, but we are commanded: "Obey[191] your leaders[192] and submit[193] to their authority" (Hebrews 13:17, also 7). The opposite of submitting to God-placed leadership is rebellion.
  3. They "admonish you." The verb is noutheteō, "to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct, admonish, warn, instruct."[194] Leaders are often the ones who provide correction to members who get out of line. It may be difficult, and sometimes unpopular, but gentle, loving correction is essential for a Christian community to remain healthy and mission-focused.

Paul's instruction, "Be at peace with one another" is a hint that there was disorder in the church because of the lack of respect for leaders.

Faithful Ministry (5:14):  "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."

Now Paul speaks to the church in general. The pronoun "you" and the word "beloved" or "brothers" are in the plural. Note that the plural of "brothers," adelphoi, can refer to both "brothers and sisters," as the NRSV indicates. In verse 12, Paul referred to the role of leaders to admonish the church. Now he is more specific about the general approach to shepherding needed in Thessalonica. Verse 14 could even be a four-part guideline for pastoral ministry:

  1. Admonish the idle. "Those who are idle" (NIV), "idlers" (NRSV), "them that are unruly" (KJV) is the adjective ataktos, which means, "not in the proper order." It is sometimes used of soldiers who are out of the ranks. Here it is used in the sense of "being out of step and going one's own way, disorderly, insubordinate," though some prefer the sense "idle, indolent."[195] Paul uses the adverb of this root (ataktōs) in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, where the context is people who don't work but are dependent upon others. So "idlers" is probably a more useful translation of what Paul was referring to in our verse. He had admonished them concerning idleness in 4:11-12. Perhaps "idlers" could be applied to the way people behave in church, too. Some people come to church only to be served, not to serve. They are takers, not givers. Everyone has at least one spiritual gift. It's the role of leaders to "admonish the idle," both in physical things and in spiritual ministry.
  2. Encourage the timid.[196] The church has been suffering persecution, and some need to be encouraged to stand up rather than hunker down in order to avoid any criticism or persecution.
  3. Help[197] the weak.[198] The weak referred to in light of persecution are probably those who are weak in faith, though the principle would apply to those who are ill or weak in other ways. The church is to encourage them and lift up their hands. Though we're not to help in such a way that we encourage an unhealthy dependence (4:11-12). Leaders often visit the sick, or encourage those with a special ministry to the sick to visit them.
  4. Be patient with everyone. "Patient" is makrothymeō, "to bear up under provocation without complaint, be patient, forbearing."[199] Leaders, especially, must learn to be even tempered, even with those who don't deserve it. Make allowances for those who haven't grown in Christ as much as they should. Parents learn patience; so must church leaders.

Kind, Not Vengeful (5:15)

One mark of a healthy congregation is the absence of a judgmental spirit. In many churches, unfortunately, you sense a kind of spiritual pride in their own righteousness, and a condescending attitude towards those who are not as spiritual, or even outright secular. Our attitude reflects rather accurately how well we've matured in incorporating agapē love into our church life.   Part of this kind of non-judgmental, open love, is the absence of vengefulness -- a childish desire to get even.

v. 15: "Make sure that nobody pays back[200] wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind[201] to each other and to everyone else." (5:15)

To the Roman church, Paul writes on this topic more expansively.

"17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 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.'21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)

Peter, too, commands the same kind of loving behavior when provoked.

"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:9)

Jesus was very clear that his followers must be forgiving (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:23-35). People who must pay back every hurt are miserable, selfish, vengeful wrecks, not healthy Christians who take their cues from Christ himself.


1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 - EXEGESIS


16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.


"Rejoice (Greek: chairete) always" (v. 16; see also Philippians 4:4). The Greek word, chairete (from the root word, chairo), is a common greeting, and means "Rejoice!"

  • Joy and rejoicing are common themes throughout both Old and New Testaments. The feasts which the Israelites were required to observe celebrated the great events of their history (i.e., the Passover feast celebrated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt), and were to be times of rejoicing (Numbers 10:10). A man could rejoice in the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18)-or for the prospect of salvation (Psalm 51:12). Women sang songs of joy when David returned from a victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:6-7). The people could rejoice at the prospect of Yahweh breaking the rod of their oppressor (Isaiah 9:3).
  • In the New Testament, we first encountered this word chairo in the announcement to Mary that she would have a baby (Luke 1:14)-and in Elizabeth's response to Mary's visit (Luke 1:44). In her Magnificat, Mary uses another word for "rejoice" (agalliao)-but it conveys the same enthusiasm (Luke 1:47). The Magi, seeing the star stop above the house where Mary was taking care of the baby Jesus, "rejoiced with exceedingly great joy" (Matthew 2:10). From the beginning of Jesus' life to his resurrection appearances (Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:41, 52), rejoicing was an important response.
  • We can certainly understand the call to rejoice, but Paul's call to rejoice always causes us pause. Can we rejoice when we're sick-or in prison-or bereaved? Can we rejoice when we have just lost our job and don't know where to turn?
  • Paul demonstrated that it is, indeed, possible to rejoice in the midst of adversity. Early in his ministry, when arrested, he and Silas sang hymns and prayed in their prison cell (Acts 16:25). Later, in prison awaiting trial, he wrote a short letter to the church at Philippi in which he used the word "joy" or "rejoice" no less than a dozen times (Philippians 1:4, 18, 25; 2:2, 17-18, 28-29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). In some of those verses, he is urging the Philippians to rejoice, but in others he is talking about his own joy. He mentions thanking God "whenever I remember you, always in every request of mine on behalf of you all making my requests with joy" (1:3-4). He talks about proclaiming Christ, and says, "I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice" (1:18). He asks the Philippians to "make (his) joy full, by being like-minded" (2:2). He knows that there is a possibility that he will be found guilty and executed-but he responds, "Yes, and if I am poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice with you all. In the same way, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me" (2:17-18).

Now he calls on these Thessalonian Christians to rejoice too-to rejoice always.


"Pray (Greek: proseuchesthe) without ceasing" (Greek: adialeiptos) (v. 17). The New Testament has four words for prayer:

  • Deesis has to do with asking God to supply particular needs. • Enteuxeis is supplication-prayers for others or for oneself. • Eucharistias is thanksgiving. • The word used here, proseuchesthe, is a general word for prayer that would include all kinds of prayer.

Prayer assumes that a relationship exists between the person and God so that the person can believe that God is listening and that God will take seriously the person's petitions. That doesn't mean that God will always answer prayers as we ask. However, the more closely our hearts are aligned with God's will, the more likely we will receive what we asked.

  • Paul's requirement for constant prayer causes us problems. We have no problem with praying, but how can we pray without ceasing. Life places many demands on us, and we cannot spend every moment in prayer.
  • But we can live every moment in the confidence that we are connected to God's love. We can look to God for guidance when we need to make a decision. If we have eyes to see, we can find a thousand things for which to give thanks. Even a cursory reading of a newspaper will tell us of situations around the world that need God's intervention. There are any number of people deserving of our supplications-our family and friends, the church and its' members, church leaders, governmental leaders, the person standing in line with us at the supermarket, and the clerk who takes our order at Burger King.
  • There is no lack of subject matter for our prayers. While we cannot devote every minute of every day to prayer, we can live in such a way that our lives honor God-and we can live in thanksgiving for all the blessings that we have received, great and small-and we can offer prayers for people we pass on the street. The possibilities are endless. And so Paul says, "Pray constantly!"

"In everything give thanks" (v. 18a). Many years ago, someone gave me a copy of Merlin Carothers' book, Prison to Praise. It's a small book-smaller than a copy of Reader's Digest, but it has stuck with me all these years. I mention it because Carothers talks about reading "in everything give thanks" while in prison and tells how this verse changed his life.

  • Carothers decided to take God at his word. If God called him to give thanks in all circumstances, Carothers would do that. Even though he was still in prison, he would give thanks. He would not give thanks for the troubles that his eyes could see, but would give thanks for the confidence that God would use those troubles in a positive way. When he began giving thanks, God began to do wonderful things in his life. Doors that had been closed began to open wide, including the door of his cell. Carothers was released early.  One miraculous door led to another, and Carothers found himself in the ministry. He taught other people about thanksgiving in all circumstances, and they too began to experience miracles in their lives.  That book was first published in 1970 and has sold millions of copies. It is still in print. They carry it at Amazon at very reasonable cost. Get a copy. It will help you to understand the power of this verse properly applied.
  • Corrie ten Boom also tells a wonderful story about this verse. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. The camp was horrible. Fleas nearly drove them crazy. Fleas were everywhere. Fleas got in their hair and under their skin. Fleas made it impossible to sleep. Corrie and Betsy had no soap or flea power. The fleas swarmed unchecked. It was terrible.
  • Betsy mentioned this verse, "in everything give thanks." Corrie said, "I can't give thanks for the fleas." Betsy said, "Give thanks that we're together. Give thanks that they didn't check our belongings, and we have our Bible." So Corrie agreed to give thanks for her sister and for their Bible. They didn't give thanks for the fleas, but they did give thanks while living a flea-bitten existence.
  • Much later, Corrie discovered that the fleas had been a blessing in disguise. She learned that the guards often raped women prisoners. But the guards never touched the women in Corrie's section of the camp, because they didn't want to expose themselves to the fleas. Corrie said that this taught her to give thanks for all things-because you never know.

"for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you" (v. 18b). The "this" in this verse incorporates all three commands: "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks." These commands are not the product of human wisdom, but come from God. It is God's will that these Christians obey these three commands. It is part of God's plan for their lives.


19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not utterly reject prophecies,


"Don't quench the Spirit" (v. 19). The Spirit in question here is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells these people not to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst, but doesn't explain the problem in detail. We don't know who was hindering the work of the Holy Spirit or what form their resistance was taking.


"Don't despise prophesies" (v. 20). While people today think of prophecy as foretelling the future, the role of a Biblical prophet was to convey a message from God to humans. In many cases, that involved giving people a glimpse of the future, but the foretelling was only in support of the larger prophetic message.

While most Biblical prophecy took place in the Old Testament, the New Testament also includes accounts of prophecy (Acts 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32).  Later, in his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul will give more detailed guidance regarding speaking in tongues and prophecy:

  • Prophecy is for the purpose of "edification (oikodome), exhortation (paraklesis), and consolation" (paramythian) (1 Corinthians 14:3).

Oikodome is related to the word oikia (house), and is usually associated with constructing a building-building it up, so to speak. Paul uses it metaphorically here to mean the building up or edifying of the church.

Paraklesis involves exhortation or encouragement-helping people to see the possibility of overcoming an obstacle or winning a battle.

Paramythian is a tender word that has to do with consoling or comforting.

  • Prophecy is more significant than speaking in tongues, because "he who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly (ekklesia-the church). Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly (church) may be built up" (1 Cor 14:4-5).
  • People who speak in tongues are required to have an interpreter. Those who claim to have a prophetic word are to give it in an orderly fashion, speaking one at a time and giving others a chance to speak, "that all may learn, and all may be exhorted" (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).


21 but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil.


"Test (Greek: dokimazo) all things" (v. 21a). The word dokimazo means to test something to determine its quality or authenticity. Given the context, Paul intends that these Thessalonian Christians should try to discern the validity of that which appears to be the work of the Holy Spirit (v. 19) and that which appears to be prophecy (v. 20). However, he doesn't tell them how to go about making those judgments.

  • The counsel of church officers (pastors, elders, deacons) would be a good starting point in making these kinds of judgments. Presumably they are spiritually mature and committed to the Lord. Their opinion should carry significant weight when testing ministry in their midst.
  • Also, with regard to those who claim to be prophets, consider these ten tests:
  1. Does their message exalt Christ? (John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:1-4). 2. Does it accord with scripture? (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 3:15b-16). 3. Does it build up the church? (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:3-5, 12, 26).  4. Does it pronounce judgment on sin?  5. Does it emphasize the grace of God?  6. Does it produce Godly fruits? (Matthew 7:15-18; Galatians 5:22-23)  7. If the prophecy involves foretelling the future, does it come true? (Deut. 18:22).  8. Does the alleged prophet have a prophet-motive or a profit-motive?.  9. Does the alleged prophet have a Godly character?  10. To whom is the alleged prophet accountable, and to what degree? (1 Cor. 14:29-33)
  • When applying these tests, we must be careful not to be overly critical. Even Godly prophets are sinners (Romans 3:23), and every ministry is subject to error. However, these tests provide a starting point for evaluating those who appear to be led by the Spirit and those who appear to have the gift of prophecy.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul will give an example of something that would not pass the test. Someone had said "that the day of the Lord had come," and Paul disavows that, saying, "Let no one deceive you in any way"-and then goes on to give more detail about the Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:2ff.)


"and hold firmly (Greek: katecho) that which is good" (v. 21b). After they have tested things, Paul tells them to hold fast (katecho) that which is good-to embrace it-to seize it-to make it their own.

  • What would be examples of that which is good? One approach to answering that question would be to look at the tests mentioned above. Something would be good if it exalts Christ, accords with scripture, builds up the church, etc.
  • But we must remember the context. Paul has been talking about the work of the Spirit (v. 19) and prophesies (v. 20), so that which is good would be Spirit-work and prophesies that pass the test of authenticity.

"Abstain from (Greek: apecho) every form of evil" (v. 22). But they are to exercise restraint when faced with evil-the kind of restraint that a ship's captain might exercise when trying to keep his ship from running aground-the kind that a spiritually sound person would exercise when faced with life-threatening evil.


"every form of evil." The tempter is infinitely clever when it comes to repackaging evil to look beautiful-to appear benign-even to look as if it would be good. Even a virtue, such as humility, can become evil if the tempter can persuade us to take pride in it.

  • How can we avoid evil? For one thing, we can avoid going to evil places and entangling our lives with evil people-the exception, of course, being if we are being led by the Holy Spirit to counter evil by going head to head with it.
  • When the opportunity presented itself, my wife and I sent our children to Christian schools where they would be taught by Godly people. We encouraged them to seek out friends who embraced solid values and to avoid those who didn't. In an interesting twist, our children had a good deal of contact with troubled kids, because the troubled kids saw them as a ray of light or an anchor. Happily, our children were sometimes able to help the troubled kids-and they didn't succumb to the pull of the darkness.
  • Ephesians 6:11-18 provides helpful counsel when it comes to abstaining from evil-"Put on the whole armor of God."


23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


"May the God of peace himself sanctify (Greek: hagiazo) you (plural) completely" (Greek: holoteleis) (v. 23a). Sanctify and sanctification are not words that we use in everyday conversation, but they are central to the life of a Christian. The word hagiazo (sanctify, make holy) is closely related to the word hagios (holy-usually translated "saint" in the New Testament). A saint is someone who has been sanctified-made holy.

  • We are likely to think, "Well, that doesn't include me. I'm no saint"-because we have come to think of saints as Christian super-heroes-deserving of Godly Medals of Honor.

But the New Testament uses the word hagios to mean ordinary Christians (Acts 9:13, 41; Romans 1:7; 12:13; 15:26; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1, etc.). So we are saints-people made holy by the grace of God-set apart for a Godly purpose-"sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 10:10).

Paul's prayer is that God will sanctify these people completely (holoteleis). The word holoteleis is made up of holo (all or whole) and telos (accomplished or completed). The idea here, then, is that God will pull these Thessalonian disciples together as a sanctified (holy) people.

  • The word "you" is plural, so Paul is praying that God would sanctify (make holy) the congregation-at-large as well as individual members thereof.

"May your (plural) whole (Greek: holokleron) spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless (Greek:amemptos) at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 23b).

  • Note the similarity in sound of holoteleis in v. 23a and holokleron in v. 23b. This is a small example of word-art in the New Testament. Paul was an educated man who used language gracefully. While that might seem unimportant, graceful use of language has power to spark imaginations and to persuade.

Holokleron combines holos (whole) with kleros (part). A person whose "whole spirit, soul, and body (are) preserved" is a person whose parts have come together so that they work in perfect harmony-a person whose life is not fragmented but is what we might today call "centered" or "together."


"blameless" (amemptos) (v. 23b; see also 3:13). Paul wants these disciples to be found blameless (amemptous) on that great day. The word amemptous is made up of the Greek a (without) and memphomai (fault). Paul wants these Christians to be found without fault when Jesus comes to judge the world.


24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.


"He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it" (v. 24). To become holy and blameless is something that these disciples cannot do on their own, but Paul says that God is faithful and will work the needed miracle in their lives.

Final Words (5:25-28):  25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.  26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I put you under oath by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.  28 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Now Paul concludes with a request for prayer and the desire that his love and affection be conveyed to all the brothers and sisters in Thessalonica.

"25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss." (5:25-26)

Paul calls for prayer. The assumption behind this request is that prayer is important and effective.

"Kiss" is the noun philēma, a "touch with the lips, a gesture of affection or homage." It is usually devoid of erotic content in the Bible, and usually to show affection between family members. In Europe and the Middle East kissing on one or both cheeks is common. Of course, there's an erotic kiss (Song of Solomon 1:2), but Paul is distinguishing the kiss of affection and greeting from the erotic kiss by the word "holy." The "holy kiss" is found in Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; and 2 Corinthians 13:12, while Peter mentions the "kiss of love" (1 Peter 5:14).[222]

Now Paul commands the letter to be read.

"I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers." (5:27)

"Charge" (NIV, KJV), "solemnly command" (NRSV) is horkizō, "to give a command to someone under oath, adjure, implore."[223] Paul could be concerned that the letter may be delivered to a member of the church whose sin might be exposed in the letter. So he solemnly commands all to hear its contents read.

Paul concludes the letter with grace -- the very basis of our salvation.

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (5:28)

Disciple Lessons

Paul has covered a lot of ground in this lesson, offering a number of keys to health in a congregation and in a Christian's personal life.

  1. Respect for leaders (5:12-13)
  2. Faithful ministry to the flock (5:14)
  3. Kindness rather than vengeance (5:15)
  4. Spiritual enthusiasm in joy, prayer, and thanksgiving (5:16-18)
  5. Freedom of the Spirit -- with discernment (19-22)
  6. A desire to please Christ and live holy lives (5:23-24)
  7. Prayer for Christ's mission (5:25)
  8. Love and affection for one another (5:26)
  9. Attention to Scripture (5:27)
  10. Focus on grace (5:28)



1 Thess. 5:12-28 Extra Commentary

1 Thessalonians 5:12 "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;"

"Know them": This means that the people are to know their pastors well enough to have an intimate appreciation for them and to respect them because of their value. The work of pastors is summarized in a 3-fold description which includes:

(1) Laboring, working to the point of exhaustion;

(2) Overseeing, literally standing before the flock to lead them in the way of righteousness; and

(3) Instruction in the truths of God's Word (Heb. 13:7, 17).

"Are over you" indicates a governing leadership, and refers to spiritual leaders such as elders and pastors. The people are to respect and regard them highly for their labor of love.

God has an order in the church as well as in heaven. The pastor is the leader of the congregation as the shepherd is the flock of sheep. He teaches the truth. He leads the flock, by teaching from the Word of God. The job of the pastor is to teach the congregation how to live victorious lives in Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 "And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. [And] be at peace among yourselves."

"Esteem": In addition to knowing pastors, congregations are to think rightly and lovingly of their pastors, not because of their charm or personality, but because of the fact that they work for the Chief Shepherd as His special servants (1 Peter 5:2. 4). They are also to submit to their leadership so that "peace" prevails in the church.

This just means that the congregation, who has chosen to follow a certain pastor, should have respect for the office of pastor. The work the pastor of the church does is to benefit the congregation. You should love and respect them for the work they do for God. This is saying live in peace.

 Verses 14-15: "We exhort you". Paul has discussed how the pastors are to serve the people and how the people are to respond to the pastors (verses 12-13). In this verse, he presents how the people are to treat each other in the fellowship of the church. The "unruly", those out of line, must be warned and taught to get back in line.

The "fainthearted," those in fear and doubt, must be encouraged and made bold. The "weak," those without spiritual and moral strength, must be held up firmly. Patience, forgiveness and acts of goodness must prevail among all the people.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men]."

It is the job of the leaders in the church to warn one in the congregation who is unruly. Sometimes it can be done with a sermon to the whole church. If that does not work, then they should be talked to kindly, but firmly. It is not good to allow someone to be unruly in the church.

The pastor must keep order to have effective sermons. We should all help the feebleminded. This could also be those who are depressed to the point of being feebleminded.

The job of the church is to help those who cannot help themselves. The weak, could mean several things here, one of which would be mental illness. Patience is one of the gifts that show when the Spirit of God is in your life.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 "See that none render evil for evil unto any [man]; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all [men]."

Christians are to turn the other cheek. We are not to try to get even for a wrong that has been done. Be kind to those who classify themselves as your enemies. Kill them with kindness.

Verses 16-22: Paul gave a summary of the Christian's virtues. These verses provide the foundational principles for a sound spiritual life in brief, staccato statements that, in spite of their brevity, give believers the priorities for successful Christian living.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Rejoice evermore."

"Rejoice": Joy is appropriate at all times (Phil. 2:17-18; 3:1; 4:4).

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

"Pray": This does not mean pray repetitiously or continuously without a break (Matt. 6:7-8), but rather pray persistently (Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8), and regularly (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2, 12).

The Greek word here rendered "without ceasing", is used in secular literature to denote a man suffering from an intermittent cough, one that is not continuous, but occurs at intervals. Just as this individual has the tendency to cough, though does not always do so audibly, so the believer ought to remain in the attitude of prayer though not always praying audibly.

We may not be able to pray aloud every minute of every day, but we can have a prayer in our heart at all times. This also means continue to pray until the answer comes. The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

"Give thanks": Thanklessness is a trait of unbelievers (Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). "This is God's will" (includes verses 16-17).

"In every" event or circumstance (thing), the Christian is to "give thanks" to God for the good He can bring out of the event, even should the event be unpleasant. The constant attitude of prayer (mentioned in verse 17), will help the believer to maintain gratitude in the face of adversity.

Notice that even the bad things that happen to us, are the will of God for that moment. Troubles come to teach us to lean more on Jesus. Every problem that we overcome through faith in Him, makes us stronger than we were before. Knowing all of this, how can we do less than to praise Him in all things and at all times.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Quench not the Spirit."

"Quench" means putting out fire (in Matthew 12:20, Ephesians 6:16 and Hebrews 11:34). Here it is employed metaphorically to mean "stifle" or "suppress."

The fire of God's Spirit is not to be doused with sin. Believers are also instructed to not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), but to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and to walk by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

The Christian can stifle the Holy Spirit's workings by hindering Him from leading the believer to rejoice (verse 16), to pray (verse 17), to give thanks in adversity (verse 18), and by despising prophetic utterances (verse 20), inspired by the Spirit.

The Spirit of God within us is given so that we might minister more boldly. This same Holy Spirit is our Teacher and our Guide. He is our Comforter. Only a fool would quench any of these things. When we quench not the Spirit, we allow the Spirit of God to minister through us.

1 Thessalonians 5:20 "Despise not prophesyings."

"Prophesyings": This phrase can refer to a spoken revelation from God (Acts 11:27-28; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14), but most often refers to the written word of Scripture (Matt. 13:14; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18-19).

These "prophetic utterance" are authoritative messages from God through a well-recognized spokesman for God that, because of their divine origin, are not to be treated lightly. When God's Word is preached, or read, it is to be received with great seriousness.

What is prophesyings? In this instance, it means predictions. God has used this method to bring warnings to His people throughout the ages. We should love to hear from God what is going to happen. The only way we would despise them is if we know we are guilty of displeasing God and they are warnings to us.

Verses 21-22: "Prove all things": This call for careful testing and discernment is in response to the command (of verse 20). One is never to downgrade the proclamation of God's Word, but to examine the preached word carefully (Acts 17:10-11). What is found to be "good" is to be wholeheartedly embraced. What is "evil" or unbiblical is to be shunned.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

This is the same thing as trying the spirits to see whether they are of God or not. We must stand firmly on the Word of God and then we will not fail. Don't believe everything you hear. Check it out with the Word of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from all appearance of evil."

We know that it is bad to do evil, but we see here that it is bad to even give the appearance of evil. The world is looking at how you conduct your life. If you give the appearance of evil, you might cause your weaker brother to sin.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 "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."

"God ... sanctify you": Having concluded all the exhortations beginning (in 4:1), and especially (from verses 16-22), Paul's ending benediction acknowledged the source for obeying and fulfilling them all. It is not within human power to be sanctified in all these ways (Zech. 4:6; 1 Cor. 2:4-5; Eph. 3:20-21; Col 1:29).

Only God (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:20), for references to God as "peace" "Himself," can separate us from sin to holiness "entirely."

"Spirit ... soul ... body": This comprehensive reference makes the term "complete" more emphatic. By using spirit and soul, Paul was not indicating that the immaterial part of man could be divided into two substances (Heb. 4:12). The two words are used interchangeably throughout Scripture (Heb. 9:16; 10:39; 1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Pet. 2:8).

There can be no division of these realities, but rather they are used as other texts use multiple terms for emphasis (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Nor was Paul a believer in a 3-part human composition (Rom. 8:10; 1 Cor. 2:11; 5:3-5; 7:34; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 6:18; Col. 2:5; 2 Tim. 4:22). But rather two parts: material and immaterial.

"Unto the coming": This fourth mention of Christ's parousia refers to the rapture of the church as it has previously at (2:19; 3:13; 4:15).

This verse does not form a definition of the constituent parts of man, but is a term to denote the whole man.

The God of peace is Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we are acceptable to God the Father. We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He took our sin on His body and clothed us in our white linen garment free from sin, washed in His precious blood. The spirit is what we are. The body is the house the spirit dwells in.

They are in constant warfare trying to control our soul, which is the will of man. Man is a spirit, living in a body with a soul. Blameless is the same as being justified (just as if I had never sinned).

Jesus wiped the slate clean when He gave His body for our sin. We received this cleansing when we received Jesus as our Savior. It is our obligation to walk in the salvation we received. Walk in Him and you will be ready when He returns.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it]."

"Calleth you": This, as every time the divine call is mentioned in the New Testament, refers to God's effectual call of His chosen ones to salvation (2:12; 4:7; Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:9; Eph. 4:1, 4; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Peter 2:9; 5:10; 2 Peter 1:10). The God who calls will also bring those whom He calls to glory and none will be lost (John 6:37-44; 10:28-29; Romans 8:28-39; Phil. 1:6; Jude 24).

God is not only faithful, but He cannot and will not lie. The Truth cannot lie. God is the Truth. He fulfills every promise He made.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 "Brethren, pray for us."

Not only should the pastor pray for his flock, but the congregation should pray for their leader. I say with Paul, pray for me.

1 Thessalonians 5:26 "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss."

The "Holy kiss" was a Jewish custom of welcome (See Luke 7:45; 22:48). It was also used by the early Christians (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14).

This gesture of affection is commanded 5 times in the New Testament and refers to the cultural hug and kiss greeting of the first century which for Christians was to be done righteously in recognition that believers are brothers and sisters in the family of God.

This is not speaking of a passionate kiss between a woman and a man, but is speaking of a warm greeting. If a kiss, a kiss on the cheek.

1 Thessalonians 5:27 "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren."

"Public reading was the foundation of spiritual accountability (Gal. 4:16; 2 Thess. 3:14).

We see from this verse that this letter is not just for the church at Thessalonica, but to all who love God.

1 Thessalonians 5:28 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen."

(Romans 16:20, 24; 2 Thessalonians 3:18).

Paul always speaks a benediction over all of his converts. We can say with Paul, so be it.



1 Thess. 5:12-28 - Richison Commentary

v. 12: "And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you..."

 We come now to the conclusion of 1 Thessalonians, which goes from verse 12 to 24. Paul changes the subject from prophecy to present issues in the church. This verse shows their accountability to leaders.

And we urge you, brethren, - Respect for church leadership is a matter of urgency. The word "urge" means to ask. Evidently, there was some disrespect for Thessalonica's leadership (1 Thessalonians 5:14), so Paul asks them kindly to respect their leaders. This is a plea, not a demand.  In his two epistles to the Thessalonians, Paul addresses them twenty-one times as "brethren." The emphasis is upon Christians in relationship to one another. The children of God need the family of God for mutual encouragement.

to recognize those - Church members are "to recognize" leadership in the local church. They are to value the role of leaders. Leadership deserves esteem, not for its own sake but the sake of the work of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Church members must recognize the authority of leaders if the church is going to function properly.Literally, the word "recognize" means to know. Know your leadership. Do not take them for granted. Respect them by yielding to their leadership.

Principle:  Respect for church leadership is essential for the health of individual believers and the congregation as a whole.

Application:  One of the greatest problems in the local church today is the lack of good leadership. Aggressive leadership is a threat to many weak people in the local church. Some folks are quick to put the label of "autocrat" on leaders. It seems that churches do not have the capacity to recognize good leadership.  Church members who recognize the true character and position of their pastor see the spiritual gifts and graces that God gave their leader. It takes a follower with discernment to recognize God's leader. When a person becomes a member of a congregation, it takes a time of discerning transition to come to honor God's leader.

12b - who labor among you, There are three qualities in leaders that the congregation is to "recognize." The first feature is those "who labor among you." The Greek word indicates that the church leaders at Thessalonica labored to the point of exhaustion. Someone said about his pastor, "He is incomprehensible on Sunday and invisible during the week!" Most evangelical pastors I know work hard. They put in far more than forty hours a week. Jokes about working for one hour a week are just not true. On the contrary, most pastors give many hours to their ministries.

Principle: Pastoring a local church is hard work.

Application:  Pastoring a church is hard work. As a pastor, I spent at least twenty to thirty hours a week studying, not counting administrative duties and meetings. If you are thinking about the pastorate as a career, you need to carefully evaluate that decision. It will take sacrifice and a deep commitment to doing the job properly. It will not be easy, but it will be the most gratifying career in the world.  Pastors see much heartache. They see the problems of people up close and personal. This is a grievous task but a necessary part of their job. To watch people go through a divorce, get on drugs, and deal with alcohol, breaks the heart of pastors that care about people.

12c - and are over you - The second quality of a leader that the congregation is to respect is the ability to lead. The words "are over" mean to preside, rule. Literally, they mean to stand before, hence to lead, direct. Church members have a responsibility to their spiritual leaders (Heb 13:17). "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine" (1 Tim 5:17).

God sovereignly designed the church so that it has hierarchical leadership. Most Christians think that they have no human spiritual authority over them. The Bible clearly teaches that every believer is a priest equally with every other believer. Every Christian has equal access to God and stands perfect before God because of the work of Christ. That is one thing. However, the issue of leadership in the local church is another. God does not lead everyone into the leadership of the local church. God endows certain people with leadership gifts to direct large groups of believers in doing the work of God. Those who have these gifts have commensurate authority to exercise those gifts.

12c1 - in the Lord - This qualifying prepositional phrase is important in this discussion. Leadership of the local church does not extend beyond the local church. Some church leaders invade every aspect of their people's lives. National, state, and city officials have authority over our function within society. The pastor has authority within the local church.  Leaders "in the Lord" come from the Lord. God appoints these leaders to lead. The church is to deem them as His leaders.

Principle:  Congregations are to recognize the authority of their leadership in the local church.

Application:  There has never been a church anywhere that amounted to anything where there was little leadership. A congregation that runs over leadership will never amount to much. Everyone in that church suffers from a lack of leadership.  There is no such thing as a perfect church. We must respect leadership even if leadership lacks direction.  The pastors' main labor is in the Word and doctrine. Many pastors no longer labor in these areas. Many modern pastors labor in almost anything but the Bible, especially the theology that comes from the Bible.

12c2 - and admonish you - The third type of leader we should respect is the one who has the ability to address problems in the local church. "Admonish" means to put in mind, warn, instruct. The idea is to provide instruction to correct behavior and belief. This is to put good sense into the head of a person who lacks sense. The responsibility of the pastor is to put certain ideas into the minds of his people. He points out the foolishness of our generation. He directs the congregation to God's viewpoint about life.  A wise leader does not issue edicts from the pulpit or in small meetings. There is a difference between leadership by position and leadership by influence. There is a difference between dictating and indicating. Leaders are not "lords" but their authority is "in the Lord."

Principle:  Congregations have the responsibility to accept their pastors' authority so that they will be open to accepting the admonishment they need.

Application:  The Bible clearly spells out the responsibilities of both pastor and people. A congregation has the responsibility to obey their pastor. The pastor has the responsibility to "admonish" the congregation. What does this say about people who never commit to a local church? In combat, if you do not know who your leaders are, you are in deep trouble. If you are in a local church without leadership, you will not win spiritual battles.  No one likes other human beings to admonish him. No leader of a local church has the right to admonish someone else based on his or her own authority. True admonishment must come from the Word of God if it is going to carry authority.

v. 13: "...and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves"

 and to esteem them - The word "esteem" primarily signifies to lead before the mind, guide the mind, then to account, consider, esteem. God wants us to hold a high view of church leadership. As church leaders rule over the congregation, the congregation is to rule over their minds when it comes to esteem its leaders.

very highly - Congregations are to hold their leaders in high esteem. It is easier to hold leaders in lower esteem than higher. The words "very highly" mean exceeding abundantly. When it comes to esteeming church leadership, the Word of God uses superlative terms.

13b - in love - The congregation has the responsibility to "love" their leaders. It is one thing to hold them in high regard, but it is something else to "love" them.

13c - for their work's sake. - No doubt, some leaders do not command respect, but we must respect them for their "work's sake" - for their office. Respect and love for leaders are not for their sake personally but their "work's sake."

13d - Be at peace among yourselves - If a congregation respects and loves its leaders, its members will have "peace among" themselves. Dissension in local churches primarily revolves around disrespect and lack of love for leaders. Churches that respect their leaders are generally free from friction.  Peace in the church depends on our perspective of our leader's office. Peace permits Christians to get along with each other, to co-operate with one another.

v. 14: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all"

 This verse shows that there are different strokes for different folks. Different methods apply to different needs. Paul encourages us to use four different methods with four different people.

Now we exhort you, brethren - The word "exhort" carries the idea of appeal to, urge. The entire church "brethren" is to accept the following challenges. Maintenance of order within the church is the responsibility of each person in the church. All believers must exercise concern for the corporate family testimony.

warn those who are unruly, -  Again, Paul uses the term "warn," meaning to put in mind, admonish. He issues

a warning to the "unruly."  The word "unruly" signifies not to keep order. Secular Greek used this term in the military for someone who did not keep rank and insubordinate. Certain church members did not keep rank in Thessalonica. There is a rank of leadership, and these believers did not honor that rank. They carried an insubordinate spirit and knew little about the discipline of following leaders. Some Christians are lawless in the local church. It is wrong to act disorderly in the local church, so leaders in the local church must admonish people who disrupt unity. The context implies that some Thessalonians did not respect their leadership (5:11-12). They were out of step with the vision and goals of the church.

comfort the fainthearted, - The word "comfort" means to soothe, console, encourage. The "fainthearted" need the stimulation of encouragement (2:11). "Comfort" comes from two Greek words: alongside, with and counsel, advise. Paul is saying, "Come along-side discouraged Christians and stimulate them to move on."  There are always those Christians who lose heart. They need special attention. A despondent person needs consolation. The word "fainthearted" comes from two words: small and soul. A "fainthearted" person is a small soul who discourages very easily. A discouraged person has limited motivation for living up to the goals of Christianity.

uphold the weak, The word "weak" comes from two words: without and strength. A weak person is without strength. These people are immature in their Christian walk.  The word "uphold" means to join with and to maintain loyalty. "Weak" people need someone to come alongside and "uphold" them until they can mature in their faith. People have different weaknesses in the areas of sexual lust, financial integrity, and vulnerability to criticism. Whatever the weakness, strong Christians are to move alongside them and stick to them like glue to carry them through their weakness.

be patient - There are two main words for "patient" in Greek. One means patience with circumstances, and the other means patience with people. Our term is the second word - patience with people.  "Patient" comes from two Greek words: long and temper. This person has a lo-o-o-ong temper, not a short temper. A "patient" person can put up with people. They can "bear with" obnoxious people because they are long-tempered. They can exhibit patience despite difficult people. Patient people are slow to react because there is a delay mechanism built into their attitude. "And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (Hebrew 6:15).

with all - Everyone knows an annoying person. There is a tendency to show our ire toward these jerks. The difficulty with this attitude is that we are to be patient with "all" people, jerks included. The word "with" means face-to-face and implies fellowship. It is easy to isolate people we do not like.

v. 15: "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all"

 See that - In this context, "see that" is a warning against the attitude of revenge. Not only must the church as a whole display longsuffering (5:14) to one another, but also they must not pay back an injury with an injury.

no one renders evil for evil - The word "renders" signifies to give back, to restore, return, render what is due, to pay, give an account. The New Testament uses this term for paying back financial debt. It also carries the bad sense to pay someone back for a wrong. The idea, in this case, is revenge or retaliation.

to anyone, - Mature Christians do not retaliate against the Christian or the non-Christian people we like, or people do we do not like.  Immaturity repays evil with evil and good for good. Maturity repays good for evil. The mature person can place justice in the hands of God. It is the responsibility of mature leadership to repay good for evil.

Principle:  Vengeance usurps the place of God.

Application:  Some Christians will take nothing lying down. The law of the jungle is kill or be killed. "I will pay you back for this if it is the last thing I do." This attitude usurps the place of God. The sovereign execution of vengeance belongs to God.

but always pursue what is good - Paul now gives the other side of the coin of retaliation. The word "but" is the "but" of strong contrast in the Greek. In contrast to retaliation, "pursue whatever is intrinsically good (Greek) for the other person." "Instead of seeking to injure someone, put great effort in seeking their good."  The word "pursue" in this passage means to follow after, strive for, to pursue the "good." The idea is to put some earnestness in going after the good of other people. "Don't be half-hearted when doing them good." Paul used this term in Philippians.  Paul uses "pursue" in the sense of a foot race in the above passage. "Run after the good. Don't stroll along after the good, for you will not win the race for good. The goal is to win the race, not just participate in it. Chase it down, don't saunter along." This takes energy, intense effort, quickness, and a definite goal.  The word "always" is an easy word to miss. The principle of pursuing the intrinsic good of other people is not something we occasionally do but something that we must "always" pursue. There are no exceptions.

both for yourselves and for all - The church at Thessalonica faced protracted persecution from the non-Christian community. It would be an easy reaction to retaliate against them, but this would not be intrinsically good for the Christian or the non-Christian. Persecution can cause Christians to turn on one another as well.

Principle:  God wants us to put full effort into helping people.

v. 16: "Rejoice always..."

 Paul now turns to deal with the attitude of the individual Christian. Spiritual responsibilities towards others call for us to address our subjective attitude. Paul now prescribes the personal issues that correspond to the fellowship of the saints.  This is the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament.

Rejoice - A rejoicing attitude does not tumble into a survival mode toward life. The Holy Spirit commands the believer at Thessalonica to "rejoice" even in duress situations. The Thessalonians were living with deep and daily persecution. Their circumstances did not alter their joy. True joy transcends circumstance. This is not self-hypnosis. Biblical joy rests in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

always - God wants us to rejoice "always," not just some of the time but all of the time.

Principle:  At the heart of Christianity is the outlook of joy.

Application:  We cannot constantly carry joy in our lives if we look to the circumstances of life. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances being right. If I get a new car, I am happy. If someone bumps my fender in the parking lot, I am not happy. Joy is the inner animation of the soul regardless of circumstance. Our joy depends on our orientation to God's providence and promises.

v. 17: "...pray without ceasing..."

The Greek used the word "without ceasing" for a person with a hacking cough and repeated military attacks. This is not continuous prayer but prayer that recurs regularly. The idea is persistence in prayer.  The word "pray" is in the present tense and carries the idea of customary prayer. This person shoots up prayers throughout the day.

Principle:  Dynamic prayer prays at stated and non-stated times.

Application:  When thankful, pray. When in trouble, pray. When lacking in wisdom, pray. Pray at stated times and non-stated times. Always be willing and ready to pray. We do not have to lift the receiver off the hook to talk to God. We do not even need to dial; we shoot up our requests. We can talk to God while we work or drive our car.

v. 18: " everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"

 in everything give thanks; - We can give thanks "in everything" because we know that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). God ordains adversity as well as prosperity. Every circumstance that comes our way is from God. Failure to accept this as true is an indication of skepticism about God's plan for the universe. We can give thanks for everything because God is in control.

for this is the will of God - The Holy Spirit highlights giving thanks in everything by saying that it is the will of God. By recognizing God's will, we give thanks for both prosperity and adversity. By knowing that God has a sovereign plan for adversity, we can put right our anxiety about the trouble that comes our way. This is one area where we can know God's will without a doubt. 

in Christ Jesus - God always links His will for us in association with Christ. Jesus is the reason we accept suffering as God's will for us. We have an occasion to represent Him in adversity.

for you - God designs all circumstances for the benefit of the believer. God thinks about your limitations. He knows the proper proportions of adversity that are right for you. We should not concern ourselves with the portion given to someone else. God works in each person's life differently.  He custom designs the structure of their circumstances by divine design. God knows the straw that will break the camel's back. He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but He wants a tested product. Engineers of today's automobiles test drive prototypes so that they know what these cars can tolerate. God wants to bring out the best in us.

Principle:  God has a purpose for everything that happens to the believer.

Application:  God's providential plan for our lives includes all contingencies. God foresees every circumstance that comes into our lives. Not only does He foresee everything that happens to us, but He providentially plans or allows each situation that comes into our lives. There is no substitute for understanding the will of God for our suffering. Nothing can come into our lives unless the Lord allows it. God must put His initials on everything that comes into our state of affairs. We may give thanks through tears.

v. 19: Do not quench the Spirit"

Paul transitions from individual responsibility to corporate worship with verse 19. God reveals His will to the church as well as to the individual. We can squelch the public movement of the Holy Spirit. Five commands about life in the assembly follow.

The Bible commonly portrays the Holy Spirit like a flame. The idea of "quench" carries the idea of putting out a light of a torch, lamp, or fire (Matthew 12:20; 25:8; Hebrews 11:34). Paul uses "quench" metaphorically to speak of hindering the operations of the Holy Spirit. People who refuse to submit to the teaching of the Word "quench" the Spirit. Those who usurp the Spirit's ministry in the local church throw cold water on God's work in the congregation.  The Bible portrays the Holy Spirit as both heat and light. As heat, He impresses the reality of God upon the believer. As light, He reveals who God is to the believer. Some Christians blow out the flame of the Spirit in their lives. They do this by not yielding to the conviction of the Spirit about their sin and by accommodating sin.  The Greek indicates that the Thessalonians were to stop something they were already doing. In essence, "stop stifling the Spirit."

Principle:  Rebellion in the local church against its leadership quenches the Spirit's ministry in that church.

Application:  A believer can extinguish the work of the Spirit in the church. Every local church has those who try to stifle the ministry. Some do this by opposing leadership. Others do it by indifference to leadership and thus lull themselves and others to sleep. Whatever means they may use, the result is that they extinguish the

fire of the Spirit.   A dynamic move of God's Spirit may be perceived as a threat to some people in the church. Lacking understanding, they will reject any proposal outside their comfort zone.

v. 20: "Do not despise prophecies"

We now come to the second command about corporate worship. The word "despise" means to make of no account and frequently signifies to despise. We can make prophecies of no account and treat them with contempt. "No account" is less than one. We can treat the Bible as nothing. It is dangerous to treat with disdain what God says or reject with contempt God's revelation.

"Prophecies" here probably refers to the gift of prophecy. The person with this gift could directly receive revelation from God before the Bible was completed. There came a time toward the close of the first century when this prophetic gift came became inoperative (1 Corinthians 13:8). The prophetic gift not only dealt with future things but things in the present (Acts 13:2). "Prophecies" include both a prophetic element and a proclaiming element. These were oral proclamations before the revelation of the New Testament. The prophetic element came to close but the preaching element continues to this day.

Some people in Thessalonica may have pawned off their own personal notions without the gift of prophecy. People today pawn off their personal ideas about God by claiming that they special contact with God.  Others despise the teaching of God's Word. They falsely interpret and twist the Bible to suit their biases. They reject the clear claims of Scripture. The believer who treasures the Word is the believer who honors what it says.

Prophecy was a special, temporary gift before the completion of the canon (the writing of the New Testament books) of the New Testament. By this gift, God revealed His mind and will to a prophet so that Christians could understand New Testament truth before the New Testament existed. Today God succeeded the prophet by the teacher who expounds the mind of God already revealed on the pages of completed Scripture.

Principle:  Christians are to carry a positive attitude toward the teaching of God's Word by their pastor.  Some Christians believe that they must challenge all teaching from the pastor. They make themselves the final arbiter of truth. Their pride keeps them from learning from God's appointed teacher. The three pastoral books (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) all declare that the church operates under a pastor/teacher who clearly and systematically sets forth doctrine.

v. 21: "Test all things; hold fast what is good"

By challenging the Thessalonians not to despise prophecies, Paul did not want to imply that they were gullible and swallowed any religious nonsense that might come their way. This verse puts a qualification on the previous verse.

Test - We test preaching (5:20) against the Word of God. The final arbiter of truth is God's Word. The word "test" means to test with the purpose to approve. We approve prophecy by the Bible.

Satan is in the business of imitating God's Word. Christians are to test truth as FBI agents examine counterfeit money. Some people will contrive ideas and pass them off as God's ideas.

all things; - God wants us to test "all" things, not simply most things. Do not condemn anything without first investigating it. On the other hand, do not accept anything until you first test it against the objective truth of God's Word.  It is difficult to put aside our preconceptions about truth because we build security around what we believe. Honesty means that we examine the Bible without bias as much as possible.

hold fast what is good - Once we test teaching against the Bible, then we hold on to that truth with the confidence that this is what God says. After we search the Scriptures, there comes the point where we need stability in what we believe. The phrase words "hold fast" means to have and hold. First, we gain truth, and then we retain it.  If we constantly open ourselves to new things without the appropriate testing, we introduce instability into our Christian experience. We come to settled convictions by extensive study, not by impulsively embracing some new ideas.

Principle:  All Christians need to develop a sense of discernment.

Application:  Some people try to pawn off their personal ideas as being from God. This confuses the voice of God with the voice of a man.  One drop of poison in your food spoils the entire meal. False doctrine usually carries much truth. The Devil is too smart to tempt you with absolute contradiction to what you believe. He takes what you believe and modifies it slightly. Peter, for example, did not discern the plan of God, so Jesus rebuked him.

v. 22: "Abstain from every form of evil"

The word "form" is something that strikes the eye or which is out in the open. It is the external appearance or shape of something. Our passage probably carries the idea of "sort, kind. " There are many kinds of evil out there - including doctrinal error.  The word "abstain" means to hold oneself from (4:3). Invariably, this word refers to evil practices, whether doctrinal or moral (Acts 15:20,29; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Peter 2:11). Christians are to keep themselves from foul doctrine. We should not play with evil teaching. We should distance ourselves from it.  The phrase "form of evil" contrasts with the phrase in verse twenty, "hold fast what is good." Christians are to avoid anything that smacks of bogus doctrine. They cannot do this if they have not examined the Word of God thoroughly. "Hold yourselves aloof from any prophecy that is not based in truth from the Bible."

Principle:  Christians should avoid anything that is a forerunner to false doctrine, seems like fake doctrine, or is beyond the borders of truth.

Application:  God expects us to make a clean break with error when we become Christians. The worst form that evil takes is false prophecy or untrue religious teaching. Christians should not associate themselves with any religious organization that seems to endorse doctrine that has been proven unscriptural or dishonoring to Christ.

v. 23: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"

 Since the preceding 16 exhortations require God to make them possible, Paul invokes God's help toward that end. Without God's work on our behalf, it is tough to live up to these directions.   Paul concludes this section on sanctification with a prayer. Verse 23 is Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians.

Now - With the word "now," Paul shifts into his conclusion to the book. Paul prays that God will enable the Thessalonians to fulfill the imperatives of the previous section. By adding up the 16 exhortations like a string of numbers, he draws the sum of sanctification. God finishes what He starts. God never embarks upon a job

He does not finish. God takes different courses of action based on the response of the believer.

may the God of peace - God, characterized by peace, will sanctify and preserve the Thessalonians. Paul presents God as the God of peace because He puts everything in order. Nothing goes without His notice. Only God can impart peace to the soul. As long as He ensures that spiritual harmony and tranquility prevail, there will be no discord in the believer's life. Thus, God works an overall progressive holiness in our lives that will find its ultimate completion at the coming of Christ, where we will receive ultimate sanctification.  God made His peace with us initially by sending His Son to die on the cross (Romans 5:1). He is in the process of making peace with us daily as we depend on Him to overcome sin in our lives. He will ultimately make His peace with us by eradicating any sin in our lives in the eternal state.

Himself - The word "Himself" is emphatic in Greek and indicates that God will have to do this, not us. No one else can do this for us either. This does not imply that we have no part in sanctification. God sets us apart when we come to Christ in terms of our position with Him. Then He enables us to become more and more like the Lord Jesus. Finally, He will completely sanctify us at the coming of Christ.

sanctify you completely; God will sanctify you "completely," sanctify you to every part of your being, all three essential parts of your being. God will sanctify us through and through, with no area escaping His sanctifying influence. He will sanctify us quantitatively, qualitatively, and ultimately when He delivers us from our sin capacity. God sanctifies us from stem to stern, from time into eternity.  As a "high priest," Jesus advocates for us as a lawyer. He represents us personally and pleads the case of His shed blood.  Jesus will work for us until He comes back again.

and may your whole spirit, soul, and body - The word "whole" means complete, sound in every part. This is a qualitative term implying having integrity, complete, undamaged, intact, blameless. The Lord can make us complete in all our parts in the entity as a whole. God is not interested in getting just our "leftovers" or "unwanted items."  Paul describes the believer in this passage as having three parts. The "spirit" is the capacity to relate to God. This spiritual dimension puts us in touch with God. The Bible never says that God saves the "spirit," only the soul can be saved.  The "soul" is the person, the psychology of man. This is the mind, emotions, and will of man, the seat of personality (Luke 1:46,47; Hebrews 4:12).  The "body" is the material part of man; it carries the immaterial part of man, the spirit, and soul. No part of our spiritual existence escapes the impact of God on our lives. God must sanctify each of the three aspects of our being. Then, we avoid every category of evil.

be preserved blameless - The word "preserved" means to watch over, keep. The Lord will watch over our entire spirit, soul, and body, the complete person. God will guard our blamelessness even up to and including the point of the coming of Christ. He is the one who keeps us saved.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5). A "blameless" person is someone against whom no one can lay a charge. The Lord will preserve us in such a way that no one can lay a charge against us. The Christian, in this sense, is without fault, innocent.

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - No one can point an accusing finger at us, even at the coming of Christ.  It is not simply "until" the coming of Christ but "at" His coming. When Jesus comes, no one will point the finger at us. Not only will holiness stand the test of life's trials and temptations, but it will have a permanent, real existence that Christ will recognize when He comes.

Principle:  God sanctifies us at three levels.

Application:  Thank God, He saved us perfectly in the person and work of Christ. There are three kinds or times of sanctification:  (1) Positional - we hold the same status that Jesus holds before God when we believe in the death of Christ to forgive our sins, whether we are carnal or spiritual. This is perfect sanctification in God's eyes, not in our experience (4:3,4,7). (2)  Progressive - we become more and more like the Lord Jesus as we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:26). This is relative sanctification. And (3) Permanent - ultimately we will be just like the Lord Jesus without a sin capacity in the eternal state (Romans 8:29,30). We will not have the capacity to sin ever again.

v. 24: "He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it"

 In verse 23, Paul prays for the Thessalonians that God would sanctify them. In this verse, he asserts that God will faithfully do this.

He who calls you - God brings certain people to Himself in salvation by His call. This is God's first work in us, but He does not leave us at the point of initial salvation.

is faithful, - God's character ensures He will fulfill that to which He calls us. God will faithfully complete His work. God is faithful to His promises, so He is faithful to those people whom He elects. The Greek emphasizes the word "faithful." God's faithfulness to His sanctifying work stands on His integrity. God is reliable and trustworthy when it comes to finishing what He starts.  God cannot be unfaithful to Himself. It is impossible for Him to call us and then not preserve us. Since God's character is immutable, He must be true to His commitments. God cannot go back on His promises, whether they are promises about time or eternity. He will faithfully forgive every Christian who confesses his sin (1 John 1:9). God will keep us saved (2 Timothy 2:13). He is faithful to sustain the believer through temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Christian's present and future depend entirely on God's faithfulness.

Principle:  Once God calls us, His faithfulness will see us to the end.

who also will do it - Grace means that God does the doing. Legalism means that we do the doing. If God does the work, He will sanctify the believer initially, progressively, and ultimately. God will preserve us and present us blameless at the coming of Christ (5:23). He will not waver in this. He is credible because He is faithful to Himself and His promises.

Principle:  It is God's responsibility to preserve our eternal life.

Application:  If our salvation or Christian life depended on us, we would be Christians one day and not the next. We would be spiritual Christians one day and failures the next. We cannot do what only God can do. These issues are all up to God. If He does not do it, we are in trouble.  We want a share in becoming Christians. We want a share in our spiritual lives. We cannot save our souls; neither can we sustain our souls. Everything is by God's grace.

v. 25: "Brethren, pray for us"

This verse brings us to the conclusion of First Thessalonians (5:25-28). Paul advises three concluding recommendations upon the congregation and then gives a final blessing.

Brethren, - The word "brethren" is emphatic in Greek. Paul strongly pleads for the Thessalonians to pray for him. Paul clearly understood the pitfalls of ministry. He knew he could not go into ministry naked without the help of God.

pray for us - The word "pray" is in the present tense indicating continued prayer. No one can do God's work without prayer. Those who want prayer and who pray to understand that they are not sufficient in themselves to do God's work. They know they must depend on God to do it. Paul clearly understood his need for prayer (2 Thessalonians 3:1; Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:18-19; Colossians 4:3.). Paul asked for prayer at the close of six of the thirteen letters he wrote. The "us" here is the gospel team of Paul, Silas, and Timothy that came to Thessalonica (1:1). Paul closes this letter as he began with an emphasis on prayer. He says in effect, "I prayed for you, so you pray for me. We will pray for each other." This is mutual Christianity.

Principle:  If we understand our role in the brotherhood of Christ properly, we will pray for our brothers in Christ more regularly.

Application:  How strong is your supportive tie to those in your church? Can they depend on your prevailing prayer for them? We fulfill God's purpose in our lives through the prayers of our fellow Christians.  Living the Christian life depends on teamwork. If we play on a team, we depend on our teammates to fulfill their role. Soldiers depend heavily on other soldiers in their company. Their lives are at stake if others fail to fulfill their function. Every area of life needs teamwork. This is no less true in the church. Part of our teamwork is praying for one another. This is something that everyone can do.

  1. 26: "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss"

 Greet all the brethren - Paul gives one final expression of his love for the Thessalonians. He wanted to extend a greeting with a "holy kiss."  The word "all" indicates that Paul extended his love even to the "disorderly" brethren. He excludes no one in his love.

with a holy kiss - The "holy kiss" in the first century was a physical token of welcome or farewell kiss, a token of brotherhood in Christ (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12).  The term "holy" guards against anything untoward in the kiss. In the Mid East, the kiss was a form of greeting and took place between members of the same sex. They kissed on the cheek, not the mouth. Societies, where the kiss is not a greeting can find trouble with the "holy kiss." Practicing the "holy kiss" in Western culture can create some problems. This verse is no justification for establishing a "Lonely Hearts Club" in the local church!

Principle:  Christians are to show public affection for one another.

Application:  The "holy kiss" in Western culture is more like a handshake or hug. Church members do not kiss the same way lovers kiss each other or family members kiss each other.

The biblical kiss signifies personal affection, not romantic passion. When we give a public sign of spiritual oneness, equality, and mutual dependence in the household of faith, we demonstrate biblical love.  God does not want us to extend sticky, saccharine sentimentalism. Our physical love toward one another is to have a "holy" dimension to it. We love each brother in Christ with no strings attached.  Christians should show love to one another publicly.

v. 27: "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren."


Paul's final exhortation in the conclusion is that the Thessalonian church leaders read First Thessalonians

publicly to the congregation.

I charge you by the Lord - The word "charge" literally means to put under (or bind by) an oath, to adjure. Paul demands or commands that the leadership at Thessalonica take an oath that First Thessalonians be read in the public assembly. This is stronger than a suggestion or exhortation.  The phrase "by the Lord" indicates that Paul gets his authority to put them under oath from the Lord.

that this epistle be read - Paul wants the leaders at Thessalonica to publicly read First Thessalonians, thus acknowledging its place in the Bible. Most people in the early church did not read. They got their Bible from public reading. Most likely, this was more than just reading the text. It involved an explanation and exposition of the text.

to all the holy brethren - Note the word "all." It is imperative that everyone in the local church is exposed to the exposition of God's Word, whether men, women, or children.

Principle:  The exposition of Scripture is central to worship.

Application:  The strength in Paul's command to read the Bible publicly indicates that the Word of God was central to local church worship. If Paul believed vehemently that the leadership should read the Bible publicly, should not our churches today put great emphasis on Bible exposition as well?

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

First Thessalonians does not fade away insignificantly. Paul invokes the matchless, amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Thessalonians.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ - There is nothing the Thessalonians need more than the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. They needed sanctifying grace that strengthens the spiritual life.  Notice this grace comes with the authority of the full title of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the full ineffable authority of Christ for this grace. This grace is grace that comes from the work of Christ.

be with you. - Grace is not for the elite but for anyone in the local church. Paul ends as he began with the grace of God (1:1). It is one thing to know about grace, but it is something else to have it as a partner.

Amen - The word "amen" means so be it. It is a word of faith. Paul says in effect, "I agree with the idea that God's grace abides with believers for their sustaining power to live out the Christian life."

Principle:  Grace can be our partner as we walk through life.

Application:  If we go through our Christian life without the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we go it on our own. If we appropriate His grace, it will abide with us and give us the strength we would not otherwise have. Sanctifying grace strengthens our spiritual lives.