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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

1 Thessalonians 5

Verse 1


About the times and occasions. A misunderstanding of the Second Coming was the basis for the problem at Thessalonica. Having shown that those who have died “in Christ” will be raised before the living are changed, Paul now proceeds to the punishment of the unbelievers. God has given Christ the right to judge the world (Acts 17:31; Matthew 28:18). This shows the Father has put his “stamp of approval” on the Good News, and authorized Christ to punish all who do not obey it (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). However, notice the world is already doomed, and Christ offers a way to escape from it (John 8:24). Paul reminds them of what they already know [that only the Father knows the time of the Second Coming (Matthew 24:36).]

Verse 2


Come as a thief comes. Sudden, unexpected! This can be understood of: the day of each person’s death; the day of Jerusalem’s destruction [which was still future as he wrote this]; the day of Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the world.

Verse 3


When people say. Some think this means the signs which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:0) will NOT appear again just before the Second Coming. People will be saying: “everything is quiet and safe,” and suddenly, Jesus will be here! No one will be ignorant of his Coming (Revelation 1:7).

Verse 4


The Day should not take you by surprise. Darkness is symbolic of ignorance. Christians are instructed in truth, and will not be caught unprepared. [If they obey Hebrews 6:1-3. ]

Verse 5


Who belong to the light. Light is symbolic of truth. Truth makes you free (John 8:32). People of the night or the darkness reject Truth.

Verse 6


We should be awake and sober. Christians must be alert to spiritual danger, and must live transformed lives (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; Luke 21:34-36).

Verse 7


It is at night. People sleep at night. But also, people do things at night that would make them ashamed in the day. He means that the stupidity and lust of the world are appropriate for the darkness of ignorance in which they live.

Verse 8


But we belong to the day. The fact that he stresses this, may imply that some were not living this way. He uses the symbolism of a soldier’s armor to emphasize what he is saying. Faith and love. As a breastplate to protect our “heart.” Hope of salvation. As a helmet to protect our “head.” The Christian’s fight is against wicked spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). (Compare Ephesians 6:13-18.)

Verse 9


To suffer his wrath. God’s act in Jesus Christ offers us a way to escape from the wrath which is to come! (See Revelation 7:14-17.)

Verse 10


Who died for us. This was Christ’s deliberate act of free will to fulfill God’s Plan (John 10:17-19). Whether we are alive or dead. Death cannot rob us of our salvation! We shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Verse 11


For this reason. That is, because of God’s promises to us. Encourage. Through faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc. (2 Peter 1:5-11). Help. With the loads of life (Galatians 6:1-5).

Verse 12


To those who work among you. Preachers (evangelists, see note on Ephesians 4:11) and church leaders (elders or pastors, see note on Ephesians 4:11). To guide and instruct you. Christianity is a teaching religion, “On-the-job-training for Eternity!” Evangelists and church leaders are to help each Christian to fulfill his or her individual ministry! [Christians are a kingdom of priests to God (Revelation 1:6).]

Verse 13


Treat them. Christians were not divided into “clergy” and “laity” at this time. They are to honor evangelists and church leaders because of the work they do. [Note what Christ said in Luke 22:24-27. ]

Verse 14


Warn the Idle. Those who want their own way about everything (see James 4:1-4). [These are some of the people mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.] Encourage the timid. Those who are easily discouraged by the pressures and problems of life. Help the weak. Those weak in “the faith” [who still have much to learn]. Be patient with all. All who err through ignorance, just as God is patient with each of us. The duties in this verse apply especially to the church leaders (who watch over your souls, Hebrews 13:17), also to the evangelists (whose duties somewhat overlap), but also to every Christian. WE ARE OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER!

Verse 15


See that no one pays back wrong for wrong. See note on Romans 12:21. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Verse 16


Be joyful always. The Christianity which we see in the New Testament is not gloomy and sour. God’s people are full of joy! They can be happy even when the world seems to frown! One who is united to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) has a source of joy and life not available to the world; a Savior who is always with him; and an eternal hope!

Verse 17


Pray at all times. That is, make a habit of prayer. See Luke 18:1-8; Ephesians 6:18.

Verse 18


Be thankful in all circumstances. God gives “problem-opportunities.” Every problem contains an opportunity; every opportunity contains a problem. Note this speaks to Christians (see Romans 8:28).

Verse 19


Do not restrain the Holy Spirit. Do not resist him, or destroy his influence by failing to live a holy life. We restrain the Spirit when we disobey the word of God; when we rebel against those who guide and instruct us; when we suppress our own conscience.

Verse 20


Do not despise inspired messages. During the time when Paul wrote this, prophets were men inspired by God to speak his message. Yet each prophet was to be carefully tested (1 John 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:1-3). The content of God’s revelation was closed with the last apostle, John. Paul calls God’s curse on any who would change what has been revealed (Galatians 1:8-9). Spiritual life is nourished, not so much by new knowledge, as by things already known being taken out and looked at, and carefully studied.

Verses 21-22

21–22. Put all things to the test. Tradition is a collection of things which are accepted as being true, without examination. The Bible, especially the New Testament, is the “yardstick” by which to measure religious things. Paul says to examine everything you believe by using this “yardstick” of God. Keep what is good. Those which pass the test are “good,” and should be kept. And avoid every kind of evil. Those which will not pass the test should be avoided.

Verse 23


Make you holy in every way. This is Paul’s word of blessing on the Thessalonian Christians. But God will make each one of his people holy in every way [that is, those who follow 1 John 1:7]. And keep your whole being. Man is “triune,” just as is God. The “whole man” is spirit, soul, and body. [Note Paul’s reasoning that the body will be raised from death (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).]

Verse 24


Because he is faithful. God does not “go back” on his word. If you trust him [live in the light of his truth], he will keep you!

Verse 25


Pray also for us. Paul asks for prayers many times. See Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; compare James 5:16.

Verse 26


Greet all the brothers with a brotherly kiss. In many parts of the world, a kiss is still the common form of greeting [we shake hands], as it was in New Testament times. (See also Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20.)

Verse 27


By the authority of the Lord. He places this obligation on them by the Lord’s authority. The church leaders were to read this out loud to the entire congregation. Perhaps the “young” Christians at Thessalonica would not realize the importance of circulating this letter from Paul. This letter was to be circulated among all the churches (implied in Colossians 4:16).

Verse 28


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. This is his usual way of saying “good-by.” He gives a final word of benediction.

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Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.