1 Thessalonians 5:28

Monday, 13 September 2017

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 5:28

As with all of his epistles, Paul adds into his closing salutation a blessing which is a petition for divine favor to be upon his audience. In the Greek, there is a definite article in front of “grace.” Quite often English translations will insert “the” for clarity at certain points, but it may not be in the Greek. However, it is here.

“The grace” is different than saying something like, “May grace from the Lord Jesus be with you.” Paul is asking for a divine impartation of this attribute of the Lord to rest upon those in Thessalonica (and thus us!) and to sustain them in their walk. It must be then considered that those who are not obedient to the epistle are to be excluded from this petition.

For example, in a similar petition for grace to be bestowed upon the congregation at Corinth, he wrote concerning a disobedient congregant, saying to “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” It should be obvious that until this person is willing to adhere to the sound instruction of the epistle, this petition for divine grace is not intended for him.

And yet, at the same time, we all fall short of one precept or another. Therefore, it must be considered that it is for those who earnestly strive for adherence to it, even if they do fall short. Such is the nature of grace; undeserved merit. Paul, in one form or another, closes out every one of his epistles with such a note of request for this divine favor. Even the last words of the Bible are very closely aligned with his words here. There John writes –

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:21

Finally, Paul closes the letter with “Amen.” In essence, “So let it be.” Paul has petitioned for grace upon his audience, and he then confirms that petition with assured hopes that it will be so.

Life application: The Bible, time and again, asks for an undeserved blessing to be bestowed upon those who pursue it, even if they fall short of what it states. Such is the nature of grace, and such is the nature of our gracious Lord. As you walk along life’s highway, take time to contemplate the wondrous grace which has been lavished upon you. And then thank the Lord and praise the Lord for that same grace.

Lord God, too often we take the many blessings of this life for granted and we even look at Your grace as something deserved. Blessings surround us that might otherwise not even be there, such as the beautiful flower on our path. There might be a precious sent of jasmine to fill our senses and bring back a long lost memory. The rising of the moon over the waters may stir our hearts in a unique way as well. Ten thousand daily examples come our way showing us that we are blessed beyond measure. Thank You for Your care of us. Hallelujah to You, our God! Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:27

Sunday, 10 September 2017

I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.
1 Thessalonians 5:27

The word “charge” in this verse doesn’t really catch the depth of meaning of the original. It is a word, horkizó, which is used only three times. The first is in Mark 5:7 where a demon in a man implores Christ Jesus by God not to be tormented. The second is found in Acts 19:13 where the casting out of evil spirits was attempted in the name of Jesus. This word comes from horkos, meaning “an oath.” Therefore, Paul’s words here should say something like, “I bind you by oath before the Lord…”

The question as to why Paul would adjure them in such a weighty way is debated. It is possible that he is making certain that no uninspired doctrine would be accepted by the congregation. Only a letter from Paul or another apostle was to be held as inspired. In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, he seems to hint at this very notion. People were making prophetic claims that the Day of the Lord had already come. He could be adjuring them now to stick to Scripture alone. As people continuously claim idiotic prophetic revelations to this day, it is a warning which has gone totally unheeded by those who listen to such things. Paul’s words are ignored, and nonsense is believed as if it were based on Scripture.

Along with this, it demonstrates that what he has written is thus to be followed by all. If the letter was received by the elders, it was still to be read to everyone in order to ensure that they were equipped with the same doctrine, filled with the same exhortations, and motivated by the same admonitions.

As the main thought of the letter is that of the coming of the Lord for His people, those things which surround that notion were especially important to be absorbed into the minds of the people. Believers are to mind their own business and work with their own hands (verse 4:11), and thus not be a burden on anyone else. The timing of the Lord’s coming is known only by the Lord, and so we are to be about life’s business. Paul’s weighty word, which adjured that the letter be read to all, would hopefully help motivate the people in the right direction.

It is most probably for this reason that Paul says, “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.” They were all holy, or set apart by God. They were all brethren as well. Because of this, none were to be neglected in being given these words of knowledge, and all were to act in accord with the words as Paul has laid them out.

Life application: Scripture is given to us for right conduct in this life, and for the assurance of God’s promises after this life. However, it is not given for us to know when we will transition between the two. If we did, we would not be paying attention to this life, here and now, as we should. And yet,,,, countless people waste incredible amounts of time doing just this, in direct disobedience to the words of Scripture.

Heavenly Father, guide us in this life so that we do those things which Your word instructs us to do. This should be all the more important to us because Your word also tells us about what lies ahead for those redeemed by Christ Jesus. Because we have such a sure hope, we should be content living out our lives now in the most honorable manner possible, not speculating on when we will enter Your presence, but knowing that it will come in due time. May we be responsible souls in this life that we have been given. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:26

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 1 Thessalonians 5:26

Paul just said, “Brethren, pray for us.” Still speaking to the brethren, and in an admonishment that they should all be in one mind and in one accord, he gives them words to instill this in them. He exhorts them to “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.” This doesn’t just mean those in the congregation, but any and all who are the redeemed of the Lord, in whatever church they attend.

The “holy kiss” is an expansion of the kiss of greeting which is seen in many nations to this day. It is the same idea as when western nations today shake hands or possibly hug, depending on familiarity. In the Far East, a deep and respectful bow is given in substitute of this.

Although Paul’s letters are prescriptive, intent must always be considered. Is Paul mandating that all people in all churches meet one another “with a holy kiss?” The answer is “No.” The reason why this is important is because there are small pockets of churches that mandate this even today and even in western societies, such as the US. However, the intent of the kiss of greeting is cultural, not merely biblical. Proof of this follows from the first kiss noted in the Bible in Genesis 27:26 when Isaac blessed his son Jacob before he departed to Padan Aram.

From that point, the kiss is seen among the covenant people and among those who aren’t yet in the covenant, thus demonstrating the cultural nature of the greeting. It is used in the same way we use a handshake. When Jacob met Rachel, without knowing her in any familiar way yet, he kissed her. In 2 Samuel 20, the following exchange begins with a kiss of greeting and ends in death –

“Then Joab said to Amasa, ‘Are you in health, my brother?’ And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab’s hand. And he struck him with it in the stomach, and his entrails poured out on the ground; and he did not strike him again. Thus he died.” 2 Samuel 20:9, 10

In 1 Samuel 20:41, David and Jonathan, close male friends, gave a fraternal kiss in accord with the culture before departing. And, Proverbs 27:6 notes the following –

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

This demonstrates clearly that the kiss is cultural because even enemies will kiss rather than shake hands. This is seen in these parts of the world today when leaders who are at war with each other still greet with a kiss. Exchanging “kisses” with “shaking of hands” in this Proverb would hold exactly the same meaning and intent.

And as a premier example of this, read this exchange between Jesus and Simon the Pharisee –

“And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’ Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’” Luke 7:43-47

And of course, the most famous kiss in history is recorded concerning Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and reflects the sentiments of Proverbs 27:6 (above) perfectly.

It is important then to understand the cultural nature of this admonition by Paul lest we get swept up into legalism over something which is actually not intended for all cultures and in all situations. If a person with an immune deficiency were to use this verse in a prescriptive manner, he could soon be dead from receiving the germs of others.

Finally, the kisses in these and other verses throughout the Bible which are between men and men (such as David and Jonathan noted above) are not in any way intended to convey the perverse sin of homosexuality as modern liberals often imply. They are merely cultural and welcoming displays just as handshakes are today. To imply this in their writings shows a disregard for God’s order in the natural world.

Life application: If you are in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you are in Japan, do as they do. It wouldn’t be appropriate to go to church in the Far East and attempt to hug, kiss, or even shake the hands of another unless they first offered. If you are in a mid-eastern area, a fraternal kiss may accompany a greeting. In America, a hearty handshake and maybe a friendly hug is the custom. The intent of Paul’s words is promoting warmth and harmony between believers, not causing offense.

Lord God, how good it is to travel the world and to see so many different cultures that worship You in their own way while still exalting the wondrous work of Jesus. It shows that You truly are the God of the nations and He is Lord over people of every race, creed, and culture who have set their hopes in You through His finished work. The songs differ, the layout of the meeting places may vary, and the way prayers are conducted are unique, but when the Son is exalted, You O God are glorified! Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:25

Friday, 8 September 2017

Brethren, pray for us. 1 Thessalonians 5:25

In this epistle, Paul has noted several times his prayers or petitions for those at Thessalonica, such as in verse 1:2 –

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”

Particular statements of thanks to God, or prayers to God, on their behalf are seen again in Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 5. Now Paul specifically requests prayers be made on behalf of him and those with him. This request is all the more appropriately placed here because in just two more verses he will charge them to have the letter read to all the congregants.

His first word here, “Brethren,” has been used time and again in the letter. It would be no good to ask unbelievers to pray. God does not hear the prayers of people, except those who are redeemed through Christ. Once that happens, He can then mediate those prayers in His priestly role. And so the “brethren” alone are given the request. The word in Greek translated as “for” is peri, or “about.” He is asking for prayers which cover all of their needs – personal, ministerial, etc. Just as Paul has carefully noted various prayers on behalf of those at the church, so he is asking for prayers concerning himself and those with him.

As ministers of the gospel, they faced many dangers, they faced many persecutors, and they faced the same temptations as any other people. Paul considered the prayers for them as necessary in order to empower them to overcome these various things which would come their way.

Life application: If Paul, who had personally seen the risen Christ and who had been led by Him throughout his ministry, felt that prayers were needed for him to continue, should we feel any less so today? Rather, we should be more than grateful to receive the prayers of others so that we too can be strengthened in our continued walk in the presence of the Lord. Let us be willing to both pray for others, and be accepting of prayers from others.

Lord God Almighty, we have a wonderful avenue of access to You which is found in prayer. It is a clear and unobstructed highway which has been opened to us because of the work of Christ Jesus. Help us to remember to accept this precious path, and to use it often – in prayer for others, in petition for our own needs, and in notes of thanks and praise to You for Your kind hand upon our lives. Great are You, O God, and greatly are You to be praised. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:24

Thursday, 7 September 2017

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

The verse now is given as a fixed and sure follow up to what was just said concerning being preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord. In this verse, the emphasis is on the person who calls instead of the act of calling. The Greek reads, “Faithful the (one) calling you.” God offers reconciliation through Christ Jesus. When a person accepts that call through faith, nothing can change or nullify what has then been granted. Should those who have been called not be carried all the way to glorification, the very character of God would be forfeit. It is an impossibility.

God is truth. His word says that man is saved by faith through grace. It doesn’t say this is conditional or that God could change His mind. Instead, it says that when a person believes, they are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13, 14). God has given a guarantee; He will not violate this guarantee. Instead, He “also will do it.” In this, the word “it” is inserted. The object is left unexpressed in the original, thus forming an emphatic expression. “God has said, and He will do.” There is active performance in the work of God, and there is surety in its fulfillment.

Paul’s confidence of such things is seen elsewhere as well. In his second letter to Timothy, we see the same display of surety that he provides to us here –

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12

This is actually a huge encouragement for believers to possess and to meditate on, especially when they fall short and mess up. They can question, “Why would you love me as you do?”, but there is no reason to question, “Do you still love me after what I have done?” We can confidently avow that because of our faith in Christ Jesus, we are saved, we are sealed, and we are on the sure and guaranteed road to glorification.

Life application: Confidence in the promises of God is a source of rewards all by itself. Demonstrating faith in God’s promises, even when we have failed, shows that we have our trust in Him and not in our own accomplishments or failings. Stand fast on the word, and trust that God is faithful.

Lord God, when we fall short of what You expect of us, You are still faithful to Your word. If we have called on Jesus, the deal is done. Your grace covers our failings, and our faith in that must surely be pleasing to You, especially when we are wondering why You ever saved us in the first place. The fact that You did is what we are continue to trust. And so give us this confidence; a confidence which Your word already proclaims. Amen.