Paul closes this letter with what appears to be an arbitrary list of exhortations. However, the list follows a theme, as Paul explains how a church community should treat each other.
The young Thessalonian church faced the same hostility that drove Paul from town. Paul wrote this letter to encourage them in the faith. In the first three chapters, Paul reminded them:
- As believers, their great hope is waiting for Jesus to return so that they might inherit a place in the kingdom of God.
- In the meantime, they are to pursue holiness.
Beginning in chapter 4, Paul addresses some confusion about how to live now. First, he told them to handle their sexuality in an honorable way and to support themselves financially. Then he addressed their confusion over the second coming of Christ.
He concludes by encouraging them to be at peace with each other.
12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. -1Thessalonians 5:12-13
- First, Paul encourages them to respect their church leadership.
- They are to consider leadership as positions of service, not positions of power.
- Their leaders are worthy of respect, because they are focused on eternal issues like teaching the gospel and saving their souls.
- Like good parents, good church leaders use their authority to seek what is best for all in the long run.
14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. -1Thessalonians 5:14-15
- Paul encourages them to seek the good of the people around them.
- Admonish those who are idle to work and be responsible.
- Encourage those who are discouraged by reminding them what is true.
- Teach those who are weak in faith.
- Each of us is problematic to someone else. Be patient and overlook each other’s faults and sins, rather than retaliating or responding in kind.
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1Thessalonians 5:16-18
- It’s easy to rejoice, pray and give thanks when life is good. But life is hard in Thessalonica.
- Rejoice, pray and give thanks in all circumstances, both the good and the bad.
- They can rejoice despite their circumstances, because God has promised to rescue them from sin and death.
- Pray without turning away, despairing or faltering. Relate everything to God both the difficult and the easy.
- Be grateful because God has promised that He will use everything you face to bring you into His kingdom.
- We may not know why God asked us to face this particular situation, but we know where the journey will take us.
- Compare with Philippians 4:2-7.
19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil. 23Now 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. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 25Brothers, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. -1Thessalonians 5:19-28
- Paul continues on the theme of how they relate to each other.
- The Spirit may gift others with the opportunity to teach, speak or exhort. How will you deal with the potentially divisive fact that someone is going to stand up and say ‘X is true and Y is false?’
- Paul’s advice: Be both teachable and discerning. Be open to the idea that God might work in surprising ways but also examine everything carefully.
- In his prayer Paul describes God as the “God of peace,” which is the theme of this section.
- This whole section is about how we as a church community treat each other and live together without strife.
- May the God who is capable of bringing about holiness and harmony between us do exactly that. May you increasingly more a community of people who understand what’s true and have patience and forbearance with each other because of your confidence in God.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Series: 1&2Thessalonians: Between Times
Study: 1Thessalonians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.