Last Day Living

Image result for last days

I Thessalonians Chapter 5

This portion of the text is complicated.  Especially sense we are trying to interpret it 2000 years removed from the events and context.  Here are the preaching points that the apostle wishes to impart unto the church.

First is that the coming of the Lord is unequivocally in secret.  The meaning is stressed in forceful terms by Paul with several phrases such as, “ye have no need I write you”, “you know perfectly”, and “so cometh as a thief in the night.”  It appears that verses 4-6 suggest that the church should know the time of the Lord’s return.  A careful look will discover that knowing the time is not in view but being prepared unto the day of judgment as regenerate believer is the point.  It seems that the rest of the chapter is preparing the believers to this end, especially the end exhortations and final prayers.

The second point Paul makes is a clear distinction to the believer as being in light as opposed to darkness.  This is manifest in the following practical ways.

  1. A heeding and adherence to the word. Verses 1-4 speaks of the church heeding and adhering to the word spoken by Paul concerning future things. They should found their life after the teaching of the word.  The great ethic that governs the believer is found in verse 8: faith, hope, and love.  This is a theme of the apostle.  Faith in Christ, hope that comes from our faith and love imparted by the Holy Spirit that is proof of saving faith.
  2. As it follows making the word the foundation of life, so one’s conduct should reflect the ethical energy of the word. Our walk should be in the light. We should watch and live under the fact the Lord can return at any time.  This stands in contrast to those that are unregenerate that are characterized by being asleep, in the night, and drunken.

The next section verse 9-28 gives us a theological premise (verse 9-10).  This is followed by a section of practice (verse 11-23).   We will look at each separate.

The premise contains these elements.  God’s appointment as found in verse 9, and the gospel presentation found in verse 9 and 10. God’s rule, His sovereignty is the overarching theme.  His appointment to salvation through Christ is the backbone of scripture.  This is a beautiful verse that give purpose and energy to the Christian ethic.  The Gospel is also a premise for the upcoming commands.  Again notice, verse 10, the gospel is stated as the premise for living a Christian ethic.  Verse 10 Who died for us (Gospel)…that we should live together with him (gospel)…verse 11 Wherefore (beginning of the Christian ethic).

This intimates to us that the power of the gospel is the driving force of Christian practice.  If a person is not converted then they cannot faithfully walk in a Christian ethic.  They may practice outwardly but inside they will be full of dead men’s bones.  The gospel transforms the heart and allows pure and free service to Christ.

Verse 11 begins a section of commands in light of the previous teaching.  I will take each command and define it then use it in a practical sense then move on.

The first charge is to comfort and edify one another found in verse 11.  Comfort and edification is derived from the Gospel and the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Comfort is used practically in chapter 4 as in comforting those that have had loved ones to die.  Edification is to build another up in the faith.  It probably refers to a constant diet of the gospel that empowers believers in their daily walk with Christ by continuing their watchful, wakeful attitude.

Verse 12, 13 speaks of the church’s attitude toward leaders.  They are to esteem them highly.  What is the reason and motive for this esteem?  It is because of love per verse 13.  Love is the supreme ethic that effects duty.  In addition to love, the church is to consider the work the leaders are engaged in.  Ministry of the word and service is the New Testament work of elders and overseers.  Also, by honoring those that are over the church, there is a sense of peace that is fostered.  It seems that Paul has in view here promoting peace within the church.  Especially sense the next verse talks about those that are unruly.  Peace is the best context for spiritual growth and we should seek peace in regard to church government.

The next section of ethics deals with our relations toward each other.  Paul advocates warnings, comfort, patience, and good deeds be disseminated on a case by case situation.  Those that are unruly should be warned.  What does this unruly spirit look like?  I do not think the apostle had in mind minor differences in preference, style, or personality conflicts.  I feel he was thinking of those that would bring doctrinal heresy which would lead to division.  Think about those that would bring gnostic teaching or Judaism or pagan immoral practices into the fabric of the church.  Those that would do this were to be warned concerning their teaching and practice.  Church discipline including excommunication would be implemented.  Sometimes a poisonous branch must be cut off for the whole to live and thrive.

At the other end of the spectrum the church is to comfort the feebleminded.  Comfort can take on many methods.  Comfort can be in word, actions, gifts, and teachings.  The feebleminded are those that fainthearted.  All have at one time or another been fainthearted, weak and feeble.  The strong should help the weak.  This is a theme in Paul’s writings.  All this is to be done in an attitude of patiences.  The trial of one’s faith is occasion for the trial of another’s patience.  That is to say, as the strong help the weak, it is the patience of the strong that is tested.

This principle is the driving ethic leading into verse 15.  The church is encouraged not to repay evil with evil.  The believer is to have a grace default setting.  That is we should never seek retaliation or think the worst as the initial reaction.  Grace and love gives place to faults, weakness, and failures overlooking them in an effort to comfort them as first principle.  If you do not know what to do, do good.

Now the last section of ethics (v 16-22) concerns personal character.  The first is to rejoice.  Not only to rejoice, but evermore.  Evermore provides the context for the action.  Rejoice in every situation and in all times.  Pray without ceasing.  I think the thought here is two-fold that the believer should not give up praying also, the believer should pray in every situation.   Now in verse 18 is the linchpin for the afore mentioned imperatives.  Notice verse 18 hints at both imperatives: rejoicing and prayer.  The reason for prayer and rejoicing is that every situation is guided by the providential hand of God.  Therefore, we should be thankful in every situation, no matter how adverse it may appear.  This disposition is as much the will of God as the circumstances that is to occasion it.

The next section is interesting.  The terminology gives an indication as to what is meant.  Quench.  It seems to suggest that the person of the Spirit is not the subject but rather the workings or graces of the Spirit.  Graces such as teachings, prayers, Godly fellowship, exhortations, sacraments, and the like.  The picture is that one should not snuff out the fires of the Spirit.  These fires are meant to invigour and illuminate our faith.  This maybe a reference to the Spirit’s advent at Pentacost, specifically the tonges as fire.  The quenching here spoken of most likely refers to oral ministry in the local church as revealed by the next verse, 21 “Despise not prophesying.”

What type of prophecy is the apostle referring to?  I think the context, especially with the command of the next verse, reveals that the scripture prophecy is in view.  It seems verse 20, 21, 22 are connected with respect to prophecy.  Verse 21 urges the believers to prove all things.  This is in reference to the prophecy spoken of in verse 20.  How does one prove prophecy?  By the scriptures.  So in essence if any oral ministry in the church, i.e. prophecy, is not scriptural then it is to be rejected.  Therefore scripture is the highest standard in the local assembly.  Any edification must come by way of scriptural agreement and suggestion.  The meaning is for the believers not to despise prophesy, for prophecy in the local assembly is a means of grace for the Spirit to invigour the believer.  Rather, test the prophecy with scripture and hold fast if the prophecy is in agreement with scripture.  Verse 22 warns that the church should abstain from all appearance of evil.  This is in reference to doctrine for it seems the connection is clear.  It is principle that the believer should avoid all evil.  The teaching here cuts to the root.  For evil actions comes from evil premises.  Only godly teaching, specifically the gospel can heal evil hearts.  Any evil mixture of the truth is poison and should not be fed to the church.

Verse 23 begins with a declaration of the God of peace.  The title the God of peace that is employee could be for the comfort of the Thessalonian believers.  God is a god of peace because Christ’s work had brought peace between God and man.  As a result of this peace, a subjective, energizing peace can be imparted through the Spirit via a consistent diet of the Word.  This word includes the message of sanctification.  The verse goes on to state, “sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just as the planted seed has all necessary elements for a mature tree.  Add sun, water and soil the tree will in time develop unto full maturity.  I feel the same is being said here.  That is the gospel has been implanted by the spirit into the human heart.  Saving faith has arisen and change has taken place.  However, maturity is a slow arduous process.  Graces of the spirit are needed to assist in growth and development of the believer.

The prayer in verse 23 includes that the entire person of the believer would submit to God.  The body’s actions, the mind’s reasonings, the soul’s affections are all kept by God.  The believer is prevented from ultimately falling and kept secure by the power of the spirit.  They are blameless before God being covered with the righteousness of Christ.  The prayer also entails that God’s preserving work would be until the coming of Christ.  Look at it this way, the believer does not have a time cap to be perfected.  The perfection comes by means of God and until God’s appointed end.  So salvation and this sanctification is a work of God ultimately.   This is evidenced by verse 24.  God is faithful who 1. Called you through the Gospel by an inward work of the spirit and 2. Will sanctify you so that you will be blameless unto the coming of Christ.  God’s faithfulness is the grounds upon which Paul’s prayer in verse 23 rests.  What confidence he can have in praying this because of God’s covenant faithfulness.

The conclusion of the epistle is this:

Paul earnestly desires the prayers of the believers.  Special graces and strengths come from prayers.  May we prayer and desire to be prayed for.  Paul also desires special fellowship among the believers.  There is a special bond among believers as we are adopted into the family of God.  As a result of this doctrine then Paul urges practice.  That is to kiss the brethren with a kiss of fellowship.  The last request is for this epistle to be read at the church.  The inspired word gives the saints graces and is the means to implant the gospel in the unbelieving heart.  This should be the center of the local church today.  Hear the word taught in context is the power of the local church.

The ending salutation is for grace of our Lord to be with us all.  May this inadequate work provide some grace in your hearts as I offer it to God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close