1 Thessalonians 5 (NIV)
The Day of the Lord
5 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
Paul, having spoken, at the end of Chapter 4, about the resurrection, and the second coming of Christ, begins now to speak about the uselessness of enquiring about the time of Christ’s return, which would be sudden and terrible for the wicked.
Paul had taught the Thessalonians about the return of Jesus in the short time he had been with them. They understood the prophetic times they lived in and could discern for themselves the seasons of their present culture. They had been taught that they couldn’t know the day of Jesus’ return, that it would remain unknown and come as a surprise; as a thief does not announce the time of his arrival. Paul continues to tell them that the unexpected nature of Jesus’ return will be a tragedy for the unbeliever, having been lulled to sleep by the nature of the times, feeling that all was well, they will be rudely awakened. They will hear the terrible verdict and they will not escape. He describes it as labor pains of a pregnant woman, inevitable yet unexpected. Jesus used the same idea in Matthew 24:8 when he spoke of the calamities preceding the end times as the beginning of sorrows; describing it there, again, as the beginning of labor pains.
Paul then exhorts them further by reminding them that they are children of the light; children of the day, and that Jesus’ return, though wholly unknown, was not something that they should fear. It would not be a complete surprise to the true Christian as they know the times and the seasons and live in preparation for His coming.
6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
Paul exhorts them to the duties of watchfulness, sobriety, and the exercise of faith, love, and hope. He warns against them being like the unbelievers who are asleep; reminding them again that they “belong” to the day. Paul speaks of sleep here in reference to the spiritual condition. His use of the word sleep speaks to moral and spiritual laxity, ignorance, insensibility and inactivity. As Christians they should not be lax in regard to their spirituality, rather to be sober and alert, like a soldier. A soldier prepares himself for battle (sober minded) and is aware of his standing and what is around him (alert); spiritual watchfulness.
Paul uses the image of a soldiers armor to demonstrate this concept, it is not the complete description as found in Ephesians 6. Putting on faith and love as the breastplate because the breastplate covers the vital organs. No soldier goes into battle without it, as no Christian is equipped to live the Christian life without faith and love.
Paul uses the hope of salvation in representation of the helmet, because it protects the head and is as essential as the breast plate. Hope is used here in the sense of a confident expectation of God’s hand in the future.
“For God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation …” before we had the hope of salvation we had an appointment to wrath. Having been saved we no longer have an appointment to wrath, but now to obtain salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to understand that, here, Paul means the wrath of God. We are saved from the world, the flesh and the devil. However, first and foremost we are saved from the wrath of God, the wrath that we deserve. Paul’s context here is the believer’s rescue from the wrath of God through the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us.
“…who died for us.” Jesus died in our place; not just, simply he died for us as a favor; but that he died as a substitute for us.
It is interesting here that Paul put two ideas here, side by side. Appoint emphasizes God’s sovereignty, while obtain emphasizes human effort. Together showing the full scope of salvation involving both divine intervention and human acceptance of salvation.
And having obtained salvation we live together with Him, the promise of unity with Jesus, no matter if we live or die (wake or sleep), we will always be with him.
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Paul encourages them to continue to give comfort and edify one another. Paul knew that in comforting one another they all would be comforted. And, in like manner, in edifying one another they all would be edified by God.
He exhorts them to several duties they owed to others and one another.
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
Christians are to recognize their leaders (Pastors), and here Paul encourages them to do just that. He describes the leaders in three ways:
* those who work hard among you: leaders are recognized by their labor and service, not by their titles.
*those who care for you …”: leaders are recognized as being “over” the congregation, as a Shepard over the sheep, denoting a clear and legitimate order of authority.
* “…and who admonish you.”: leaders are recognized as those who “admonish” or caution or reprove gently; to warn.
These concepts are united in the greek indicating they are not three distinct groups, but one with a threefold function.
Christians are to esteem (hold in highest regard) their leaders, and to esteem them very highly and in love. Not because of their title, but because of their labor and service on behalf of God’s people. He encourages them, also, to live in peace with one another, putting away their disagreements and arguments and in this way, also, loving and esteeming the leaders.
14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Here Paul encourages them in how to deal with difficult people; the idle and disruptive. He directs them to warn the difficult, encourage the disheartened and to help the weak and to be patient with everyone. In essence he is telling them here to minister to the people according to their spiritual needs. And though different people need different intensities or methods of ministry, they were to be patient with all of them. This is because true Christianity is marked by the ability to love and help even the most difficult people. He continues by instructing them to see to it that no one seeks revenge or vengeance. He asks them to always work toward what is best for all parties. Having a forgiving heart towards one another is always good for others and for themselves.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul encourages them to rejoice in all things; not only in happy things but in sorrows also. They knew that the Christian can rejoice always because their joy is not based on circumstances, but in God; circumstances change, God does not.
To pray continually, some translations say without ceasing; Christians are to pray continually, prayer is our communication with God, and the Thessalonians had been taught this, and Paul reminds them that they could and should be in constant communication with God.
To give thanks in all circumstances, some translations say all things. This doesn’t say “for” all circumstances, but “in” all circumstances. We give thanks in all circumstances because we recognize God’s sovereignty is in charge. Therefore thanks can be given in the most tragic of circumstances, trusting and knowing that God is in control.
“For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus”, after each one of these encouragements or exhortations “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” Paul tells them they can do it because it is God’s will for them. Not that they have to do it because it’s God’s will, but that we are able to do them because they are God’s will for their lives. We all know that doing these things in difficult circumstances is not an easy thing, but we are able to do them because of God.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
Paul encourages them in their worship. First with the direction not to quench the Spirit, quench meaning to put out the flame; this is the only place in the NT that the word is used metaphorically, more literally translated , “putting out the Spirit’s fire”, based on the familiar image of the Holy Spirit as a fire or flame. And there is also the quenching of the Spirit in others by discouragement, bad examples or discouraging the zeal or boldness in others.
In respect to prophesies Paul encourages them to recognize that the Lord speaks to and through His people and to of course to test them, primarily against the Word of God [today] or by the law and testimony [in the Thessalonians time]. This is why, even today, we are encouraged to read and study the bible and to use discernment; so that we know, for sure, that what is being prophesied is biblical, enabling us to hold onto the truth and reject the lies.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Paul concludes the epistle by essentially praying for the Thessalonians that God sanctified or set them apart “through and through” [some translations say completely]; wholly attaining the intended goal. Paul makes it clear here that sanctification is God’s work in us. Paul’s emphasis on “God Himself” completes the encouragement that he’s given the people to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:22, making it clear that he never intended that they do those things in their own power, but that they allow God to do His work in them. More Christians are defeated by self-reliance than by satan’s attack.
25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.
Paul ends simply requesting prayer, believing the he needed their prayers. God requires the people to pray for His ministers. He instructs the people to greet all Christians in love.
27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.”
Paul uses strong words here, “I charge you” making it clear that it is important that this, his first letter to the Thessalonians, be read to the entire congregation. This is unique to Paul’s letters, possibly because there was no established custom of reading the letters publicly or because the letter was a substitute for his personal presence. He wanted the letters heard first hand not through the word or interpretations of others.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Nearly all of Paul’s letters begin and end with this this prayer of grace for the people. It is particularly appropriate for this letter to end on a note of grace as 1 Thessalonians as it is a letter full of love, encouragement, and instruction.