1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

1 Thessalonians 5:12‑28  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Edward Cross
12. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13. And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
14. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
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.
16. Rejoice evermore.
17. Pray without ceasing.
18. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19. Quench not the Spirit.
20. Despise not prophesyings.
21. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22. Abstain from all appearance of evil.
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.
24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
25. Brethren, pray for us.
26. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
27. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
In this concluding section of the epistle, the apostle turns more directly to what is purely hortatory, as the previous part is rather the expression of his own feelings and personal affection towards them. It is marked by the same exuberance of style in which the outflowings of his spirit are poured forth: and in the structure of it the subject seems to fall naturally before us into three parts: he beseeches them; he exhorts them; and he prays for them.
If we make a distinction between the terms, the word “beseech” (ver. 12) means to beg in a tender and delicate way, so as to gain thereby the request desired; while “exhort” (ver. 14) carries with it the idea of admonition, encouragement, comfort, as using persuasion, and so gaining the will.
First, he beseeches them with regard to those who are over them in the Lord, that they should recognize them with the respect which is their due, and esteem them “hyper-highly,” if one might be permitted so to render as closely as possible the word, in love for their works’ sake, and to be at peace among themselves.
It is very interesting to see already rising up among these young converts those who took the oversight and guidance amongst them. They were in much need of such; and in the Lord’s tender care for His people, such were provided for them by Him. No doubt these young teachers had much to learn themselves. Their experience and their knowledge were but scanty: but they put their hands, as best they could, to the need before them, and they were blessed in the deed.
It is useless to wait for perfection before you do what lies before you to be done. If your implements are not perfect, make the best use of what you have. He who waits to do until he finds perfection wherewith to do it, will never do at all. But he who does what he can do, and does it to the Lord, will do as she did of whom it is written, “She hath done what she could.... Verily, I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done [mark well the word “this also,” as an accompaniment of the very gospel itself] shall be spoken of for a memorial of her” (Mark 14:8, 98She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. (Mark 14:8‑9)).
But, in a community freshly brought out from paganism, it is easy to understand how needful such an exhortation as this would be, where all the elements of ignorance and pride, independency and self-will, a vain impatience of restraint and such like things, were as yet only held in check, for the most part unconsciously, by the fresh force of first love, and had not yet been measured experimentally by them in their essential opposition to the kingdom of God. All this exercise will come in due course; it must do so; but meanwhile the apostle beseeches them in the most delicate and winning way to submit themselves in all love to the direction of this new regime, under which they had already found such joy and blessing: and to be at peace among themselves.
How clearly he diagnosed, so to speak, the constitutional taint that needed such an exhortation; even as Joseph said to his brethren of old, “See that ye fall not out by the way” (Gen. 45:2424So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way. (Genesis 45:24)). How soon this taint was manifested amongst them. Alas! how soon! A taint that for well-nigh 2,000 years has developed itself into all the hideousness that has disfigured the erst fair face of the Church of God on earth.
He now turns to their conduct in respect of those (ver. 14) who would naturally test the reality of the grace that was in them. There is nothing strange in this testing. If we have received grace, it is that we may show its virtue. Of what value is it, if it be not thus proved?
When the disciples came down from the mount of transfiguration, where, in the company of Moses and Elias, they had seen the glory of the Lord in the splendor of that scene, they were at once confronted with the circumstances of another scene, which put to the test how much available power they had brought with them from the glory of the scene above. Alas! They quickly showed how out of touch they were, subjectively, with all that had so lately passed before their eyes. The glory of the kingdom had been before them, and they, had been impressed by the sense of it when they said, “Lord it is good for us to be here” (Matt. 17:44Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. (Matthew 17:4)); but they were not yet able to translate into practical effect the power of it in common life.
If we have received grace, it is that it should control us in the various circumstances which we are bound to meet in a world of temptation such as this. How manifold the trials are! But grace is given us that we should conduct ourselves in a becoming and Christian manner in the midst of all, and thus, as it is written, “show forth the virtues [margin] of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light “ (1 Pet. 2:99But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)). This section falls naturally into two parts: 1St, their conduct towards others: 2nd, their own state within. In each part there are seven injunctions; and in view of the general structure of the Epistle on which we have before remarked, it is quite possible that this double handful of fullness is not accidental but of design.
1. “Warn them that are unruly,”
2. “Comfort the feebleminded,”
3. “Support the weak,”
4. “Be patient toward all men.”
5. “See that none render evil for evil unto any man;”
6. “But ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves”
7. “And to all men.”
Little need be said as to these things in detail. Let us rather see to it that we ponder them in the presence of God; and that we steadfastly set ourselves to practice them before men.
Then he adds, as regards their personal state:
1. “Rejoice evermore.” There are those — pessimists, men of moody minds — who dwell in the contemplation of evil, where sunlight seldom shines to brighten up the soul. Such men would not allow themselves to rejoice; or, if for a brief moment a gleam of brighter things flits across the sky, they quickly correct themselves lest they should presume too much on the “grace wherein we stand.” They forget the injunction “Rejoice evermore.”
2. “Pray without ceasing.” How needful this is for those who are young in the faith, just starting on their Christian course! Those who are older will know its value better.
3. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (comp. Phil. 4:66Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6)). We are ready enough to give thanks while things are prosperous according to our notions of prosperity. It is the province of faith to give thanks always. Let those who are in great difficulty only try its virtue.
4. “Quench not the Spirit.” In Eph. 4:3030And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30) we read, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,” that is, by the practice or allowance of evil contrary to His holy nature. Here it is not the question of corrupt conduct which “grieves,” but as a fire which might be “quenched,” whether in ourselves or others, by refusing to follow His promptings in simplicity and in faith.
5. “Despise not prophesyings.” That which is of the Spirit is of spiritual value, wherever it appears. Despise it not.
6. “Prove all things; fold fast the right” (New Trans). The existence of evil — which they were to test — need be no hindrance to their progress, but the reverse. The sifting of it would teach them to discriminate between right and wrong: would cast them on the truth and the power of it; and they would thereby learn to “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:1414But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)). In result they would learn to hold fast the right.
7. — Abstain from every form of evil (New Trans.) This closes up in a general injunction the sum of all that he inculcates. And how suitable to the circumstances of those who had just been called out of the darkness of their former state into the light of the gospel, to “serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven.” How suitable it remains still for us in our day, who are called by the same grace and in the same hope.
His heart now turns to God Himself — the God of peace — who alone, above and beyond the best efforts of feeble man, could effectuate these desires, and make good and real and complete in them this truly divine work of sanctification, and preserve them blameless, their whole spirit and soul and body in reference to, or at, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is to be noticed that he does not say, “sanctify you perfectly,” as though they were already partly sanctified, and they had to progress in it to perfection; but “sanctify you wholly,” i.e., entirely, in all your parts, spirit, soul, and body, and that in these you be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The three parts, spirit, soul and body, constitute the entire man. The spirit is the superior and active part that properly moves and governs the rest. Of it is predicated both mind and will; and upon it the Holy Spirit acts in the highest functions of spiritual life.
The soul is the inferior animal part. It is the seat of the affections and passions, and is the more passive part normally acted on and governed by the spirit which is above it.
The body is the material part which serves as the instrument for the expression of the immaterial part — the vehicle for the carrying out of the will. The three parts form the entire man.
The movements of the soul and of the spirit are necessarily much involved, and they are not always easily distinguishable. The Word of God, “sharper than any two-edged sword,” unerringly divides between them (Heb. 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)).
And with these mighty desires on their behalf filling his soul, and foreseeing too, as doubtless he did, all the dangers that lay exposed to his prophetic vision, as he foretold to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:29, 3029For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29‑30)), yet with undaunted faith he adds without qualification or limitation, “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also perform it” (New Trans.).
Ver. 25. But if the apostle was a strong man, he was also a dependent one: ultimately dependent on God, mediately dependent on the prayers of the saints, as he also devoted himself in prayer for them. Were there more prayer, mutual prayer one for the other, there would be less trouble amongst the saints.
Ver. 26. The holy kiss was the greeting of love.
Ver. 27. Is there not here a foreboding, realized actually later on (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2, 32That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:2‑3)), of the evil way in which his teaching would be subverted, either by suppressing what he had written, or by misrepresenting it, or by false letters purporting to be his, misleading the saints and disturbing their minds as to what he had really taught? Hence he solemnly adjures them “by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.”
Ver. 28. The epistle ends with grace, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”: and all will end in glory. Amen.