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1 Thessalonians 5

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord's Coming The Day of the Lord Questions Concerning the Coming of the Lord Be Ready for the Lord's Coming Watchfulness While Awaiting the Coming of the Lord
(4:13-5:11)   (4:13-5:11)    
5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-3
        5:4-11
Final Exhortations and Greetings Various Exhortations Concluding Exhortations Final Instructions and Greetings  
5:12-15 5:12-22 5:12-22 5:12-13 5:12-13a
        15:13b
      5:14-15 5:14-18
5:16-22     5:16-18  
      5:19-22 5:19-22
  Blessing and Admonition     Closing Prayer and Farewell
5:23-24 5:23-28 5:23-24 5:23-24 5:23-24
5:25   5:25 5:25 5:25
5:26-27   5:26-27 5:26 5:26-27
      5:27  
5:28   5:28 5:28 5:28

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one, and only one, subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-22

A. Verses 1-11 are closely linked to 4:13-18. Notice the similar ending in 4:18 and 5:11. These passages are primarily pastoral. Their contextual purpose is to comfort, not give doctrine, although surely Paul does.

 

B. This continues the discussion of the Second Coming and how Christians should live in light of the Lord's imminent return.

 

C. Verses 13-22 have fifteen present imperatives which speak of ongoing lifestyle characteristics demanded of believers in light of the end-time events.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:1-11
 1Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

5:1 "Now as to" The subject of the Second Coming continues, but a new aspect of the event is approached: the judgment of unbelievers.

NASB"the times and the epochs"
NKJV, NRSV"the times and the seasons"
TEV"the times and occasions"
NJB"times and seasons"

Although believers are not to seek specific times (cf. Matt. 24:36), they do need to recognize the trends of history (cf. Acts 1:7; Matt. 24:32-33). The Greek chronōn, translated "times," answers the question, "How long?" It speaks of the passing of time. The English word "chronology" is derived from this Greek root. Kairōn, translated "epochs," answers the question, "when?" It speaks of special events.

▣ "brethren" This is often used by Paul to mark a transition to a new subject (see 4:1).

▣ "you have no need of anything to be written to you" Paul had not been able to give them extensive and prolonged information about the Second Coming. Remember, he only stayed a short time in Thessalonica, but he must have preached on this subject several times. This phrase does not mean to imply the Thessalonian believers perfectly understood all aspects of the end-time events but that the Spirit would lead them and inform them in the necessary areas (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; I John 2:20,27) especially those truths that relate to: (1) the gospel, and (2) the Christian life.

The other possible option is that it refers to the New Covenant of Jer. 31:31-34, especially vv. 33-34. The New Age of righteousness is characterized by believers knowing God in intimate personal ways. They will not need a teacher for God has written His word on their hearts by means of the Spirit.

5:2 "the day of the Lord" This corresponds to an OT phrase referring to God or His Messiah breaking into history to set up the new age of righteousness (cf. Joel 1:15; 2:11,31; Amos 5:18; Isa. 2:12). In the OT God's coming could be for blessing or for judgment. For believers it will be the culmination of salvation but for unbelievers the consummation of judgment.

The eschatological emphasis of a special coming day when humans will meet Jesus (as Savior or Judge) goes by several designations in Paul's writings:

1. "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. I Cor. 1:8)

2. "the day of the Lord" (cf. I Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2)

3. "the day of the Lord Jesus" (cf. II Cor. 1:14)

4. "the day of Jesus Christ" (cf. Phil. 1:6)

5. "the day of Christ" (cf. Phil. 1:10; 2:16)

6. "His day (Son of Man)" (cf. Luke 17:24)

7. "the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (cf. Luke 17:30)

8. "the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. I Cor. 1:7)

9. "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven" (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7)

10. "in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming" (cf. 1 Thess. 2:19)

In the OT the writers saw two ages, an evil age and a coming age of righteousness, the age of the Spirit. God would intervene in history through His Messiah to set up this new age. This event was know as the "Day of the Lord." Notice that NT writers attribute this to Christ. His first coming, the Incarnation, was foretold in many OT texts. The Jews did not expect a divine person, just a divine intervention. The two comings of the Messiah, one as suffering servant and savior, one as Judge and Lord, were not obvious to OT people. See Special Topic: The Two Ages in Gal. 1:4.

▣ "will come just like a thief in the night" This is a present tense used as a future. This "any-moment" return is a recurrent theme in the NT (cf. Matt. 24:42-44; 25:13; Luke 12:40,45; 21:34-36; II Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). See Special Topic at 4:15.

There was a Jewish tradition that the Messiah would come at midnight on Passover like the Death Angel of the Exodus.

5:3 "While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety'" This was the message of the false prophets of Jeremiah's day (cf. Jer. 6:14; 8:11,28). Human life and society will appear normal before God's intervention (cf. Matt. 24:37-38; Luke 17:26-27). They will not be expecting the Messiah.

The NT emphasis is that there will be intense suffering before the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19-20).

▣ "then destruction will come upon them suddenly" This passage strongly contrasts "them" (v. 3) and "brothers" (v. 4). This destruction does not refer to annihilation, but is a biblical metaphor for God's judgment (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9; Dan. 12:2).

"Suddenly" is only found here and in Luke's account of Jesus' Olivet discourse (cf. Luke 21:34). It implies a sudden and unexpected event.

▣ "labor pains" This OT metaphor of judgment (cf. Isa. 13:6-8; Jer. 4:31) became a NT metaphor (i.e., birth pains of the new age, cf. Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8; Rom. 8:22). It speaks of the suddenness yet certainty of an event, as well as the severe pain involved.

NASB"and they will not escape"
NKJV"And they shall not escape"
NRSV"and there will be no escape"
TEV"They will not escape"
JB"and there will be no way for anybody to evade it"

This is an emphatic double negative: "Never, no, never under any circumstances."

5:4 "But you, brethren, are not in darkness" God has revealed—through the OT prophets, Jesus, and NT writers—the basic outline of end-time events so that those believers who are alive will not be surprised by what is occurring. This is one way that God has provided courage to His followers amid the difficulties of this life and the end-time tribulation period.

One reason for the recurrent confusion among believers about these events is that every generation of believers has tried to force these events into their history.

SPECIAL TOPIC: OLD TESTAMENT PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE VS. NEW TESTAMENT PREDICTIONS

5:5 "sons of light and sons of day" These are two Semitic idioms for the righteous (cf. Luke 16:8; John 1:4-9; 3:17-21; 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35-36,46; Eph. 5:8; I John 1:5,7; 2:8-10). This metaphorical dualism of light versus darkness is characteristic of the Ancient Near East. It is a recurrent theme in the Apostle John's writings and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

5:6 "let us not sleep" This is a different word from 4:13ff. It is often used in the NT for moral indifference (cf. Mark 13:36; Eph. 5:14). Notice the three different uses of "sleep" (katheudō): (1) lack of moral alertness, (v. 6); (2) physical rest, (v. 7); (3) death, (v. 10).

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"as others do"
TEV"like the others"
NJB"as everyone else does"

This is literally "the remaining" or "the rest." It is the same term used to describe unbelievers who have no hope in 4:13.

▣ "let us be alert and sober" Verse 6 has three present active subjunctives. The first is negative, "do not continue to sleep." The next two are positive, "keep alert and sober." These emphasize continual diligence, but with an element of contingency. Some believers are asleep and are not alert or sober. Alertness is a common theme of the NT for Christians concerning the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:42-43; 25:13; Mark 13:34; Luke 21:34). Both "alert" and "sober" are used metaphorically. "Sober" in vv. 6 & 8 is used of mental alertness or self-control (cf. II Tim.4:5; I Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).

5:8 "having put on" This is an Aorist middle participle which could read "having once for all ourselves put on." This usage is very similar to Rom. 13:12; Eph. 6:11-14, which reflects Isa. 59:17. Paul used this military armor metaphor often, but not always using the armor to represent the same Christian attributes. Believers must personally avail themselves of the spiritual weaponry provided by Christ. Maturity's protection is not automatic (cf. v. 7).

▣ "faith. . .love. . .hope" This was Paul's favorite triad of Christian virtues (cf. Rom. 5:2-5; Gal. 5:5-6; Col. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:3; Heb. 6:10-12; I Pet. 1:21-22). They form a link from initial faith to consummated faith.

▣ "hope" This often is used to refer to the Second Coming, especially in I & 2 Thessalonians. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOPE at Gal. 5:5.

5:9 "for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" God's love flows to us only through Christ. He is the only way (cf. John 14:6); the door (John 10:1-3); the only mediator (I Tim. 2:5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (GREEK VERB TENSES)

5:10 "who died for us" This expresses Jesus' substitutionary vicarious sacrifice on our behalf (cf. Isa. 53; Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21).

▣ "whether we are awake or asleep" There are two interpretive options: (1) the church was concerned about those members of their fellowship who have died or (2) Jesus died for even those believers who are not alert and not sober.

▣ "we will live together with Him" Heaven is surely a place (cf. John 14:2-3a), but primarily it is being with Jesus (cf. John 14:3c; II Cor. 5:6,8). Heaven, like salvation, is a personal relationship!

5:11 "encourage one another" This is a present active imperative. "Encourage" is from the same root as "paraclētos" (cf. John 14-16,26; 15:26; 16:17; I John 2:1). Paul's discussion of the Rapture (cf. 4:13-18) ends in an ethical, ministry admonition (cf. I Cor. 15:58; Eph. 4:13). Doctrine should encourage godly living (cf. Luke 12:48).

"build up one another" This is another present active imperative. The expectation of Christ's return and heaven should motivate us to minister to one another, not fight over competing human eschatological systems!

SPECIAL TOPIC: EDIFY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:12-22
 12But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16Rejoice always;17 pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not quench the Spirit; 20do not despise prophetic utterances. 21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

5:12 "brethren" This is often used by Paul to show a transition to a new subject (cf. 4:13; 5:1), though not always (cf. 5:14 and 25, 26). Here it shows that Paul was addressing the whole church.

NASB"appreciate"
NKJV"recognize"
NRSV"respect"
TEV"to pay proper respect"
NJB"be considerate"

This is a perfect infinitive, literally "to know," used in the sense of "to appreciate," "to show people respect," "to acknowledge the value of" or "know the value of." Believers must respond appropriately and respectfully toward God-called leadership (cf. I Cor. 16:18; Phil. 2:29; I Tim. 5:17).

NASB"those who diligently labor amongst you"
NKJV, NRSV"those who labor among you"
TEV"to those who work among you"
NJB"those who are working amongst you"

This term for "labor" means "strenuous effort" (cf. I Cor. 16:16). This entire section seems to refer to an attitude problem in the church toward its leadership.

1. "who diligently labor among you" (present active participle)

2. "who have charge over you" (present middle participle)

3. "who give you instructions (present active participle). There is one article in the Greek text followed by these three descriptive phrases, all of these participles refer to leadership.

 

▣ "have charge over you in the Lord" This is literally "to be set before." They will give an account to God for their ministry (cf. I Cor. 3:10-17; Heb. 13:17).

▣ "give you instruction" This is literally "put sense into." It is usually translated "to admonish the unruly."

5:12-22 There is a series of fifteen present imperatives urging believers to live appropriately in a fallen world on the verge of destruction. Our godly lives should point lost people to Christ.

5:13

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"esteem them very highly in love"
TEV"Treat them with the greatest respect and love"
NJB"Have the greatest respect and affection for them"

The verbal is a present infinitive which emphasizes continuing personal action. The adverb is a triple compound term used three times by Paul (cf. Eph. 3:20; 1 Thess. 3:10). Believers should respect their leaders (cf. I Cor. 16:18; Phil. 2:29; I Tim. 5:17). See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Gal. 1:13.

▣ "because of their work" Leadership is a gift from God (cf. Eph. 4:11-13). When He assigns the task, He honors the task, not necessarily the person who receives it. The term translated "work" in v. 13 is different from the one in v. 12. This hard working group of leaders may have been contrasted with those who refused to work (cf. v. 14 and 2 Thess. 3:6-11).

▣ "Live in peace with one another" This is a present active imperative, a continual command for believers and a common NT appeal (cf. Mark 9:50; Rom. 12:18; II Cor. 13:11). This reflects a common problem in the churches. Christianity embraced men and women from many differing backgrounds (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; I Cor. 8:1-13; 10:23-33).

5:14 "brethren" This verse could refer primarily to the leaders (cf. v. 27), but the things mentioned would apply to all believers. This is also true of I Timothy 3. New Testament Christianity does not make a distinction between "clergy" and "laity." We are all God-called, Spirit- gifted ministers of Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:11-13). Within this family of gifted ministers God does choose leaders!

NASB"admonish the unruly"
NKJV"warn those who are unruly"
NRSV"to admonish the idlers"
TEV"warn the idle"
NJB"warn the idlers"

This begins a series of present imperatives, denoting continuous or habitual action. There are fifteen imperatives in vv. 12-22. This one could have one of two meanings: (1) a military term for disorderly conduct; or (2) used in the Koine Greek papyri from Egypt for "idlers." The latter connotation fits the context of this letter better (cf. 2 Thess. 3:7-16).

NASB, NRSV"encourage the fainthearted"
NKJV"comfort the fainthearted"
TEV"encourage the timid"
NJB"give courage to those who are apprehensive"

A present middle (deponent) imperative, this is literally, "little-minded." The KJV has "feeble-minded," but it is really used in the sense of "fainthearted" or "little-faithed" (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; I Cor. 8; 10:23-33). It may be an allusion to Isa. 35:4 in the Septuagint.

▣ "help the weak" This present middle imperative is used in the sense of weak in body and/or mind. This may designate the same type of Christian as characterized in Rom. 14:1-15:13 (i.e., I Cor. 8:7; 9:22) or it may refer to a physical problem.

▣ "be patient with everyone" This is a present active imperative. It is a command to continually be longsuffering, not short-tempered (cf. I Cor. 13:4; Eph. 4:2). This is directed to both leaders and people. It also gives us a window into the problems of the early church.

There are two Greek terms translated "patience": (1) makrothomia and (2) hupomonē. They are listed together in II Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:11; II Tim. 3:10. The first one is used in this text. It can refer to a characteristic of God (cf. LXX of Isa. 57:15; Rom. 2:4; 9:22; I Pet. 3:20; II Pet. 3:9). Believers are to emulate the character (image) of their Father.

It is also used of patience with (1) something, cf. Heb. 6:12; James 5:7,8 or (2) someone. cf. Matt. 18:26,29; I Cor. 13:1; 1 Thess. 5:14; James 5:10. This is evidence of spiritual maturity and Christlike living.

5:15 "See that no one repays another with evil for evil" This is another present active imperative (cf. Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:17-21; I Pet. 3:9). Believers must respond differently than unbelievers. Believers should act in love, not react in anger. Difficult and unfair situations are often the most effective witnessing opportunities.

NASB"always seek after that which is good"
NKJV"always pursue what is good"
NRSV"always seek to do good"
TEV"at all times make it your aim to do good"
NJB"you must all think of what is best"

This present active imperative is rendered literally "continue to pursue good" (cf. v. 21; Rom. 12:9). The term "good" here is agathos, which usually emphasizes a moral quality. But one wonders how this relates to the next phrase "for one another and for all people." The term kalos (good or beautiful) is used in v. 21. There is a large semantic overlap between these two terms in Koine Greek. Is there meant to be a distinction? Both immediate contexts refer to "evil" (cf. vv. 15a, 22). Verse 15 relates to Christian actions toward believers and non-believers (all men), but v. 21 relates to analyzing Christian leaders or gifts. I am currently thinking that they are synonymous. There was a simplification in grammar and vocabulary occurring in Koine Greek in Paul's day. For a good discussion of kalos see William Barclay's New Testament Words pp. 151-161.

▣ "for one another and for all people" This is much like v. 14 and 3:12. Believers must put the good of the community above personal benefit (cf. Rom. 12:10; I Cor. 12:7; Phil. 2:1-5). How believers treat other believers should be generalized to the way they treat nonbelievers also (cf. Gal. 6:10).

5:16 "Rejoice always" This present active imperative is the theme of the book of Philippians (cf. 2:18; 3:1; 4:4,10). It is a world-view based on our relationship with Christ and our covenant relationship with other Christians, not on circumstances (cf. Rom. 8:31-39).

5:17 "pray without ceasing" Another present middle (deponent) imperative, this must refer to lifestyle prayer, a moment by moment fellowship with God (cf. 1:3; 2:13). Paul sensed a need for prayer and believed it affected his ministry (cf. v. 25; Eph. 6:18-19; 2 Thess. 3:1).

5:18

NASB, NKJV"in everything give thanks"
NRSV"give thanks in all circumstances"
TEV"be thankful in all circumstances"
NJB"for all things give thanks to God"

This is another present active imperative. Circumstances must not dictate our thanksgiving or our joy (cf. Rom. 8:26-30, 31-39; Eph. 5:20). Remember that thanksgiving should flow not "for all things," but "in all circumstances." See Special Topic: Paul's Praise, Prayer, and Thanksgiving at Gal. 6:18. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THANKSGIVING at 1 Thess. 1:2.

▣ "God's will" This is literally "a will of God" like Eph. 5:17. The will of God is that fallen mankind believe in Christ (cf. John 6:29). After this there are several "wills" of God. One is to rejoice and give thanks even during persecution and conflict. See Special Topic at 4:3.

5:19

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"Do not quench the Spirit"
TEV"Do not restrain the Holy Spirit"
NJB"Never try to suppress the Spirit"

Verses 19-20 are present active imperatives with the negative particle, usually meaning stop an act in process. The Williams translation has "stop stifling the Spirit." The five imperatives of vv. 19-22 must go together. The first two negative imperatives of vv. 19 & 20 set the boundaries for the three positive imperatives of 21-22. "Quench" means "to put out a fire." Our actions affect the working of the Spirit (cf. Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT

5:20

NASB"do not despise prophetic utterances"
NKJV"Do not despise prophecies"
NRSV"Do not despise the words of prophets"
TEV"do not despise inspired messages"
NJB"never. . .treat the gift of prophecy with contempt"

The definition of "prophecy" in the NT has been much debated. The gift is included in the list of spiritual gifts in I Cor. 12:28-29 and Eph. 4:11. How the Scripture writing prophets of the OT are related to the post-apostolic gift of "prophecy" is uncertain. Most scholars want to limit inspiration/revelation to the NT period (cf. Jude 3,20).

Clearly NT prophets are not synonymous with OT prophets. The NT gift usually relates to practical application issues, not new revelatory information. However, there is a predictive element in Acts 11:27-30 and 21:10-11. In I and II Corinthians prophecy and prophesy (cf. I Cor. 13:1; 14:1,39) mean proclaim the gospel. Exactly how this proclamation differed between apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is uncertain.

Verse 20 is in some way related to v. 19. Exactly how this fits into the Thessalonian church is uncertain. Believers must vigorously reject false leaders, but enthusiastically embrace godly leaders.

5:21

NASB"examine everything carefully"
NKJV"Test all things"
NRSV"test everything"
TEV"Put all things to the test"
NJB"think before you do anything"

This is a present active imperative. It is literally, "and all things prove." In context this could refer to (1) church leaders, (2) spiritual gifts, (3) a spiritual message, or (4) doctrine. The word (dokimazō, see Special Topic at 3:5) implies "to test with a view toward approval" (cf. I Cor. 12:10; 14:29; I John 4:1ff.). Some things appear spiritual but actually are not (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 2:16-23).

SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGING (SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?)

▣ "hold fast to that which is good" "Hold fast" is another present active imperative. It seems to relate to the things examined. This is the Greek term kalos (good or beautiful), not agathos as in v. 15.

5:22 "abstain from every form of evil" "Abstain" is a present middle imperative. "Evil" can be masculine or neuter. This causes problems in passages like Matt. 6:13, because the text could refer to Satan or evil in general. In this context it could be evil persons or evil in general. There is no emphasis on false teachers in 1 Thessalonians, therefore, it is probably parallel to the generic "good" in v. 21.

The phrase "every form of" can be understood in two ways: (1) KJV translates it as "every appearance of evil," as in Luke 9:29. This is also the way the early Church Fathers understood the term or (2) the Didache 3:1 seems to use the term in a general sense of "all evil," not just apparent, but real evil.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:23-24
 23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

5:23 "may the God of peace Himself" This is a common phrase in the closings of Paul's letters (cf. Rom. 15:33; 16:20; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:6; 2 Thess. 3:16 ). What a wonderful, descriptive title for deity!

▣ "sanctify. . .be preserved" These are both aorist optatives, which is the mood of wishing or praying. Paul prayed that believers be sanctified and preserved by God. This shows sanctification is both a gift at salvation and a continuing task. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at 4:3.

▣ "sanctify you entirely" In this sentence, two Greek adjectives, "entirely" and "complete," combined with three nouns, "spirit, soul, and body," underscores the completeness of our person, not that man is a trichotomous being like the Triune God. In Luke 1:46-47 the parallelism shows that soul and spirit are synonymous. Humans do not have a soul—they are a soul (cf. Gen. 2:7). This phrase emphasizes believers' call to holiness in every area of their lives (cf. Matt. 5:48; Eph. 1:4).

▣ "may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete" This is not a proof-text for an ontological trichotomy in mankind (humans a trinity like God), but humans have a dual relationship to both this planet and to God. The Hebrew word nephesh is used of both mankind and the animals in Genesis (cf. Gen. 1:24; 2:19), while "spirit" (ruah) is used uniquely of mankind (the breath of life). This is not a proof-text on the nature of mankind as a three-part (trichotomous) being, nor is Heb. 4:12. Mankind is primarily represented in the Bible as a unity (cf. Gen. 2:7). For a good summary of the theories of mankind as trichotomous, dichotomous, or a unity, see Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology (second edition) pp. 538-557 and Frank Stagg's Polarities of Man's Existence in Biblical Perspective.

▣ "without blame" This term is only found here in the NT. It has been found in inscriptions at Thessalonica. It means free from blame or accusations, therefore, morally pure. It possibly reflects the OT term "blameless" that meant free of defects and, therefore, available for sacrifice. See Special Topic at 2:10.

▣ "at the coming of our Lord" This has been the theological focus of the entire book, the Second Coming (cf. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-15:11; 5:23). See SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS' RETURN at 2:19 and 3:13.

5:24 "Faithful is He" This functions both as the second descriptive title (cf. Deut. 7:9; Isa. 49:7; I Cor. 1:9; 10:13; II Cor. 1:18; 2 Thess. 3:3) and as a characteristic of YHWH (cf. Ps. 36:5; 40:10; 89:1,2,5,8; 92:2; 119:90). The believers' confidence is in the established, settled, unchanging character of YHWH (cf. Malachi 3:6).

▣ "He who calls. . .He also will bring it to pass" The third descriptive title, "He who calls," always refers to God the Father (cf. 2:12; 4:7). This verse refers to the believers' election plus glorification (cf. Rom. 8:29-34). It focuses on the trustworthy God who initiates and perfects (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2:13). Our hope is in God's trustworthiness to keep His promises.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:25
 25Brethren, pray for us.

5:25 "pray for us" Paul felt a need for prayer (cf. Rom. 15:30; Eph. 6:18-19; Col. 4:3-4; Phil. 1:19). Prayer somehow releases the power of God for effective ministry. The sovereign God has chosen to limit Himself in some areas to the prayers of His children (cf. James 4:2). What a responsibility this puts on each one of us as Christians. See SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER at 1:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:26-27
 26Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.

5:26 "holy kiss" The "who," "where," and "how" of the early church's use of this type greeting is uncertain. Later, men kissed men and women kissed women on the cheek (cf. Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 16:20; II Cor. 13:23; I Pet. 5:14). The holy kiss was discontinued because of cultural misunderstanding by the pagans.

This was their cultural sign of love, support, and community. In our day in American culture, a hug or a warm handshake functions in the same way. It is a symbol to acknowledge our oneness!

5:27 This verse is addressed to the leaders. Paul's letters were for public reading (cf. Col. 4:16) and later to be passed around to other churches. Paul understood that his writings had meaning beyond their original setting and time.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:28
 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

5:28 Paul probably wrote this himself to authenticate the letter (cf. II Thess. 3:17-18).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Should we try to set the date of Jesus' return? Why?

2. Define the phrase "Day of the Lord."

3. Why is the Second Coming described as: (1) a thief in the night; and (2) a woman in labor?

4. Where else in the Bible is the Christian armor discussed?

5. Which of these verses was written to the congregation and which to leaders?

6. What was the possible background at Thessalonica for this chapter?

7. Why are there so many "present imperatives" in this chapter? What does this grammatical form mean to us?