1 Thessalonians 5:1-28 . THE SUDDENNESS OF CHRIST'S COMING A MOTIVE FOR WATCHFULNESS; VARIOUS PRECEPTS: PRAYER FOR THEIR BEING FOUND BLAMELESS, BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT, AT CHRIST'S COMING: CONCLUSION.
16, 17. In order to "rejoice evermore," we must "pray without ceasing" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ). He who is wont to thank God for all things as happening for the best, will have continuous joy [THEOPHYLACT]. Ephesians 6:18 , Philippians 4:4 Philippians 4:6 , "Rejoice in the Lord . . . by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving"; Romans 14:17 , "in the Holy Ghost"; Romans 12:12 , "in hope"; Acts 5:41 , "in being counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's name"; James 1:2 , in falling "into divers temptations."
17. The Greek is, "Pray without intermission"; without allowing prayerless gaps to intervene between the times of prayer.
18. In every thing--even what seems adverse: for nothing is really so (compare Romans 8:28 , Ephesians 5:20 ). See Christ's example ( Matthew 15:36 , 26:27 , Luke 10:21 , John 11:41 ).
this--That ye should "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, (and) in every thing give thanks," "is the will of God in Christ Jesus (as the Mediator and Revealer of that will, observed by those who are in Christ by faith, compare Philippians 3:14 ) concerning you." God's will is the believer's law. LACHMANN rightly reads commas at the end of the three precepts ( 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ), making "this" refer to all three.
19. Quench not--the Spirit being a holy fire: "where the Spirit is, He burns" [BENGEL] ( Matthew 3:11 , Acts 2:3;7:51 Acts 7:51 ). Do not throw cold water on those who, under extraordinary inspiration of the Spirit, stand up to speak with tongues, or reveal mysteries, or pray in the congregation. The enthusiastic exhibitions of some (perhaps as to the nearness of Christ's coming, exaggerating Paul's statement, 2 Thessalonians 2:2 , By spirit), led others (probably the presiding ministers, who had not always been treated with due respect by enthusiastic novices, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ), from dread of enthusiasm, to discourage the free utterances of those really inspired, in the Church assembly. On the other hand, the caution ( 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ) was needed, not to receive "all" pretended revelations as divine, without "proving" them.
20. prophesyings--whether exercised in inspired teaching, or in predicting the future. "Despised" by some as beneath "tongues," which seemed most miraculous; therefore declared by Paul to be a greater gift than tongues, though the latter were more showy ( 1 Corinthians 14:5 ).
21, 22. Some of the oldest manuscripts insert "But." You ought indeed not to "quench" the manifestations of "the Spirit," nor "despise prophesyings"; "but," at the same time, do not take "all" as genuine which professes to be so; "prove (test) all" such manifestations. The means of testing them existed in the Church, in those who had the "discerning of spirits" ( 1 Corinthians 12:10 , 14:29 , 1 John 4:1 ). Another sure test, which we also have, is, to try the professed revelation whether it accords with Scripture, as the noble Bereans did ( Isaiah 8:20 , Acts 17:11 , Galatians 1:8 Galatians 1:9 ). This precept negatives the Romish priest's assumption of infallibly laying down the law, without the laity having the right, in the exercise of private judgment, to test it by Scripture. LOCKE says, Those who are for laying aside reason in matters of revelation, resemble one who would put out his eyes in order to use a telescope.
hold fast that which is good--Join this clause with the next clause ( 1 Thessalonians 5:22 ), not merely with the sentence preceding. As the result of your "proving all things," and especially all prophesyings, "hold fast ( Luke 8:15 , 1 Corinthians 11:2 , Hebrews 2:1 ) the good, and hold yourselves aloof from every appearance of evil" ("every evil species" [BENGEL and WAHL]). Do not accept even a professedly spirit-inspired communication, if it be at variance with the truth taught you ( 2 Thessalonians 2:2 ).
22. TITTMANN supports English Version, "from every evil appearance" or "semblance." The context, however, does not refer to evil appearances IN OURSELVES which we ought to abstain from, but to holding ourselves aloof from every evil appearance IN OTHERS; as for instance, in the pretenders to spirit-inspired prophesyings. In many cases the Christian should not abstain from what has the semblance ("appearance") of evil, though really good. Jesus healed on the sabbath, and ate with publicans and sinners, acts which wore the appearance of evil, but which were not to be abstained from on that account, being really good. I agree with TITTMANN rather than with BENGEL, whom ALFORD follows. The context favors this sense: However specious be the form or outward appearance of such would-be prophets and their prophesyings, hold yourselves aloof from every such form when it is evil, literally, "Hold yourselves aloof from every evil appearance" or "form."
23. the very God--rather as the Greek, "the God of peace Himself"; who can do for you by His own power what I cannot do by all my monitions, nor you by all your efforts ( Romans 16:20 , Hebrews 13:20 ), namely, keep you from all evil, and give you all that is good.
sanctify you--for holiness is the necessary condition of "peace" ( Philippians 4:6-9 ).
wholly--Greek, "(so that you should be) perfect in every respect" [TITTMANN].
and--that is, "and so (omit 'I pray God'; not in the Greek) may your . . . spirit and soul and body be preserved," &c.
whole--A different Greek word from "wholly." Translate, "entire"; with none of the integral parts wanting [TITTMANN]. It refers to man in his normal integrity, as originally designed; an ideal which shall be attained by the glorified believer. All three, spirit, soul, and body, each in its due place, constitute man "entire." The "spirit" links man with the higher intelligences of heaven, and is that highest part of man which is receptive of the quickening Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 15:47 ). In the unspiritual, the spirit is so sunk under the lower animal soul (which it ought to keep under) that such are termed "animal" (English Version. "sensual," having merely the body of organized matter, and the soul the immaterial animating essence), having not the Spirit (compare 1 Corinthians 2:14 ; John 3:6 ). The unbeliever shall rise with an animal (soul-animated) body, but not like the believer with a spiritual (spirit-endued) body like Christ's ( Romans 8:11 ).
blameless unto--rather as Greek, "blamelessly (so as to be in a blameless state) at the coming of Christ." In Hebrew, "peace" and "wholly" (perfect in every respect) are kindred terms; so that the prayer shows what the title "God of peace" implies. BENGEL takes "wholly" as collectively, all the Thessalonians without exception, so that no one should fail. And "whole (entire)," individually, each one of them entire, with "spirit, soul, and body." The mention of the preservation of the body accords with the subject ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ). TRENCH better regards "wholly" as meaning, "having perfectly attained the moral end," namely, to be a full-grown man in Christ. "Whole," complete, with no grace which ought to be wanting in a Christian.
24. Faithful--to His covenant promises ( John 10:27-29 , 1 Corinthians 1:9 , 10:23 , Philippians 1:6 ).
he that calleth you--God, the caller of His people, will cause His calling not to fall short of its designed end.
do it--preserve and present you blameless at the coming of Christ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , Romans 8:30 , 1 Peter 5:10 ). You must not look at the foes before and behind, on the right hand and on the left, but to God's faithfulness to His promises, God's zeal for His honor, and God's love for those whom He calls.
25. Some oldest manuscripts read, "Pray ye also for (literally, 'concerning') us"; make us and our work the subject of your prayers, even as we have been just praying for you ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ). Others omit the "also." The clergy need much the prayers of their flocks. Paul makes the same request in the Epistles to Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and in Second Corinthians; not so in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, whose intercessions, as his spiritual sons, he was already sure of; nor in the Epistles, I Corinthians, and Galatians, as these Epistles abound in rebuke.
26. Hence it appears this Epistle was first handed to the elders, who communicated it to "the brethren."
holy kiss--pure and chaste. "A kiss of charity" ( 1 Peter 5:14 ). A token of Christian fellowship in those days (compare Luke 7:45 , Acts 20:37 ), as it is a common mode of salutation in many countries. The custom hence arose in the early Church of passing the kiss through the congregation at the. holy communion [JUSTIN MARTYR, Apology, 1.65; Apostolic Constitutions, 2.57], the men kissing the men, and the women the women, in the Lord. So in the Syrian Church each takes his neighbor's right hand and gives the salutation, "Peace."
27. I charge--Greek, "I adjure you."
read unto all--namely, publicly in the congregation at a particular time. The Greek aorist tense implies a single act done at a particular time. The earnestness of his adjuration implies how solemnly important he felt this divinely inspired message to be. Also, as this was the FIRST of the Epistles of the New Testament, he makes this the occasion of a solemn charge, that so its being publicly read should be a sample of what should be done in the case of the others, just as the Pentateuch and the Prophets were publicly read under the Old Testament, and are still read in the synagogue. Compare the same injunction as to the public reading of the Apocalypse, the LAST of the New Testament canon ( Revelation 1:3 ). The "all" includes women and children, and especially those who could not read it themselves ( Deuteronomy 31:12 , Joshua 8:33-35 ). What Paul commands with an adjuration, Rome forbids under a curse [BENGEL]. Though these Epistles had difficulties, the laity were all to hear them read ( 1 Peter 4:11 , 2 Peter 3:10 ; even the very young, 2 Timothy 1:5 , 3:15 ). "Holy" is omitted before "brethren" in most of the oldest manuscripts, though some of them support it.
28. ends as he began ( 1 Thessalonians 1:1 ), with "grace." The oldest manuscripts omit "Amen," which probably was the response of the Church after the public reading of the Epistle.
The subscription is a comparatively modern addition. The Epistle was not, as it states, written from Athens, but from Corinth; for it is written in the names of Silas and Timothy (besides Paul), who did not join the apostle before he reached the latter city ( Acts 18:5 ).