November 23th – 1 Thessalonians 5
Observe: In Chapter 5, reminds the Thessalonians that when Jesus returns, it will be suddenly and without warning. In the previous chapters, Paul had spoken to them about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ, so he says how pointless it is to wonder about the particular time of Christ’s coming, which will be sudden and terrible for the wicked, but comfortable for the saints. They should, therefore, live their lives in a constant state of readiness to greet Him. Paul encourages them to continue living as children of the light, doing all the things they have been doing as true followers of Jesus. They must not allow themselves to be like those who still live in darkness, doing the sinful things they do in the dark. Paul again uses the metaphor of the armour of God similar to his letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:13-17), when he tells them to put on their faith and love as a breastplate and their hope of salvation as a helmet.
Paul closes his letter to the church with a number of exhortations. First, he gives them a general list: they are to acknowledge and support God’s workers among them; to remain in unity; to provide each other with what they need; and to be patient and kind to all. Then he lists a trio of exhortations related to a worshipful heart: to always rejoice; to continue in prayer; and to give thanks in every situation. Finally, Paul turns his attention to an exhortation designed to ensure they do not “quench” the Spirit. They must not despise prophecies, but rather, they are to evaluate them and embrace what is good and reject what is evil.
Paul ends his letter with a directive to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
Interpret: Paul was with the Thessalonians only for a few short weeks (Acts 17:2), but in that time he taught them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ including the end times and His glorious return. Paul tells them that they have nothing to fear from the coming of the day of the Lord. Therefore, they should live their lives in harmony with all that that day stands for. Such an approach to life demonstrates faith in God who guides our lives. No one knows the exact hour a thief will come, but we must live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who are not in darkness, Christians, who live as the people of the light and of the day, they are ready for the return of Jesus. Because we do not belong to the night nor to the darkness, their spiritual condition should never be marked by “sleep” like other people. Spiritually speaking, we need to be active and aware, to “watch and be sober.”(v6)
Paul urges them to recognize and support their leaders, “who work hard among you” (v12). They are to be loved because of their work. 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.
When Paul warns against quenching the Spirit (v19), he is referring to the work that the Spirit is doing in them and through them. One of the ways God was working in them was by pouring out the prophetic Spirit among them, which was widespread among the early churches (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 26-31). The Old Testament often associated the Spirit with prophetic inspiration, so “Do not quench the Spirit” is admonition not to demean prophecy when it comes to them.
However, Paul understands that not all prophecies or messages are from God. Not only that, but, they may hear something that really is from God, yet misunderstand or miscommunicate it. In other words, “we know and prophesy in part (1 Cor. 13:9). Therefore, he tells them to “test all things” (v21) so that they may discern God’s will Then, after evaluating these messages, they should embrace what is good and reject what is evil (v21-22). Paul may have meant this final warning specifically for prophecy, but even so, they must be applied in a more general way to all situations and events.
Application: The exact timing of the return of Jesus Christ to gather His people to Himself will be a surprise to everybody, because no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). But for faithful Christians, it will not be a complete surprise because we live in anticipation of His return. Just as no one knows the exact hour that a thief will come, we can live in a general preparation against thieves. Those who love the Lord, wear His armour and live as the sons and daughters of light. These followers of Christ will be the ones most ready for the return of Jesus. We prepare ourselves by spending time with the Lord in quietness and prayer. We prepare by reading and studying scripture. We prepare by following the Lord’s command to help those who are the least able to help themselves.
But if we are in darkness, as the world lives in darkness, perhaps caught up in some of the sins or idolatry that Paul warned against previously in this letter, then we will not be ready, and need to make ourselves ready for the return of Jesus through earnest repentance.
When Paul speaks of Christians being asleep, as the world is asleep, there is so much that belongs to the world, the non-believers, but should not belong to Christians. Sleep implies ignorance, but we know the truth of the Gospel. Sleep implies insensibility, but we are alive in Christ. Sleep implies defenselessness, but we have the armour of God. Sleep implies inactivity, but we have work that God has planned for us, and the Holy Spirit to guide and encourage us in that work.
We have what the world wants but doesn’t know it…Jesus.
Questions: Have you fallen asleep spiritually by preferring the old patterns of doing things over what God is doing now, or by deliberately being disobedient?
Prayer: Father God, we ask your forgiveness for all the times we have fallen asleep and followed the ways of the world. We thank you for your great mercy and patience with us, and for the unmatched joy and love we find when we enter into your presence, which is only possible through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose holy name we pray. Amen.
Song: Jesus – Chris Tomlin
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.