In this portion of Paul’s first letter, he continues speaking of the Lord’s return by reminding them that they already have been taught that the time is unknown and will come like a “thief in the night,” catching the unrighteous unaware and unready. Paul refers to them in verse 5 as “children of light” (some translations say “sons of light”) and “children of the day.” Jesus refers to believers as “sons of light” in a parable in Luke 16:8 and in John 12:35-36, as He is “the light.” As Paul speaks here of the difference between they who know the Lord and the unrighteous, his words about not being “of the darkness,” along with those about the sins that take place at night, obviously show that being “of the light” has other meaning as well (verses 6-7). But his military imagery in verse 8 , is in the context of always being ready – which is the main point he is driving home.
Paul’s message of faith, hope, and love continues as he admonishes them to encourage and build one another up. But in the middle of this, in verses 12-13, he says “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” This is clearly a reference to elders of the church; and we know from Acts 14:23 that he and Barnabas had appointed elders in every church on their journey through the area. These verses and those following may have been to address specific concerns Paul had for signs of turmoil to which he was made aware (“be at peace among yourselves”). But as “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), the commands and principles through verse 22 apply to Christians everywhere (“Admonish the idle, the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”).
Not repaying evil for evil (verse 15) is not a mandate against punishment by the justice system, but a limit that a Christian has to put on his personal life, difficult as it may be – instead, we must “seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” are the will of the Father through Christ Jesus. “Do not quench the Spirit” and “Do not despise prophecies” would appear to be speaking to the Spiritual gifts that were to end after the apostolic age, but the Spirit that one acquires from baptism can also be quenched by false teaching, and by the sins of not following these important principles. “Abstain from every form of evil” ( the KJV incorrectly asserts “the appearance of evil”) in this context , as Coffman comments is: “having tested what is true and false, the believer should cling to the true and abstain from the false.”
He closes, wishing them the peace and grace of the Lord, exhorting them to keep their “whole spirit and soul and body” blameless, looking toward the coming of the Lord. He then charges them to have this circular letter read to all the brethren.
Side note: Good information and photos of Thessalonica (Thessaloniki) in this article at BiblePlaces.com.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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