1 Thessalonians 5:23

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23

The previous admonitions have been given by Paul, one after another, in a rapid-fire succession. Each has looked to man’s efforts before God. Now as an emphatic contrast to that, we read these words (as laid out in the Greek) – “Himself moreover the God of peace may sanctify you.” There are man’s instructions concerning his efforts in a relationship with God through Christ, and then there is the special blessing of God, apart from man’s efforts.

In the English translations of this verse some add in the word “And” at the beginning: “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly…” Others use “Now” to begin: “Now may the God of peace Himself…” The “And” makes it sound like God’s sanctification is dependent on our efforts. In other words, “If you do these things, God will sanctify you completely.” However, the type of verb used is optative. It is a mood that indicates a wish or a hope for those being addressed.

Therefore, it seems more likely that Paul’s words are simply a petition for this to come about. He has asked them to do their part, but he is giving a sense of hope that this will occur despite the efforts of his readers. And yet, it does not in any way negate that our efforts are unnecessary as we live out our lives. Otherwise, Paul would never have given those exhortations.

We have our part for happy living and blameless conduct in this life, but we have a hope that God will follow through in order to sanctify us completely despite any lack or failure on our part. This is seen in Paul’s words elsewhere. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, he tells us that the will of God is our sanctification, and so he gives exhortations which will make that come about. However, in 1 Corinthians 1:2 (and elsewhere), he notes that God has sanctified us already. This was based on our faith in Christ, apart from works.

With that understood, Paul then completes the verse with, “and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” However, the NKJV incorrectly places the word “whole.” Instead of being tied to “spirit, and body” it should be tied to “preserved,” such as is done by the Berean Study Bible –

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved, entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul is not hoping that God will preserve our whole spirit and body, as if they could be partially preserved! Rather, he is anticipating that God will preserve us so that we will be entirely blameless at the Lord’s coming. In other words, it is the efforts of God of the previous clause, not man’s efforts of the preceding verse, which Paul is putting his hopes on. Man’s efforts could never be so relied upon, but God’s power can be trusted.

Understanding this, Paul petitions that we shall be preserved, that it will be in a state which is entirely blameless, and it will be “at the coming of the Lord Jesus.” As this will occur at an entirely unknown time, it is a demonstration that we are (past tense) sanctified for this purpose already, despite our human efforts. Paul has exhorted us to conduct our lives in a right and proper manner, but it is not that effort which will ensure our preservation. And thank God for that!

Life application: We have a responsibility and a duty to act in a right and proper manner before the Lord. There are things we are to do, and there are things we are not to do. But though faith in Christ, and in that faith alone, we are sanctified and preserved for the time when the Lord comes for us. Let us be prepared because we have been so prepared.

Lord God, it so ever so comforting to know that the race is ultimately not up to us to complete. We are instructed to live in a right and proper manner during this life, and in accord with the salvation You have given us, but our failures will not negate that blessing which You have granted us through the work of Christ. Your word asks us to be prepared for His coming because we have been prepared for His coming. Thank You for saving us, even when we fail You. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:23

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:22

The translation here gives a much better sense of what is being conveyed than that of the older King James Version. It says, “Abstain from every appearance of evil.” That gives the idea of the evil being projected outward from the person, as if we are to abstain from everything that “looks like” evil. Thus, one would be doing works in order to please men, regardless as to whether the person was engaged in evil or not.

If one thinks it through, one cannot abstain from everything that “looks like evil,” and this is not the intent. The words “form of” rightly explain what is meant. Evil comes in many forms – thoughts, actions, words, etc. These are things which are morally wrong, and with which the Lord would be displeased. Whatever “type” or “form” of evil is there, we are to abstain from it.

To demonstrate how “appearance” is incorrect, an example might be that of a person walking down a street where prostitutes congregated. Another person might see this and say, “Ooooh, that supposed ‘Christian’ is hanging out with prostitutes.” In fact, however, he was going down the street handing out tracts about Jesus. Thus “appearance” is a faulty idea here, and it actually matches what the leaders of Israel accused Jesus of. They were judging by appearance, and not by what actually occurred.

Forms of evil, or maybe better, “types of evil,” however, explains the thought. We are to keep ourselves from engaging in prostitution. We are to keep ourselves from being drunk. We are to keep ourselves from murder, adultery, backbiting, and etc. This is what Paul is admonishing us, and thus it is set in contrast to the words of the previous verse which said to “hold fast what is good.” In holding fast to good, then we will naturally abstain from every kind of evil.

Life application: There are times when it may appear we are engaged in evil when we are not. We stand or fall based on the Lord’s evaluation of our conduct, not in that of others. It is right that we should present ourselves before others in the best manner possible. In the end, however, people are fallible, and the Lord is not. When faced with doing what is right, even when it may be perceived as wrong by others, we are to choose the right.

Lord God, thank You for your wonderful word which shows us that we stand or fall based on Your judgment alone. Regardless of whether the world approves of our conduct or not, what matters is that You do. Others are fallible; You cannot err. And so when faced with the decision to do right in Your eyes, or to be perceived as doing wrong in the eyes of others, we should always choose the former. Help us to conduct our lives in a manner in which You approve. To Your honor and glory alone we pray. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Monday, 4 September 2017

Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21

Note: Some manuscripts begin this verse with “but,” thus showing a contrast between what was just said and what is now said. Whether “but” belongs there or not in the text, the words of Paul still imply the use of “but” in the verse. Either way, Paul is showing us a contrast to the previous thoughts.

Paul has been giving a list of positive exhortations intended to keep the believer on a happy and sound course. Verses 19 & 20 concerned the latter – “Do not quench the Spirit” & “Do not despise prophecies.” Now, in order to ensure that we accomplish those things, he exhorts us to be wise and discerning. In order to do this, we are to, “Test all things.”

The word “test” is one that speaks of validation. Its root was used concerning the proving (or testing) of coins in order to confirm whether they were genuine or not. There is the real currency of the land, and then there is that which is counterfeit. Unless one was careful, they could easily be duped into believing they possessed something of value, when instead they possessed only a fake which had no value at all. Paul’s admonition here is that we are to test the fire of the Spirit, and we are to test prophecies. Is this the true Spirit of God, or is it a corrupt counterfeit? Is this a true prophetic utterance, or is it lie from the devil?

Like the currency of the land, what is real is often very hard to distinguish from a forgery. Paul even relayed this truth directly to those in Corinth –

But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:12-14

How can one tell if something is true and correct if they are not intimately familiar with it? It takes either a specialist or a special chemical test to tell if a $100.00 bill is real or not. The specialist is trained in the most subtle nuances of the original bill, and the chemical test is able to quickly identify the false bill as such. It provides a comparison to what will occur with an original bill.

In both cases, the original is the standard, and the false can only be identified as such when compared with it. The lesson for us is obvious. We cannot know what is false in our faith, unless we know what is the true basis for our faith – the Bible. If we are not willing to train ourselves in a detailed understanding of God’s word, it is not possible for us to test all things. No wonder so many cults and false teachers have arisen, and why so many once-sound denominations have completely fallen away from what is true!

But when we are careful, and when we “test all things” according to the one true standard, we are then able to “hold fast what is good.” We can easily reject the bad, and we can quickly discern who the false, or just plain crummy, teachers are.

In today’s world, where everything in the Bible can be quickly accessed, it is easy to have people suddenly come forth sounding as if they are specialists in the word. In fact, it appears many are specialists, because everyone has this amazing access to the word which was never before available. But this is a scary place to be when putting one’s trust in someone because they have supposedly mastered a single specialized portion of the word (such as future prophecy) and nothing more.

There must be a full understanding of the whole counsel of God in order for a teacher to be fully equipped. Likewise, the layman must have a full understanding of the word of God, or they will easily be duped by these seeming specialists. The study of the word is hard, it takes much time, and it takes a great deal of mental energy, but without it, there is no way we can test all things, and there is no way that we can hold fast to what is good.

Life application: Concerning the Bible in today’s world, it seems everyone is a “specialist.” The wise person will read the word day and night to be kept from these “specialists,” and he will be careful to not get duped by them. KNOW YOUR BIBLE.

Lord God, right in Your word, we are told to test all things, and to hold fast to what is good? How on earth can we test something unless we are familiar with that by which we are making the comparison? Do you approve of homosexuality? Is the supposed prophecy I heard about true? Is observing the Sabbath necessary? How can we know the answer to these things unless we are familiar with Your word? We are like sheep being led to the slaughter because we find our pleasure in TV and not in You. Forgive us of this, and help us to get our priorities right. To Your glory we pray. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:20

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Do not despise prophecies.
1 Thessalonians 5:20

Paul now turns to prophecies. He just said, “Do not quench the Spirit.” It is the Spirit who worked through the apostles and prophets to give us the word of God. This is noted by Paul in the book of Ephesians –

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

A foundation is laid only once. The chief Cornerstone is Christ. Upon Him the foundation is laid. The early church was given prophecies to establish the church. Those which were recorded in the Bible are then the foundation of which Paul speaks of. The words of the New Testament apostles, and the prophetic utterances of the Old Testament prophets are the work of the Spirit. Despite ten jillion claims of prophetic utterances, “a word from the Lord,” visions, dreams, and supposed divine revelations since the completion of the Bible, not one of them has added anything to the foundation which was laid. We have the word of God, and we are to not look for another word in addition to it.

In that now-complete word are the recorded prophecies which Paul speaks of. As they were given by the Spirit, not accepting them would be to “quench the Spirit, and it would further be to “despise prophecies” which are valid utterances of God, recorded for our instruction, reproof, edification, etc.

Paul’s words of this verse are not speaking about supposed claims of prophecy by people today, except in the interpretation of those which have been given. His words are given to us as an exhortation to rely on the word of God “which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Let us be wise and discerning, and not be blown around by false claims of supposed “prophets” today. There is one word, it has been received, and we are to hold fast to it alone for our life, doctrine, and edification.

Life application: If you want to hear prophetic utterances from the Lord, open your Bible and read. Let the word speak to you the word which God has spoken.

Heavenly Father, help us to be wise and discerning concerning supposed prophecies that people claim come from You. You have spoken, and Your word is complete. The foundation has been laid, and it is a sure and wonderful word which came from You through the apostles and prophets. What more do we need to be built up and edified in You? Thank You for Your precious word. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:19

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

These words from Paul give us great insight into the work of the Spirit in our lives. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul said, “…be filled with the Spirit.” The verb in the Greek there is present/imperative/passive. In essence, “Right now, certainly, you are to have the Spirit to fill you.” In Ephesians 4:30, he then writes, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” The verb there is present/imperative/active. Thus is gives the idea of “Right now, certainly, you are to not do this thing.” Now Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit.” What do you suppose is the state of the verb? It is present/imperative/active. Like grieving the Spirit, we are to be active in not quenching the Spirit.

What we are seeing here is a truth concerning the Spirit’s working in our lives. Being filled with the Spirit is a passive thing. A person actively drinks wine, but then there is a reaction when the wine makes the person drunk. A person in a hospital who needs an IV does not fill himself with the drip. Instead, it is received passively. The person could pull out the drip, thus he would stop being filled with it.

The believer has all of the Spirit he will ever receive the moment he calls on Christ, but the Spirit can get more of the person. On the day of a person’s marriage, they are now married and will never get more married, but the spouse can get more of the other spouse as yielding takes place.

The same is true with the Spirit. In order to be so filled, the Christian is to sing praises, pray, worship, fellowship, read the Bible, talk on the things of the Lord, etc. In doing these things, they are “filled with the Spirit.”

Understanding this, both grieving the Spirit and quenching the Spirit are active, not passive. When we do something inappropriate, we grieve the Spirit we already have. Likewise, when we don’t actively do the things necessary to fan the flames of the Spirit, we quench the Spirit. And this is the idea of the Spirit in our lives. It is as a fire. In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In Acts 2, the Spirit was said to come down upon the believers at Pentecost as tongues of fire.

The Spirit then is as a fire which 1) can be quenched in our lives, 2) must be fanned in our lives, and which will only then, 3) fill our lives. Our actions results in the Spirit’s filling. But there is a truth which then cannot be missed. We possess the Spirit. Paul never says (nor can it ever be implied anywhere in Scripture) that we can accidentally lose the Spirit, remove the Spirit from our lives, or have the Spirit purposefully leave us. We are sealed with the Spirit the moment we believe, and that will never change. He is our deposit, our guarantee, of our redemption in Christ.

And so to not quench the Spirit (something we can actively do), we are to praise God, pray to God, meditate on God’s word, fellowship with other believers, live in holiness, and so on. Those things which are pleasing to the Spirit will fan the flame of the Spirit. Those things which are displeasing will do the opposite. This is why Paul said to Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:16). The word translated as “stir up” means “to kindle afresh” as in fanning the flames. Paul implored Timothy to actively do this in order to be fully filled with the Spirit he possessed because of his faith in Christ. So we likewise are to conduct our lives in order to be filled. The Spirit will only fill those receptacles which are properly yielded to Him.

Life application: If you are saved, you are saved. Deal done; you are a son! (or daughter). However, your standing in relation to the Spirit you now possess is one which requires you to do certain things, and to not do certain things. When failing to appropriately act, it is we who will suffer. Why are so many Christians dead in the pews, probably because they aren’t even in the pews! What a waste of eternal rewards, staying home and watching football. Instead, let us expend our energies in Spirit-directed activities, and thus we will be pleasing to God.

Lord God, in Your word, we are admonished to not quench the Spirit, to not grieve the Spirit, and to be filled with the Spirit. The first two we can do actively; the third only You can do as we yield to You. Help us to be active in right ways, so that You will then fill us – even to overflowing. May our fellowship with the Spirit be so vibrant and active that others will see it and want some of Your good Spirit which we possess. Amen.