1 Thessalonians 5 Bible Study
1 Thessalonians 5:11-5:28
Healthy Attitudes for a Spiritual Community
If you had only one minute to tell someone how to help their church be healthy and spiritually vibrant, what would you say? What issues would you address?
What would you tell them to do—with only one minute to say it?
That’s approximately how long it takes to read Paul’s words in the second half of I Thessalonians 5.
He rapidly moves from one exhortation to the next as if someone were standing there with a stop watch saying you’ve only got one minute, Paul.
So he packs in one statement after another telling them how to cultivate a spiritually vibrant church.
We are seeking to be Real People, experiencing the Real Power of God, and fulfilling Real Purpose in our lives.
- \\ The Bar/Saloon is the secular church---a place to gather to share your pain (a place to numb it--run from the pain--emptiness*
--in our culture, this is where the sick folk go
Church needs to be a place where people can find God, hear God, grow in God, develop rich relationships with other people, and be encouraged not with superficial platitudes and religion but with love and reality.
How many already know that those kinds of churches don’t just happen by accident.
There are certain principles and attitudes that we must live by to foster long term health and spiritual vitality. Paul lays many of those out before us in our text this morning.
1st He talks about our Attitudes toward ONE ANOTHER in verse 11-15
1 Thessalonians 1:11“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are also doing.”
Those words come after a lengthy teaching on the Coming of the Lord. Your hope and my hope is not limited to this temporal life alone. Everything in your life and my life is moving toward something—toward a great eschatological event called in the Bible, the Day of the Lord. Jesus went to prepare a place for His bride (the Church), the Holy Spirit is at work preparing us for a great wedding day—One day the clouds will break open an the glorious Son of God will descend out of heaven.
Let me quote it from 1Thessalonians 4:16
In the light of eternity a lot of things that seem real, real big lose their significance.
Are you living with an eye toward heaven?
Are you living with an anticipation of His return?
Just the mention of these things brings courage to our hearts. Guess what folks, when it’s all said and done, we win!
For if God is for us who can be against us?
 We have good reason to be encouraged and a good reason to encourage one another.
You will find Paul saying “one another” quite a bit in his writings—because he understands that this thing called Christianity is not designed for us to live alone but in community with others.
It is God’s way to set the solitary in families.
Do these two things for one another.
Comfort one another. Edify or build up one another.
Now we will see more specifically, how we can do that as a spiritual community.
Verses 12 & 13 “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
1Th 5:13 Elders serve as representatives of the Lord. Their work is the work of God. For that reason, they should be held in high regard and love. The exhortation "be at peace among yourselves" is no incidental insertion. The number one problem among Christians everywhere is the problem of getting along with each other.
Every believer has enough of the flesh in him to divide and wreck any local church. Only as empowered by the Spirit can we develop the love, brokenness, forbearance, kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness that are indispensable for peace.
- \\ Paul says to this church—you need to recognize those I have put in authority over you. If nobody is in authority over you—guess what you get to do—you get to fight your spiritual battles with no cover—and that is not a good situation for anybody. Know who is in authority over you. Then esteem them very highly. *
Esteem them “in love” for their work’s sake—in appreciation for the work they do.
Now Paul gives instruction for how to handle three particular groups in the church (vs 14)
(1) The Unruly or undisciplined—some translations say “lazy” or “idle” because of other information we have in these letters. We know from the next letter which Paul wrote shortly after this one, that there were people in the church who had quite their jobs and apparently just living off the generosity of the other believers. And Paul specifically tells those people to “get a job” and “go to work” (2Thess. 3:11-15).
What are we to do about people in the church who misbehave?
The nice thing to do is just ignore it and hope it will take care of itself. Occasionally that works. But there are a lot of churches that are not healthy places to be because there is no courage in the leadership and nothing gets confronted.
Paul says you warn or admonish or correct that person. The correction is to be done in love and humility and always with a motive of redemption. The goal is not punishment but correction and healing and the well-being of everyone involved.
(2) The discouraged or fainthearted are to be dealt with in an altogether different way.
He’s not talking about coming to a service once a week and exchanging nice greetings and then being done for the week.
---He’s talking about taking genuine interest in those around us.
(3) The weak can include people that are physically weak, financially weak, or spiritually weak.
---They are not particularly discouraged. They are not rebellious. They just need help. And Paul is saying help them—do something practical that makes life better for them.
NKJV says “uphold the weak”. Administer some kind of support.
Maybe that person is sick and needs someone to watch the kids.
Maybe another person just does not know how to manage finances and is willing to receive help in that area.
****When we see a weakness in another believer is that a call to gossip or a call to help?
We’re talking about how a body of believers are to relate to one another and in verse 15 Paul talks about what to do about offenses and injustices.
Notice that in that first century Spirit-filled church they had injustices happening. They had hurt feelings. They had one believer doing something to another believer that just was not right.
Now Paul’s instruction is two fold. First don’t try to get back at the person in any way whatsoever. “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone”. That is certainly not what our flesh wants to do, is it? It takes a lot of the grace of God to just hold our tongues and not malign the person, doesn’t it?
I may think I’m getting pretty mature in the Lord and pretty spiritual—but when somebody really does me wrong, then I get to find out exactly where I am. How many have learned that it’s a lot easier to talk spiritual talk and read Christian books, and listen to the latest gospel hit than it is to meekly take wrong the way Paul is describing here? That’s where the rubber really meets the road.
Now that would be challenging enough in my opinion—but that is not all that Paul has to say about the matter. Yes, we are not to retaliate. That is the negative side.
But then beyond that we are to what? “Pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” That includes the stinker that did you wrong. This is the key to healthy relationships—pursue what is good—pursue that other person’s well-being in every, every case.[
8] Here’s how Jesus put it in Matt 5:43-48
In other words, passively taking wrong is not enough—sometimes we must actively do something toward that person’s best interest.
**When your flesh is screaming out for vengeance that’s a good way to deal with it—do the opposite of what the devil and your flesh is telling you to do. The best defense is a good offense. Rom 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
2. In verse 16-17 Paul talks about our Attitude toward Circumstances.
a. “Rejoice always.” How can I honestly do that? I have had plenty of times in my life when I did not feel like rejoicing—I didn’t want anybody to tell me to rejoice—come on, anybody else ever been there? I don’t think Paul is telling us to close our eyes to the realities that are going on around us. What he’s telling us to do is to open our eyes to the greater realities—like God—like His eternal plan for you and me—like His assurance of love and interest in our well-being. There is only one way I can honestly rejoice when everything is going wrong around me—that is when I lift my eyes above the temporal and immediate and consider the eternal. My favorite verse in all the Bible, Jer 29:11
When we begin to ponder His attitude and heart toward us something begins to rise up inside. I don’t have to make myself rejoice—I do rejoice not because of the immediate circumstances but because of the eternal plan God has for me.
b. “Pray without ceasing.” Live in continual dependence upon God.
Pray while you work.
Pray while you play.
Prayer is the life-line of the church and when the church stops praying—problems begin to take over.
Prayer restrains evil.
Prayer invites the workings of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer continually acknowledges our partnership with God and dependence upon him.
There are some people who have been very instrumental in keeping prayer before us this last year—and I am very grateful for their efforts. Church we’ve gotta’ pray. We can’t do this thing without God and we don’t want to do it without Him.
"What does it mean to pray without ceasing?"
Answer: Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us at all times. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions.
The famous nineteenth-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, describes the Christian's prayer life, saying it is "Like the old knights, always in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances raised to unhorse an adversary, but always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them . . . Those grim warriors often slept in their armor; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God.”
As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, to every anxious thought, to every undesired task that God commands John MacArthur warns that a lack of prayer will cause us to stop depending on God's grace and depend on ourselves instead. "Unceasing prayer" is, in essence, dependence upon and communion with the Father.
For Christians prayer is like breathing. You don't have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That's why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when you're born into the family of God, you enter into a spiritual atmosphere wherein God's presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on your life. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer. Only then can we survive in the darkness of the world.
Unfortunately many believers hold their spiritual breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive.
But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths to be fully functional.
c. Verse 18 “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” NIV says, “give thanks in all circumstances”. There is a fine distinction here that I think is worth pointing out. Paul is not saying “give thanks for all circumstances” he is saying “in” all circumstances. There are all kinds of terrible things happening in this world that we are not thankful for—in fact, we pray that they would stop happening, and we would stop them if we could. I’m not thankful that millions of innocent babies are aborted every year.
I’m not thankful that innocent little children get molested. We are not expected to be thankful for all things.
But in the midst of any circumstance we can be thankful for what God is working—because He is always working—and He is working in our behalf. Nothing should steal our gratitude toward God because nothing can separate us from Him.
3rd Our attitude toward the Holy Spirit (vs 19-21)
Verse 19 “Do not quench the Spirit.” Now why would Paul tell a church not to quench the Spirit? Because it is very possible for a church to quench the Spirit.
When we disobey His promptings we quench the Spirit. When we pursue our own agenda without yielding to His agenda we quench the Spirit.
John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”(Luke 3:16)
We need the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need the fan the fire of the Spirit not quench it.
To quench the Spirit means to stifle His work in our midst, to limit and hinder Him. Sin quenches the Spirit. Traditions quench Him. Man-made rules and regulations in public worship quench Him. Disunity quenches Him. Someone has said, “Cold looks, contemptuous words, silence, studied disregard, go a long way to quench Him. So does unsympathetic criticism.” Ryrie says that the Spirit is quenched whenever His ministry is stifled in an individual or in the church.
Verse 20 “Do not despise prophecies.” Do not take the supernatural gifts of the Spirit lightly. Do not discount what God may say just because He uses an imperfect human being to communicate His word to you. Paul is laying out a balance on how we can properly respond to the operations of the Holy Spirit.
In the next verse he says (verse 21) test all things. That includes prophecies. There is a divine aspect of prophetic utterances. There is a human aspect. Because human beings are involved in the process prophecies must be tested. Because God is involved in the process prophecies must not be despised.
IV. Attitudes toward Temptation (verses 22-24).
If we would have a healthy fellowship anointed by the Holy Spirit we must live godly lives. Paul tells us to abstain from every form of evil. Back in the first half of 1Thessalonians 4 he talked about abstaining from sexual immorality which was prevalent in that culture as it is in our culture. God is holy and if we would enjoy His favor and blessing we must live in accordance with His nature. The good news is we’re not left alone to do that in our own power. We have a responsibility to choose purity and obedience to God. But God Himself is working in us toward that end.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thess 5:23-24)
IV. FINAL GREETINGS TO THE THESSALONIANS (5:23–28)
The apostle also prays for the preservation of the Thessalonians. This preservation should include the complete person—spirit, soul, and body. Notice the order. Man always says body, soul, and spirit. God always says spirit, soul, and body. In the original creation, the spirit was of first importance, the body last. Sin reversed the order; man lives for the body and neglects the spirit. When we pray for one another, we should follow the biblical order, putting spiritual welfare before physical needs.
From this verse and others, it is clear that we are tripartite beings. Our spirit is that part which enables us to have communion with God. Our soul has to do with our emotions, desires, affections, and propensities (John 12:27). Our body is the house in which our person dwells (2 Cor. 5:1).
|This is the only place in the NT where the tripartite being of a person is implied. Yet in this passage, all three constitute a person in his or her entirety. The spirit enables a person to contact the divine Spirit and is that part of a person that the Spirit quickens at the time of regeneration (John 3:6; Rom. 8:16). The Greek word psuche translated soul, means “life.” The NT writers use this word to speak of a person’s personality or inward, animating essence. Finally, the NT writers identify the body, a person’s physical being, as separate from one’s soul or spirit. As this verse indicates, God works from the inside out, sanctifying our entire being so that we can live with Him forever.|
5:24 As we learned in 4:3, our sanctification is the will of God. He has called us to eventually stand blameless before Him. Having begun this work in us, He will finish it (Phil. 1:6). He who calls us is faithful to His promise.
5:25 As Paul closes, he asks for the prayers of the saints. He never outgrew the need for prayer and neither do we. It is a sin to fail to pray for fellow believers.
5:26 Next he asks that all the brethren be greeted with a holy kiss. At that time, this was the accepted mode of greeting. In some countries it is still customary for men to kiss men, and women to kiss women. In still other cultures men kiss the women and vice versa. But more often than not this has led to abuses and has had to be abandoned.
The kiss was not instituted by the Lord as a prescribed form of greeting or taught by the apostles as obligatory. The Bible wisely allows for other modes of greeting in cultures where kissing might lead to sexual laxness. The Spirit of God seeks to guard against such irregularities by insisting that the kiss must be holy.
5:27 The apostle solemnly charges that this epistle be read to all the holy 20 brethren. Two points should be noted here:
1. Paul invests the Letter with the authority of the word of God. The OT was read publicly in the synagogues. Now this epistle will be read aloud in the churches.
2. The Bible is for all Christians, not for some inside circle or privileged class. All its truths are for all the saints.
Notice that in verses 25–27 we have three keys to a successful Christian life: (1) prayer (v. 25); (2) love for fellow believers, which speaks of fellowship (v. 26); and (3) reading and study of the word (v. 27).
5:28 Finally we have Paul’s characteristic close. He opened his First Epistle to the Thessalonians with grace, and now he closes it with the same theme. To the apostle Christianity is grace from beginning to end. Amen.
20 (5:27) The critical text omits “holy.”