1 Thessalonians 4
v. 1-12 The life that pleases God.
We now pass from the personal and historical section of the epistle to the practical part. This follows the normal pattern of Paul’s epistles, doctrine, then duty, precept, then practice.
v. 1-2 Before dealing with specific things in which the believer needed help, Paul opens this section with a word of general exhortation. He exhorts and beseeches them as brethren by the Lord Jesus. These are strong and endearing terms. Paul had taught them how they should walk before men as a believer. He also instructed them how they could walk before God to please Him. The believer’s life is never static. There is a growing and abiding day by day.
v. 2 When Paul was present with them he had also given some “commands” about practical Christian living. This is a strong word—it is used by the military. Paul disclaimed personal responsibility for the strong language he used; he spoke on the authority of the Lord Jesus.
v. 3-8 After this word of introduction, Paul deals with the first specific lack in the lives of the Thessalonians. Describe the loose morals and sexual laxity of society. Paul begins his discussion in this delicate area by putting it on the highest possible plane. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” This introduces us to the neglected but important subject of sanctification. Paul’s strong influence here is that sanctification includes holiness of body, as well as spirit. Ch 5:23. To sanctify means to set apart for God. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In this context Paul says that the believers must abstain from fornication. This means that believers must not have extra marital relations after marriage, and certainly none before marriage.
v. 4 There are two views as to the meaning of the word “vessel”. Some think that it means “body”, and Paul is saying that the believer is to gain mastery over his body in order to keep himself pure in matters of sex. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Others think the word “vessel” means wife. The word “possess” indicates courtship and contracting of marriage. They see verse 4 as the honorable entrance into marriage. Verse 5 as the proper maintenance of that estate.
v. 6 It is a grievous, horrendous, horrible, heinous sin for anyone saved or unsaved to take another man’s wife for the purpose of having sexual relations. Such a sin will not go unpunished. “The Lord is the avenger of all such.”
v. 7 This verse firstly reminds the believer that he has not been called to unclean living. He has been called to holiness (Ephesians 1:4). Absolute unity, purity.
v. 8 To despise this truth is to despise God. To treat lightly the commands of the apostle with regard to sexual purity is to treat the God of heaven lightly, by rejecting His commandments. God has made victory possible for the believer by giving the Holy Spirit.
v. 9-10 The two things that should characterize vibrant Christianity are mentioned here, purity and love. Brotherly love: This is the unique love that binds believers together. This love seeks the highest good for his brother. They had been taught of God to love one another in this fashion. This kind of love should extend to all brethren. It did so in their case. Thessalonica being the commercial center of Macedonia, the believers had ample opportunity to show their love to believers from other places. Increase more and more.
v. 11 Study or “be ambitious” to be quiet. Some of the believers were living a rather hectic life. Paul urges them to calm down and allow Christ to control their life. They are also exhorted to “attend to their own business, to work with their own hands.” Some of them believed that because the Lord was coming soon, there was no need to work. Therefore they were depending on others to keep them.
v. 12 The injunctions of verse 11 must be carried out, that they might walk becomingly before the world. The final exhortation here is that if they work and are gainfully employed their needs would be met. The revelation of the rapture of the Church Problems associated with the Parousia. Ch 4:13 – 5:11. The first problem was concerning those who had fallen asleep. While among them Paul’s teaching had primarily been focused on the return of Christ. Time did not permit a full explanation of the doctrine of the resurrection of believers. In their waiting for the coming of the Lord, some of their loved ones died. The question then arose in their mind. Had their premature deaths caused them to lose all hope of sharing in the glorious reign of Christ. Paul’s answer to this problem is a reassuring affirmation that the dead will be raised when the Lord returns.
v. 13 The statement “I would not have you be ignorant” is used in Paul’s writings when he wishes to explain some new point. The subject is “those who are asleep.” The object of the metaphor is to suggest that the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps. Sleep is temporary; sleep has a waking—death will have its resurrection. In the light of this fact, any sorrow that a believer has over the loss of a loved one is unlike the hopeless despair which the heathen have.
v. 14 This hope, this confidence, this certainty is ours through the resurrection of Christ, because He has been resurrected and is coming again to rapture the church. God will bring with Him all those who sleep in Jesus.
v. 15 The following verses are the subject of a new revelation that was given to Paul by the Lord Himself. Those who are alive when the Lord comes will not have preference nor precedence over those who have fallen asleep.
v. 16 From this verse onward, Paul now begins to fill in the details of what will happen when the Lord comes. “The Lord ‘Himself’ shall descend from heaven.” There will be a shout. It is a word of command. It has the ring of authority and a note of urgency. This shout of the Lord will resound throughout the whole earth. Those who are asleep in Jesus will hear it and awake. The voice of the archangel—loud, commanding. The commands given by his voice may gather the raised ones in readiness to hear. The trump of God—the final blast on the silver trumpets of heaven. Keeping it in the military context, the signal to march or in this instance to depart the scene.
v. 17 The next step in the proceedings is that after the dead in Christ are raised, the living are changed and together we are “caught up” in clouds. We shall be reunited with our loved ones. Then we shall see the Lord and we shall be with Him forever.
v. 18 “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Notice that the word comfort, literally means “exhort.” “He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as He is pure.”
1 Thessalonians Chapter 5
The day of the Lord was the subject of much Old Testament revelation. Many passages speak of it in various detail. Isaiah 2:12, 13:9-11; Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18; Zephaniah 1:14-16, 3:14. There are many others.
A study of the various scriptures shows that the Day of the Lord is both a time of judgment and blessing. At this time God deals with the world in judgment for its sin. It is the period of the great tribulation. It also extends into the time of blessing when the earth shall enjoy the personal reign of Christ during the Millennium. To put in succession the details of this Day, we learn that it extends from 2 Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 4-21.
The period of the great tribulation
The second coming of Christ
The battle of Armageddon
The judgment of the nations
The judgment of God upon Israel
The millennial reign of the Savior
The final defeat of Satan
The second resurrection
The judgment of the great white throne
The destruction of the present heavens and earth
The establishing of the new heaven and earth
In verse 2 Paul is only discussing the coming of the Day of the Lord.
The word “but” in verse 1 indicates a contrast. The preceding subject was the rapture which involves the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the changing of the living in Christ, then the translation to glory. This was not the subject of O.T. revelation, it was a mystery. 1 Corinthians 15:51. They knew of the Day of the Lord. They knew of the times, i.e. the durations, and the seasons, i.e. the characteristics, of the Day of the Lord. They also knew that it would come as a thief in the night. The essential elements in this figure are the unexpectedness of the coming of the thief and the unpreparedness of those to whom he comes.
v. 3 The Day of the Lord will delude men. They will be saying, “Peace and safety,” when the Day overtakes them. At the very time when the world seems secure, sudden destruction comes upon them. Destruction is not annihilation, but utter hopeless ruin. Please note the phrase, “they shall not escape.” Another version puts it, “There will be no place to hide.” Revelation 6:15-17
The Message of the Day of the Lord
v. 4-5 The coming of the Day of the Lord is the great divider between the children of light and the children of darkness. In these verses, Paul expresses his confidence that the Thessalonians were children of the Light. It behooves each of us to examine ourselves and be sure to which group he belongs. At this point notice the “them” and “they” in verses 3 and 7. And the “ye”, “we”, “us”, in verses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10.
v. 6 In this verse there are two injunctions. Watch and be sober. It is the opposite of indifference which is the idea behind the word sleep. This is the characteristic of those who are morally of the night. Paul is urging them and us to be alert and steadfast at all times in view of the Lord’s return.
v. 7 This verse reminds us that those who are of the night do the opposite. They sleep and are drunk. Unredeemed man is completely indifferent to God.
v. 8 The believer being steadfast and on the alert brings to Paul’s mind the picture of a soldier on duty. So he mentions the Christian’s armor. Romans 13:2; Ephesians 6:11-17. The idea here is for the believers to “put on the armor and leave it on.” It is a once-for-all step. The breast plate consists of “faith and love.” The helmet is the “hope of salvation.” Once again we see the triad of Christian growth, faith, hope, and love.
v. 9 The helmet of salvation in the previous verse is the hope of the full realization of our salvation in the future. The assurance of this hope as expressed in this verse is that God has not appointed us to wrath, but to salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. The wrath in question here is the wrath and anguish and tribulation associated with the Day of the Lord. The believer has been delivered from this.
v. 10-11 Our deliverance is based on the death of the Lord Jesus. The glorious fact is that whether we are awake (alive on earth) or asleep (dead as far as the body is concerned) we are still with Him. In the light of these things we should be joyful, comforted, and we should strengthen each other in our faith.
v. 12-13 This practical section of the epistle now draws to a close with some miscellaneous instructions to the church. Those in fellowship are exhorted to know them who labored among them, and were over them in the Lord, and who had admonished them. This is an exhortation needed among us today. Paul said to the Thessalonians, know your leaders, esteem them, and be of peace. Paul also mentions the duties of the leaders. They labor, they preside, they admonish. Peace, harmony, and unity are important to the church’s well-being.
v. 14 This verse may have a wider application than just to the elders. It could apply to the entire congregation. However, because of the context, they have a special reference to the elders. There are four things they have to do.
1. Warn the unruly. This may have a direct bearing on those who had given up their employment. Warn the idle. The warning was to get back into step, or into rank.
2. Comfort the feeble-minded. This should read “faint-hearted”. Those who were discouraged because their loved ones had died before the Lord returned needed comfort and encouragement.
3. They were to support the weak. That is the weak spiritually. Some symptoms of spiritual weakness: Instability, Inability to face persecution, Yielding to the attacks of Satan. All of these elements were present in Thessalonica.
4. Be patient to all men. This literally means to be long-tempered, the opposite of short-tempered. Those in authority must be long-suffering.
v. 15 The injunctions here are general. Do not render evil for evil to any man. This attitude extends to the unsaved. Follow that which is good. This is to be our attitude among ourselves and spill over to the unbelievers. Even in the face of hostility, cruelty, hatred, they and we, must not retaliate vindictively.
v. 16 Rejoice evermore. This is a startling admonition when viewed in the light of their suffering. This brings us to realize that true joy does not depend on circumstances. The ground for lasting joy is found in eternal things. In the Lord, Phil. 3:1; In the gospel, Acts 13:48, John 4:36; In seeing fellow believers grow in the truth, 3 John 4.
v. 17 Pray without ceasing. Paul has used this phrase “without ceasing” twice of his own remembrance of the Thessalonians. Ch 1:3, 2:13. Now he urges this condition on the believers. Where we may not always be praying audibly, the believer who is praying without ceasing is always in the attitude of prayer.
v. 18 In everything give thanks, etc. This trilogy of admonitions concludes with the exhortation to be thankful in every circumstance. Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Galatians 3:17
v. 19 Quench no the Spirit. The word quench is the word used for putting out a fire. The tense is present and since this is a command, it means stop quenching the Spirit. We must stop immediately what we are doing that quenches the Spirit. Wherever the gifts of the Spirit are being manifested, they must not be stuffed.
v. 20 Despise not prophesying. There are two aspects of prophesying.
1. Forth telling. At Thessalonica this may have included admonitions to the believers because of their idleness. In their immaturity they needed to be corrected.
2. Foretelling. This no doubt involved messages concerning the second coming of Christ. Whatever the thrust of the aspect of their messages, they were not to be despised; they were to be heeded.
v. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Paul does not advocate an uncritical acceptance of everything that claims to be of the Spirit. He advocates the proving or testing of all ministry. The word “good” means genuine. In all ministry, the chaff must be sifted from the wheat.
v. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. This would cover every sphere of our life, spiritual and natural. Every appearance or visible form of evil is to be avoided by the Christian.
v. 23-24 In this verse Paul exhorts his readers to complete holiness on the basis of assured help from God. The word wholly is only found here in the New Testament. It is made up of two words, “complete”, and “end”. This gives us the idea of wholeness and completion. This is entire sanctification and it is the work of God. Paul prays in the latter part of the verse, that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul here is praying that his readers will be sanctified now and will remain so until the coming of the Lord.
1. Paul makes request for prayer for himself.
2. He sent his greetings in the familiar form of the holy kiss.
3. The epistle was to be read to all the holy brethren. The word charge really means “to bind with an oath.” He wanted to make certain that everyone knew what he had written.
4. Finally, Paul concludes the letter with a prayer for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with them.