Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians’ Category

2 Thessalonians 1:1-3

In 1 Thessalonians 6:1-3 Paul begins to wrap up his letter to the Thessalonians by reminding them of his team that included Silvanus and Timothy who not only were trusted companions who traveled with Paul, but likely contributed to the letter as well. “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Silvanus is also known as Silas and traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey and spent time in prison with him as well in Philipi. Silas was with Paul when he was in person in Thessalonica.

Timothy was a trusted companion and associate of Paul, and he accompanied Paul on many of his missionary journeys. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians on a previous occasion. With Silvanus, Timothy was also a collaborator on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. So these two were key companions and ministry associates that Paul wanted to make sure the Thessalonians were clear in understanding. Paul offers a blessing of grace and peace and reminds them that they are part of a church that Paul himself founded before being chased out of town by enemies of the Gospel. Paul’s deep concern for this young church was what drove him to write this letter.

Paul lets the church know that the giving of thanks for God’s great work was an obligation – he was bound to do so, and it was fitting, because of the work God did in the Thessalonian Christians. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” Spurgeon explained “It is your duty to praise him. You are bound by the bonds of his love as long as you live to bless his name. It is meet and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of the Christian life to praise God.”

The faith and love, thriving in the midst of persecutions and tribulations, made Paul boast of the Thessalonians to other churches. Spurgeon explained how to get a strong and growing faith: “By that means you are to grow. This is so with faith. Do all you can, and then do a little more; and when you can do that, then do a little more than you can. Always have something in hand that is greater then your present capacity. Grow up to it, and when you have grown up to it, grow more.” Paul didn’t want the Thessalonians, nor us for that matter, to get stuck in our faith. We need to grow in faith and love so that we can be healthy as a Christ Follower!

1 Thessalonians 5:20-28

In 1 Thessalonians 5:20-28 Paul continues to educate us on how we should execute public worship. He began by telling us not to quench the Spirit and now continues with these words: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” We need to recognize that the Lord still speaks to and through His people today, and we must learn to be open to His voice. Of course, we should always test prophecies (following the command to test everything), but we should not despise prophecies. When Paul wrote this it is very possible that prophesy was being despised because individuals were abusing the gift.

There were likely date-setters and end-times speculators among the Thessalonians which we read about back in chapter 2 who perhaps backed up their speculations with supposed prophetic authority. We have to test all things because the enemy will use evil and deception in a spiritual setting to make it appear to be true. And as Paul tells us, when we find what is good and true, we should hold fast to it. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to have more of the heart and mind of the Bereans. They heard Paul’s preaching and diligently searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. That’s how we should live as Christ Followers today!

Paul continues and tells us to “Abstain from every form of evil.” When evil is uncovered through our testing, we need to reject it and shut it down. Hiebert wrote “The term form (eidous) literally means ‘that which is seen,’ the external appearance. It points to the external form in which evil presents itself… They are to shun evil in whatever form or appearance it may present itself.” Morris further wrote “The meaning will be ‘evil which can be seen,’ and not ‘that which appears to be evil.’ ” Paul continues by reminding the Thessalonians that God’s work is to sanctify us. “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God desires to do that completely so we can be blameless. And best of all, Paul reminds us that “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” God will do what He has promised. That is something we can depend on. God first wants to deal with our spirit, then our soul and finally our body. The order here is the importance of each in our being. Meyer wrote “Notice the order – spirit, soul, body. The Shechinah of his presence shines in the holy of holies, and thence pours over into the holy place, and so into the outer court, until the very curtains of the body are irradiated with its light.” Paul then wraps up with his request. “Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Paul still believed that he needed prayer and is willing to ask for it. Paul basically orders that this letter be read to everyone. Nearly all Paul’s letters begin and end with the idea of grace. This is also true of almost everything God has to say to His people. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, His love and acceptance of 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.

1 Thessalonians 5:18-19

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19 Paul continues to tell us how to successfully live in God’s will. He shared three things, two of which we covered yesterday:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Give thanks in all circumstances.

The third in his list is to “….give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. We don’t give thanks for everything, but in every circumstance. We recognize God is in charge, and life doesn’t happen by luck or any other means. God owns all, controls all, and is all. We need to have a grateful heart for all God does each and every day.

After these three simple yet powerful exhortations – rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks – we are told to do this 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. None of those three things are possible on our own accord – it is only because of who God is, His nature of loving us and wanting to be in relationship with us, and His never ending goodness to us that we can rejoice, pray or give thanks at all.

Paul moves on next to how we should live when it comes to public worship and begins with a rather simple yet difficult to understand concept: “Do not quench the Spirit.” Guzik explains “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.” Quenching is literally putting out the fire or flame which is how the New Testament often describes the Holy Spirit. Thomas says that the phrase could be more literally translated, “Stop putting out the Spirit’s fire.”

Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit when He departed His life on earth. And each of us as a Christ Follower has the Holy Spirit within us as comforter and guide. So one way to quench the spirit is within our life as a believer. But Poole explains further “And there is a quenching of the Spirit in others as well as ourselves; people may quench it in their ministers by discouraging them, and in one another by bad examples, or reproaching the zeal and forwardness that they see in them.” So we can quench the Holy Spirit in ourselves, or we can quench it in other believers based on how we live and respond to the Spirit’s work in and around us. Being sensitive the the Spirit and working to not quench the Spirit is part of the right public worship.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 Paul gives us some gold to live by. Simple, concise and a clear definition of what it looks like to follow God’s will. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…….” James Moffatt wrote of these verses, “To comment adequately on these diamond drops would be to outline a history of the Christian experience in its higher levels.” Paul gives us three things we need to do to walk in God’s will:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Give thanks in all circumstances.

Paul will give us a little more in the next few verses, but these three things are simple but difficult to get done.

We are not only to rejoice in happy things, but in sorrows also. A Christ Follower can rejoice always because their joy isn’t based in circumstances, but in God. Circumstances change, but God doesn’t. Spurgeon points out an attitude we need to avoid when it comes to rejoicing: “I am bound to mention among the curiosities of the churches, that I have known many deeply spiritual Christian people who have been afraid to rejoice…. Some take such a view of religion that it is to them a sacred duty to be gloomy.” As a Christ Follower, we shouldn’t live life under a black cloud, but recognize just how much we have to be joyful over. Living a joyful lifestyle is how we ought to be seen by those in our patch.

Spurgeon goes further and makes clear that joy is how we should live. “Turn this book over and see if there be any precept that the Lord has given you in which he has said, ‘Groan in the Lord always, and again I say groan.’ You may groan if you like. You have Christian liberty for that; but, at the same time, do believe that you have larger liberty to rejoice, for so it is put before you.” And God gives us all plenty of things to rejoice in. Paul goes on to say that we need to pray without ceasing. We can’t bow our heads, close our eyes, and fold our hands without ceasing, but those are customs of 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.

Guzik writes: “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. But there is also room – and great value – in every-moment-of-the-day fellowship with God. There are many valuable implications from this command:

  • The use of the voice is not an essential element in prayer.
  • The posture of prayer is not of primary importance.
  • The place of prayer is not of great importance.
  • The particular time of prayer is not important.
  • A Christian should never be in a place where he could not pray.”

Rejoice, and pray – two simple things we can do to go deeper with God and fulfill His will for our lives as a Christ Follower. How are you doing with that?

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 Paul exhorts the church on how to deal with difficult people. And ignoring the problem is not the right answer! “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” This is not merely suggestions, but guidance that is urgent and serious and vital to the health of the church. Paul us urging the church to take action, and he gives specifics on what to do and how to handle different areas of disfunction in the body. This is not one size fits all but rather specific to the exact situation and circumstance. And it is to be done out of love!

First Paul addresses the idle (or unruly in other translations). The word here describes someone who breaks rank and marches out of step in a military sense. They are doing their own thing their own way. They are out of order and disruptive to the rest. This is the self-willed person who simply demands to hold his own opinion or preference. These must be warned.

Paul moves on to address the fainthearted. The word literally means small-souled. By nature or experience they tend to be timid and lack courage. These need comfort – in the sense of assisting strength – to be brought to them. It is our job to encourage them to speak up, to get involved, to step forward and be part of the activities of the Body. We need to work to get and keep them involved in the ministry.

Paul next addresses the weak who must me helped and upheld. They need assistance to build up their own strength and become able to handle life on their own, not build an ongoing dependence for assistance.

And then Paul summarizes what is probably the most important part of this exhortation to deal with those who are difficult and need help – he tells us to be patient with all of them. It is through different approaches with each of the three groups described, yet patience is needed with all. This is because true Christianity is shown by its ability to love and help difficult people. We do not look for only perfect people to minister to and to minister with. We are willing to reach out and help anyone in any way needed at any time.

Paul wraps up this little segment by reminding us that as believers, we must never seek revenge or vengeance against anyone at any time. God is the only one who holds that place. “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Our one and only goal is to pursue doing good to all people. We must have a heart of forgiveness to all and as we give that forgiveness, it is good not only for them, but for us as well.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-13

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 Paul reminds us that our job is to encourage and build up one another. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” We aren’t just to take comfort, but also to give comfort to those in our patch. If we all do that, every Christ Follower will be comforted. Along with that comfort and encouragement, we are tasked with building up or edifying one another. When we have our first interest in building up other Christians, then God will edify us. The idea is of a church full of active participants, not passive spectators. It isn’t about sitting in the pew but getting into the game.

Hiebert explained further “It is clear that in the primitive churches the care of souls was not delegated to an individual officer, or even the more gifted brethren among them; it was a work in which every believer might have a share.” It is the job of every believer to encourage and build up those in their patch. Paul goes on to talk about how we should work with those who lead us. “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

He urges us to do three things to help them:

  • Recognize and respect them
  • Esteem them
  • Be at peace

And when it comes to recognizing leaders – there are three traits Paul lists for us:

  • Leaders are recognized not by their title but by their service.
  • Leaders are recognized as ruling and providing headship through a clear and legitimate order of authority.
  • Leaders are recognized as those who admonish or warn the congregation.

Hiebert further writes “The Greek construction is three participles united under one article, thus indicating that they are not three distinct groups but one class of men discharging a threefold function.”

Beyond recognition and respect, we need to esteem our leaders. We shouldn’t esteem them because of their title, or because of their personality, but because of their labor on behalf of God’s people. Poole wrote “The words in Greek carry such an emphasis as cannot well be expressed in English, importing esteem and love to a hyperbole; their love was to be joined with esteem, and esteem with love, and both these to abound and superabound towards them.” And the third thing – living at peace with one another – is a simple command Paul gave where Christians should simply put away all their squabbles and arguments. This is a great way to esteem and love the leaders of your church.

1 Thessalonians 5:7-10

In 1 Thessalonians 5:7-10 Paul is still reminding the church of what will happen when Christ returns. “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.” Paul tells us that 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. “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Paul used the image 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.

If we compare this description of spiritual armor with that found of the very descriptive list in Ephesians 6, it is not identical. This indicates that Paul saw the idea of spiritual armor as a helpful picture, not something rigid in its details. Faith and love are represented by the breastplate because the breastplate covers the vital organs. No soldier would ever go to battle without his breastplate, and no Christian is equipped to live the Christian life without faith and love. In Ephesians 6, it is referred to as the breastplate of truth or righteousness. The hope of salvation is represented as a helmet (same), 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 of God’s hand in the future.

God’s desire is for all of us to come to know Jesus, and receive the gift of salvation through that relationship with the Savior. Before we enter into that saving relationship, we are doomed for wrath. That is not God’s desire for us, yet it is the outcome we face without Jesus. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” It is important to understand that Paul means 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, the wrath that we deserve. Paul’s whole context here is the believer’s rescue from the wrath of God.

When Jesus died on the cross, He stood in our place in our appointment to wrath, and reschedules 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. The reality 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. And that death means that He paid the price for our sins. He purchased us with the blood He shed on the Cross. The Cross is the power of the Gospel and is the price needed to cover our sin and provide us with eternal life in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

In 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 Paul continues his teaching about Jesus’ return. He tells them to just be who they are. They need to live up to being who God made them to be. “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Morris wrote “Paul is led from a consideration of the day of the Lord to the thought that the Thessalonians have nothing to fear from the coming of that Day. This leads to the further thought that their lives should be in harmony with all that that day stands for.” The coming of Jesus will be a 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 we can live with general preparation against thieves. We need to be careful not to be 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. “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” It is important we not lose track of who we are and how we should live. Paul gave us very prescriptive guidance on what life as a Christ Follower should look like.

Paul goes on to next tell us three things we need to do in order to be ready – be awake, sober and watchful. “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” As Christ Followers our spiritual condition should never be marked by sleep. Spiritually speaking, we need to be active and aware, to watch and be sober. Hiebert explains “The word sleep is here used metaphorically to denote indifference to spiritual realities on the part of believers.” Sleep speaks of so much that belongs to the world (the others), but should not belong to Christians:

  • Sleep speaks of ignorance
  • Sleep speaks of insensibility
  • Sleep speaks of no defense
  • Sleep speaks of inactivity

We need to be very awake!

In a sermon on this text titled, Awake! Awake! Spurgeon showed the folly and tragedy of the sleeping Christian with three powerful pictures:

  • A city suffers under the plague, with an official walking the streets crying out, “Bring out the dead! Bring out the dead!” All the while, a doctor with the cure in his pocket sleeps.
  • A passenger ship reels under a storm and is about to crash on the rocks, bringing near-certain death to the hundreds of passengers – all the while, the captain sleeps.
  • A prisoner in his cell is about ready to be led to execution; his heart is terrified at the thought of hanging from his neck, terrified of death, and of what awaits him after death. All the while, a man with a letter of pardon for the condemned man sits in another room – and sleeps.”

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 Paul continues his teaching around being ready for the return of Jesus. “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.” The Thessalonians were well taught about the return of Jesus and other prophetic matters. Paul had taught them well about the times and the seasons regarding His return. Even though he had only been with them a few weeks, he had made sure they understood the prophetic times and seasons. It is important for us to study the scriptures and be sure we understand the times and seasons too.

Hiebert explains “The first designates time in its duration, whether a longer or shorter period; the second draws attention to the characteristics of the period. The first deals with the measurement of time, the second with the suitable or critical nature of the time.” Paul makes clear that Jesus is coming back, but in His time. “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” The idea behind the phrase ‘the day of the Lord’ is that this will happen on Gods’ timeline. Man has his “day,” and the Lord has His “day”. In the ultimate sense, the day of the Lord is fulfilled with Jesus judging the earth and returning in glory.

The day of the Lord does not refer to a single day, but to a season when God rapidly advances His agenda to the end of the age. Hievert explains that the day of the Lord “Is a familiar Old Testament expression. It denotes the day when God intervenes in history to judge His enemies, deliver His people, and establish His kingdom.” The Thessalonians knew, as they 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. No one will definitely know when that day will come.

Paul is clear that 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. “While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” They will hear the frightening verdict “they shall not escape.” The phrase labor pains suggest both inevitability and unexpectedness. Trapp define these as coming with certainty, suddenly, irresistibly and inevitably. They are coming, we just don’t know when.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul wraps up his discussion of what happens when Jesus comes. He’ll be coming personally – no angels or other representatives – the King Himself is coming for His followers. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” The ancient Greek word for shout here is the same word used for the commands that a ship captain makes to his rowers, or a commander speaking to his soldiers. Morris explained “Always there is the ring of authority and the note of urgency.”

Apparently, there will be some audible signal that prompts this remarkable event. Paul uses three descriptions for sounds – shout, voice, and trumpet – which may refer to the same sound; or there may be three distinct sounds. The rapture will not be silent or secret, though the vast majority of people may not understand the sound or its meaning. In the same way as those with Paul on the road to Damascus head a sound but did not understand the words, so the entire world may hear this heavenly sound but have no idea what its meaning is. It will connect with those who have made Jesus Lord and Savior but likely not mean anything to the rest of the world.

Paul’s point to the Thessalonians is clear. The prior dead in Christ will not be left out of either the resurrection or the return of Jesus. In fact, they will experience it first. There will come a day, when in God’s eternal plan, the dead in Christ will receive their resurrection bodies. Yet until that day, we are confident that the dead in Christ are not in some kind of soul sleep or suspended animation. Spurgeon wrote “However God will do it, we are confident that His promise is true. Though the bones be scattered to the four winds of heaven, yet, at the call of the Lord God, they shall come together again, bone to his bone… We doubt not that God will guard the dust of the precious sons and daughters of Zion.”

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. “Then we who are 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.” This passage is the basis for the New Testament doctrine of the rapture, the catching away of believers to be with Jesus. Paul’s statement, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is both dramatic and fantastic. Jesus was in the miracle business so we can trust these words to be true. And because of this promise, we can encourage each other as well. “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

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