1 Thessalonians 

(1 Thessalonians 1:1) Paul, and Silvanus [Silas], and Timotheus [Timothy], unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

From this verse it appears Paul, Silas, and Timothy all wrote this letter; the word "we" is used throughout. But Paul reveals he is the author in three verses when he uses the word "I".

Each city had a church. It's possible they met in various locations similar to the way a modern denomination might have several churches in one city. I can imagine the difficulty of traveling by foot from one end of town to the other or of those living outside the city having to travel to the opposite end of the city. Also, if there were more people than could fit into someone's home who was hosting the church meetings they would need multiple locations. The Corinthian church had various factions; perhaps each met in a different location.

Notice the reference to the first two persons of the Trinity: The Father and the Son. Only later after it was clearly established that Jesus was deity did the Church consider the Holy Spirit, but by the time of the Council of Nicea that was also established.

(1 Thessalonians 1:2) We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

(1 Thessalonians 1:3) Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

Notice faith includes work; faith without works is dead.

We should wonder what their labor of love entailed?

We look forward to our eternal future in the new heavens and new earth. We hope for it, but we must be patient. It occurs after we die and after the second coming of Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 1:4) Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of [by] God.

Notice in the next verse Paul mentions God's role in their election; he sent them apostles who preached the gospel and performed miracles. But we don't require miracles to become elect. Anytime anyone is introduced to the gospel, they become members of the elect if they receive it.

(1 Thessalonians 1:5) For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

They heard the words of the gospel and experienced its power. Certainly the gospel has the power to affect people's hearts and move their minds. Paul refers to the character and holy lifestyles of himself and the others with him. Perhaps it was thought in the culture of the day that living in holiness was impossible and required a miraculous intervention of God.

The gospel came to them in assurance and deep conviction. In other words, Paul truly believed it and communicated this conviction to them. He probably mentioned his being taken to the third heaven to be instructed by Jesus himself; surely that would have impressed them. The apostles were regularly healing people so it is likely this is also what is meant by the power of the Holy Spirit. But something in the souls of those hearers of Paul was moved enough to cause them to change their lives and give them over to Jesus — but this is what occurs for every believer, even without miracles.

(1 Thessalonians 1:6) And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

(1 Thessalonians 1:7) So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

(1 Thessalonians 1:8) For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.

(1 Thessalonians 1:9) For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

(1 Thessalonians 1:10) And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Some claim Paul here refers to Christians in the far future (from the time he wrote it) who are waiting for the rapture to save them from the great tribulation which happens soon after. This would not encourage the Thessalonians in the least unless they believed the rapture would happen in their lifetimes. But it didn't; why would Paul lie to them?

Christ's coming to redeem the faithful in his first coming is an act of judgment for the unbelieving wicked.

The wrath spoken of here is spending eternity in the lake of fire.

(1 Thessalonians 2:1) For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

(1 Thessalonians 2:2) But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

(1 Thessalonians 2:3) For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

It seems to me that the words "clean" and "unclean" are commonly misunderstood.

(1 Thessalonians 2:4) But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

(1 Thessalonians 2:5) For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

(1 Thessalonians 2:6) Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

The word "we" refers to Paul, Silas, and Timothy, all called apostles.

(1 Thessalonians 2:7) But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

(1 Thessalonians 2:8) So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

(1 Thessalonians 2:9) For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

(1 Thessalonians 2:10) Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

Paul considers the behavior of Church leaders to be supremely important. I take it even one step further; Church leaders who are not holy and orthodox and qualified to lead the flock should be rejected — they are not Church leaders at all. Just as Hitler was not truly the leader of the German people but a tyrant and usurper, so also, unholy bishops and popes throughout Church history were not Church leaders. We should reject them as teachers and defenders of the faith. They may have had powerful roles in the political history of the world but they were not Church leaders. This is the area in which the Catholic system implodes as the modern Catholic Church must insist that such as these were infallible teachers and defenders of the faith and that they passed-on the faith to subsequent generations.

The apostles ordained bishops to be the next generation of Church leaders but they simply did not have in mind that the kind of leaders that would lead the Church in subsequent generations would be considered as valid Church leaders.

Paul fully understands that those he preaches to will judge whether or not he is qualified by his behavior; and they are justified in rejecting his message if he is not qualified. Why, then, today are we so accepting of unqualified Church leaders? They have ruined the Church. These are people who were torturing Christians and burning them at the stake, who allowed pervert priests to rape children, who milked the flock for money so they could fulfill their dreams of having glorious Church buildings, who enslaved whole populations, and treated Christians like animals and without human dignity in uncountable ways. And what about modern pastors who teach false doctrines and work their all-volunteer staff to the bone?

(1 Thessalonians 2:11) As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

(1 Thessalonians 2:12) That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto [into] his kingdom and glory.

They are called of God but yet Paul must exhort them to behave properly. This supports the notion of once saved, always saved. But it also supports the notion that you can lose your salvation if committing mortal sin. God is always perpetually calling everyone to come to himself, to be holy. Paul must exhort them to do this, to live virtuously, because it is easy to succumb to habits of vice.

We are on a journey in life. God wants us to always be heading towards him, toward the light, toward truth, holiness, purity, beauty, goodness; all the aspects of God's nature which comprise his kingdom.

(1 Thessalonians 2:13) For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Paul is pleased that the people understood his preaching and teaching to be infallible. Some object to calling anything infallible, but what good is teaching if it is not true and if we cannot be certain it is true? That apostolic teaching is infallible is a cornerstone of Christianity. Notice that the spoken word which the people heard when listening to the apostles preach and teach is the word of God. At that time there was no Bible as the final authority for Christian faith; it was apostolic teaching which was the authority. It is just as true today as it was then that apostolic teaching is the final authority for Christian faith. Thus, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is false.

Paul mentions that he prays without ceasing and thanks God without ceasing. In this verse he refers to others with him who also thank God without ceasing. It is possible to breathe without ceasing or to be alive without ceasing, but how is it possible to do anything else without ceasing? Surely he must mean to say that he prays and thanks God often throughout the day and night.

God's word effects change in the hearts of people; it works in them. God's word is living and so it effects change just as all living beings change the world around them, whether it be in the physical world or the spiritual world. In the very act of moving our bodies we change the physical world around us. In the spiritual realm our souls interact with other spirit beings and change them as our ideas, desires, will, feelings, etc. impinge upon them; they must react to our soul's motions.

(1 Thessalonians 2:14) For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea [Judea] are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

These Christians in Thessalonica were mostly Gentiles who were persecuted by other Gentiles just as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were persecuted by Jews. Paul then springboards from this smallest reference of the Jews into an extended rant against their opposition to the gospel.

The opposition against Christians in Thessalonica was stirred-up by the Jews. The main enemy of the early Christian Church was the Jews.

It is wrong to extend these comments of Jewish opposition of the gospel into more recent times. Sadly, the Church did just this very thing. Even the Protestant reformers (revolutionaries) were anti-Jewish. Various Church councils mention giving Jews special degrading treatment.

Paul is careful to identify the Churches of God as being in Christ Jesus to avoid confusion: he is referring to Christian Churches, not Jewish synagogues (which are also congregations of God).

(1 Thessalonians 2:15) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

Paul is speaking of the Jews as a group, especially the leaders, extending over many centuries.

If anyone thinks the Jewish animosity towards Christianity discredits it (since Christianity sprang from Judaism) they should note that the Jewish leaders even killed their own prophets centuries before. Christianity was founded upon true Old Testament teaching, not upon the warped views of its corrupt leaders.

(1 Thessalonians 2:16) Forbidding [hindering] us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill [heap] up their sins alway [always]: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

Even though the Jews hated the Christians they hated the Gentiles even more. These Jews certainly rejected the Christian gospel but even so they didn't want it shared with the Gentiles. Unbelievable. They stirred-up Gentiles to persecute other Gentiles in true political manner, working with one group of people you hate to crush another group of people you hate.

This verse proves the word "wrath" isn't a yet-future great tribulation. Here's why: Paul tells them the wrath of God has finally come upon the ungodly Jews who killed Jesus and persecuted the true church. But these would have died 2,000–plus years too soon.

Note that the "wrath" is a result of their "heaping up their sins to the limit" which is an ongoing occurrence. Paul is merely saying God will even judge the sins of Jews. They are not exempt from judgment based on national identity but must receive salvation the same way as everybody else — through faith in Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 2:17) But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

(1 Thessalonians 2:18) Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

Notice the words "we" and "I". The "we" is Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Apparently Paul has been traveling with the others for a while but himself has many times wanted to visit the Thessalonians. When he wants to visit them but can't for whatever reason, he considers it to be the influence of Satan preventing him.

I suppose we could have the same view of things. Whenever we have a Godly desire in our heart but can't accomplish it, we can attribute it to Satan, to the powers of darkness. This implies that in the new heavens and new earth when the powers of darkness are no longer present, we will be able to do whatever we desire since all our desires will be pleasing to God. The ability to have impure desires will have been purged out. This also implies our minds will not be racing at high speed thinking of things to do faster than is possible to do them.

(1 Thessalonians 2:19) For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Notice when Jesus comes again at his second coming people will be interacting with one another. Probably this refers to the second coming of Christ, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the early stages of the new heavens and new earth.

The rewards for living Godly and sharing the gospel are not material things, not prestige and power. Rather, it is all about seeing other people blessed by having a relationship with God.

(1 Thessalonians 2:20) For ye are our glory and joy.

(1 Thessalonians 3:1) Wherefore when we could no longer forbear [endure], we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;

Paul sent Timothy to visit them while he stayed behind in Athens. Apparently he had hoped the Holy Spirit would soon allow them all to go but after a while realized he might be stuck in Athens so he sent Timothy to find out about their spiritual well-being.

It seems the Greeks prevented Paul from travelling, perhaps imprisoning him. He attributes this to Satan. Notice the awkward presentation of this information; Paul I'm sure would have enjoyed writing with a modern word processor so he could correct such mangled sentences as these.

(1 Thessalonians 3:2) And sent Timotheus [Timothy], our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish [strengthen] you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

Paul thought it best to remain in Athens but wanted someone to check in with the Thessalonians so he sent Timothy.

The word "minister" is "deacon". Later, Timothy was a bishop.

The fledgling churches needed someone to keep them on track; there was a strong tendency for doctrinal errors to develop, or for strong-willed leaders to take over and spoil the sense of community and brotherhood. Even so, this happened to many churches anyway, as we see in the Corinthian church and the churches of Asia and ongoing throughout the early church. The Bishops could not prevent this from happening and, often, were themselves the source of the problem.

Presumably these Christians would become unsure they were on the right track or confused about what the true gospel was (this happens today too; that's why they need to hear a long sermon every week). It would encourage and comfort them to have someone strong in the faith talk to them about their concerns and remind them of the essential gospel.

(1 Thessalonians 3:3) That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

(1 Thessalonians 3:4) For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

(1 Thessalonians 3:5) For this cause [reason], when I could no longer forbear [endure it], I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

Paul provides more information about why he sent Timothy to them.

There are plenty examples from church history of missionaries spending years in a foreign land only to finally be ejected or killed and the seed of the Christian faith extinguished. Paul is very concerned that his evangelizing be effective, that it results in the spread of the true gospel and correct church practice and tradition.

Anything not of God in this world is the result of the powers of darkness which seek to pervert and destroy all that is holy.

(1 Thessalonians 3:6) But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

(1 Thessalonians 3:7) Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:

(1 Thessalonians 3:8) For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

(1 Thessalonians 3:9) For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

(1 Thessalonians 3:10) Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Since their faith is deficient these people must not be saved (based on the Protestant notion of salvation by faith only). But Paul is speaking to believers.

(1 Thessalonians 3:11) Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

(1 Thessalonians 3:12) And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

(1 Thessalonians 3:13) To the end he may stablish [establish] your hearts unblameable [blameless] in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

When we come before God we should wish to be holy. If we neglect to practice virtue and to develop a strong relationship with Jesus we will should expect judgment. Mortal sin severs our relationship with God.

Notice Paul emphasizes the second coming of Christ as an event bringing hope and motivation throughout their lives even though it would not occur in the lifetime of any of his readers. We are to consider our existence after death as significant; death does not end our relationship with God. The second coming of Christ ushers in the new heavens and new earth which should be our true goal in living this life.

This verse does not refer to the rapture because there is no such thing. At the second coming of Christ, all the redeemed are drawn towards Christ culminating in the Great White Throne Judgment in which everyone is simultaneously present.

(1 Thessalonians 4:1) Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

(1 Thessalonians 4:2) For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Being a Christian requires we obey commands, it requires works. Fundamentalist evangelical Protestants say otherwise but the New Testament stresses repeatedly that salvation requires works and that we are judged by our works. The doctrine of Sola Fide, of salvation by faith only, is incorrect.

(1 Thessalonians 4:3) For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

Christians are to live holy lives, to practice virtue. This is not optional. Committing mortal sin severs our relationship with God.

Paul begins listing various mortal sins. The first is fornication, sexual promiscuity, any kind of sexual relations outside of lifelong marriage. The emphasis of our modern culture that we are to feel free to express our sexuality is morally warped. We should rather be learning to control our desires, to channel them in the proper ways.

Fundamentalist evangelical Protestants use the word "sanctification" to mean behavior after we are saved, not affecting our salvation, something God desires for us but not a salvation issue. Nonsense! Paul himself clearly says otherwise, that sanctification is a necessary ingredient for salvation.

(1 Thessalonians 4:4) That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

Notice the soul possesses the body which is a mere vessel — lifeless except when inhabited by the soul.

(1 Thessalonians 4:5) Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

(1 Thessalonians 4:6) That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

(1 Thessalonians 4:7) For God hath [has] not called us unto uncleanness [impurity], but unto holiness [sanctification].

Paul just listed various mortal sins; these he refers to as impurity. We are not called to this but to holiness. The word "called" is used throughout the New Testament in the context of redemption; God calls us to become saved. Therefore, the use of the word here implies that sanctification is a salvation issue, a prerequisite for salvation. We are not saved by faith only; works are an essential ingredient.

(1 Thessalonians 4:8) He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

(1 Thessalonians 4:9) But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

(1 Thessalonians 4:10) And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

(1 Thessalonians 4:11) And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

(1 Thessalonians 4:12) That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

Apparently, these had been taught a false view of what would happen to those Christians who had already died; we can presume it was not a happy fate. Of course, those living would be afraid of death since they would also share this same unhappy fate. From the next verse we can surmise these would somehow lose out on some or all the benefits of redemption. It's hard to imagine how anyone could take this idea seriously; that only the final generation of Christians alive at the time of Christ's 2nd coming would receive salvation in its fullness.

This reminds me of some other wacky ideas, for example, the fate of infants who die before baptism, that they would not enjoy the same benefits as those who were baptized; rather, they would go to a special place called the Limbo of Infants. Another wacky idea is that these would miss out on the rapture. This is nonsense because there is no rapture and the early church never considered such a teaching as the rapture.

Sleep is an idiom for death; it is not a figure of speech per se but an extension to the language. Idioms are not figures of speech, at least not according to several dictionaries.

(1 Thessalonians 4:14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

The phrase "if we believe" is out of place in this verse. Since Jesus died and rose again, he will one day bring with him even those who died believing in him. Bring to where? To the new heavens and new earth in their resurrected body. The same for the audience of this letter, those that believe. The same for all believers of all time. I'm not sure why Paul needed to emphasize the dead in Christ; perhaps there was a false teaching about their fate.

Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. I don't see how someone can consider themselves as a Christian if they reject it.

The word "sleep" is not a mere figure of speech meaning death but is, rather, strictly literal. Just as when asleep the mind is active but the body unresponsive, so also, after death the mind is active but the body nonexistent (it's "asleep" awaiting to be awoken during the resurrection). Just as Jesus remained conscious after his bodily death, so too with us. The word "sleep" merely refers to the body's unresponsiveness, not to the unconsciousness of the soul. The teaching of "soul sleep" after death is incorrect.

The "sleep in Jesus" is purgatory.

(1 Thessalonians 4:15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.

The sequence of events...

  1. The Church age in which people die and go to purgatory or heaven.
  2. Then, the time of the end.
  3. Christ gathers those redeemed who had died previously. Presumably, these are resurrected at that time.
  4. Then, Christ gathers those who happen to be alive on earth at the time of his second coming. Presumably, these are resurrected at the same time. This is the rapture.
  5. Then Christ comes, bringing these with him.

A related passage.

(1 Thessalonians 4:16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

(1 Thessalonians 4:17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Jesus comes with clouds.

(1 Thessalonians 4:18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1) But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

(1 Thessalonians 5:2) For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

Since they are waiting for Christ's coming, this implies that he comes at their death; that everyone encounters Christ at death and they are received into the kingdom of heaven at that time. It doesn't make sense for them to be exhorted to wait for Christ's coming if it occurs thousands (millions?) of years after they have died.

(1 Thessalonians 5:3) For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

(1 Thessalonians 5:4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Paul uses light and darkness as metaphors for truth and error, or, God's kingdoms vs Satan's kingdom, playing off of the phrase "day of the Lord". But he then mixes up the metaphor with the real image; this is common in Paul's writings.

(1 Thessalonians 5:5) Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

(1 Thessalonians 5:6) Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

I doubt if Paul is using the word "sober" to mean only not drunk and not prone to excessive use of alcohol. But in the next verse he clearly refers to drunkenness. This is why it is hard to understand Paul's writings: he has a confusing writing style. We have to know ahead of time what he means so we can interpret it properly.

(1 Thessalonians 5:7) For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

Here Paul has abandoned the metaphor of day and night. He merely comments on activities people perform at night. We must be careful not to declare all things humans do at night as sinful and wicked: only metaphorical sleep (ignorance) and actual drunkenness are bad.

(1 Thessalonians 5:8) But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

(1 Thessalonians 5:9) For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

God prefers we all be redeemed rather than be judged for our sin and be eternally damned, separated from God's presence of grace and blessing.

God's wrath is our being repelled from God's presence as we cling to our wickedness and sin when in his presence. We do this in life but this will be especially important at death when we all meet Jesus face to face. Far better that we choose eternity with him in the new heavens and new earth even though it means releasing our grasp on sin.

(1 Thessalonians 5:10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

(1 Thessalonians 5:11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

(1 Thessalonians 5:12) And we beseech you, brethren, to know [respect] them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

(1 Thessalonians 5:13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

These two verses seem to be addressed to the congregation at large regarding their leaders (elders and deacons?) These leaders are to be respected and esteemed because they have charge over them and work on their behalf.

The congregation at large is to be at peace and unity. Certainly this also applies to the leaders.

The role of Church leaders is to keep the peace and to correct those who are not living up to the demands of a Christian life.

I can't imagine attending a Church in which the elders admonish the members. I have seen Churches like this and they seemed very cult-like. Perhaps Paul is merely referring to generic instruction and correction in sermons, as well as disciplining in extreme cases of unruliness.

(1 Thessalonians 5:14) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded [timid], support the weak, be patient toward all men.

This seems to be written to the leaders (elders?) instructing them how to deal with certain kinds of Christians in the congregation. There is a familiarity expressed here which I've never seen in any Church I've been to. To have this kind of fellowship requires that the leaders are very involved with their congregations, much as we would see in a house church. I believe one problem with the early Church is that the leaders became too distant from their congregations as they became involved with politics.

Verses 13 and 14 begin exactly the same way, but the audience is clearly different. Perhaps Paul does this on purpose so he can call both groups brethren.

(1 Thessalonians 5:15) See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

(1 Thessalonians 5:16) Rejoice evermore.

(1 Thessalonians 5:17) Pray without ceasing.

I have no idea what this means. Some possibilities...

  1. Obviously we can't pray out loud 24 hours a day so perhaps it refers to being in an attitude of prayer which can exist even while sleeping. The problem is, the New Testament doesn't teach prayer to be merely an attitude but, rather, a specific activity. Also, when I am asleep, I am not praying — I am asleep. I doubt Paul thinks we are praying when asleep.
  2. Other things Paul does without ceasing: remembering them and, thanking God. The phrase "without ceasing" probably means "often".  
  3. We are to "continue in prayer". Probably this is the same as "praying without ceasing".
  4. We should not give up until our prayers are answered. Perseverance in prayer.
  5. We should have regular daily prayer times by ourselves and with others.
  6. We should think to pray often, when hearing about someone's difficulties or enjoying the beauties of nature.
  7. When we pray, we should have the proper feelings about it; prayer should not be dry and routine but, rather, Spirit-filled.
  8. We should pray for every important topic and aspect of our lives and of those around us.
  9. We should respond to the situations of our life, both good and bad, with prayer. This includes praying for enemies and for those who insult us.

(1 Thessalonians 5:18) In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I wonder how it is possible to give thanks for bad things that happen? The answer is that if we see things the way God sees them, and if we see the ultimate outcome (the new heavens and new earth), we can thank God for everything. Certainly it is easy to give thanks to God for the really great things that happen; and we should remember to do this. But during a catastrophe...? Perhaps Paul is not referring to these kinds of events. Perhaps the proper thing to do then is to cry out to God in our pain and anguish.

Should we thank God that Lucifer rebelled against God and tempted Eve, resulting in eternal damnation for those who reject God's grace of redemption? Should we thank God that the Nazis murdered millions of people? No matter what happens we at least have to thank God that he is God, and to trust his plan and purpose. It is easy to intellectually say that everything is for the good, but it is hard to justify this idea in the face of personal tragedy. Sometimes we must force our will to trust God and his goodness — and call out to him when we can't.

(1 Thessalonians 5:19) Quench not the Spirit.

(1 Thessalonians 5:20) Despise not prophesyings.

The early Church rather quickly stopped having prophets and became based on rules and rites. I guess Paul's warnings weren't heeded by the early Church, probably because they were too busy gaining political power and fighting with each other about who would rule which city, and about doctrines.

(1 Thessalonians 5:21) Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

We are not to believe false teachings; we must verify their teachings by comparing to known truth. Where do we find known truth? The same place the early Christians did; from apostolic teaching. The recipients of Paul's letter did not have the Bible as their authority so, therefore, the Bible is not the authority. Nor did they consider this letter from Paul to be scripture. Yet they believed Paul's teaching in word or letter.

What happens if we go to a church which teaches false teaching? (sadly almost every Church is in this category). I suppose we can continue to go if we are careful to weed out the true from the false. Perhaps the benefits of fellowship outweigh the risk of becoming indoctrinated in falsehood through constant repetition.

(1 Thessalonians 5:22) Abstain from all appearance of evil.

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This verse clearly defines when the coming of Christ occurs: it occurs at death. (Christ also comes at his second coming, but that is not what is spoken of here.) Notice that the body is preserved until Christ comes. Since the body does not survive after death, Paul is speaking of death. This means we should each one of use expect to encounter Jesus Christ at death. This is so obvious from this verse I'm surprised no one else noticed it.

This verse mentions body, soul, and spirit. Some make much of the reference to both soul and spirit. Throughout church history there have been those who claimed the soul dies along with the body and only the spirit survives death. But since the spirit is given only to believers when they receive salvation, this implies that non-believers are annihilated at death. There are other views about this — many Charismatics think it to be supremely important that we make this distinction between soul and spirit. But there are passages that indicate there are only two aspects to human life: physical (the body) and spiritual (soul, spirit, intellect, will, emotion, etc.)

This verse teaches we can lose our salvation. The audience of this verse is believers, but it is possible that not all will remain blameless; some will lose their salvation and be worthy of blame and condemnation.

God is a God of peace. When we are angry or unruly, we are not at peace. Why should we not be at peace when God is a God of peace? Sadly, some pastors teach that righteous anger is a virtue; I think they do this to justify their addiction to anger and rage.

God can sanctify us completely and we can be blameless. We are to become perfect.

Holiness gets us into heaven. According to Protestants these people are saved, but according to Paul they need to remain holy. This verse implies that God judges us based on how blameless we are.

(1 Thessalonians 5:24) Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

God the Father calls them.

Notice that God calls them, present tense. God's calling is an ongoing activity. God does not select only certain individuals for salvation and only call these.

(1 Thessalonians 5:25) Brethren, pray for us.

(1 Thessalonians 5:26) Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

(1 Thessalonians 5:27) I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

Paul is again speaking to the leaders, asking them to read this letter to the congregation. Presumably, letters such as this were delivered by a messenger to the leaders of the Churches (not to the congregation at large). Paul seems to be worried that these Church leaders might think the letter was just for them, but it was also for the whole community.

Unless they made a copy of this letter, they would only be able to read it publicly one time. I suppose they would do whatever they could to detain the messenger who delivered the letter to stay while they made a copy.

(1 Thessalonians 5:28) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

King James Version