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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Thessalonians 5

Verses 1-8

1 Thessalonians 5:1-8

I. The Apostle having disclosed much in the foregoing verses about the Lord's second coming, and the respective shares in its glory which are to fall to those of His people who are then asleep, and those of them who are then alive, and remain, and having shown that the one class will not be more highly favoured than the other, proceeds now to declare to his readers that, having such assured knowledge, they have enough. It is not for them in a spirit of mere curiosity to pry into the times and seasons when these things shall be. Christ has willed it that, certain of His eventual arrival, we should remain in uncertainty as to its destined moment.

II. The path of God's people is as the shining light. It cannot, then, be that that day should overtake them as a thief; the day of the Lord, loved and longed for, can never actually come upon them as something unwelcome disliked, dreaded. The very statement of their character and privilege is thus, on the part of the Apostle, an earnest appeal addressed to them. To those who are watchful, sober, armed, the Saviour's own promise will at length be fulfilled, when He comes in His glory: "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 189.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:2 . R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 159; H. P. Liddon, Advent Sermons, vol. i., p. 368. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 . F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 1; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 27; R. H. Newton, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 378. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 . A. Macleod, Talking to the Children, p. 93. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 64; vol. iii., No. 163; vol. xvii., No. 1022; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 65; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 137. 1 Thessalonians 5:7 , 1 Thessalonians 5:8 . T. H. Pattison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 380.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 5:8

The Work and Armour of the Children of the Day.

I. First, this central injunction, into which all the moral teaching drawn from the second coming of Christ is gathered "Let us be sober." Now, I do not suppose we are altogether to omit any reference to the literal meaning of this word. The context seems to show that by its reference to night as the season for drunken orgies. But, passing from that, let us turn to the higher subject with which the Apostle is here evidently mainly concerned. What is the meaning of the exhortation "Be sober"? Well, first let me tell you what I think is not the meaning of it. It does not mean an unemotional absence of fervour in your Christian character. Paul, the very man that is exhorting here to sobriety, was the very type of an enthusiast all his life. So Festus thought him mad, and even in the Church at Corinth there were some to whom, in his fervour, he seemed to be "beside himself." The exhortation means, as I take it, mainly this: the prime Christian duty of self-restraint in the use and the love of all earthly treasures and pleasures.

II. There is, secondly, a motive which backs up and buttresses this exhortation. "Let us, who are of the day" or, as the Revised Version has it a little more emphatically and correctly, "Let us, since we are of the day, be sober." "Ye are the children of the day." There is one direction especially in which the Apostle thinks that that consideration ought to tell, and that is the direction of its self-restraint. Noblesse oblige! The aristocracy are bound to do nothing low or dishonourable. The children of the light are not to stain their hands with anything foul. Chambering and wantonness, slumber and drunkenness, the indulgence in the appetites of the flesh, all that may be fitting for the night, it is clean incongruous with the day.

III. Last of all, my text points out for us a method by which this great precept may be fulfilled: "Putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation." And in like manner the cultivation of faith, charity, and hope is the best means for securing the exercise of sober self-control.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 29.

The Duty of Seriousness.

To attain to a true Christian gladness, we must learn to be serious, to be sober.

I. The two great elements indispensable to the existence of a really grand character are elasticity and steadfastness: elasticity, without which a man gets crushed by every slight failure; and steadfastness, without which he will be turned aside from his purpose by unworthy motives, and be tempted to forget the end of his efforts in the contemplation of the means by which they could be attained. For keeping alive this elasticity, a man must know how to be wisely gay; for keeping up this steadfastness, he must know how to be sober.

II. And so Christian sobriety must be based upon a reasonable estimate of the importance of life and the seriousness of all things here below. The trifler, who has no higher ambition than to amuse himself, mistakes the meaning of all things on earth. But as a man lays hold on the fact that God loves him and all men, and that, with all his weakness and inconstancy, he is yet not left unsupported by the Spirit's grace, though he may be serious he will not be sad. Christian sobriety and Christian gaiety have their sources lying closely side by side in the devout and earnest soul; and, like the Danube and the Rhine, which start out from different sides of the same glacier, and then diverge as far as the east is from the west, so these two, however much they seem to be at variance when they take a separate course, yet have their true founts in a living faith in God, and are then most fresh, and real, and inexhaustible, when they spring from a source of trusting love, in a heart that rests upon the Rock of Ages, and which, while it has its hold upon the earth, is yet aspiring upwards.

A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 236.

Reference: 1 Thessalonians 5:8 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 148.

Verses 9-10

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

God's Appointment concerning Man.

I. Note, first, the persons in whose favour God's appointment is made. They are believers in Jesus. Salvation is limited to faith in Christianity; and therefore the appointment of God that is unto salvation, must be subject to the same limitation.

II. The appointment. There is a twofold aspect a negative and a positive view. He has not appointed us to wrath, but He has appointed us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. (1) Has He appointed any to wrath? The contrast is not between us and others. The object of the passage is to give unspeakable comfort and assurance to the child of God, that he is not appointed to wrath, but to salvation. Those who live in sin, those who refuse to accept God's mercy, will, no doubt, suffer eternal punishment. That is a scriptural truth. But to say that God appointed men and women, who are now living in unbelief and sin, before they appeared upon this earth, to eternal punishment, by virtue of His arbitrary will and purpose, is as different as one thing can be from another, and is altogether inconsistent with our ideas of the righteousness, integrity, and holiness of God. (2) There is one exception. Was not Jesus appointed to wrath? On Him was laid the iniquity of us all. He became responsible for it. He volunteered to take our sins upon Himself. He suffered to teach us that sin and the curse are inseparable, that where sin is there is, and must be, a curse. Our substitute is Christ; He was sacrificed, and died on the cross for us; He bore the brunt of God's wrath, and it is only through Him that we can see the Father.

C. Molyneux, Penny Pulpit, new series, No. 134.

Verses 9-15

1 Thessalonians 5:9-15

I. This passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-15 , has its interest and value as showing us that the earliest and the latest of the Pauline Epistles are all at one in regard to the central doctrines of salvation through Christ. In this passage, we have, wrapped up in few words, indeed, but none the less really contained in them, his one uniform declaration of salvation through Christ, and His atoning death.

II. "Wherefore," seeing that such a future, such an inheritance of bliss is in store "comfort yourselves together" by lovingly meditating upon it, by reminding one another of it, by helping one another in preparing for it, and so "edify one another." The clause is added "even as also ye do." Lest the exhortation might appear to his friends to have some slight tinge of reproof in it, the Apostle closes it with words of praise, and this praise, this grateful, hearty recognition of their Christian conduct, is a further appeal to them yet more to abound in this good work.

III. And now, in accordance with his usual practice, the Apostle draws his epistle to a close with a series of general, but not miscellaneous directions exhortations as to details of conduct, suggested probably by the knowledge he had of certain defects in the Thessalonian community "ever follow that which is good." The aim set before the Christian is that which is good; good in the full compass of the word the spiritual and also the temporal good of others everything that in reality can be beneficial to them. Our following must be not only eager, it must be regular, persistent, ceaseless. The discharge of this duty is the Christian's highest privilege.

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 201.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:10 . J. Angus, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 289; Homilist, vol. iv., p. 117. 1 Thessalonians 5:12 . T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 49. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 . E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 142. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 222.

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 5:16

The Duty of Gladness.

I. It is of the very nature of a duty that it is in our power to perform it; and so with this one, the very fact of its being laid upon us proves that we may, if we will, obey it. And therefore this at once disposes of those who would be inclined to say that gladness does not depend on ourselves, that it is the privilege of the few only to be gay, and of those few only under peculiar circumstances; and that it is as vain to tell people to be merry and joyful as to tell them to be tall or short, or strong or handsome. There is always a disposition to make every thing in our Christian life dependent on circumstances, and to make excuses for this or that sin or shortcoming, by blaming circumstances and not ourselves. Once begin with the perilous doctrine that men are what they are made, and that we cannot help our lapses because of the taint and defects in our nature, and we open the door to excuses for every kind of enormity.

II. Just as we get nearer to our true selves, the fresher and purer, and wiser and truer our souls become, the more food shall we find for joy; and because, as the pure soul finds life glad, and so gladness reacts upon the soul and tends to make it pure, so this is the reason why the Apostle tells us to rejoice; for joy tends to cleanse the heart and banish thought of sin and misery, and wars against the useless recollection of sorrows that are gone, and of errors that cannot now be retrieved, and of troubles that may be temptations to murmur, but which by all the murmurs in the world can never be as though they were not. Sin slays gladness, and sin alone; and this is the awful part of the curse on sin, that it robs us of our inheritance of delight, and is a bar to our hearty joy. But to those who are trying to realise that they are Christ's redeemed ones, and who live in the habitual remembrance that God is their Father, joy need not be and ought not to be hard.

A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 226.

Reference: 1 Thessalonians 5:16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1900.

Verses 16-18

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I. "Rejoice evermore." The Thessalonian converts were living in the sphere of sorrow. The Apostle exhorts them to be "girded with gladness." This rejoicing, being in the Lord, is opposed to the spurious joy which is the possession of sinners. The rejoicing before God is the deep, calm delight of the soul in communion with the Saviour. It springs out of the three Christian graces which this epistle so strongly emphasises faith, hope, and love.

II. "Pray without ceasing." Prayerfulness is the atmosphere in which all things appear bright and joyous. The Apostle takes it for granted that none of his readers will call in question the duty of prayer. What he enjoins is constancy in prayer. The only conceivable way in which, on our part, this communion may be maintained, is the lifting up of the heart in conscious dependence and petition. The Church militant must ever be the Church suppliant. Prayer is the very beating of the pulse of the Christian's inner life. Without it life would cease to be.

III. "In everything give thanks." The clause seems to suggest not merely that the heart is at all times, and for all things to be grateful, but that the gratitude is to overflow into every action of the life thanks giving and thanks living. Here is a sense in which we are evermore to pay back, as it were, in active service, what we receive from God. That debt ever due, never cancelled, we have ceaselessly to pay, and in paying it to find our highest joy.

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 216.

Reference: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 . A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 242.

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 5:17

I. The nature of prayer. Prayer is not a rite, not a ceremony, not a cold, outward observance, but an actual intercourse between two parties one who prays and One who hears. It is a communion between man and God, as real and actual as what passes between two men, when they speak face to face with each other. If the inward desire is absent, then prayer is absent; and though a man shall have breathed all his life long the words of prayer, he will never have prayed if he has never asked. We cannot ask unless we desire, and we cannot desire, unless we feel our want. Thus, therefore, the word expresses much more than this. See how great is the dignity of prayer. When the soul prays it is as if the distance between itself and the throne of God were annihilated. This is the idea conveyed in the expression of St. Paul. "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace." To pray is to come to the throne of grace, its exercise bringing us into the very presence of God, as really and truly as if in the body we stepped upon the gleaming pavement of heaven, and stood at God's footstool, and gazed upon the majesty of His appearance. To the dignity of prayer, add likewise the thought of its power. There are mysteries in it as regards the free knowledge and the free sovereignty of God, which we cannot pierce nor try to pierce; but it is most certain from the word that believing prayer has, humanly speaking, in virtue of His own promise, the power to change and modify the Divine intentions.

II. Consider the universality of the duty. "Pray without ceasing." When the true nature of prayer is rightly comprehended, this, too, will follow from the mere instincts of the soul's desire. The words express (1) constancy and perseverance. The single petition does not make prayer. Supplication must be constant, as well as persevering. Not more truly is the body dependent for its life, and health, and food, upon a constant providence, than the soul is on the constant gift of grace. To think that the child of God will ever in this world be so free from enemies without and from fightings within as not to need fresh supplies of strength and peace, is but the device of the arch-enemy who lies in wait to lead us into ruin. Never, never can prayer cease on this side the grave; never, till the earthly strife is past, and the earthly temptation ended, and the earthly tempest has sunk to rest over the deep waters that roll between us and our Canaan above. Then, indeed, prayer will cease, but it will cease only to swell praise into a more divine energy and lift its voice amid the rapturous hallelujahs of the redeemed.

E. Garbett, The Soul's Life, p. 271.

Religious exercises are, to many, very dull and uninteresting. Prayer is to many a tiresome thing. They will bow their heads or kneel and endure the uncongenial form, but they feel no interest in it, and they are secretly glad when it is over. To them religion appears to cloud the face, darken the sky, and make life gloomy. But if Christians are gloomy, it is not in obedience to Divine orders. "Rejoice evermore," says the inspiring Spirit, and, perhaps as a means towards the constant joy, he adds: "Pray without ceasing."

I. Does this mean that we are, night and day, to keep praying, never ceasing, as some of the ascetics of the Middle Ages claimed to do? No. Paul the Apostle laboured "night and day." Does that mean that he never slept at night? No, it is the expression, in common speech, of the idea that he was bent on his work all the time, just as you may sometimes say truly of a thing that you are thinking about it, or working at it, night and day. It means that you give to it all the time available. Now in the same sense are we to pray without ceasing.

II. Note, in the next place, that desire is a condition of real prayer. When our desire is according to the Divine will, and endorsed, so to speak, by the Saviour, it is granted. It goes in His name. So we have to study the Scriptures to know what is God's will, and look for the help of the Spirit to make us prayerful, hopeful, patient, persevering under that gracious influence. "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us."

J. Hall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 15.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1039; S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 109; Plain Sermons, vol. v., p. 131; J. Kelly, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 374; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 270. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 . H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvi., p. 341;, E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 14. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 285; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 273; E. Garbett, The Soul's Life, p. 180; Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, vol. i., p. 46; C. G. Finney, Gospel Themes, p. 245.

Verses 19-22

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

I. The Holy Spirit is here spoken of not strictly in respect of His Person, but in respect of His energising power in and on the heart. His workings, the Apostle would say, may be so counteracted as to become ineffectual. They may be quenched as the flame that is kindled for a time, but being neglected, sooner or later expires. Rain, dew, wind, fire, those mysterious agencies of nature, are in Scripture the fitting and effective emblems of the Holy Spirit's power in the hearts and lives of men. Those who are already believers are, in regard to their advancing sanctification, to cherish His manifestations. By relapse into sinful indulgences, the follower of Jesus quenches the spirit of grace within his heart.

II. "Despise not prophesyings." The Spirit is the Divine power, prophesyings are the human instrumentality. If men would be kept from quenching the one, they must be kept from thinking meanly of the other. The Spirit is the Divine light: if they would retain it, they must be careful to preserve prophesyings, the lamp in which it is placed.

III. The next clause links itself on to that which precedes it. So far from Undervaluing or spurning prophecies, believers are urged to test them. As there are counterfeits of the truth in circulation, it is wise on the part of all who would buy the truth to test it, to submit it to careful examination, so that they may not be deceived, but may become possessors of that priceless treasure, gold tried in the fire, that finest gold which alone can make truly rich.

IV. The holding fast of the good exists only where there is an abhorring of that which is evil. Hence follows the closing exhortation: "Abstain from every form of evil." While the first reference is to evil elements, which might appear in the prophesyings, it purposely expands so as to embrace every kind of evil into contact with which the follower of Christ may be brought. In regard to all moral evil, he is enjoined to keep himself unspotted from the world.

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 226.

Reference: 1 Thessalonians 5:20 . Good Words, vol. iii., p. 698.

Verse 21

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Something Worth Holding.

Our religion is

I. Faith as opposed to infidelity.

II. Holiness as opposed to sin. By holiness I mean all possible human virtues and graces, purity of heart, truthfulness, temperance, uprightness, downrightness, love, generosity, magnanimity all things good, true, and beautiful. To be holy is to be equal to the angels. To be holy is to be in the image of God. Note two things here. (1) The religion of Christ demands holiness. In this demand for holiness I see the wonderful possibilities of the soul of man. (2) Our religion not only demands holiness, but it gives us a sure promise of attaining to it. It is said that the Church of Christ shall be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

III. Our religion is love, practical goodness, self-denial, as opposed to selfishness. Selfishness is hateful everywhere. Self-denial the incarnation of it in our Divine Master, this is our religion, and a man without any self-denial cannot be a Christian. It is faith; it is holiness; it is self-denial.

IV. Our religion is hope and joy as opposed to despair. In the past, ignorance; in the future, knowledge. In the past, sin; in the future, holiness. In the past, sorrow; in the future, joy. In the past, weakness and pain; in the future, eternal youth and health. In the past, the delirium of a fevered life; in the future, the saint's everlasting rest. In the past, the earth; in the future, heaven. This is our religion; is it not worth holding?

T. Jones, Penny Pulpit, new series, Nos. 804, 805.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 360; S. Martin, Westminster Sermons, vol. xvii.; T. Jones, Ibid., vol. vii., p. 321; F. Wagstaff, Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 353; R. S. Candlish, Scripture Characters, p. 377; Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 313; vol. v., p. 19; vol. xx., p. 209; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 337.

Verse 22

1 Thessalonians 5:22

Evil Superficially Attractive.

I. This is so important a precept (1) because men's faculties are so frail. We cannot penetrate below the surface; therefore let that which is superficial express that which is below, and be an outward sign of an inward reality. If you are seeking good, do not let appearances be against you, but let the good which is your object shine out and show. But its importance arises (2) from the influence which men have over each other. If we conceal our good, we are supposed, even by any who give us credit for it, to be ashamed of it. Our witness in its favour is curtailed and weakened if not destroyed; and (3) the corruption of our moral nature is such, and such our latent affinity for evil by reason of it that appearances, if allowed to be in favour of evil, are specially seductive to some, and generally dangerous to all.

II. The love of applause is a powerful motive in this aspect. Men love the praise of men more than the praise of God, and when the former becomes their idol, they gradually stifle their regrets, and purchase outward, perishable favour at the cost of inward peace. There can be few motives less worthy of a reasonable being exercising a choice of prudence than the mere passing breeze of approbation from the thoughtless. Yet how powerful a sway does this motive exercise to the larger number, leading them to tolerate in themselves, and therefore in society around them, or even to affect, the appearance of evil.

III. Lastly, the appearance of evil mostly draws on the reality. The love of applause forfeits real independence; even as the love of false independence forfeits obedience, forfeits holiness, and estranges us from Christ, its Model and its Author. We are members of Him, but barren boughs, whose end is to be burned, unless we walk in the spirit put within us.

H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 134.

Verse 23

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Spirit, Soul, and Body.

When this threefold division of our nature is mentioned, the term Body expresses those appetites which we have in common with the brutes; the term Soul denotes our moral and intellectual faculties, directed only towards objects of this world, and not exalted by the hope of immortality; and the term Spirit takes these same faculties when directed towards God and heavenly things, and from the purity, the greatness, and the perfect goodness of Him who is their object transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Let us see, then, what is that blamelessness, or that degree of perfection, in which we should desire all these parts of our nature to be found when we stand before Christ's judgment seat.

I. First, the body. Bodily pleasures are the first which we ever enjoy, and our earliest lessons in virtue are learnt in struggling not to give way to them. What is wanted is not to lower or weaken the body, but to raise and strengthen the soul and spirit, that the body may be ready and able to do their work, which it cannot do unless it be itself sound and vigorous.

II. The soul is that part which is most commonly strengthened by the growth and cultivation of the powers of the understanding, and by the various objects which attract the mind as we come forth into actual life. And the general tendency of civilised society is to call forth our minds into action rather than our bodies; so that as we advance in life the soul naturally takes the lead. This is the life, assuredly, of a reasonable creature; of one, looking only to this visible world, noble and admirable. And here, without the Gospel, our progress must stop.

III. But the Gospel which has brought life and immortality to light, has also pointed out to us that part of our nature by which we can be fitted for it that is, our spirit, our spiritual hopes, and our feelings of love and charity. The true object of man's life is to perfect our spirits, our desires after perfect happiness, our love to God and to men as the children of God; to perfect in us that part of our being, which alone is remote from selfishness.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 227.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:23 . Bishop Barry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 88; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 94; G. Bonney, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 169; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 43; E. L. Hull, Sermons, 1st series, p. 225.

Verses 23-28

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

I. There is much of instruction and comfort in this Apostolic prayer. The blessing prayed for is that the Thessalonian converts may be sanctified wholly, that their spirit and soul and body may be preserved. The Apostle adopts the trichotomy which in some form or other may be said to belong to almost all systems of philosophy "body, soul, spirit" It is the combination of these three which makes up our nature; it is the due relations between these three which constitute our sole possible happiness; it is the right training of these three that is the object of that lifelong education which should begin in our earliest years, and end only with the grave. In the case of Christ's people, the Apostle's prayer is that body, soul, and spirit be preserved entire, without blame, being sanctified wholly each in its complete measure and perfect proportions. Delivered from the dominion of sin and Satan, they are in God's keeping unto holiness. The whole man is to become wholly man and God.

II. St. Paul next turns aside, very characteristically, to ask the pleadings of his Thessalonian friends with the God of peace on behalf of himself and his fellow-labourers. He who was giving thanks always for them all, making mention of them in his prayers, in the yearning love of his heart now asks them to make mention of himself in their prayers. Such is Christian fellowship. The Apostolic teacher turns from instruction and exhortation and warning to supplication for help not man's help, indeed, but God's yet God's help brought near to him through the intercessory prayer of God's own people.

III. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." In all the variations with which it appears in the Pauline epistles, this benediction never has the word "grace" a-wanting. Thus, his first epistle begins and closes with that word, which, above all others, reveals the summed sweetness of the whole Gospel. Those who have the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with them on earth, cannot fail to have glory with Him hereafter in heaven.

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 238.

Verse 24

1 Thessalonians 5:24

I. The faith of man and the faithfulness of God. The highest object of man's existence is undoubtedly to hold communion with his God. For this his nature was originally framed, and in this alone will his nature ever find contentment or repose. The remedy for his present condition must be a restoration of the communion of man with God. And this is the most general character of the Christian religion the simplest definition of its nature and object. Man is separated from God as a criminal: the communion is restored, by free pardon on God's part, of the acceptance of that pardon upon man's. And thus it is that Christianity restores the race of man, by restoring the communion with God.

II. The instance of God's inflexible fidelity, which the Apostle notes in the text, is gloriously characteristic of the spiritual system to which we belong. The kingdom of God was to Paul an inward and spiritual kingdom, even at the time that he looked forward to the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power, when He shall come to be "glorified in His saints." It was not relief from temporal ends that the Apostle promised, no security from adversity, that was to manifest the omnipotence of God exerted on behalf of His people. No: the mercy of God might send them to the stake or the lions; it was still His mercy, if it "but kept them unspotted from the world." The faithfulness of God is represented by the Apostle as extending to the whole man, to body, soul, and spirit, which are all said to be preserved blameless. The entire of our feeble humanity is sheltered under this canopy of Divine protection.

III. It is also said of this faithfulness, that it is the faithfulness of Him that calleth you. This is not the least wondrous circumstance in the unalterable faithfulness of God, that it is a fidelity to His own gracious engagement. He calls, and He is faithful to His own merciful calling; He summons the heart to Himself, and He adheres to His own voluntary summons; He, without destroying human freedom or human responsibility, of His free grace, commences, continues, and ends, the whole Christian work. Yea, so faithful is this His profound compassion, that He represents Himself as bound to the impulses of His own unconstrained mercy. There is no bond but His own love, yet that bond is stronger than iron; and He, whom the universe cannot compel, commands Himself.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 1st series, p. 207.

References: 1 Thessalonians 5:24 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 346; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 49. 1 Thessalonians 5:25 . J. Aldis, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 289; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 189.

Verse 27

1 Thessalonians 5:27

The Witness to Christ of the Oldest Christian Writing.

If the books of the New Testament were arranged according to the dates of their composition, this epistle would stand first. It was written somewhere about twenty years after the Crucifixion, and long before any of the existing Gospels. It is, therefore, of peculiar interest, as being the most venerable extant Christian document, and as being a witness to Christian truth quite independent of the Gospel narratives.

I. Let us hear its witness to the Divine Christ. There is nothing in any part of Scripture more emphatic and more lofty in its unfaltering proclamation of the truth of Christ's Divinity than this altogether undoctrinal epistle. It takes it for granted that so deeply was that truth embedded in the consciousness of the converts that an allusion to it was all that was needed for their understanding and faith.

II. Let us ask what this witness has to say about the dying Christ. (1) As to the fact. The Jews killed the Lord Jesus. The historical fact, is here set forth distinctly. And then, beyond the fact, there is as distinctly, though in the same incidental fashion, set forth the meaning of the fact. "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us."

III. Notice what the witness has to say about the risen and ascended Christ. The risen Christ is in the heavens. And Paul assumes that these people, just brought out of heathenism, have received that truth into their hearts, in the love of it, and know it so thoroughly that we can take for granted their entire acquiescence in and acceptance of it. Remember, we have nothing to do with the four gospels here; remember, not a line of them had yet been written we are dealing here with an entirely independent witness and then tell us what importance is to be attached to this evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Twenty years after His death, here is this man speaking about that Resurrection as being not only something that he had to proclaim, and believed, but as being the recognised and notorious fact which all the Churches accepted, and which underlay all their faith.

IV. Let us hear what this witness has to say about the returning Christ. These are the points of his testimony: (1) a personal coming, (2) a re-union of all believers in Him, in order to eternal felicity and mutual gladness, (3) the destruction that shall fall by His coming on those that turn away from Him. I remember once walking in the long galleries of the Vatican, on the one side of which there are Christian inscriptions from the catacombs, and on the other heathen inscriptions from the tombs. One side is all dreary and hopeless, one long sigh echoing along the line of white marbles, "Vale, vale, in aeternum vale!" on the other side, "In Christo, in Pace, in Spe." That is the witness that we have to lay to our hearts. And so death becomes a passage, and we let go the dear hands, believing that we shall clasp them again.

A. Maclaren, The God of the Amen, p. 41.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "Sermon Bible Commentary".