Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Thessalonians 5

Verses 1-28

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 . Of the times and seaso n s, ye have no need that I write to you. Paul as a prophet might have said much concerning the dispensations of providence which should attend the church, but it is best to wait till the Lord shall open the sealed book. The seasons, or opportunities to correct the wicked, and reveal righteousness to the saints, are divided here, and given in the plural number, for heaven will meet the multifarious states and wants of the church with a superabundance of grace and mercy.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 . But ye, brethren, are not in darkness ye are all the children of light. Happy Zion: (by light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. The church is awake to behold the whole scheme of providence developing the goodness of God to his people. He sits calm in the heavens, and makes the persecution of the church, and Stephen’s martyrdom, to fill the Roman world with the gospel. He brings blood on the jews to avenge the innocent blood of his saints; he brings the Roman lions to his bar, even in this world, for the havoc they had made of his flock.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 . Let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith, in a faithful God, who will show strength with his arm. We need not wish ill to our enemies, for their sins will find them out, and will superinduce on themselves a plenitude of evils. Let our confidence be associated with love, which is put here for all the other graces. Let us also exercise goodwill towards all men, and rejoice in the Lord, for the victory is already ours.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 . God hath not appointed us to wrath, for that awaits the impenitent, but to obtain salvation, the great and final salvation, which is now nearer than when we first believed. This salvation is obtained for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us from all iniquity, that whether we sleep or wake we may be the Lord’s.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 . We beseech you, brethren, to know them that labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, for they watch for your souls as those that must give an account. Hebrews 13:17. This exhortation is chiefly founded on three considerations.

(1) Ministers labour in the word and doctrine, and turn the wilds and wastes of the world into a beautiful garden; and the workman is worthy of his meat.

(2) They are over you: προισταμενους , they stand before you in the Lord, as the ancient priests stood before the altar, praying for the people. They also walk before the flock, like the shepherd, to lead and guide them into green pastures. They keep up a good understanding and pure affection among the people: without them, thorns and briars would again spring up. Their work is not that of lordly domination, but of pastoral care.

(3) They admonish you in the Lord. They visit your families, and quench the kindling strife; they reclaim you from error, and bring you back to the paths of piety and peace. Can money buy such pastors, or jewels avail for their loss?

1 Thessalonians 5:13 . Esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. While a good man is providing for his household, he should sometimes cast a glance on his minister, and make an estimate on the state and wants of his family. From the combined efforts of the people, he also should have food and raiment. If he be a studious man, perhaps he suffers for want of books, which he can neither borrow nor buy. His acquisitions will amply repay his auditory with effusions of wisdom and knowledge, and his productions will delight a future age.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 . See that none render evil for evil. This admonition is repeated from Romans 12:17; and is often inculcated in the scriptures. Proverbs 17:13. Matthew 5:39. To return evil for evil is the work of Satan, and doubly exasperates the first offender: it is indeed a total breach of the laws of charity and goodwill towards our neighbour.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 . Rejoice evermore. Though storms of persecution have overtaken you, they shall work together for good, in the encrease and advancement of the saints.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 . Pray without ceasing, for the throne of grace is always accessible, and our wants and necessities never cease. The Lord will lend an attentive ear to the prayers of saints, and the unceasing worship of the church. Then prayer shall rise to praise; for the answers of prayer constrain us to give thanks to God, the giver of every good. This also is your Father’s good pleasure, who being always blessed and happy in himself, would have all his children to be happy too.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 . Quench not the Spirit, who was given with symbols of flame to the apostles and brethren, with gifts and powers from above; and as this flame still burns in the exercise of those gifts, he must not be quenched. As the cloud of fire guided the ancient Hebrews, so the Holy Spirit guides the infant church. He bade Philip go to the desert, and join himself to the chariot of the noble Eunuch. Acts 8:26. It was the Spirit also who suffered not Paul and his friends to go into Bithynia, the Lord having more pressing occasions in other places. Let us obey his motions in our hearts for piety and devotion, and let us improve all occasions of edifying our neighbour.

1 Thessalonians 5:20 . Despise not prophesyings, in young men, in their first efforts of prayer and exhortation.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 . Prove all things. Perhaps much good may attend a word of weakness, while the splendid orator has but little fruit.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 . The very God of peace sanctify you wholly. By habitual exercises of piety you will enter into a state of entire sanctification, such as inconstant christians do not enjoy. You will be enabled to give your whole selves to the Lord, and to love him with all the powers of your soul. Then in all your acts of prayer and praise, the Spirit of glory and of grace will rest upon you, and the whole deity will make his abode with you.

I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless. A similar expression occurs in Hebrews 4:12, where the word of truth, like the sacrificial knife which cuts up the victims, divides asunder the soul and spirit. When Moses commands us to love the Lord with all our heart and mind and strength, he apparently preserves the same ideas. We have also a similar distinction in the Platonic philosophy: σωμα , the body, ψυχη , the soul, and πνευμα , the spirit. Of the soul, as some understand it here, a poet says, on surveying the corpse of a saint,

Extinct is the animal flame, And passion is vanished away.

Gregory Nyssen interprets the word spirit of the rational faculties, and the soul of the sensitive ones, or the passions and appetites of our nature. Theophylact, by spirit, understands the work of the Spirit, or the hidden man of the heart; and by soul and body, the whole man. Those who espouse the former opinion, take the term body in a large sense, as including the affections. The word soul, in Genesis 23:8, is rendered will by the Chaldaic. The terms, soul and spirit, are often used as synonimous, as in Isaiah 26:9.

The apostle closes this epistle with prayers and supplications for the same blessings on the Thessalonian saints as in his other epistles. His soul was paternal, overflowing with love to a ruined world, and benedictions on the churches. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.


On a review of this chapter, and indeed of the whole epistle, we find it full of wisdom, rich in thought, and glorious in expression. The apostle pours upon every subject a flood of celestial light, and comforts believers in the Lord. Above all, he brightens their hopes with the assurance of a full redress of all their wrongs at the coming of the Saviour, in the day which is the joy of his saints, and the terror of all his foes. The sentiments flow from the fulness of his soul, and the abundant effusions of the Holy Spirit. We should read and study them so as to get them transcribed on our hearts, that we may habitually practise them in all the walks of life. They are so many sure way-marks, that we err not in this waste howling wilderness, but direct our course with a steadfast heart, following in the ancient way.

Love to ministers is introduced with entreaty: I beseech you, brethren. No church can possibly be happy, and prosper, which does not discover a proper degree of honour and affection to its ministers, provided they be the true ministers of Christ in temper and conduct, and endeavour to merit that affection and esteem.

Grace must be kept in constant exercise. Rejoice evermore, yea in tribulation also, as it works for good. Pray without ceasing: no man that is not eminent for prayer can be eminent for piety. In every thing give thanks. Who then said that the christian religion was gloomy, and fit only for persons of dejected mind? What is so divine, what is so noble, and what so like the devotion of heaven as all these exercises of piety well-timed, and associated in the habits of life. They only know their worth whose hearts delight in the duties to which they are called. St. Paul after saying so many good things, resolves the completion of religion into universal holiness. He prays, as in Ephesians 3:14, for the entire sanctification of the saints, their being made ready and prepared to meet the Lord at his coming. This implies the entire reign of grace in the heart and life, after being cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. It also implies that God is the sole agent and efficient cause of our sanctification. Our work is to pray for it, and to plead the promises. God is not only faithful to perform his word in our calling, but he will preserve the sincere soul blameless to the coming of Christ; its involuntary defects shall have a constant atonement, accompanied with peace and joy. Oh happy state of glorious liberty: who would not long for perfection? Who would not press forward to obtain it, and expect it instantaneously, by the effectual working of his power. Let us not remain in the skirts of that glory, but pray the Lord that we may fully enter in. Amen.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.