1 Thessalonians 5:12–24
We appreciate the balance of Holy Scriptures. Immediately following an uplifting passage on the return of Christ, the conversation shifts to matters of relationships and attitudes within the congregation at Thessalonica. I love this. Our heads are lifted high, and we live in eager anticipation of the glorious return of our victorious Lord Jesus, but in the meantime we must take care of business here.
Scripture is consistent — from the Old Testament throughout the New — that God’s people should show proper appreciation to those who labor among them, instruct them and have charge over them in the Lord. No group is left out. Sometimes when I write a note to a veteran servant of Christ, I’ll say, “Hebrews 6:10 has your name all over it.” That wonderful verse says, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” Think of that—when we bless His people, God takes it personally. Likewise, it matters to Him when they are persecuted (see also Matt. 21:40 and 22:7). Near Damascus, the Lord Jesus informed Saul of Tarsus that in persecuting Christians, he was attacking the Lord Himself (Acts 9:4–5).
1 Timothy 5:17 says, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Hebrews 13:17 instructs God’s people, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give account.” Scripture is consistent on this theme. We should strive to prioritize respect for those He has put in leadership within His congregations.
Having addressed the people’s responsibility to their workers, instructors and leaders, Paul now turns to the other end of the spectrum. We must take care of those who struggle or stray. We are to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak and be patient with everyone. Always seeking what is best for one another is the rule. “Is this best?” is a great question that works well in every situation.
Who doesn’t love the little trio in verses 16–18? “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” Constant joy, unending prayer and gratitude in every situation—these are about as good as it gets!
Likewise, the Lord’s people were not to quench the Spirit (think of dousing a fire), but to obey Him. Nor were they to despise prophetic utterances. Bear in mind there was no written New Testament yet to which the Holy Spirit could direct them. (I’m remembering a time when I was going from a pastorate to become director of missions and was feeling anxious. “Lord, are you sure?” I asked. The answer came to me immediately in the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:24, although I had to look it up.)
Even though they were instructed to welcome prophetic utterances, not everything someone claimed to be from God met the high standards. So, they were instructed to examine everything and keep only that which was good, turning away from anything questionable.
The question arises whether Paul is dividing humans into three parts — body, soul and spirit. Some authorities say yes, some say no. The words “soul” and “spirit” are often used interchangeably throughout Scripture. As the Lord is sanctifying us day by day, He will complete the process at the appearing of our Savior from Heaven. The One who has called us is faithful, and He is the One who will bring about full sanctification. We are well cared for by Him.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
By Joe McKeever
Pastor, writer and cartoonist from Ridgeland, Mississippi.