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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 5

Verse 1

1Th 5:1. Times and seasons refer to the events described in the closing verses of the preceding chapter, namely, the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. No need that I write. Paul could not write the date of these events for no one but God knows that (Mat 24:36). Neither was there any need to write as a warning, if they are living as they should, for in that case they would be prepared to meet Him when the day arrived. (See verse 4.)

Verse 2

1Th 5:2. Jesus had taught the world that His second coming would not be announced beforehand (Mat 24:42-44). There could be no advantage for the faithful disciples to know the exact date when Jesus is to come. In truth, it might be an incentive to carelessness if they knew the date, for they would act on the impression that "there is plenty of time yet." As a theif in the night applies to the arrival of the day of the Lord, and not a comparison of the Lord himself. A thief does not give any information of his plans, neither will there be any previous announcement of the coming of the last day.

Verse 3

1Th 5:3. Shall say, peace and safety is a figurative expression, representing the state of indifference that the people of the world will be indulging regarding the day of judgment. They will have scorned the warnings of the Lord, spoken to them through the teaching of the Word, and settled themselves in the false peace and safety of their life of sin. The pangs of a woman with child are sharp and sudden, throwing her into a state of fear or dread that can be fully uderstood only by one who personally has such an experience. (See Psa 48:6; Jeremiah 6 Jeremiah 24 Jer 49:24.) Paul uses it to illustrate the terrible state of mind into wich the hordes of sinners will be thrown when they suddenly realize that they are faced with the doom of the judgment day. Shall not escape. When that awful day comes, it will be impossible to find a hiding place from the Ix rath of God, for the earth and all things therein will be melting with fervent heat, leaving them in the grasp of Him whose righteous law they have despised. (See 2Pe 3:10.)

Verse 4

1Th 5:4. Not in darkness. The brethren had been warned of the surety of the coming of Christ, although the time was not known. They had manifested confidence in the apostolic teaching by accepting it and living according to its precepts; in this sense they were not in the dark to be surprised as by a thief.

Verse 5

1Th 5:5. Light and day are figurative names for the truth, and are opposite night and darkness.

Verse 6

1Th 5:6. The hours of night are the natural ones for sleeping in the temporal realm. By the same token, the disciples were expected not to be asleep (indifferent) concerning these spiritual matters, since they were living in the light and day of the truth. They should watch (be on the alert) and be sober, which means to be thoughtful and take life seriously.

Verse 7

1Th 5:7. Those who sleep (are indifferent) are in the night of spiritual darkness, which means they are lacking in understanding of the things that concern their soul. But that shortage of knowledge is not the Lord's fault, for He has offered full opportunity for the necessary information. Druken in the night. With the increase of indulgence in intoxicating drink, this phrase would not have the same application as in former times. When there was such an 'abhorrence for the practice that most people literally chose the cover of darkness for the shameful vice. (See Act 2:15.) The principle is true, also, in the spiritual realm, for those who hate the truth, prefer to shun the investigation of their teaching.

Verse 8

1Th 5:8. Who are of the day is the opposite to the ones who sleep in the preceding verse, meaning that they have taken advantage of the light of truth that has been offered by the Lord. Paul exhorts all such to make good their advantage and their profession, by being sober which means to be seriously minded concerning the great affairs of the soul. The parts of a soldier's equipment are mentioned with greater detail in Ephe-sians 6:11-17, taken from those used by the Roman soldier. The breastplate was a piece made of metal, covering the body from the neck to the hips, thus protecting the heart and other vital parts of the body. No greater protection can be provided a Christian than his faith in the Lord and his love for his brother. The former will prevent him from going into error, since faith comes by the word of God (Rom 10:17), and the latter will keep him from making the fatal mistake of harming his brother. The helmet was a cap for the protection of the head. A Christian can face any foe and even rejoice in the presence of death, if he has the hope of salvation in his heart.

Verse 9

1Th 5:9. Not appointed us to wrath. If people come under the wrath of God, it is not because He prepared them for that purpose. Instead, the plan of the Lord is that men might be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. The cause why the wrath of God comes on men and women Is shown in Eph 5:6 and Col 3:5-6.

Verse 10

1Th 5:10. Christ showed his interest in the salvation of man in that He was willing to die for him. Wake or sleep means alive or dead when Jesus comes. (See 1Co 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:1547.) Live together with him will take place after the second coming of Christ and the resurrection. referred to in the last-named passage.

Verse 11

1Th 5:11. Comfort yourselves is the same exhortation that is stated in 1Th 4:18. To edify one another means to build each other up in the faith by mutual support in spiritual instruction. These brethren had been doing this, hence the instruction of Paul is not a complaint against them, but rather an encouraging word for them to ccntinue in the good work.

Verse 12

1Th 5:12. Know is from EIDO, and Thayer defines it in this passage to mean, "to have re'ard for one, cherish, pay attention to," Labor among you is indefinite and could refer to any friends of truth if nothing specific had been added by the apostle. But he shows of whom he is speaking by the words over you in the Lord. Act 20:17 Act 20:28 and 1Pe 5:1-2 plainly teaches that the elders are the ones who have rule over the congregations. Admonish you Is one of the ditties of the elders, and they do it for the sake of the souls of the flock (Heb 13:17).

Verse 13

1Th 5:13. To esteem them has about the same meaning as to "have regard for" as defined in the preceding verse. Be at peace among yourselves. If the members of a congregation would always endeavor to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3), it would simplify and lighten the task of the elders in their rulership.

Verse 14

1Th 5:14. To warn always implies a possible danger or unpleasant experience; and since it is the unruly (disorderly) who are warned, it denotes that the unpleasant experience would be brought on them by their own conduct. The unpleasant experience might consist either of disciplinary action by the church (2Th 3:6), or the sentence of punishment at the last day (Mat 25:4 G), or both. Feebleminded does not mean folks who are irresponsible mentally, for such would not be in the church. The word means "faint-hearted" according to Thayer; disciples who are inclined to be easily discouraged in the presence of trial. Support the weak. Some members have less ability than others. and Paul would have the stronger ones to support them. (See Rom 15:1.) In all the various conditions of human society, it is a gracious attitude to be patient or long-suffering.

Verse 15

1Th 5:15. See that none render is the same as saying "let none render" evil for evil. The so-called golden rule (Mat 7:12), and Paul's teaching in Rom 12:21 also will agree with the present verse. Follow that which is good is opposite rendering evil for evil. This kind of conduct was to be practiced among the disciples, and also was to be done toward all others. A Christian does not have the right to return evil for evil at all, whether to his brethren or to men of the world.

Verse 16

1Th 5:16. Rejoice evermore. We need to look elsewhere to learn what it is that Christians may and may not rejoice in. (See Rom 5:2; 1Co 13:6.)

Verse 17

1Th 5:17. Pray without ceasing. This would not mean that Christians are to spend every minute of their waking hours in prayer, for that would not leave them any time for other duties. It means for them never to cease being praying disciples, in the same sense we would say a man should not cease to partake of food or he would die.

Verse 18

1Th 5:18. This verse gives one specific form of prayer, namely, giving of thanks for every thing. Of course it means things that are good, and we should give thanks to God for them, since all such gifts come from Him (Jas 1:17). Paul is still more specific in 1Ti 4:5, where he shows we should give thanks to God for our food. Since this is the will of God, it follows that if disciples fail to give thanks for their necessities of life, they are failing to do the will of the Father.

Verse 19

1Th 5:19. Quench is from SBENNLI, which Thayer defines, "to suppress, stifle." The Spirit guided the writers of the New Testament (Joh 16:13), hence to quench or try to hinder the word of God would be to quench the Spirit.

Verse 20

1Th 5:20. To despise means to be little or treat with indifference. Prophesyings refers to the speeches of the inspired prophets in the church in those days. Sometimes such were predictions of events still in the future, and at other times they consisted of exhortation and edification (1Co 14:3). Verses 21-24 of the same chapter would indicate the importance Paul attached to proph-esyings, and hence. why he exhorted the Thessalonians not to treat them with indifference.

Verse 21

1Th 5:21. Prove is from DOKIMAZO, which Thayer defines at this place as follows: "To test, examine, prove, scrutinize," and he explains, "to see whether a thing be genuine or not." The passage applies to the various doctrines that were being offered by the teachers in religion. Disciples were warned not to take the mere word of any stranger, but to test his teaching by comparing it with the truths that had been delivered to them by inspired men. The same kind of warning is given in 1Jn 4:1-2. After the disciples have applied the scripture test, they are to accept and hold fast to everything that passes inspection.

Verse 22

1Th 5:22. Abstain is from APECHO, which Thayer defines in this passage, "to hold one's self off, abstain." Hence it means that we should wholly refrain from the thing being considered. Appearance is from EIDOS, and in the present passage is defined by Thayer with the simple words, "form, kind," and he explains it to mean, "every kind of evil or wrong." Robinson defines it, "form, manner, kind." It therefore does not mean "resemblance of evil" as a popular theory claims. It is true the scriptures elsewhere teach that Christians should not indulge in anything that is doubtful or that might possibly be wrong, but that is not the meaning of our present verse. Nor does this explanation lessen the responsibilities of Christians in avoiding evil, as some fear, but rather does it make it more strict and far-reaching. Some professed disciples would cheerfully give up a number of evil practices, but insist on retaining some others on the ground that they are not in the same class, or that they are not as bad a "kind" of evil as the others. Our passage allows no distinction to be made between the so-called worse and lesser of evils. They are all--"every kind"--forbidden to Christians.

Verse 23

1Th 5:23. Every good thing is of God, but he is here said to be of peace because that is an outstanding result of being wholly sanctified. The word means to be devoted to the service of God, and such a condition is accomplished by the word of God (Joh 17:17). As a general statement, the rest of this verse is a prayer of Paul that the entire being of the brethren be kept blameless, which means in obedience to the truth of God that has sanctified them, and that such a condition would exist until Christ comes again. Spirit and soul and body. This is the only place in the Bible where the three parts of the human being are named in one sentence. There is not much difference between the first two, for they are used interchangeably at various places in the sacred writings. However, since Paul uses them together in the present passage, there must be some difference, although they both refer to the inner or immaterial part of man, in contrast with the material or bodily part. Gen 2:7 states the origin of the body and soul of man. But God did not stop with the creation of those two parts. Zec 12:1 states that God formed the spirit of man within him, thus completing the three parts of the human being. From the forgoing considerations, I will give to the readers the three parts of man as follows: The body is that part that is composed of the ground, made in the form of an animal (not a vegetable or mineral); the soul is the part that makes him a living animal; the spirit is the part that makes him a human, living animal. It should be added that God intended this being to have an endless existence, beginning with his stay on the earth, during which he was to be given opportunity to serve his Creator intelligently and spiritually. Because of this exalted purpose, God gave to this being a superior personality over all other living creatures, both as to his material and to his immaterial formation.

Verse 24

1Th 5:24. We usually think of the term faithful as applying to one who is true and obedient to another unto whom he is obligated. Yet it would not be appropriate to regard the Lord in that light; hence it means that He will make good all of the promises he has made to man. Such promises were made when He called man by the Gospel and promised him spiritual benefits in this life, and endless joys in the life to come. Who also will do it. God not only has always been faithful, but always will be.

Verse 25

1Th 5:25. It is interesting that the apostle Paul felt the need for the prayers of the brethren, although he was an inspired man. That was because inspiration was not any special protection against misconduct in one's personal life; it guaranteed only that he would not make any mistake in his teaching. An inspired man could go wrong in his life, even though he had done his duty in his teaching (1Co 9:27).

Verse 26

1Th 5:26. Paul was not starting any custom by this command. The salutation of a kiss was a common one in that age, and still is in some countries. The emphasis should be placed on the word holy, and the thought is for the brethren to be sincere when they greet each other.

Verse 27

1Th 5:27. There were no duplicating devices known in old times, whereby multiple copies of an epistle could be made and sent to all individuals of a congregation. The inspired documents were sent in care of some responsible person, who was expected to see that the other members would learn of their contents; hence the command to read this epistle to them. Holy brethren simply means righteous men and women of the congregation, since holiness and righteousness are names for the same quality.

Verse 28

1Th 5:28. Grace is the unmerited favor of Christ, which Paul wishes for the Thessalonians. It was a benediction with which he closed most of his epistles.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/1-thessalonians-5.html. 1952.