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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

1 Thessalonians 5



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Verse 4-5

True Believers Are Prepared

God"s people do not live in the darkness of wickedness but in the light of righteousness (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). Christians belong to the realm of light because they are part of the Son of light (Galatians 3:26-27; Revelation 21:23). John wrote in an effort to keep Christians from participating in sin. He said, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Because they walk in the light, the day of the Lord"s coming will not catch God"s people unawares in the sense of being unprepared (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5).

Verses 6-8

Encouragement to Watchfulness

Sinful people, in contrast, are part of the kingdom of darkness. Those without a hope of being raised from the dead are like a guard who sleeps on duty. Instead of being watchful and prepared, they become totally vulnerable in sleep. Christians should strive to stay awake and live a self controlled life so that they are ever ready. It is relatively easy to remain awake and watchful during the day. However, sleeping and becoming drunken were night time activities in Paul"s day, just as they are now. Kelcy suggests sleep is representative of spiritual insensitivity, and drunkenness would only add to the problem. So, those who are spiritually insensitive could easily be represented in the figure of night people and activities.

Since Christians are children of the day, Paul urged them to exercise self-control and put on the Christian armor. The two most important pieces of a soldier"s defensive armor in Paul"s day were his helmet and breastplate. Faith and love, in Paul"s view, bond together to form the breastplate which protects the Christian"s heart against the piercing darts of Satan. Faith is absolutely necessary to please God. Love must be in the heart of anyone who would have God abide within them (Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:16-19). Paul portrayed the hope of salvation as the helmet which protects the Christian from Satan"s blows. This would seem to be the hope of heaven and the ultimate salvation to be found therein (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8).

Verses 9-11

Christians Should Comfort and Edify Each Other

Paul explained why the Christian should be sure to put on the breastplate of love and faith and the helmet of the hope of salvation. He said that God did not send Jesus to die for people who would, despite His sacrifice, have to be eternally punished. Instead, He meant for Christians to work until their ultimate salvation was secured in heaven (Philippians 2:12; Philippians 3:20-21; Titus 2:13; Romans 5:9). It is important to note that Paul thought of salvation as being ultimately "through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus" death is an effective means of salvation for all who are in Him, whether dead or alive, at the time of His coming. Jesus died that all who would yield to Him might live eternally with Him.

Because of the preceding fact, Paul urged the brethren to encourage and build up one another. Of course, Christians must avoid those things that would tear down the faith of fellow Christians, but that by itself is not enough. Paul also instructed them to find a way to build, as one would a building, brick by brick the faith of other members of the body. The apostle did hasten to add that those in Thessalonica were already doing this (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11).

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Proper Treatment of Leaders in the Church

When Paul described those who labored among the Thessalonians, he used a word which Kelcy says, "indicates laborious toil. These leaders were working hard and unselfishly for the good of the church." They were also described as being over those in the Lord. Thayer says the word "over" means, "to be over, to superintend, preside over." They were doing teaching with the intent of warning, which is the meaning of "admonition." Such a description best fits the work of elders who were to oversee and tend God"s flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). Paul instructed the church, or flock, to care for and recognize such men as God"s ordained leaders.

Further, elders were to be given the utmost respect because of the very important task that was theirs to perform (Hebrews 13:17). Respect would naturally come from the hearts of those who loved them for keeping a watch over their souls. Also, such respect would help the church to follow God"s leaders and avoid the factious kind of spirit which promotes turmoil (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Verse 14-15

Proper Treatment of the Unruly and Fainthearted

Paul wanted to insure that brethren in various circumstances were watched over in the best possible way. So, he wrote special instructions which may have been intended first for the elders and then all the brethren. Some brethren could have been described as unruly. Unruly soldiers fell out of step, thus the word came to describe one who was disorderly or lazy. Such were to be given instructions which warned them of the dangers ahead and urged them to join ranks with fellow Christians in service to the Lord.

Other Christians could be described as fainthearted, or timid, fearful. This type of individual was weakened when confronted with persecution and opposition. Such need support and encouragement. Since the devil is compared to a lion, the young and weak should always be considered one of his primary targets (1 Peter 5:8). They may need an elder, or other strong Christian, to put an arm around them and help them over life"s rough times. All of these groups will require a long suffering spirit to help them, if they are to survive spiritually.

In general, it could be said that Christians must not be vengeful (Romans 12:17-21). They should always try to do what is right for the other fellow, even if he is not a member of Christ"s body (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

Verses 16-22

Guiding Principles for the Spiritual Man

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul had noted their joy. As he closed out this letter, the apostle wanted to urge the brethren to make joy an ever present part of their lives. This is possible, despite outward difficulties, because of an awareness of God"s love. Christians remember that He sent His Son to die for all those who would obediently hear His voice. Further, they know freedom from sin and fellowship with the Father and Son in Christ"s body. Just as eating is a regular practice used to sustain the body, prayer should regularly be used to sustain the soul. The Christian"s blessings should cause him to continually give thanks to God. The same things that allow one to be constantly joyful, should make him constantly thankful. Also, it is God that sustains the Christian in this life and gives the many good gifts each possesses (Acts 17:28; James 1:17). It is God"s will that His children should be joyful, prayerful and thankful, in his Son, the Savior.

McGarvey says, "as fire may be smothered out by overwhelming it with noncombustible matter, so the Spirit of God in the breast of a man may be quenched by overloading the life with worldly cares." Paul urged his readers to avoid such overwhelming worldly cares. A prophet is one who speaks for God, thus he is inspired.

To despise true prophesyings would be to despise God"s very revelation. So, God"s people could not afford to despise prophecies. The apostle did hasten to say Christians need to test the things they hear and see and only cling to that which is good, or from God (1 John 4:1; Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

Therefore, the Lord"s followers are to avoid all things that bear the likeness of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22). Lipscomb referred to a corresponding verse in Romans 14:16. He wrote, "Do not do good in such a way as to make people think you rendered evil purposes.....Some people do many good things in such a way that others think they are actuated by evil motives and sinister designs."

Verses 23-25

Paul"s Prayer for the Thessalonians and a Request Paul"s prayer for the Thessalonians as he closed this letter was that God would continue setting them apart, or sanctifying, until they were complete. Further, he prayed the whole spirit, or man, which we might call mind, soul and body, would be kept safe by no sin being laid to his charge until Jesus comes again. God first called all Christians through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). He continues to call to righteousness through His word. The Almighty is able to set His followers apart and keep marks of blame off their records. He is faithful in that He will keep all of His promises and do His part. Anyone who would receive His promised blessings must fulfill the conditions He has stated (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:24; Jude 1:21; Jude 1:24).

The apostle went on to make a request of his children in the faith in Thessalonica. How appropriate that any proclaimer of God"s truth should ask for prayers in his behalf. Paul believed in prayer and constantly remembered others in his prayers, so he asked them to be mindful of him (1 Thessalonians 5:23-25).

Verses 26-28

Concluding Remarks

The kiss, like our handshake, was their way of greeting a friend. Paul did not discourage its use but did urge that it be practiced with a proper attitude, that is one of holiness instead of lustfulness.

Paul obviously saw the reading of this letter to all Christians as imperative. As Kelcy says, the word "charge," or adjure as in some translations, "means "to cause to swear by." Paul is in substance saying that he is putting the Thessalonian brethren under oath." He wanted all to receive the comforts and instructions contained in this letter. We should always stress the importance of access to the Bible. No one man, or group of men, should be allowed to make the scriptures their private domain to the exclusion of others.

Paul"s final prayer for them was that God"s favor would be upon them.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.

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