1 Thessalonians 5
Christ’s Second Coming (5:1-11)
1-2 No one knows what hour in the night a thief is going to come. A thief comes by surprise. The day of the Lord—Christ’s second coming—will be like that (see Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:34-36; Acts 1:7; Revelation 3:2-3).
Here in verse 2, Paul calls Christ’s second coming the day of the Lord. In other verses in the New Testament, it is called the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9), the great day of … wrath (Revelation 6:17), the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), the last day (John 6:39), and the great Day (Jude 6).
3 Worldly men don’t think about the day of judgment; they don’t care about it. They think only about the world and its pleasures. They say: “Peace and safety. All is well; there’s nothing to worry about.”
But destruction, or God’s wrath, will fall upon them suddenly (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Just as labor pains will inevitably come upon a woman who is pregnant, so will God’s wrath come upon those who do not believe in Christ (see Mark 13:8).
4-5 The Thessalonian Christians do not need to fear the day of the Lord. They are God’s children; they are sons of the light, they are sons of the day (the day of the Lord). They do not belong to the kingdom of darkness, upon which God’s wrath will come (see Ephesians 5:8 and comment).
6-8 Let us not be like those who are spiritually asleep. They are unaware of the coming wrath. Let us not be like those who are drunk, who are “drunk” with the desires and passions of this world. Rather, let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12).
What is our armor? Paul says here in verse 8 that our “armor” is faith, love, and hope (see 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3). In Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul gives a slightly different description of our armor than the one he gives here, but the basic idea is the same. Paul uses the illustration of the soldier’s armor to describe the spiritual qualities we need in our lives.
In verse 8, Paul mentions the hope of SALVATION. In one way, we have already obtained salvation; therefore, there is no need to hope for it! But in another way, we have not yet received our complete salvation; only after Christ comes again will we receive our full salvation, our full heavenly inheritance. It is for this full heavenly inheritance that we hope. And our hope is not like the hope of other men. The Christian’s hope is not in something uncertain; it is fixed on something that is absolutely certain and sure: namely, that just as Jesus rose, we too shall rise and live with Him forever.
9 In this verse, Paul gives us a one-sentence summary of the glorious Gospel of Christ: Those who believe in Christ will not suffer God’s wrath, but will receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. According to the teaching of other religions, man must do good works or obey certain laws in order to obtain salvation. But salvation cannot be obtained by these means. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can salvation be obtained. But let no one boast in his faith, saying: “I myself have believed.” Because faith does not arise from man; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Paul says here that God has “appointed” us to believe and to receive salvation.
10-11 Christ died for us (see Romans 5:6,8). He suffered God’s wrath in our place (see Mark 10:45; Romans 3:23-25; 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and comments). Christ died for us so that … we may live together with him. At His second coming, whether we have died or are alive, we shall all rise (Romans 14:9), and we shall live with Him in heaven forever. Hallelujah!
Final Instructions (5:12-28)
12-13 In verse 12, Paul gives a description of church leaders, and tells the Thessalonians to respect them. Paul says: Those who work hard among you, and who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you, deserve your respect.
In many churches one finds young and immature Christians who do not respect their leaders. These immature Christians see faults and weaknesses in their pastor or their elders, and are always quick to accuse and criticize them. In their own minds they are sure they are doing the right thing, but in fact they are doing great wrong. If anyone wants to accuse a leader of the church, let him first meditate on these verses.
There is only one situation in which we can properly accuse or oppose a leader, and that is when the leader has clearly broken one of God’s commands. But before we can accuse or oppose that leader, we must have proof of his wrong-doing. Two or more reliable eyewitnesses are required to confirm an accusation. We must not even listen to rumors or secondhand gossip! (1 Timothy 5:19).
If all Christians would obey the rules Paul has given here, there would be peace in our churches. Remember, these leaders are our leaders in the Lord (verse 12). Their authority is the Lord’s authority. It is meant to be used for our spiritual good. When we oppose our leaders, we oppose Christ (see Romans 13:1-3 and comment).
Why must we hold our leaders in the highest regard in love? (verse 13). The reason is: because of their work. Even if we do not personally like a particular leader, and even if that leader has faults and weaknesses (every leader has faults and weaknesses), we must still hold that leader in the highest regard in love—because of [his] work. If we criticize or oppose our leaders, they cannot do their work successfully. As a result, the work of Christ will suffer. We should fear to oppose our leaders! Do we want to destroy the work of Christ? (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17).
If it is essential to oppose something a leader has said or done, then we must first go to that leader alone, face to face, and talk with him about it (see Matthew 18:15 and comment). Otherwise, we are opposing Christ.
14 … warn those who are idle (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and comment).
… encourage the timid, help the weak (see Romans 15:1-2; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and comments).
… be patient with everyone (see Ephesians 4:2 and comment).
15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong (see Matthew 5:38-42; 18:21-22; Romans 12:17,19-21; 1 Peter 3:9 and comments). Instead, always try to be kind to each other. Paul’s meaning here is that we must be kind to those who do us wrong.
16-18 Be joyful always (see Philippians 3:1; 4:4 and comments).
… pray continually. We live in complete dependence upon God every hour of every day. We should not stop praying even for one day (see Matthew 7:7-8; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6 and comments).
… give thanks in all circumstances (see Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; 4:2 and comments).
To be joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances—this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not put out the (Holy) Spirit’s fire (see Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit is like afire (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3-4). We must not put out that fire! What puts out the fire? Sin. Sin always puts out the fire of the Spirit in our lives. And what makes the fire burn more brightly? Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving (verses 16-18).
There is a second meaning to this verse. The Holy Spirit gives different gifts to men (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). We must use the gifts the Spirit gives to us. If we fail to use them, we will put out the Spirit’s fire.
20-21 Some of the Thessalonian believers had been given the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1,3). But others in the church were not heeding these PROPHECIES. Thus Paul admonishes the Thessalonians not to treat prophecies with contempt.
However, they must not automatically accept every prophecy; it is first necessary to weigh and examine each prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1). Today we also must weigh and examine each prophecy we hear or read by comparing it to what is written in the Bible. If the prophecy is in agreement with Biblical teachings, then we can be sure that the prophecy is from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never does anything that opposes God’s written word, the Bible.
There is a second meaning of the word prophecies, as it is used in this verse: namely, preaching. We must not treat with contempt the sermons we hear preached. Even if the preacher’s manner doesn’t please us, or even if we’ve learned nothing new, we still must respectfully heed his words.
22 Avoid every kind of evil (see Romans 1:29-31; Galatians 5:19-21: Ephesians 4:31; 5:3-4 and comments).
23 God’s people must be holy. But here in this verse we see that it is God Himself who makes us holy, or “sanctifies” us. We cannot sanctify ourselves by our own efforts. We need the help and power of God’s Holy Spirit to become holy (see Philippians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and comments).
Our whole spirit, soul and body must be kept blameless. Paul’s meaning is that every part of our lives, every part of us—spirit, soul and body—must remain holy.
Some Christian scholars believe that this verse teaches that man is made up of three distinct parts: spirit, soul, and body. Our spirit is that part of us which has direct contact and fellowship with God (Romans 8:16). Our soul is that part of us from which our feelings, thoughts, and desires arise. Sin also arises in the soul (James 1:1415). The Bible often calls the soul the “heart” or the “mind.” Then, the third part, our body, is the physical part of us. Our body is under the direction of our spirit and soul; whatever our spirit and soul say to do, that will our body do (Romans 6:13).
In order for us to be fully holy and healthy in God’s sight, all three parts of our lives must be holy and healthy. It does little good to take medicine to make our body well, if our soul is sick with sin and our spirit is separated from God. In fact, our physical body is the least important part of us; it is much more important that our spirit and soul be healthy, because they are the parts of us that will remain forever. We don’t need healthy bodies to enter heaven! (see Mark 9:43-48).
24 God has chosen us to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4). He has called us to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God is faithful. He will surely complete the work He has begun in us (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; Jude 24-25 and comments).
25-27 See Romans 16:16 and comment.
28 See 1 Corinthians 16:23 and comment.
1 The two most important things are faith and love (see Galatians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:6 and comments). The third most important thing is hope.
2 Achaia was the southern province of Greece. Thus Macedonia and Achaia together made up most of the country of Greece.
3 In some versions of the Bible, this reference to apostles is included as part of verse 6.
4 In place of the words control his own body, some versions of the Bible say, “learn to live with his own wife,” or “learn to acquire a wife.” The original Greek text can mean any of these things; it is not certain how it should be translated. However, no matter which translation is used, Paul’s meaning is essentially the same: a man must control his sexual impulses. God has given us a natural way to do this: namely, to acquire a wife and learn to live with her in mutual consideration and respect (1 Peter 3:7).
5 In place of the word punish, some versions of the Bible say “avenge,” which is the literal translation of the Greek text. The meaning is the same.