1 Thessalonians 5:19 Don’t stifle the Breath.
1 Thessalonians 5:20 Don’t discredit prophecies,
1 Thessalonians 5:21 but evaluate all things. Hold on to what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:22 Stay away from every kind of evil.
grateful, but not gullible
Paul’s instructions for the Thessalonian Christians are designed to keep them in balance. That is why the positive attitude reflected in verses 16-18 (gratitude for everything) is balanced out with what sounds like its opposite in today’s text.
Those promoting a more supernatural approach to life are quick to quote verses 19-20 as proof-texts. It is true that we should not stifle the true work of God’s Breath (his Holy Spirit) or discredit true prophecies. They are given by the power of the Holy Spirit. But what Paul warns here is that there will be false prophets as well. Believers must evaluate all things. We are responsible to hold on to only what is good and stay away from every kind of evil — even the religious kind.
Lord, keep us grateful but keep us from being gullible.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always,
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray constantly,
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in everything; because this is God’s preference for you in Christ Jesus.
always, constantly, everything
We are used to rejoicing sometimes, praying occasionally, and giving thanks for a few things. But that is not God’s preference. Since we are in Christ, we have the ability to see God’s hand at work in the worst of times, to stay connected to our supply source constantly, and to find reason for appreciating the things the people of the world are not grateful for.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we encourage you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort those who are discouraged, help those who are weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
Everyone in the congregation is important and needs our attention and our ministry. Even if our ministry is specialized, we can not ignore anyone’s needs. If we see a lazy brother, we need to put on our warning hat. If we see a sorrowing sister, we need or comforting hat. The weak need us to show them strength. Everyone needs us to serve patiently.
If we chose to chase anything, it should not be personal preferences or pet doctrines. It should be one another’s good.
Lord, keep us from getting sidetracked on our pursuit for one another’s good.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who are working among you and leading you in the Lord and admonishing you,
1 Thessalonians 5:13 and to regard them very highly in care because of their achievement. Be at peace among yourselves.
special ministry leaders
The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers, but it is not silent about the people called to special ministry within the congregation. They work among the believers as equals, but have special spiritual gifts which enable them to lead the believers, and admonish those who are lagging behind or failing in some way.
For these front-line leaders, Paul urges the believers to recognize their service, and to regard them highly in care because of what they are achieving.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 You see, God has not appointed us for wrath, but for acquiring rescue through our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Thessalonians 5:10 who died in our place, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 For this reason, encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
he died in our place
Paul is still addressing the issue of believers who have fallen asleep — that is — died and await the return of Christ for a resurrection. He now links that question (which would be categorized as individual eschatology) to the question of cosmic eschatology — what is the final state of the saved. His argument: Christ died huper hēmōn — in our place. Since these believers have died, it is obvious that Christ’s death did not result in their immortality — yet. Instead. Christ’s death resulted in the promise that believers (whether alive or dead now) will not suffer wrath. And what is this wrath? It has to be the penalty that Christ took for them. He died in our place. The wrath of which Paul is speaking is the second death.
Because he died in our place, we can live together with him when he returns.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 So then, let us not be sleeping, like the rest, but let us be staying awake and be self-controlled
1 Thessalonians 5:7 because those who are sleeping, sleep at night, and those who are getting drunk, get drunk at night.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, we should be self-controlled and putting on the armor of faith and care, and a helmet of the hope of rescue.
Paul had been talking about the second coming, and explaining what it will entail for believers, whether they are alive or dead — sleeping in Christ. Now he shifts the subject to a comparison of what the second coming will entail for those sleeping in unbelief, compared to those who are staying awake and self-controlled in faith.
Both sleep and intoxication are states where people are under an influence that makes them vulnerable. By staying awake and sober, people can focus on their mission, and protect themselves from harm.
Both Christians and unbelievers will experience the second coming of Christ. For Unbelievers, his return will mean the wrath of God. But for those who are awake, self-controlled and protected by the armor of faith and care, his return will mean rescue, and permanent life.
Lord, enable us to stay awake, prepared for your rescue.
1 Thessalonians 5:4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, causing this day to surprise you like a thief 1 Thessalonians 5:5 because you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.
children of the day
At night there is darkness all around us, so we close ourselves in and curtail our activities, to be safe. We don’t know what’s out there, so we limit our activity.
But children of the day are not limited. They are busy, and in control, and will not be surprised by a thief. They are always ready for him.
Lord, show us how to stay busy doing what you have called us to do, so that we are always ready for your return.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 About the times and the seasons: Brothers and sisters, you do not need anything to be written to you 1 Thessalonians 5:2 because you yourselves know quite well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 When they are saying, “Peace and security,” then quick destruction will come on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
Paul had been encouraging the Thessalonians who had lost loved ones by reminding them of the hope of Christ’s return. He will come suddenly and violently back to this planet, with booming shouts and loud trumpet blasts. His coming is certain and swift, but nobody knows when.
This same truth which is a comfort for the believer should send shivers down the unbeliever’s spine. This swift resurrection and reunion for the saint also means swift retribution for the reprobate. The Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, like labor pains on a pregnant woman. The result will be quick destruction, from which there is no escape.
Lord, your coming will be awesome for us, but awful for the unbelievers all around us. Show us how to rescue them from the quick destruction that awaits them.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 because the Lord himself will descend from the sky with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Encourage one another with these words, then.
with the Lord
Lots of folk talk about going to be with the Lord, but they seem to think it will happen when they die. Paul could have said that the believing dead were with the Lord, and that would have settled it for the curious Thessalonians. But he didn’t say that. In fact, he said that the dead were asleep (verses 13 and 15), and that they would not rise until Jesus descended.
When we face our own death, or the death of loved ones, we need encouragement. But our encouragement should be in line with what the Bible actually says. The second coming is the blessed hope.
Lord, thank you for the promise of a resurrection and reunion at your return.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope 1 Thessalonians 4:14 because if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 You see, we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep
in the same way
Paul wanted the Thessalonian Christians to know that their dead would not be abandoned. They were presently asleep, but their sleep was not to be an eternal one. Christ was raised from the dead, and they would have victory over death in the same way.
Now, there are those who teach that believers have victory over death in a different way. They follow a long-standing tradition that teaches that death is not really death, but a crossing the Jordon to eternal life immediately after death. That was not how Jesus got victory over death. He stayed in that tomb until he was raised from it.
And that is the way that Paul says the Thessalonian Christians will find their victory. He told them that “the Lord himself will descend from the sky with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise…” (verse 16).
Lord, we thank you for the promise of a resurrection just like Jesus experienced, and an eternal victory over death like his.