Briefly, On 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

David Burchard Exposition Leave a Comment

Alright, church. Tonight, we’re finishing our study of 1 Thessalonians in chapter 5, verses 12-28.

Before we get into the verses, let me point out two things Paul assumes that serve as the ground of this very practical part of the Bible.

1. Christianity is lived out in the context of church membership. Want to have a relationship with Jesus without belonging to a church? Good luck.

Good luck doing any of the stuff you’re told to do here

2. Law is good. Some folks are allergic to peanuts. Apparently, if they even enter the orbit of a peanut, they break out into hives. That’s why Five Guys at the Overgate doesn’t have peanuts, by the way. Well, some folks have a similar allergy to commands. “Bro, grace! I’m free in Christ!” Yes, every Christian is free in Christ…free to obey Christ.

These final verses in 1 Thessalonians are a bunch of commands that you and I need to obey.

Verses 12 and 13 are commands for members to elders and elders to members.

Verses 13 through 22 are commands for members to members.

Verses 23 through 28 are a mix of prayer and more commands.

Let’s look at them.


But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not quench the Spirit; 20do not despise prophetic utterances. 21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

25Brethren, pray for us.

26Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


Verse 12 begins,

But we request of you, brethren,

In verse 14 he says something similar, “We urge you, brethren…”

Don’t read either as a weak, “Hey guys, if you feel like it…”

No. When the Apostle Paul requests something of your church, you are to do it. Sometimes fathers use language that is clearly, “That’s an order, son.” Other times, dads word things like requests, and no honest kid is confused about what he needs to do.

Paul loves this church. Remember, they are his glory and joy. Because he loves them, he tells them to do things.

Also, notice that he calls them, brethren, or brothers. The CSB translates the Greek word as, “brothers and sisters”. By doing that, it misses God-ordained truth. ἀδελφοί means “brothers”. It’s explicitly a masculine word. It’s used to talk about a group of men. It’s also used, as is the case in this verse, to talk about a group of both men and women, the whole church.

Why use a masculine word to talk about a group that included women? Why does the Bible do this? Because Adam was created first, then Eve. So, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Man’s headship is why mankind is named after him and spoken of this way.

I don’t have time to get into every way this matters. But know that Paul considers the men in this church not simply to have the title of man, but the duty of man, to lead in this church, to own responsibility for the good of this church and her members, to protect this church from sin and false teaching. If something needs doing in this church, the men better make sure it gets done.

Paul continues in verse 12.

that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Paul makes clear a duty of church membership and a duty of church eldership.

What is the duty of the church member?

We are to appreciate our pastors. We’re to respect them and love them. Why?

Because they diligently labor among us. They work hard in the most noble of labors for our eternal good.

Because they are our leaders. They have charge over us.

Because they teach us God’s very Word, what we need for life and godliness, what we need if we are to be equipped for every good work.

What is the duty of the church elder?

The church elder is to labor diligently. There is to be no laziness or half-heartedness in the work.

The church elder is to use his authority in the Lord. His aim is not to build his own kingdom, but to rule under Christ for His kingdom.

The church elder is to teach us the Bible, every word of it, accurately, applied to every area of life.

Verse 13 is telling us of the vertical duty of church membership, elder to member, member to elder.

I think at the end of the verse Paul shifts to tell us about the horizontal duties of membership, one to another, the focus through verse 22.

I say, “I think…”, because Paul might still be talking specifically about how the member is to relate to his pastor when he says,

Live in peace with one another.

But I’m reading, “one another”, as indicating a shift to the horizontal view. The duty of every member, then, is to seek to live peaceably with the other members.

Now, living at peace doesn’t mean ignoring sin. There is no peace in unrighteousness.

It doesn’t mean ignoring false beliefs. The church is the pillar and buttress of truth.

We are to pursue peace with one another by sharing the same mind, holding true convictions from the Bible, and sharing godliness, walking together on the narrow road.

We are to pursue peace with one another, not by ignoring sin, but by our love, covering a multitude of sins and slights.

Think Bible. Be holy. Don’t be uptight. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Live in peace.

14We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly,

An unruly man or woman is one who is out of order.

It’s unruly to duck your elders when they’re trying to care for your soul.

It’s unruly to not come to church because you don’t feel like it.

It’s unruly for men to be passive, apathetic, cowardly, soft.

It’s unruly for women to be domineering, manipulative, harsh, immodest.

We’re good at unruliness, at disorder. We can get out of order this way, that way, and both ways on Tuesdays. And every time we do, we need to be admonished.

encourage the fainthearted,

When a member is fainthearted, when he’s timid, fearful, lacking courage, he needs encouragement. And there’s much encouragement in the Word for those who need it.

Not every saint is naturally disposed to courage. But it’s amazing what God can do with a timid sheep who is encouraged by his fellow saints.

Are you afraid to speak of sin and salvation in Christ at work because of the consequences that may come? Here, in the Bible, is courage for you.

Are you afraid of the conflict that will come for your obedience to Jesus? Here, in the Bible, is courage for you.

Are you afraid of commitment? Here, in the Bible, is courage for you.

Are you afraid of death? Here, in the Bible, is courage for you.

help the weak,

Where a member has a weakness and you have a strength, be quick to help.

Some will have been born with weakness of intellect, others with weakness of body.

Because our world is full of entropy, all of us will eventually come into weakness. Do not despise the widow, the single mother, the dim-witted, the frail, the injured, the sick, the elderly.

The Lord gives strength. He gives weakness. He helps us in both. Let us help the weak.

be patient with everyone. 

Especially with me.

15See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 

Christians are to be folks who are about doing good. What does good is not the same thing as what sounds good or feels good. We are to know the difference and act.

What does good is that which conforms to God’s Word and God’s order for God’s world.

Giving the guys who come to the drop-in a cup of soup or a biscuit feels good. The other night it felt great to pack a few plates of lasagna into a guy. He looked hungry. It feels good.

It doesn’t do good.

God says it does good to let drop-in guys get so hungry that they get off their rear ends, stop doing art classes at the hub, and get a useful job.

Not only are we to always do good, both to one another, and to our neighbors, but we are never to do evil, not even in response to evil. Getting payback for a wrong doesn’t justify us sinning against God.

Let’s say you just know it was your neighbor who slashed your tires, but you can’t prove it to nail him through due process. You don’t have two witnesses. It’s just your word against his.

Well, you can’t settle for putting sugar in his petrol tank.

Nail the Slasher justly, if you can. Do good always to everyone.

16Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks;

Rejoice always. Always be glad in God.

How?

Pray without ceasing. Be constant in prayer, be constant in talking to your Heavenly Father, and your frail heart will ever be glad in Him. Constant prayer is the way to constant joy. And in those prayers, in everything, give thanks to God.

God is your Father. Everything is a gift from Him to you for His glory and your good. So give thanks. Be glad and grateful in God.

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

19Do not quench the Spirit; 20do not despise prophetic utterances. 21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

The Spirit is at work in every believer. The Holy Spirit conforms the Christian from one degree of glory to the next, more and more into the likeness of his big brother, Jesus.

He uses means to bring about this grace in your life, the means of grace. The regular gathering of the church. The regular reading and preaching of the Word. Baptism, prayer, the Lord’s Supper.

It’s the regular disciplines of the Christian life that fire the Christian’s faith to purity.

But it’s possible to quench the Spirit’s work. It’s possible to quench the usefulness of the means of grace in your life, like water on a fire.

If you’re holding on to sin, if you are treating sin like a precious jewel in your life, like something to hold close, secret, and safe, then you are quenching the Spirit.

Matthew Henry said this, “As fire is quenched by pouring water, or putting a great quantity of dirt upon it, so we must be careful not to quench the Holy Spirit by indulging carnal lusts and affections, or minding only earthly things.”

We must be constant in killing sin. We must keep our attention on the Lord. Lest we quench His Spirit.

In verse 20, Paul highlights one way that this quenching can be done, “despising prophecy”.

There is no new prophetic utterance today, but the prophetic ministry of the Spirit continues in the preaching of God’s Word. Do not despise the Word that is preached to you. False beliefs and false practices, put them away. To do anything else is to despise prophecy. What is true, even if it offends you, even if it is hard, believe it, hold fast to it in faith.

Don’t be cold to it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t despise it.

It is appropriate that Paul would end this passage, and this letter, with a call to hold fast in faith to everything in God’s Word. To do so is the marrow of Christianity. Faith.

In closing, Paul moves to pray for these Christians he so loves.

23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

This is my prayer for the members of this church. If you’ll be entirely sanctified, if sin’s very presence in your life will be done away with, killed completely, smashed to dust, if you’ll make it to the very end, body and soul preserved without blame for the coming of Jesus Christ our King, it must be done by God Himself.

Your sanctification is impossible for you to accomplish. Your preservation would be a pipe dream if it was up to you.

But He who calls you is faithful. He will bring it to pass.

      25Brethren, pray for us.

Make sure you are praying for your Christian leaders. They need it.

      26Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 

Thus sayeth the Lord. No joke. Do it. Brothers, kiss your brothers. Sisters, kiss your sisters. Brother, if you’re thinking about kissing your sister, and she ain’t your wife, kiss the hand and bow.

27I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

      28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *