1 Thessalonians 5 – Ready for the Day of the Lord
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.
iii. Hiebert on times and seasons: “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.”
b. The day of the Lord so comes: With this phrase, Paul quoted a familiar Old Testament idea. The idea behind the phrase the day of the Lord is that this is Gods’ time. 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.
i. It does not refer to a single day, but to a season when God rapidly advances His agenda to the end of the age. 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.” (Hiebert)
c. 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. Some take the idea that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night to mean that nothing can or should be known about God’s prophetic plan for the future. Yet Paul indicated that they definitely knew that the time could not be definitely known.
ii. Paul certainly was not one to set dates in regard to prophecy, and Jesus forbade setting dates when He said of that day and hour no one knows (Matthew 24:36). God wants this day to be unexpected, but He wants His people to be prepared for the unexpected.
d. 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. When “all’s well” and “all is safe” are on the lips of men. (Moffatt)
ii. 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).
e. 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. Trapp on as labor pains upon a pregnant woman: “1. Certainly; 2. Suddenly; 3. Irresistibly, inevitably.”
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: In addressing their behavior, Paul first simply told the Thessalonian 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.
i. “In the Semitic languages generally to be a ‘son’ of something means to be characterized by that thing.” (Morris)
b. That this Day should over take you as a thief: Paul means that this should not happen for the believer who lives according to their nature as a son of light and son of the day. They will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
i. “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.” (Morris)
ii. In some respect, 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 some live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, who live as they are all sons of light and sons of the day, these are ready for the return of Jesus.
iii. But if we arein 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. Not sleep: Paul used a different word here than for the sleep of death mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. “The word sleep is here used metaphorically to denote indifference to spiritual realities on the part of believers. It is a different word than that in 4:13-15 for the sleep of death. It covers all sorts of moral and spiritual laxity or insensibility.” (Hiebert)
ii. 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.
iii. 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.
iv. 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 his or her life for fun and entertainment isn’t sober.
v. In commanding sobriety, Paul didn’t have in mind the sort of people who stamp down all enthusiasm and excitement for Jesus, promoting what they think is a more balanced way to live. 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 spirituallydrunk. 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 used 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. When one compares this description of spiritual armor with that found in Ephesians 6, there is not an exact correlation. This indicates that Paul saw the idea of spiritual armor as a helpful picture, not something rigid in its particular details.
ii. 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.
iii. 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 of God’s hand in the future.
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 is important to understand that Paul means the wrathof 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.
ii. Our appointment to wrath was appointed 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 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.
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. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation: Paul put two interested ideas side-by-side here. Appoint emphasizes God’s sovereignty but obtain is a word that emphasizes human effort. Together, they show that the full scope of salvation involves both divine initiative and human effort.
c. 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 that 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 givecomfort. If all Christians have a heart to comfort each other, then all will be comforted.
b. And edify one another: To edify means to build up. 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.
i. “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.” (Hiebert)
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 comfort others, 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. A title is fine; but only if the title is true and if the title describes what that person really is before God and man.
ii. And are over you in the Lord. Leaders are recognized as being “over” the congregation in the sense of ruling and providing headship, as a shepherd is over the sheep. This describes a clear and legitimate order of authority.
iii. And admonish you. Leaders are recognized as those who admonish the congregation. To admonish means “to caution or to reprove gently; to warn.” Morris says of this word, “While its tone is brotherly, it is big-brotherly.”
iv. “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.” (Hiebert)
b. Esteem them very highly in love: Christians are to esteem their leaders, and to esteem them very highly in love. They should do this 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. “Christian ministers, who preach the whole truth, and labour in the word and doctrine, are entitled to more than respect; the apostle commands them to be esteemed, abundantly, and superabundantly; and this is to be done in love.” (Clarke)
ii. Paul twice mentions the work of ministry and connects it to the respect these servants should have from those they serve. This suggests at least two things:
· If congregants knew and understood the work done by those with spiritual oversight over them, the congregants would appreciate and respect the leaders more.
· Work is an essential aspect of the ministry, and there is no place for a lazy pastor. “In the first place he states that they labour. It follows from this that all idle bellies are excluded from the number of pastors.” (Calvin)
iii. “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.” (Poole)
iv. If a Christian can’t esteem and love their pastor, they should either get on their knees, asking the Holy Spirit to change their heart, or go somewhere else and put themselves under a pastor they do esteem and love.
c. Be at peace among yourselves: With this simple command Paul said 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 told the Thessalonians – the people, not only the pastor and leaders – 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. The unruly are those who are out of order, using a military word that describes the soldier who breaks ranks or marches out of step. This is the self-willed person who simply demands to hold his own opinion or preference. These must be warned.
ii. The fainthearted are those who, literally, are 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.
iii. The weak must be upheld and assisted with an eye to building their own strength instead of perpetuating their weakness.
iv. Some see Paul addressing these three groups in earlier passages of 1 Thessalonians. If so, they provide good examples of how to speak to individuals from each category.
· Unruly: The idlers of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
· Fainthearted: Those anxious about their departed loved ones in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.
· Weak: Those suffering under temptations to lapse into immorality in 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8.
c. Be patient with all: Though different approaches must be taken with different people, Christians must be patient 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.
d. 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 more spiritual matters such as prayer, thanksgiving, and worship. But before these spiritual or religious matters comes teaching about right relationships. Jesus made it plain that we should get things right with men before we come to worship God (Matthew 5:23-24).
3. (16-18) Regarding their personal worship.
James Moffatt wrote of these verses, “To comment adequately on these diamond drops would be outline a history of the Christian experience in its higher levels.”
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 rejoicing in 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.
i. “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.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “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.” (Spurgeon)
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 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.
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.
ii. 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.
c. In everything give thanks: We don’t give thanksfor everything, but in everything. We recognize God’s sovereign hand is in charge, and not blind fate or chance.
i. “When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude.” (Spurgeon)
d. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you: After each one of these 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.
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.
i. “‘Quench’ properly applies to the putting out of a flame of some sort, as that of a fire (Mark 9:48), or a lamp (Matthew 25:8). This is the only place in the New Testament where it is used in a metaphorical sense.” (Morris) Thomas says that the phrase could be more literally translated, “Stop putting out the Spirit’s fire.”
ii. Therefore, this command is based on the familiar image of the Holy Spirit as a fire or a flame. Though there is a sense in which fire cannot be created, we can provide the environment in which it can burn brightly. Yet a flame can be extinguished when it is ignored and no longer tended, or when the flame is overwhelmed by something else.
iii. “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.” (Poole)
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 (following the command to test all things), but we do not despise prophecies.
i. It is very possible that prophesy was being despised because individuals were abusing the gift. There were idlers among the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), perhaps who spiritualized their idleness with prophecy. There were date-setters and end-times speculators among the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5), perhaps who backed up their speculations with supposed prophetic authority.
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.
i. Between the time Paul last saw the Thessalonians and the writing of this letter, he had spent time in Berea (Acts 17:10-12). There, the Christians were of a noble character because they heard Paul’s preaching and diligently searched the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to have more of the heart and mind of the Bereans.
d. Abstain from every form of evil: When the testing is made, any aspect of evil must be rejected. This includes evil that may come with a spiritual image.
i. “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.” (Hiebert)
ii. “The meaning will be ‘evil which can be seen,’ and not ‘that which appears to be evil.’” (Morris)
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.
i. The emphasis here is on completely: “The adjective (holoeleis), occurring only here in the New Testament, is a compound of holos, ‘whole, entire,’ and telos, ‘end.’ Its basic connotation is ‘wholly attaining the end, reaching the intended goal,’ hence has the force of no part being left unreached.” (Hiebert)
b. Himself sanctify you: Paul made 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 those things in their own power. More Christians are defeated on account of self-reliance than on account of Satanic attack.
i. “The way in which he effects the transition… indicates that it is only in the power of the God on whom he calls that his exhortations can be brought to fruition. ‘I have been urging you to do certain things, but it is only in God’s strength that you will be able to do them.” (Morris)
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. It seems that there are indeed these three different aspects to the human person, yet the specific meaning of spirit or soul must be determined by the context.
ii. The great Greek scholar Dean Alford described the spirit and the soul as thus:
· “The SPIRIT (pneuma) is the highest and distinctive part of man, the immortal.”
· “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.”
iii. Being the inner, immaterial part of man that may exist apart from spiritual life, the soul connects with the world through the senses of the physical body. It connects with God through faith, which might be called the “sense” of the spirit. We tend to think of the spirit being like the soul, but we may also think of it as being more like the body, the vessel of our interaction with the spiritual world.
iv. Because the soul and spirit both have reference to the non-material part of man, they are easily confused. Often an experience intended to build up the spirit only blesses the soul. There is nothing wrong with soulish excitement and blessing, but there is nothing in it that builds us up spiritually. This is why many Christians go from one exciting experience to another but never really grow spiritually – the ministry they receive is soulish.
d. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved: We may receive this order as inspired. God intends there to be a hierarchy within the human person, ordered first with the spirit, then with the soul, and finally with the body.
i. This is not to say that the body is inherently evil; that contradicts Paul’s main thought here, that the entire person is set apart and preserved by God, complete in spirit, soul, and body. God saves our body as much as our spirit or soul, and the body has a definite and important role in the whole plan of salvation – to be resurrected into a new body.
ii. Yet, God designed the human to live after the order of spirit, soul, and body instead of body, soul, spirit. We are to sublimate the needs of the body to the soul, and the needs of both body and soul to the needs of the spirit.
iii. This is also how God works in us. “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.” (Meyer)
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 asked, “pray for us.”
i. “God requires that his people should pray for his ministers; and it is not to be wondered at, if they who pray not for their preachers should receive no benefit from their teaching.” (Clarke)
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 were there in person, he would greet all the brethren with a holy kiss himself, but since he was not there, he would send the greeting through this letter.
i. “Apparently at this time the sexes were segregated in the assembly and the men kissed the men and the women the women… When the kiss came to be exchanged between men and women it became the occasion for their critics to charge the Christians with impurity. The resultant embarrassments gave rise to numerous regulations concerning the practice by the early church councils.” (Hiebert)
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 used a strong phrase here. It was important that this epistle be read among Christians. This is an unusual statement, unique in Paul’s letters. Many different reasons have been suggested for why Paul added this phrase at the end of his letter.
· Since this was his first letter, there was as of yet no established custom of the public reading of his letters, and he wanted to make sure the practice was established.
· Since the letter was a substitute for his personal presence, Paul did not want any disappointment at his absence to dampen the spread of the letter.
· Paul wanted to make sure that the church heard the letter first-hand, and not through intermediaries who might misstate his message.
· Perhaps Paul feared that people would look up passages in the letter that spoke to the issues that interested them the most and ignore the other parts.
i. “And we hence also may prove against the papists, it ought to be made known to the people, even all the holy brethren, and not confined to the clergy; and to be read in their own tongue, for so, without question, was this Epistle read in a language which the people understood.” (Poole)
b. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you: 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.
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.
ii. It is appropriate that this letter – the first of Paul’s preserved correspondence to the churches – this letter full of love, encouragement, and instruction, end on a note of grace.
iii. “Whatever God has to say to us – and in all the New Testament letters there are things that search the heart and make it quake – begins and ends with grace… All that God has been to man in Jesus Christ is summed up in it: all His gentleness and beauty, all His tenderness and patience, all the holy passion of His love, is gathered up in grace. What more could one soul wish for another than that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ should be with it?” (Denney, cited in Morris)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission