A. Instructions regarding sexual purity.
1. (1-2) How to walk and to please God.
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
a. Finally them: Paul's use of finally does not mean he is finished. It means he begins the closing section of the letter, with practical instruction on how God wants us to live.
b. That you should abound more and more: Paul is thankful for the growth he sees in the Thessalonians, but will still look for them to abound more and more in a walk that will please God.
i. Abound more and more: This means that Christian maturity is never finished on this side of eternity. No matter how far a Christian has come in love and holiness they can abound more and more.
c. For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus: These are not suggestions from the pen of Paul. These are commandments from the Lord Jesus, and must be received that way.
2. (3-6) The command to be sexually pure.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
a. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: Paul didn't write to a "Victorian" or "puritanical" culture. In the first century Roman Empire, chastity and sexual purity were unknown virtues. Even though immorality was thought to be normal or good, Christians were to follow God's will, not society's. Paul said this was a commandment (1 Thessalonians 4:2), and that was a military term describing an order from an officer to a subordinate, and the order comes from Jesus not Paul.
i. The ancient writer Demosthenes expressed their view of sex: "We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day to day needs of the body; we keep wives for the faithful guardianship of our homes."
b. The will of God, your sanctification: God's will is our sanctification. The idea behind sanctification is to be set apart, and God wants us set apart from a godless culture and their sexual immorality. If our sexual behavior is no different than the Gentiles who do not know God, then we are not sanctified in the way God wants us to be.
i. Those who do not know God do not have the spiritual resources to walk pure before the Lord; but Christians do. Therefore, Christians should live differently than those who do not know God.
c. That you should abstain from sexual immorality: We live differently than the world when we abstain from sexual immorality. The ancient Greek word translated sexual immorality (porneia) is a broad word, referring to any sexual relationship outside of the marriage covenant.
i. The broad nature of the word porneia shows that it isn't enough to just say that you have not had sexual intercourse with someone who is not your spouse. All sexual behavior outside of the marriage covenant is sin.
ii. God grants great sexual liberty in the marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4). But Satan's not-very-subtle strategy is often to do all he can to encourage sex outside of marriage and to discourage sex in marriage.
d. That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor: We live differently than the world when we possess our body in sanctification and in honor. Immorality is the opposite of honor, it degrades and debases the self, reducing us to slaves, acting more like animals than humans.
e. That no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter: When we are sexually immoral, we take advantage of and defraud others and we cheat them in greater ways than we can imagine. The adulterer defrauds his mate and children. The fornicator defrauds his future mate and children, and both defraud their illicit partner.
f. Because the Lord is the avenger of all such: Paul promises that the Lord will be the avenger of those defrauded by the sexual immorality of others. This is a promise of great comfort to the one damaged by the immorality of their husband or wife.
3. (7-8) Reasons for the command.
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
a. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness: We must be sexually pure because of our call. That call is not to uncleanness, but to holiness; sexual immorality is simply inconsistent with who we are in Jesus Christ.
i. Paul develops this same line of thought in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 6:15-20, concluding with the idea that we should glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
b. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God: To reject God's call to sexual purity is not rejecting man, but God Himself, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. Despite the petty ways we rationalize sexual immorality, we still reject God when we sin in this way.
c. Paul's strong command here does not seem to come because the Thessalonians were deep in sin. No specific sin is mentioned; it seems that this was meant to prevent sin rather than to rebuke sin, in light of the prevailing low standards in their society, and because of the seductive strength of sexual immorality.
B. Living the quiet life before God.
1. (9-10) We should live a life of increasing love.
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;
a. But concerning brotherly love you had no need that I should write to you: These principles are so basic that Paul knows he doesn't need to say anything. The Thessalonians were taught by God about the importance of love, yet we must all be reminded.
b. And indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in Macedonia: It wasn't that they Thessalonians were without love; their love toward all the brethren was well known, but they had to increase more and more in their love.
2. (11) We should live a life of work.
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
a. That you also aspire to lead a quiet life: Paul says that we should have an aspiration or ambition in life, and that we should aspire to lead a quiet life.
i. Aspire has the thought of ambition, and is translated that way in several versions of the Bible. Quiet has the thought of peace, calm, rest and satisfaction.
ii. The quiet life contradicts a hugely successful cult: entertainment and excitement. You won't find it in a book of cults or a survey of world religions, but this cult leads more people to hell today than any other. This cult has a god (the self), an army of priests (celebrities), a set of scriptures (tabloids and the like), a creed (the demand for "excitement"), and countless places of worship (amusement parks, theaters, concert halls, sports arenas, and every TV is a little chapel). This cult seduces people into living their lives for one thing - the thrill of the moment. But these thrills are quickly over and forgotten, and all that is important is the next fun thing. This cult numbs us so that the only question we ask is "is it fun?" It never wants us to ask, "Is it true?" "Is it right?" "Is it good?" "Is it godly?"
iii. If you know nothing of the quiet life, then when do you really listen to God? When do you get to know Him? The quiet life can listen to God.
b. To mind your own business: We must take our nose out of other people's business before we can concentrate upon our own. "Mind your own business" is a Biblical idea!
i. "There is a great difference between the Christian duty of putting the interests of others first and the busybody's compulsive itch to put other people right." (Bruce)
c. Work with your own hands: We must recognize the dignity and honor of work. Work is God's plan for the progress of society and the church; we fall into Satan' snare when we expect things to always come easily, or regard God's blessing as an opportunity for laziness.
i. Manual labor was despised by Greek culture. They thought that the better a man was, the less he should work. In contrast, God gives us a carpenter King and fisherman apostles, and tent making missionaries.
3. (12) We should live a life that is an example, lacking nothing.
That you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
a. That you may walk properly toward those who are outside: When we combine the love of our brothers with work, we walk properly. People who are not yet Christians (those who are outside) will see our example and be influenced to become followers of Jesus.
b. And that you may lack nothing: Paul completes the thought he began in 1 Thessalonians 3:10: that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith. If they follow his teaching and example, they will lack nothing.
C. Concerning Christians who have died.
1. (13) The believing dead are thought of as being "asleep."
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
a. But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep: Paul emphasized the soon return of Jesus, and the Thessalonians believed it earnestly. This was part of the reason that they were the kind of church Paul complimented so highly. After Paul left, they wondered about those Christians who died before Jesus came back. Would those Christians miss out on that great event? Would they miss the victory and blessing of Jesus' coming?
b. Who have fallen asleep: Sleep was a common way to express death in the ancient world, but among pagans it was almost always seen as an eternal sleep.
i. "The sun can set and rise again; but once our brief light sets, there is one unending night to be slept through" (Catullus, a Roman poet). "Hopes are for the living; the dead are without hope" (Theocritus, a Greek poet).
ii. Christians called deal sleep, but they emphasized the idea of rest. Early Christians began to call their burial places "cemeteries," which means, "sleeping places."
iii. Sadly, the Bible never describes the death of the unbeliever as sleep, for there is no rest, peace or comfort for them in death.
c. Lest you sorrow as others who have no hope: For the Christian death is dead, and leaving this body is like laying down for a nap, and waking in glory. It is moving, not dying. For these reasons, Christians should not sorrow as others who have no hope when their loved ones in Christ die.
i. As Christians, we may mourn the death of other Christians, but not as others who have no hope. Our sorrow is like the sadness of seeing someone off on a long trip, knowing you will see them again, but not for a long time.
2. (14) There is full assurance that Christians who have died live.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
a. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep: We have more than a wishful hope of resurrection; we have an amazing example of it and a promise of our own.
b. Jesus died: When Paul writes about the death of believers, he calls it sleep. But Jesus' death is not softened by calling it sleep, because there was nothing soft or peaceful about His death.
i. "He endured the worst that death can possibly be . . . It is because there was no softening of the horror of death for Him that there is no horror of death for His people. For them it is but sleep." (Morris)
c. We believe that Jesus died and rose again: We will certainly live, because Jesus lives and our union with Him is stronger than death. This is why we do not sorrow as those who have no hope - we have more than a wishful hope.
i. When a sinner dies, we mourn for them. When a believer dies we only mourn for ourselves, because they are with the Lord!
ii. In the ruins of ancient Rome, you can see the magnificent tombs of pagans, with gloomy inscriptions on them. One of them reads: I WAS NOT; I BECAME; I AM NOT; I CARE NOT. Or you can visit the murky catacombs and read glorious inscriptions. One of the most common Christian epitaphs was IN PEACE, quoting Psalm 4:8: I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. We should look at death the same way those early Christians did.
3. (15-16) Those asleep in Jesus are not at a disadvantage.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
a. By the word of the Lord: Paul emphasizes that this is an authoritative command, whether Paul received this by direct revelation or if it was an unrecorded saying of Jesus. The bottom line is that it comes from Jesus, not Paul.
b. We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep: Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know that those who are asleep - Christians who have died before Jesus returns - will by no means be at a disadvantage. Those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede them. God will allow those who are asleep to share in the glory of the coming of the Lord.
c. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout: When Jesus comes, He will come personally. The Lord Himself will descend, and come with a shout. The ancient Greek word for shout here is the same word used for a ship's master command to his rowers, or a commander speaking to his soldiers. "Always there is the ring of authority and the note of urgency." (Morris)
i. With the voice of an archangel: This doesn't mean that the Lord Himself is an archangel. The only one described as an archangel in the Bible is Michael (Jude 1:9). Paul means that when Jesus comes, He will come in the company of prominent angels.
ii. With the trumpet of God: What does it mean that those who are asleep are gathered with the trumpet of God? In the Old Testament, trumpets sounded the alarm for war, and threw the enemy into a panic, in the sense of the seven trumpets described in Numbers 10:9 and Revelation 8-9. Trumpets also sounded an assembly of God's people, as in Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 10:2. Here, the trumpet of God gathers together God's people.
d. And the dead in Christ will rise first: How are the dead in Christ raised first? Do they have "temporary bodies" now, or are they disembodied spirits? Or do they get in on the resurrection right away?
i. There will come a day, when in God's eternal plan, the dead in Christ will be given their resurrection bodies. What of the dead in Christ before that day? Are they lying in the grave, in some kind of soul sleep or suspended animation? No. Paul made it clear that to be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) Either the present dead in Christ are with the Lord in a spiritual body, awaiting their final resurrection body; or, because of the nature of timeless eternity, they have received their resurrection bodies already because they live in the eternal "now."
4. (17) Jesus comes to meet His Church.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
a. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them: Those alive and remaining until this coming of Jesus are caught up to meet Jesus in the air, together with the dead in Jesus who have already risen.
i. Caught up means to seize, or to carry off by force. "There is often the notion of a sudden swoop, and usually that of a force which cannot be resisted" (Morris). In the ancient Greek, the phrase to meet was used as a technical term to describe the official welcoming of honored guests.
ii. This passage is the basis for the New Testament doctrine of the rapture, the catching away of believers to be with Jesus. The word rapture is not in the ancient Greek text, but comes from the Latin Vulgate, which translates the phrase caught up with rapturus, from which we get our English word rapture.
iii. Paul's statement, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is both dramatic and fantastic. He speaks of Christians flying upward, caught up . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. We wouldn't believe this unless the Bible told us it were so, not any more than we would believe that God who became a baby, that He did miracles, that He died on a cross and He lives in us.
iv. Paul's language here is so straightforward and free from figurative speech that there is no missing his intent. "Either these details must be received by us as a matter of practical expectation, or we must set aside the Apostle as one divinely empowered to teach the Church." (Alford)
b. And thus we shall always be with the Lord: The manner in which Jesus will gather us to Himself is impressive. But the main point is that whatever the state of the Christians (dead or alive) at the Lord's coming, they will always be with the Lord. This is the great reward of heaven - to be with Jesus. Death can't break our unity with Jesus or with other Christians.
5. (18) The exhortation: comfort one another.
Therefore comfort one another with these words.
a. Therefore comfort one another: Paul doesn't tell them to take comfort, but to give comfort. In the way God works, we always receive comfort as we give it.
b. With these words: The truth of the return of Jesus for His people, and the eternal union of Jesus and His people is to be a source of comfort for Christians.
i. It isn't escapism to say "hang in there; one day it will all be over and we'll be with Jesus." It is the essence of faith for those who don't belong to this world.
A. Teaching about readiness for Jesus' return.
1. (1-3) The suddenness of Jesus' coming.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
a. Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you: The Thessalonians were well taught about the return of Jesus and other prophetic matters. Paul taught them about the times and the seasons regarding the return of Jesus. They had an idea of the prophetic times they lived in, and they could discern the seasons of the present culture.
i. Again, we are impressed that Paul was with the Thessalonians only for a few weeks (Acts 17:2). In that time, he taught them about the prophetic times and seasons regarding the return of Jesus. Paul would be surprised that some people today consider the return of Jesus an unimportant teaching.
ii. Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day because they could not discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3). We should also study the Scriptures, and look to the world around us, so we can be aware of the times and the seasons.
b. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night: The Thessalonians knew, and had been taught, that they couldn't know the day of Jesus' return. That day would remain unknown, and come as a surprise, as a thief in the night. A thief does not announce the exact time of his arrival.
i. Paul certainly wasn't a "date setter" in regard to prophecy, and Jesus forbade setting dates when He said of that day and hour no one knows (Matthew 24:36). If someone did happen to guess the right day, God would probably change it! God wants it to be an unexpected day, but He wants us to be prepared for the unexpected.
c. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them: The unexpected nature of that day will be a tragedy for the unbeliever. They will be lulled to sleep by political and economic conditions, but they will be rudely awakened. They will hear the frightening verdict "they shall not escape."
i. This sudden coming, in a time when many say "Peace and safety!" must be distinct from the coming of Jesus described in Matthew 24:15-35. The coming of Jesus described in Matthew 24:15-35 happens at a time of great global catastrophe, when no one could possibly say "peace and safety!" Comparing passages like this shows us that there must be, in some way, two aspects to Jesus' Second Coming.
· One aspect of His coming is at an unexpected hour, the other is positively predicted.
· One coming is to a business as usual world, the other to a world in cataclysm.
· One coming is meeting Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), the other is Him coming with the saints (Zechariah 14:5).
d. As labor pains upon a pregnant woman: The phrase labor pains suggest both inevitability and unexpectedness. Jesus used the same idea in Matthew 24:8, when He spoke of calamities preceding the end times as the beginning of sorrows, which is literally the beginning of labor pains. The idea is both of giving birth to a new age, and implying an increase of intensity and frequency in these calamities.
i. Even if you are ready for labor pains, you still don't know when they will come, and the pains are almost always worse than you expected.
2. (4-5) The basis for Paul's exhortations.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
a. But you, brethren, are not in darkness: Paul simply tells Christians that they should be who they are. God has made us sons of the light and sons of the day. The time when we were of the night or of the darkness is in the past. So now we simply have to live up to what God has made us. If we do, this Day of Jesus' coming for His people will not overtake you as a thief.
b. In some respect, the coming of Jesus will be surprise for everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But for Christians who know the times and the seasons, it will not be a complete surprise. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but some live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, who are al sons of light and sons of the day are ready for the return of Jesus.
i. But if we are in darkness - perhaps caught up in some of the sin Paul warned against previously in this letter - then we are not ready, and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus.
3. (6-8) Paul's exhortations: be awake, sober, and watchful.
Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
a. Therefore let us not sleep: Because we do not belong to the night nor of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5), our spiritual condition should never be marked by sleep. Spiritually speaking, we need to be active and aware, to watch and be sober.
i. Sober doesn't mean "humorless." It has in mind someone who knows the proper value of things, and therefore doesn't get too excited about the things of this world. The person who lives their life for fun and entertainment isn't sober.
ii. Paul doesn't have in mind the sort of people who stamp down all enthusiasm and excitement for Jesus, thinking this is "balance." Paul himself was an enthusiastic follower of Jesus, and accused of religious "fanaticism." The Roman official Festus thought Paul was mad (Acts 26:24), and the Corinthians thought he was beside himself (2 Corinthians 5:13).
b. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night: The opposite of spiritual watchfulness is spiritual sleep. The opposite of spiritual sobriety is to be spiritually drunk. As Christians we are of the day, and so we must watch and be sober.
c. Putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation: Paul uses the images of a soldier's armor to illustrate the idea of watchfulness. A soldier is a good example of someone who must watch and be sober, and he is equipped to do that with his armor.
i. Faith and love are represented by the breastplate because the breastplate covers the vital organs. No solider would ever go to battle without his breastplate, and no Christian is equipped to live the Christian life without faith and love.
ii. The hope of salvation is represented as a helmet, because the helmet protects the head, which is just as essential as the breastplate. Hope isn't used in the sense of "wishful thinking," but in the sense of a confident expectation.
4. (9-10) The security of our future.
For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
a. For God did not appoint us to wrath: Before we had the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:8), we had an "appointment" to wrath. We no longer have an appointment to wrath, but now to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
i. Wrath: It's important to understand that this is the wrath of God. We are saved from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But first and foremost, we are rescued from the wrath of God that we deserve. Paul's whole context here is the believer's rescue from the wrath of God.
ii. Our appointment to wrath was "scheduled" in two ways. First, because of what Adam did to us and the whole human race, we are appointed to wrath (Romans 5:14-19). Second, because of our own sin we are appointed to wrath. When Jesus died on the cross, He stood in our place in our appointment to wrath, and "re-schedules" us with an appointment to obtain salvation. As believers, when we think we are appointed to wrath, we show up for an appointment that was cancelled by Jesus.
iii. Who died for us: The idea is that Jesus died in our place. Not simply that Jesus died "for" us, in the sense as a favor for us, but that He died as a substitute for us.
b. Whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him: Having obtained salvation through our Lord Jesus, we will always live together with Him. The promise of unity with Jesus can't be broken; no matter if we live or die (wake or sleep), we will always be with Him.
i. He died for us . . . whether we wake or sleep: Jesus' death isn't softened by calling it "sleep," but our death can be called sleep. His death was death, so ours would only be sleep.
5. (11) Our privilege: comfort one another.
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
a. Therefore comfort each other: Paul again tells us not to take comfort, but to give comfort. If all Christians have a heart to comfort each other, then all will be comforted.
b. And edify one another: Edify means to build up. When we have our first interest in building up other Christians, then God will edify us. The vision is of a church full of active participants, not passive spectators.
c. Just as you also are doing: It wasn't that there was no comfort among the Thessalonians, or as if no one was edified. But they had to continue to do it, and to do it more and more.
B. Urging and exhorting.
1. (12-13) Paul urges them to do three things in regard to their leaders.
And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
a. Recognize those who labor among you: Christians are to recognize their leaders, and leaders are described in three ways.
i. Those who labor among you. Leaders are recognized not by their title but by their service. Titles are fine, but only if they are true, and describe what that person really is before God and man.
ii. And are over you in the Lord. Leaders are recognized as they are "over" the congregation in the sense of ruling and providing headship, as a shepherd is over the sheep.
iii. And admonish you. Leaders are recognized as those who admonish the congregation. "Admonish" means "to caution or to reprove gently; to warn."
b. Esteem them very highly in love: Christians are to esteem their leaders, and to esteem them very highly in love. Why should Christians esteem their leaders? For their work's sake. They don't deserve esteem because of their title, or because of their personality, but because of their labor on behalf of God's people.
i. Very highly in love means that Christians should love their pastors and church leaders. In his commentary on Galatians, John Calvin wrote: "It is not enough that pastors be respected, if they are not also loved. Both are necessary; otherwise, their teaching will not have a sweet taste."
ii. If a Christian can't esteem and love their pastor, they should either get on their knees and ask the Holy Spirit to change their heart or put themselves under a pastor they do esteem and love.
c. Be at peace among yourselves: With this simple command, Paul says Christians should simply put away all their squabbles and arguments. This is a great way to esteem and love the leaders of your church.
2. (14-15) Paul exhorts them in how to deal with difficult people.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
a. Now we exhort you: To exhort is to tell someone what they must do, but without sharpness or a critical spirit. It is not rebuke or condemnation, but neither is it merely a suggestion or advice. It is urgent and serious, but associated with comfort.
b. Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all: Paul tells the Thessalonians - the people, not only the pastor - to minister in a variety of ways, depending on the state of the person who needs the ministry. So if someone is unruly, the duty of the Christian is to warn them. Others need comfort, others need to be upheld.
i. We must be patient with all, because true Christianity is shown by its ability to love and help difficult people - we never say "perfect only need apply"
c. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone: The Christian never should seek revenge or vengeance, but let God take up our side. Instead, we must always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. When we have a forgiving heart towards others, not only is it good for them, it is good for ourselves.
i. In the following passage, Paul will write about "spiritual" matters such as prayer, thanksgiving, and worship. But before the "spiritual" or "religious" matters comes teaching about right relationships. Jesus made it plain: get things right with men before you come to worship God (Matthew 5:23-24).
3. (16-18) Regarding their personal worship.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
a. Rejoice always: Not only happy things, but in sorrows also. The Christian can rejoice always because their joy isn't based in circumstances, but in God. Circumstances change, but God doesn't.
b. Pray without ceasing: Christians are to pray continually. We can't bow our heads, close our eyes, and fold our hands without ceasing, but those are customs or prayer, not prayer itself. Prayer is communication with God, and we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.
i. There is significant, important value in a time where we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of "closet" prayer (Matthew 6:6). But there is also room - and great value - in every-moment-of-the-day fellowship with God.
c. In everything give thanks: We don't give thanks for everything, but in everything. We recognize God's sovereign hand is in charge, not blind "fate" or "chance."
d. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you: After each one of these exhortations - rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks - we are told to do them because it is the will of God. The thought isn't "this is God's will, so you must do it; the thought is rather "this is God's will, so you can do it." It isn't easy to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, but we can do it because it is God's will.
4. (19-22) Paul exhorts them in their public worship.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
a. Do not quench the Spirit: We can quench the fire of the Spirit by our doubt, our indifference, our rejection of Him, or by the distraction of others. When people start to draw attention to themselves, it is a sure quench to the Spirit.
b. Do not despise prophecies: We recognize that the Lord speaks to and through His people today, and we learn to be open to His voice. Of course, we always test prophecies (test all things), but we do not despise them.
c. Test all things; hold fast what is good: Evil and deception can show itself even in a "spiritual" setting, so it is important for Christians to test all things. When the test has been made (according to the standard of God's Word and the discernment of spirit among the leaders), we then hold fast to what is good.
1. (23-24) Complete sanctification as God's work in us.
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. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
a. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely: The idea behind the word "sanctify" is "to set apart" - to make something different and distinct, breaking old associations and forming a new association. For example, a dress is a dress; but a wedding dress is sanctified - set apart for a special, glorious purpose. God wants us to be set apart to Him.
b. Himself sanctify you: Paul makes it clear that sanctification is God's work in us. He puts this emphasis in the words Himself, in be preserved, in He who calls you is faithful, and in who will do it. This emphasis completes Paul's previous exhortations. In all that he told the Christian to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 through 5:22, he never intended that they do them in their own power. More Christians are defeated on account of self-reliance than Satanic attack.
c. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless: Paul's use of spirit, soul, and body in this passage has led many to adopt what is called a trichotimist view of man, believing that man is made up of three distinct parts: spirit, soul, and body.
i. This view has some merit, but also has problems. One might say that Mark 12:30 divides man's nature into four parts (heart, soul, mind, and strength), and that 1 Corinthians 7:34 divides man's nature into two parts (body and spirit). In some passages the terms soul and spirit seem to be synonymous, other times they seem to be distinct and hard to define precisely.
ii. Greek scholar Dean Alford does a good job in making the distinction. "The SPIRIT is the highest and distinctive part of man, the immortal and responsible soul, in our common parlance: the SOUL is the lower or animal soul, containing the passions and desires which we have in common with the brutes, but which in us is ennobled and drawn up by the spirit."
2. (25-26) A request for prayer and a greeting given.
Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
a. Brethren, pray for us: Paul was an apostle, and the Thessalonian church was made up of young Christians. Paul still believed he needed their prayers, so he simply says "pray for us."
b. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss: The idea is that Paul wants those who read the letter to greet all the Christians in Thessalonica on his behalf. If he was there in person, he would greet all the brethren with a holy kiss himself, but since he is not there, he will send the greeting through this letter.
3. (27-28) Conclusion to the letter.
I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
a. I charge you by the Lord: Paul uses a strong phrase here. It was important that this epistle be read among Christians.
b. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you: Nearly all Paul's letters begin and end with grace. This is also true of almost everything God has to say to His people.
i. Grace is God's unmerited favor, His bestowal of love and acceptance on us because of who He is and what Jesus has done. Grace means that He likes us, and all the reasons are in Him. Grace means we can stop working for His love and start receiving it.