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Bible Commentaries

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books

1 Thessalonians 5

Verse 1

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. [When Christian hopes are thus vividly pictured forth, our human nature naturally asks, "When?" (Luke 21:7). The Thessalonians had been fully taught by Paul that the time of the Lord’s coming was unrevealed (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7), and that therefore Paul could not enlighten them on this point. The term "times" indicates long eras, and "seasons" the briefer epochs into which they are divided.]

Verse 2

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. [Here is an echo from the lips of Jesus (Matthew 24:36-51; Luke 12:39-40). See also 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3 . The coming of the thief implies our loss, if he catches his asleep and unprepared. How fearful our loss if we are not prepared for the coming of the Lord-- Hebrews 10:31]

Verse 3

When they [the thoughtless and careless] are saying, Peace and safety [i. e., there is no ground for apprehension], then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape.

Verse 4

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake [surprise] you as a thief:

Verse 5

for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness;

Verse 6

so then let us not sleep, as do the rest [the pagans], but let us watch and be sober.

Verse 7

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night.

Verse 8

But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. [The idea that the thief comes in the night as set forth in verse 2 suggests the thought that those that live in the night must find it hard to guard against him. But those who live in a perpetual day are not easily surprised by a thief. Now, the Christians, being enlightened as to the Lord’s coming, lived in such a perpetual day; in fact, to use a Hebraism, they were "sons" of the light and of the day; i. e., they belonged to the day. There was no need, therefore, that their spiritual faculties should be asleep. Day is no time for such sleep, and those that dwelt in it should find it easy to watch and be sober and wear their armor as good soldiers, while those who dwelt in the night would find it hard to keep awake, to keep sober, or to wear armor. It was common in the East for people to be drunken in the night-time, as they were ashamed to be seen intoxicated in the daylight (Acts 2:15). The nights of the Greeks and Romans were given to revelry, and it was counted an especial mark of profligacy to be drunken in the daytime (2 Peter 2:13). Polybius emphasized the abandoned condition of a drunkard by saying, "Even by day he was often conspicuous to his friends, drunk."]

Verse 9

For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Verse 10

who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep [live or die before his coming], we should live together with him. [This verse is suggested by the word "salvation" which precedes it. The hope of salvation may well defend us in the hour of temptation, and it should be strong enough to do so, for God has not appointed us to be lost, but to be saved, and has given his Son to die that we might be saved; and so, whether we remain alive unto his coming, or pass to our rest before that day, we may be assured that we shall live in one company with him.]

Verse 11

Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do. [As Paul closed his main teaching about his Lord’s coming with an injunction that the Thessalonians comfort each other with it (1 Thessalonians 4:18), so he closes this afterpiece to it with a similar injunction that because of it they should exhort and strengthen one another.]

Verse 12

But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

Verse 13

and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work’s sake. [Paul here admonishes the church as to how it shall treat its elders. He bids the church recognize their leadership, respect them, and hold them in affection because of the blessed and divine work which they were discharging, the work being that enjoined by the third term of the great commission; viz.: admonishing or teaching the church to observe all things whatsoever Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). Such teaching is an essential duty of an elder (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 1:9). This section is closely connected with the last verse of the preceding one, the instruction of the elders being the chief means of effecting the edification there mentioned.] Be at peace among yourselves. [Mark 9:50 . Contempt for the instruction and authority of the elders is the first step toward that strife and faction which is here reproved.]

Verse 14

And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all. [The word "disorderly" describes the soldier who does not remain in the ranks; it is the following out of the military figure introduced at verse 8. The whole is an admonition against a too strictly disciplinarian spirit. The disorderly are not to be too hastily considered apostates, nor are the fainthearted to be regarded as cowards, nor the weak called backsliders, nor are any to be hastily cast out; but the church, being slow to condemn, is to bear with offenders, and seek to reclaim them.]

Verse 15

See that none render unto any one evil for evil [Christians are repeatedly bidden to return good for evil (Matthew 5:38-48; Romans 12:19-21; 1 Peter 2:18-25). "See that" puts the Thessalonians on notice that the practice of retaliation or revenge was apt to creep in unawares, and so it was, for persecution wakens revenge as fire kindles fire, thus making two wrongs out of one]; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all. ["Make," says the Cambridge Bible, "the good of your fellow-men your constant pursuit, and let no injury or unworthiness on their part turn you aside from it. Revenge must be cherished neither toward those within nor those without the church, but good must be rendered to all-- Galatians 6:10]

Verse 16

Rejoice always [A short time previous to Paul’s letter the Thessalonian Christians had all been pagans, and as such, under similar conditions of distress and persecutions, would have been apt to seek escape from their troubles by suicide; but now they are bidden to make their sufferings for Christ a source of new joy, as Jesus had commanded (Matthew 5:10-12), and as Paul, who practiced this teaching, had so often enjoined (Romans 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 12:10). Confidence in the good providence of God made such joy possible-- Romans 8:28];

Verse 17

pray without ceasing [This not only means to observe habitual seasons of prayer, and to cultivate a disposition to pray, but to be ever in a prayerful spirit, to have constantly a subconsciousness of the presence of God. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2];

Verse 18

in everything give thanks [not for peace and prosperity only, but also for affliction and persecution (Acts 5:41), and as did Paul and Silas at Philippi-- Acts 16:25]: for this [the discharge of the three duties just named] is the will [desire] of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.

Verse 19

Quench not the Spirit [as fire may be smothered out by overwhelming it with noncombustible matter, so the Spirit of God in the breast of a man may be quenched by overloading the life with worldly cares];

Verse 20

despise not prophesyings [Prophesyings were instructions given through inspired men, and included moral and spiritual precepts as well as predictions as to the future. Such instructors stood next in rank to the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28). Compare also Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 14:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:39 . They were neither to neglect to hear nor refuse to obey prophecy];

Verse 21

prove all things; hold fast that which is good [Sift the bad from the good (1 John 4:1-13), and cherish the good. To this corresponds the "unwritten saying" attributed to Jesus, "Show yourselves approved money-changers;" i. e., distinguish between the true coin and the counterfeit. Surely such advice has always been pertinent, when false teaching of every kind abounds];

Verse 22

abstain from every form of evil. [These words close the sentence; the full thought is this: despise no prophecy, but prove it; if it is good, hold fast to it, but abstain from every form of evil teaching or practice.]

Verse 23

And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [May God, who makes peace between himself and mankind, himself prepare you for his judgment-day, making your entire being, in all its threefold nature, fit to be preserved, and wholly above all censure.]

Verse 24

Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it. [If God were not thus faithful to sanctify and preserve blameless, it would be useless for him to call us; for it is certain that left to ourselves we can not keep ourselves from sin and evil-doing. This faithfulness is elsewhere noted (1 Corinthians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 1:9); and is the basis of the glorious and sublime confidence expressed at Romans 8:31-39]

Verse 25

Brethren, pray for us. [It was Paul’s habit to ask for the prayers of those to whom he wrote (Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Compare Hebrews 13:18 .

Verse 26

Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss. [In the East, a kiss was and still is a common salutation among kindred and near friends. Paul did not, by this command, create a church ordinance or ceremony; nor did he even create a new custom. He merely injected a spiritual virtue into an old-established, time-honored custom. This custom never prevailed among the nations of the West, and we feel that we obey Paul when we shake hands with holiness; i. e., with cordial sincerity and honest good-will. The Bible was not written as a work on etiquette, nor was it intended in this case that the Syrian and Grecian custom should become universal.]

Verse 27

I adjure you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the brethren. [The importance of the Epistle is shown by the solemnity of the adjuration. The command in this, the first of the Epistles, is fittingly echoed in the last written of the New Testament books. See Revelation 1:3 . They suggest that the New Testament writings were to be read in the churches, and by all the people, just as the Old Testament was read in the synagogues. "What Paul commands with an adjuration," says Bengel, "Rome forbids under a curse."]

Verse 28

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. [This is the benediction with which Paul closes most of his Epistles. It is a prayer that they may have all the blessings which the loving favor of God can bestow.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
First published online at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/1-thessalonians-5.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.