I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 5:12-28 Life In The Community.

Paul once again turns his attention back to the day to day life of the church. In this passage we find a gem with reference to the pastoral ministry, a reference not often referred to but one which speaks directly to the need for a paid full-time ministry (Cf. I Cor. 9:9; I Tim. 5:18). First of all, these are men whose work or labour, is the ministry of the word to the saints (v. 12a). Secondly, as such, they have a position of authority in the body (v. 12b). Finally, as ministers of the word, it is their solemn duty to admonish the saints (v. 12c). For these reasons they are to be esteemed “very highly in love for their work’s sake” (v. 13a). Even though this is the duty of the saints, Paul admonishes them to show such esteem out of love.

Paul also admonishes them to be at peace among themselves, no doubt to also make the work of these ministers less difficult for them (v. 13b Cf. Mk. 9:50). In seeking to live at peace with one another, this cannot be a false peace which overlooks another’s behaviour. We are all called upon to “warn those who are unruly” (v. 14a Cf. II Th. 3:6-7, 11). There are also the fainthearted who need comfort, and the weak who need our support (v. 14b Cf. Heb. 12:12). Above all, we need to be patient with everyone, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us-not rendering evil for evil (v. 15 Cf. Lev. 19:18; Mt. 7:12; Lk. 6:31; Gal. 6:10). We also have an obligation, especially in the body, that everyone else follows this rule as well.

There are also three things that are God’s will for every saint every moment of every day. Firstly, we are to “rejoice always” (v. 16), not necessarily for the difficult or evil things that come upon us, but rejoice that in every situation God gives us the strength we need, and His manifold mercies are new every morning (Cf. Gal. 6:10). Secondly, we need to “pray without ceasing” (v. 17 Cf. Eph. 6:18). Of course this cannot me every second, rather Paul means that in every situation and every concern that we have, we ought not to cease going to God for help and wisdom. Finally, in everything we need to give thanks, because all that we have comes to us only because of His mercy (v. 18a). This is part of what it means to be “in Christ” (v. 18b).

It was also important that they not “quench the Spirit,” in particular, that they did not “despise prophecies” (vv. 19-20 Cf. I Cor. 14:1, 31; Eph. 4:30). However, as Paul and others wrote elsewhere, this does not mean that these prophets and their prophecies should not be tested (v. 21a Cf. I Jn. 4:1). Some were genuine and therefore good, and some were not (v. 21b Cf. Phil. 4:8). Rejecting what was false was a moral and ethical responsibility, to “abstain from every form of evil” (v. 22). “Paul admonishes the Thessalonians not to despise legitimate prophecy; both Silas and Paul were “prophets” (Acts 13:1; 15:32). Nevertheless, claims to divine prophecy must be tested and not accepted uncritically (2 Thess. 2:2; cf. 1 Cor. 14:29)” (NGSB p. pp. 1899-1890).

Finally, in Paul’s concluding admonishments and blessings, he describes the full scope and nature of sanctification. It is not a pagan battle between soul and body, body and soul together must be sanctified, and it is the Lord’s will to do this “completely” (v. 23 Cf. 3:13). It is also His will that we be preserved in this process that we might be “blameless” when we appear before Him at His second coming. We can be fully confident that this will happen, because one of His essential attributes is that He is faithful and will thus do it (v. 24 Cf. I Cor. 1:8-9; Phil. 1:6). In praying without ceasing, Paul also asks them to pray for him and his co-workers (v. 25). They should also greet each other as family, and make sure that this epistle was read to all (vv. 26-27). Finally, we must never forget that it is all of His grace, which we need (v. 28).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 5:1-11 The Day Of The Lord.

As noted in the previous verses, Paul did not know the time of the Lord’s second coming, since he was open to the possibility that he himself might be alive at the time (4:15). Here Paul reiterates the same point, saying it would be like a thief coming in the night (vv. 1-2 Cf. II Pet. 3:10). It will be a day of judgment for those having a false security (v. 3 Cf. Is. 13:6-9). However, this day will not be as a thief coming in the night for the saints, for we look for this day in hope (v. 4). It will be a day of light and not darkness for the people of God (v. 5 Cf. Eph. 5:8; I Jn. 2:8). Therefore the saints are always awake and sober, on watch for the Lord (v. 6 Cf. Mt. 25:5). The unbeliever sleeps the sleep of death unawares (v. 7 Cf. Lk. 21:34). It is not the immanence of this day which keeps us alert, it is the unexpected nature of His coming, a day whose time no one can rightly predict.

Certainly, as regards our own deaths, any of us can be taken at any time, we do not need an immanence doctrine for this. Once again Paul turns to the triad of faith, love, and hope as that which is to motivate God’s people. Faith and love is our breastplate, and hope is our helmet of salvation (v. 8). For the saints this is not a day of judgment to eternal damnation, rather we will fully obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus (v. 9 Rom. 9:22-24; II Th. 2:13). We died with Him and to ourselves, and we live with and for Him (v. 10 Cf. II Cor. 5:15). Therefore we are to comfort and edify, or encourage, each other with these truths (v. 11). We should also note that the rapture spoken of in 4:17 will not happen before the Day of the Lord, for the Lord will return to the saints and unregenerate alike, for the former to complete salvation, and for the latter an unexpected final judgment.

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 Our Hope And Comfort.

The resurrection of Jesus gives all saints the hope of a blessed life with Him and his people for all eternity-this is our hope (vv. 13-14 Cf. Lev. 19:28; I Cor. 15:13, 20-23; Eph. 2:12). Those who have already died are with Him in paradise (Lk. 23:43), and as to the resurrection of the body they will rise with new resurrection bodies before those who may be alive at His coming again (vv. 15-16 Cf. I Cor. 15:23, 51-52). “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17 Cf. Mt. 24:30-31). We should note that Paul says nothing about what will happen after. He does not say that all then go to heaven. It could be that all descend to a new heavens and a new earth. We should also note that he was open to the possibility that he may be alive when this takes places-the point is he did not know the exact day or hour. What he did know, and that which gave him and is to give us all hope and comfort, is that we all shall rise and be together as one for all eternity (v. 17 Cf. Jn. 14:3; 17:24). We will all see our dear departed loved ones in the Lord, for all eternity. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18 Cf. 5:11).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 4:9-12 Evidence Of A Sanctified Life.

Paul reminds his readers of the life they should live. Firstly, to love one another is to be taught by God. Those who do not love others in the body, are not taught by God (v. 9 Cf. Jer. 31:33-34). The Thessalonians were known for the evidence of this love, in the support they gave to all in Macedonia, and Paul wanted them to continue to “increase more and more” (v. 10 Cf. Rom. 12:13; Phil. 1:27). Secondly, we should also “aspire to lead a quiet life” (v. 11a). By this he no doubt meant that they and we should not be unnecessary disturbers of the social peace. Thirdly, we are urged to mind our own business, meaning we should not be busy bodies in other people’s affairs (v. 11b Cf. II Th. 3:11). Finally, we ought to be gainfully and lawfully employed (v. 11c Cf. Acts 20:35). This was a reminder of what had previously been commanded (v. 11d). This is what it means to “walk properly toward those who are outside,” meaning outside of the body (v. 12a Cf. Rom. 13:13). If they had all these things, and abounded in them more and more, they would “lack nothing” (v. 12b). This simply expanded on what he wrote immediately prior-of love for the body, holiness before God, and sanctification in life (3:11-4:8 Cf. I Cor. 15:58).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 4:1-8 Sexual Purity.

Paul and his colleagues gave commands to the Thessalonians which they were walking in and thus pleasing God (vv. 1-2). Now he encourages them to abound in this “more and more.” This was their sanctification-the will of God. Of particular note to Paul was the issue of sexual fidelity (v. 3-4 Cf. Rom. 12:2; Eph. 26-27). There is an honourable way to conduct oneself in the area of sexuality, “not in passion of lust,” like those who do not know God (v. 5 Cf. Col. 3:5). Knowing God here is clearly more than simple information, to know God is to live a certain way based on what we know about God in a way that reflects a personal relationship with Him. It also concerns how we relate to each other-adultery is a defrauding of the spouses cheated (v. 6). God will avenge the guilty and unclean in this matter (II Th. 1:8). Rather, we are all called to holiness (v. 7 Lev. 11:44; Rom. 6:19). The Holy Spirit is given to us to live a sanctified life. To sin in this way is to reject God (v. 8).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 3 Timothy, And Continuing In The Faith.

As previously noted, Paul and his companions were prevented from visiting the Thessalonians, but they finally were able to send Timothy, their “fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ” (vv. 1-2a Cf. Rom. 16:21). It is very important that those who have entered into the faith that they also be established and encouraged in it (v. 2b). It is especially important when facing afflictions, even when one knows that we are appointed for this (vv. 3-4 Cf. Acts 14:22; 20:24). It was because of these afflictions, and the temptations from Satan who was hindering Paul and his party, that Timothy was sent to engage in a pastoral ministry (v. 5). Paul was also concerned that their earlier labor may have been in vain (Cf. Gal. 2:2).

However, now that Timothy had returned from his visit, Paul and his companions were also encouraged when they learned of his readers “faith and love” (v. 6a), and also of their mutual desire to see them (v. 6b Cf. Phil. 1:8). The knowledge of their faith also brought comfort to Paul and his fellow workers (vv. 7-8 Cf. II Cor. 1:4). All of this was cause for thanksgiving to God for beginning and strengthening the faith that they preached, and that their readers had received (v. 9). This was also the subject of their prayers-to be with them and perfect what may be lacking in their faith (v. 10 Cf. II Cor. 13:9). Paul did not give up on praying to the Father and the Lord Jesus together, that their way might be directed to the Thessalonians (v. 11).

Nevertheless, even if they all could not be together, it was still their desire and indeed the purpose of this letter, that the Lord would cause the faith and love of the Thessalonians to increase, like unto the love that Paul and his companions had for them (v. 12 Cf. Phil. 1:9). The goal was that in their hearts, that is, the core of who they are, they would be “blameless in holiness” (v. 13a). Ultimately, we will all appear before the Father and the Lord Jesus, when the genuineness of our faith will be revealed (v. 13b). “The work of sanctification already begun in believers is brought to glorious completion at the Second Coming of the Lord (5:23; cf. 1 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:6; 2 Thess. 3:3; Jude 24)” (NGSB p. 1897).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 2:14-20 Gospel Warfare And Reward.

Paul had further proof that the word preached was indeed effectual for his readers, since they “became imitators of the church of God” (v. 14a). Part of following the example of the other churches was in the matter of suffering for their new found faith, which they did from their own countrymen, even as others had among the Jews (v. 14b Cf. Acts 17:5). The apostate Jewish people and leadership would receive a most severe judgment, for they “killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets” (v. 15a), as well as persecuted Paul and his companions Cf. Mt. 23:34-36). We are so accustomed to thinking that pleasing God means displeasing the world, and in many things this is true. However, Paul makes clear that to be for God through fidelity to His word, is actually to be for all men, whether they appreciate this truth or not. Paul says of those who persecuted the church that they were also “contrary to all men” (v. 15b Cf. Lk. 11:52). It is absolutely the case that fidelity to the word, God, and the church is the absolutely best thing for the whole of society.

These persecutors were particularly against all men in that they were seeking to prevent the gospel being preached to the nations, and in so doing they were piling up their sins one upon another for the wrath to come (v. 16). Paul makes a clear break between the former group and his readers when he writes, “but we brethren” (v. 17a). At one time Paul would no doubt have considered the former group, the apostate Jewish people and leadership, to be his brethren (Cf. Gal. 1:22), but not anymore. Now he longed to be with his Christian brethren, and even if not with them physically, they were always in his heart (v. 17b). We see also that the real force behind this opposition was Satan himself, albeit under God’s sovereign control (v. 18 Cf. Acts 2:23; Rom. 1:13; 15:22). Paul longed to see his readers because they were their hope, joy, and “crown of rejoicing” (v. 19a). He was confident that they would continue to be so until they all stood “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 19b Cf. II Cor. 1:14; Jude 24-25). They were the “glory and joy” of the ministry of Paul and his companions (v. 20).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 2:13 The Word Of God Is Effectual.

There is one thing that Paul is most thankful for, and it is the one thing that we all must be the most thankful for, and we must make it what it is for any true Christian-the first axiom of all thought and existence-the word of God. Paul was an apostle, and as such his word to his readers was more than the word of a man or men-the apostolic witness was the very giving of God’s new revelation of His thought and will. Paul was also thankful for the fact that this is how his readers received it, for this was a sign to him that they were indeed born again, new creatures in Christ Jesus. The very things he was thankful for, that he mentions at the beginning of this letter, all stem from this reality of the effectual word (1:2-3 Cf. Mk. 4:20; I Pet. 1:23). No one can justifiable make the claim of being a Christian who does not accept the canon of holy scripture as the word of the only living and true God, inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient, clear, and complete. The word of God is also unique in its effect-due to it being inspired by the Spirit of God, the Spirit also makes it living and effectual for all those who are destined to believe.

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 1:8-2:12 Labouring With Sincerity.

Not only had the Thessalonians heard the word and had become living examples, they also were messengers of the word, for from them it “sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place” (v. 8). It was their life of faith toward God which had become known. Formerly they were idol worshipers who had turned “to serve the living and true God” (v. 9). The hope he had spoken of earlier, was a hope which inspired a patient waiting for the Lord Jesus who would deliver from the wrath to come, a hope based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection (v. 10). It was because of these reports which Paul was receiving concerning their faith, conduct, and labour in the word, that Paul was confident that his own labour was not in vain when he took the gospel to them, even with conflict (vv. 1-2 Cf. Acts 14:5; 16:19-24; 17:1-9). There was nothing selfish or deceptive in the work of Paul and his colleagues rather, they were “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel…not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts (vv. 3-4 Cf. II Cor. 7:2; Gal. 1:10).”

God sees the inner person. God knows whether we seek to please Him or others. Paul expresses confidence in having God as his witness, that they did not use deception for some sort of covetous gain (v. 5 Cf. II Cor. 2:17). As apostles, they did not seek glory from men for they had all the approval anyone could want or need from God Himself (v. 6). As apostles, they would certainly have been entitled to make some demands (Cf. I Tim. 5:17; I Cor. 9:1-4). Instead, they were gentle with the people, with the affectionate longing of a nursing mother, that they might impart the pure gospel to them, giving their very lives to this work (vv. 7-8 Cf. Rom. 1:11). Paul again calls to their memory how he and his colleagues had laboured among them so that they would not be a burden to them (v. 9 Cf. Acts 18:3; 20:34-35; II Cor. 11:9; 12:13-15). Again he calls both God and his readers as witness to how they “exhorted, and comforted, and charged…as a father does his own children…that they would walk worthy of God” who called them “into His own glory and kingdom” (vv. 10-12).

I Thessalonians

I Thessalonians 1:1-7 Faith, Love, And Hope.

This letter begins with a typical Pauline greeting. He includes Silvanus and Timothy in the salutation of grace and peace-with God’s peace being based on His grace. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are also coupled together-as of one essence and purpose. If one has Christ, one has the Father also (v. 1). Thanks for the believers in Thessalonica is the first thing that comes to Paul’s mind, as he mentions that they are in their prayers (v. 2). There are three things in particular which they are thankful for, expressed in a favourite triad of Paul’s-of faith, love, and hope (Cf. 5:8; Rom. 5:2-5; I Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5-6; Col. 1:4-5). Firstly, they remember their “work of faith” (v. 3a). For Paul, the Christian is one whose work stems from, and is the evidence of, the genuineness of one’s faith. Secondly, we find a similar expression with their “labor of love” (v. 3b). Biblical love will show itself in what one does-their labour. Finally, Paul’s readers had a patience borne out of their “hope in the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father” (v. 3c).

This triad was based on what Paul knew of their election, with all three being the very fruit of this election. This is why they are addressed as ‘brethren’. It was and is an election by God and not based on anything humans have done or will do, but an election which shows itself in these things of which Paul and his companions gave thanks to God for (v. 4). The reason why this is the case, is because God made the word which they preached effectual to those who heard, for it was a word which was received with power. Not only this, but the hearers also received the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit they also received “much assurance” (v. 5a). This all was the very same standard by which they were able to judge the testimony of Paul and his colleagues when they were with them in person (v. 5b). Paul was, in effect, asking them to continue to follow the example which they had already given them, even as they had “received the word in much affliction,” but also “with joy of the Holy Spirit” (v. 6). As such, they also became examples for others to follow (v. 7).