Study Notes

1Thessalonians 5:12-28

As Paul is finishing up this letter to the Thessalonian church, I can almost picture his state of mind. The first four and a half chapters have been carefully crafted, reviewing their past, present, and future. Now, as he realizes his letter is coming to an end, there's so much he wants to say. These next eleven verses become a rapid-fire of instructions before he signs off with a benediction. Let's see what we can glean from them...

5:12-13 Appreciating Church Leadership

Like all churches built on a Biblical model, the Thessalonian church had leadership. Pastors, elders, and deacons were called by God to serve the church body in various ways. Physically serving people to meet their needs, personally exhorting people to help their walks, and teaching people to know the Word of God.

The Bible has given strict guidelines for the appointing of these men, and we take each and every requirement very seriously when placing people in leadership at Calvary Chapel. You can read 1Timothy 3 for a good listing of the requirements of elders and deacons.

But the funny thing is, the nature of being in church leadership tends to make you a target. For example, deacons serve the physical needs of the church. The deacons here work like crazy before you get here and after you leave, but no one sees their diligent labor. They do much of their work in secret, as it were.

But another way they serve the body is to maintain order during the teaching service. They keep things around here quiet so you're not distracted away from hearing and understanding the Word of God.

A while back, we had an incident regarding this. There was a baby that was disrupting the teaching service with crying and fussing. One of our deacons tapped the woman on the shoulder and told her that we had a wonderful cry room behind the sanctuary. She did nothing about it, the baby continued to fuss, and people continued to be disturbed. A few minutes later, the deacon offered to take her baby to the nursery for her. She said no. The baby continued to fuss, and people continued to be disturbed. A few minutes after this, the deacon informed her that she really needed to utilize either the nursery or the cry room. Several days later, I got a letter from the woman questioning our deacon's salvation!

I tell you that story to help you to illustrate the fact that very often when we serve the Lord and His church, we get accused, attacked, gossiped about, hated, and reviled. But Paul says to appreciate them and esteem them very highly.

1Ths. 5:13 ...esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

I think that all of our church leadership are very likeable guys, but the reason for your esteem and appreciation for them is to be for what they do, not who they are.

Live In Peace With One Another

Next Paul says, "live in peace with one another." Jesus gave us this same commandment in Mark 9. The disciples came to Him and said,

Mark 9:38-39 John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him..."

He then began to talk about ministering to others rather than stumbling others. About taking drastic measures to rid your life of sin. And he closed by saying,

Mark 9:50 "...and be at peace with one another."

There's too much conflict in the body of Christ. There's too much faultfinding, backbiting, and tearing down of each other. For your sake and for the sake of the kingdom of God, if you're a faultfinder, backbiter, or gossiper, repent! Be at peace with your fellow Christians.

5:14 Admonish The Unruly

This verse describes three ways to deal with three different kinds of people.

Admonish the unruly. Unruly is an interesting word. It is "AT-ak-tos," and is used to describe a soldier who is out of ranks, or someone who is disorderly. The word was commonly used by the Greeks to describe someone that didn't show up for work.

We are to admonish those among us that are "AT-ak-tos:" those who are rebellious, those who cause disorder. This admonishing is a warning, an exhortation. Paul uses the same word in 2Thessalonians when he writes,

2Ths. 3:14-15 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And {yet} do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

So when someone is unruly, we need to bring correction to him.

Encourage The Fainthearted

The second instruction is to encourage the fainthearted. The word "fainthearted" in Greek means "to have just a little soul or life left in you." These are people that are at the end of their rope, struggling to stay afloat. We need to encourage, rather than forsake these people. The encouragement given here is the same encouragement that people gave to Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus had died. The book of Romans says,

Rom. 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Too many of us don't offer encouragement because we think, "What would I say? I don't have any answers for them. I don't know what to do." And because of that, we don't do anything. Just go and offer a shoulder to cry on. Very often those who are suffering emotionally don't need answers, they just need comfort and encouragement.

Help The Weak

The third instruction is in regards to the weak: help them. As he has been speaking of people's spiritual conditions, we have to assume he means the spiritually weak. Everyone here would probably take the opportunity to help someone who is physically weak when they see them in need. But I wonder how many of us help the spiritually weak?

This word "help" in Greek means to hold up, to keep yourself directly opposite from someone and hold onto them. It's like teaching a baby to take his first steps - you walk backwards, holding onto his hands, that he won't fall. Or rehabilitating someone who has suffered an injury. This is how we are to help those who are spiritually weak.

Be Patient With All

And whether you're dealing with the unruly, the fainthearted, or the weak, be patient with them all. The word "patient" here means, "long-tempered." It's one thing to be patient with someone when they're late, or they're just taking a long time in understanding something. But we don't often have patience when they are afflicting us, when they owe us, or when they're really trying our patience. That's when patience (or a lack of it) is truly displayed.

5:15 No Evil For Evil

Repaying evil for evil starts a cycle that never stops. At some point, someone's got to say, "Enough. I've been wronged, but I'm going to suffer silently. I'm going to break the cycle of vengeance and let it end with me." Jesus was serious when He said,

Matt. 5:38-39 "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also."

When someone does something evil to you, be like David - entrusting yourself to the Lord, and if vengeance is to be taken, let Him do it. Don't perpetuate the evil.

5:16-18 Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks Always

No matter what bad things happen to you, no matter what trials you are in the middle of, no matter what tribulation comes your way, there are three things that are God's will for you:

1Ths. 5:16-18 Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks...

"Oh come on! How am I supposed to rejoice? My brother died, my husband is in jail, my kids have run away, my parents aren't speaking to me, I got fired from my job, and my house is being repossessed!" Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. This is God's will for you. Philippians 4 says,

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

You're not to rejoice because of how awful things are, but you are to rejoice in the Lord. You see, your situation might have changed to be awful, but God hasn't changed. He's still on the throne, and He's still saved you, and He's still in control. He knew this was coming, and He's already planned for it. Your job is not to whine, complain, and fear, but to rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

Rejoicing in the Lord, praying to the Lord, and giving thanks unto the Lord align your perspective with His. It gets you out of "Look how miserable things are this minute," and gets you into, "My eternal inheritance is secure in heaven. And God's in control of the things on earth. It's going to be all right."

5:19-21 Don't Quench The Spirit

This is one statement that has been sorely abused by people who want to freak out and say that it's the Holy Spirit. Any time you bring correction to someone biblically, they say, "Hey man - don't quench the Spirit."

Awhile back, we had some folks in the church that wanted to shake and quake and fall down "in the Spirit." I said no way was that going to happen at Calvary Chapel because there was not a single Scriptural precedent for it. God has given us many ways to worship Him, but those aren't among them. "You're quenching the Spirit," they said. But I wasn't guilty of verse 19, I was practicing verse 14:

1Ths. 5:14 ...Admonish the unruly...

The word "quench" means to extinguish a fire. The Bible often describes the Holy Spirit as fire (Isa 4:4; Acts 2:3, Rev 4:5). To quench the Spirit is to extinguish the flame of the Spirit as He moves in the individual and in the church. Paul gives a very real example of how we can quench the Spirit:

Don't Despise Prophetic Utterances

One way we can quench the Spirit is to despise prophetic utterances. When someone gives you a word of prophecy, it is wrong to say, "Thanks, but that's not from God. If He wanted to tell me that, He would have told me Himself." The fact is, that's not always true. God has always used prophets to speak to people who wont listen or aren't listening. He also uses prophecy to speak to the church corporately rather than each of us individually.

1Cor. 12:27-28 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers...

Prophecy has an important place in the church, and it is a mistake to despise a prophetic utterance. But just as bad of a mistake is to receive everything that everyone says is a prophecy. Jesus warned us that in the last days,,

Matt. 24:11 "...Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many."

In the foreward to the book "Counterfeit Revival," pastor Tom Stipe writes of the nightmare he encountered when his church went off the deep end of prophecy:

"Dreams and their interpretation soon moved to center stage as prophetic conferences taught devotees to keep a pencil and notebook on their nightstands to write down each dream as it occurred. These were later interpreted for God's message. People lived on the edges of their seats, waiting for the grandiose promises of prophecies to come true. Most waited in vain.

"Not long after 'prophecy du jour' became the primary source of direction a trail of devastated believers began to line up outside our pastoral counseling offices. Young people promised teen success and stardom through prophecy were left picking up the pieces of their shattered hopes because God had apparently gone back on His promises. Leaders were deluged by angry church members who had received prophecies about the great ministries they would have but had been frustrated by local church leaders who failed to recognize and 'facilitate' their 'new anointing.'

"After a steady diet of the prophetic, some people were rapidly becoming biblically illiterate, choosing a 'dial-a-prophet' style of Christian living rather than studying God's Word. Many were left to continually live from one prophetic "fix" to the next, their hope always in danger of failing because God's voice was so specific in pronouncement, yet so elusive in fulfillment. Possessing a prophet's phone number was like having a storehouse of treasured guidance. Little clutched notebooks replaced Bibles as the preferred reading material during church services."

These people weren't guilty of despising prophetic utterances, but they were guilty of not examining everything carefully. We need to put all prophecies to the test.

1John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

How can you tell if someone is giving you a true word of prophecy? Number one, we are to look at the messenger. Jesus said,

Matt. 7:15-20 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.

They wear sheep's clothing - they look like believers in the church. But we'll know them by their fruits. Are they bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? Are they evidencing the fruit of the Spirit? What kind of fruit is their ministry bearing?

Next, you examine the message:

2Pet. 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies...

If it doesn't line up with the Word of God, it's a destructive heresy. Throw it out. So, examine the messenger and the message.

5:22 Abstain From Every Form Of Evil

Then Paul says,

1Ths. 5:22 abstain from every form of evil.

I believe that Paul would be greatly grieved to see the neglect that the church has given to this instruction. "Oh, I don't commit adultery - I just watch it all day in my soap operas." "Oh, I don't use the name of Jesus as a curse word - I just pay to see movies that do." "Oh, I don't delight in homosexuality - it's just my favorite sitcom that does." Ephesians 5 says,

Eph. 5:10-12 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

I believe that very many of us are guilty of breaking this command in the area of how we entertain ourselves.

5:23-28 The Benediction

Finally, Paul closes his letter with a glorious benediction.