1 Thessalonians 5

1 Having discussed the Resurrection, he turns to the question of timing. When will all this happen? Paul apparently already discussed this topic when he was with them in Thessalonica, so he would not spend too much time on it here other than to remind them of what he had told them before.
2 The language in several places concerning the end times easily leads one to believe that the first century Christians were expecting Jesus to return during their lifetimes. Some have argued against this idea, but nonetheless, it seems to have merit. However, nowhere in Scriptures is a date given. In fact, the Scriptures remind us several times that no one knows when that day is coming. Instead, Christians are encouraged to wait in expectation (Mark 13:32-33). We know it will happen, we just do not know when. If someone thinks he would behave any differently if he knew today was the Day, then he probably needs to re-evaluate his motives.

The "Day of the Lord" obviously refers to the Second Coming of Christ and includes the Resurrection. In other places it also includes the judgment of the wicked, and the redemption of the saints.

3 The Day of the Lord will catch many by surprise, specifically ungodly people, since they are not waiting expectantly. Revelation appears to speak of a one-world government and religion in the end times. The instigation of this program may make it appear that a man-made world peace is at hand. This verse suggests that just as people are beginning to feel secure, Christ will come and destroy all who rejected Him. None will be able to escape the hand of God.
4 Even though we do not know exactly when the end will come, the vigilant Christian will not be taken by surprise. We are not in darkness because we have been informed that the end is coming, and we are expectantly looking for it.
5 Since we have this "light" of understanding, we are to act like it. Those who do not understand are in darkness, and their deeds reflect it.
6 Many people go about their daily routines without the slightest awareness of the spiritual forces at work around them. In this sense, they are spiritually asleep. Those who are awake do not want their spiritual senses dulled, but they discipline all areas of their lives to stay prepared.
7 Those who have light are not to behave like those who do not.

Drunkenness here does not only speak to the abuse of alcohol or drugs. It refers to all kinds of vices like greed, sloth, lechery, etc. All these things dull our spiritual senses.

8 Paul often used armor to describe Christian virtues. Here, faith and love are attributed to the breastplate, which is the piece that protects the heart. The hope of salvation is assigned to the helmet, which protects the head. Satan will often use hate and doubt to try to injure Christians. Undoubtedly, Christians can get hurt, but they cannot be mortally wounded at the core of their beings.
9 The knowledge of our destiny in heaven should motivate us in a positive way to behave as God wants us to. Life here on earth is hard and filled with difficult choices, but we know our choice of salvation in Christ will ultimately keep us from the wrath of God.
10 Jesus cares about us in this life, and while it is not clear what exactly happens to the spirit between the time the body dies and the Resurrection, we can be assured that Jesus keeps watch over it. Salvation does not merely give us an escape from God's wrath, but it gives us an eternal relationship with Him.
11 With this knowledge, Christians can comfort and encourage one another, whether it is dealing with death or life. This is one of those lessons that promote spiritual growth and maturity though teamwork. The Thessalonians were already encouraging and building up one another, and this passage was meant to reinforce and broaden the scope of that activity.
12 Paul now speaks on personal interactions within the church. He requests that followers appreciate their leaders. Leaders perform a number of functions including working, administration, and teaching. Each believer has been given different gifts, some of which include leadership roles.

Each leader has a different background, which is immaterial once they become believers, and so should not be held against them. The Thessalonians all became believers at about the same time, and Paul may have wanted to prevent any prideful resentment that a follower may have towards a leader who was the same "age" spiritually, or had committed many sins in the past.

Tied up in the idea of respecting leadership is listening to and obeying them. Instructors teach on spiritual truths and how they affect our behavior. Followers should not ignore what they say. Instead, they must explore the Scriptures to verify the truth and then apply these lessons to their lives. Administrators and authorities try to keep things organized and running smoothly. Followers should be attentive, ready to help, and accepting of correction. Most, if not everyone, should have some kind of role in the work of a church, but some people will obviously devote more time than others. Workers need to cooperate with one another and with the leaders over them to make sure tasks get done well. Those who may not be working in a particular area at a particular time should be supportive of the work, or at least not a hindrance to it.

It is also worth noting that in some cases leadership depends on context. For instance, an instructor may not be as fit to lead a service activity as someone else. In that case, the instructor would need to follow the service leader without feeling threatened or demeaned. A Christian should not look down on another who is not gifted in the same way as he himself is. Instead, he should encourage growth in the other and be glad when he receives any help that furthers the ministry of the church.

13 Followers are to give their leaders respect, which is to be out of love, not merely duty. When people start contending with their leaders, strife, disorder, and discouragement follow. Not everyone can lead a well-run organization, so followers should allow those who have been so gifted to do so.
14 Christians are charged to do many things in relationship to each other. The term "unruly" or "idle" is translated from the Greek word used to describe soldiers who do not keep rank. If we see a fellow believer who is "out of line," we are to confront him in the hopes that he will give up any sinful behaviors he is participating in and live an obedient life worthy of our "Commander," Jesus.

The fainthearted are those who are discouraged and fearful. Since we are not removed from the sinful affects of this world, our fellow members might suffer loss, illness, disappointment, or just a lack of confidence. Christians are to make a special effort to encourage them.

The weak are those who have trouble with spiritual matters. It is probably true that all Christians have a weakness in at least one aspect of their spiritual lives. Those who are strong in those aspects should help, teach, and support the weak. At times, the weak may need to defer to the strong who will carry them. So while one Christian will not be able to effectively do all things, the community of believes can.

Some people will be slower than others at picking up on spiritual truths. Some will have difficulty reasoning through all the aspects of it. Some people will zealously take something and run with it before they really know what they are doing. Everyone will make mistakes at one point or another. There are many aspects in which one might become exasperated with someone else. We are not to do that. We are to approach each other with love and understanding, and willing to take any length of time to help another reach spiritual maturity in one or more areas of their life.

15 People are bound to hurt us from time to time, even our fellow Christians. We are not to retaliate, nor are we to withdraw. Instead we are to continue to seek for each other's good out of love. This is not to apply only to other believers, but in our relationships with non-Christians as well.
16 Paul now gives a list of things that are to typify Christians at all times. The first is rejoicing. Even during the worst of times, we can have the inner joy of knowing our loving God and the hope of one day entering heaven where there will be no more pain and sorrow. When others succeed, we should likewise be joyful for them, even if their success does not otherwise affect our own situation. We must remember that there is purpose in every circumstance in life, God watches over us carefully, and His good purpose will be accomplished in our lives.
17 Some people seem to have a hard time praying. After about five minutes they cannot think of anything to pray about. Yet, if one were to consider what prayer is and how many things can be prayed about, one could pray at every moment and not cover everything.

Prayer is conversation with God. The main components of prayer include praise, repentance, intersession, and personal requests. Praise, thankfulness, and worship all recognize who God is and what He has done for us. Repentance is our acknowledgement that we do not meet His standards, but we can receive His forgiveness and turn away from sin. Intercession is when we pray for others. Family members, church members, coworkers, governing officials, etc. are all groups of people where it is easy to find people who need prayer. Finally, we must recognize that we have personal needs besides repentance. Our daily lives are full of choices that have spiritual implications. Prayer is not just in response to negative things that happen.

We also want to pray (talk with God) about the good things we see in life as well. There is an endless array of topics that one could pray about throughout the day. Christians should make it a practice to pause several times throughout the day and simply speak to God, who has promised to be always near us.

Prayer is also a time of listening. We do not need to talk all the time. We need to hear what God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. Prayer heightens our awareness of spiritual activity in the world. It can also motivate us to action. For instance, if someone needs encouragement and we pray about it, God might show us that we could give that encouragement. When we confess sins, we become motivated to stop sinning. When we worship God, we remember how magnificent He is and will be thankful for all that He has done for us.

18 Life can be very difficult, yet there is always something to be thankful for. A person with a thankful spirit will tend to be happier. Life is less burdensome when one sees every good thing, no matter how small, as a gift from God.

Joy, prayer, and thanks are to typify the daily life of a Christian. God has made it possible for us to live life this way through Jesus, and wants us to do so. Obviously, this kind of attitude has a tremendously positive effect on the individual, but we should not underestimate its effect on others. To our fellow believers, such an attitude should be contagious. To non-believers, it can be attractive and make people wonder about the God who has made us into consistently positive people.

19 Paul then lists four general behaviors that Christians are not to engage in.

Christians are not to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. Some claim that the Holy Spirit does not affect us, while others claim that He is an irresistible force. Both of these extremes are wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit has a role in convicting sinners through the conscience, while teaching, guiding, empowering, and comforting the believer (John 14:16-17, 26, 16:7-15). While the Holy Spirit is God, He does not use His power to force people to obey. We have free will to choose to listen to Him or not (Isa 63:10, Acts 7:51). When we are disobedient to God, we hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The Holy Spirit gifts every believer in some way. We are to encourage others to use these gifts for the purpose God intended them. There are some gifts that may make others feel uncomfortable or jealous. However, we are not to attempt to stifle the expression of these gifts. Confrontations should only occur if it is obvious that the person is faking a gift or apparently using it inappropriately (which 1 Cor 12-14 appears to address).

20 Christians are not to ignore prophecies. God speaks directly through prophets. This is not simply about foretelling the future. The prophets in the Bible often spent a great deal of time trying to convince people that they had sinned, usually with accompanying warnings about impending judgment and punishment for continued disobedience. Some people claim there are no legitimate prophets today, while other say that anyone who accurately preaches from the Bible can be considered a prophet. The Bible does not clearly support either of these claims. Prophecy comes from the Spirit, so there is the potential that any believer could be a prophet if the Spirit so moves. There is also a direct statement indicating that there will be a time of prophecy in the "latter days" (Joel 2:28-29).

Whether or not there are prophets currently speaking in modern times, we know we have the teachings of the prophets recorded in the Scriptures. At the very least, we should not ignore these things. We can also know that no modern prophet would say anything that would contradict the Scriptures, predict things that do not happen, encourage people to worship another god, deny the deity of Christ, or predict a date for the Last Day (2 Pet 2:1, Deu 18:22, 13:1-5, 1 Cor 12:3, Mark 13:31-32).

21 God gave us minds to reason with and the Holy Spirit to teach us. If we hear a prophecy or teaching, even if it is from someone we trust, we must measure it against the Word of God. Does the utterance have the support of the Scriptures? Is it consistent with the other teachings of God? If one thinks it passes these two criteria, but it still "feels" wrong, that may be the Holy Spirit indicating so. We must remember that even Satan will quote Scripture if he thinks it will get a believer to act in disobedience (Mat 4:3-10). It is vital that the recipient understands the Scriptures and prays for wisdom as to the true meaning of any prophecy, teaching, or suggested activity. Prophecy was abundant both in ancient Israel and the early Church, but there were also those who only pretended to be prophets. This situation caused abundant confusion. People who did not know the Scriptures well were easily confused. It is predicted that in the future false prophets will be able to "work miracles" that are quite convincing. Even so, we are promised that Christians will not be fooled, but in order to avoid error we must know our Bibles and be in touch with the Holy Spirit.

Christians can discern good from evil using the same kinds of questions used to determine true and false prophecies. The genuineness of a prophecy or teaching can be objectively tested in most cases. We are to practice those behaviors that are good, that is, pleasing to God.

22 We are to avoid behaviors and situations that would cause us to do, or even appear to do, things that displease God (Eph 5:3-7). When we commit evil, we harm our relationships with God and other people. When one engages in questionable activities, his Christian witness can be damaged, even if he has not really done anything wrong. There is a balance here that can be difficult to discern. For instance, Jesus surrounded Himself with sinners to the displeasure of the religious people, yet the accusations against this "appearance" of evil were unfounded. Jesus continued His ministry this way despite the rebukes of the religious leaders because this was in line with God's purpose of bringing people to Him (Mat 9:10-17). Some aspects of Christian ministry will be displeasing to the ungodly, but we are to do them anyway. What we should avoid are those activities that can be interpreted as wrong and not necessary to carry out our ministries.
23 As Paul closes this letter he prays that God Himself would preserve, purify, and give them peace. Ultimately, it is God who sanctifies entirely, gives the spirit new life, raises the body from the dead, and takes all our blame away by the work of Christ Jesus. The admonishments and encouragements in this letter are meant to remind us to cooperate with Him in these matters and completely submit to Him. Every part of who we are is to be dedicated to His service.
24 God does not lie, and He will certainly keep all His promises and complete His work in people and the world. There are many difficulties in this life including death, persecution, misunderstandings, and other hurts. However, whether times are good or bad whether we are happy or sad, we can trust that the future that God has promised us far outweighs any exhilaration or pain we can experience in this life.
25 Paul asked for prayers from the Thessalonians. We, too, need to remember to pray for our leaders and missionaries. Leaders have trials and temptations as much as anyone. They have a great burden for people, and can often feel alone, weak, and discouraged. Knowing that people pray for them is undoubtedly encouraging. Even more so when we remember that God acts on every prayer that is in line with His will - often He is simply waiting for someone to ask.
26 In western culture we often greet each other with a handshake. In the East, it was, and still is, common in places to greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. There are two parts to this command. First, we are to greet all our fellow Christians. We are not to form cliques or exclude others - even strangers or those who have caused problems. If one is a believer in Christ, he or she is a brother and sister and should be made to feel accepted and welcomed. The second part is that our greetings are to be "holy." This implies that we are greeting one another in Christ with love and all the implications of that love. We should not pretend to love when we harbor ulterior motives or deceit as Judas did when he betrayed Jesus (Luke 22:48). Our greetings should bless each other and strengthen our unity as the Church and family.
27 Paul did not intend this letter to only be for a few of his close friends in Thessalonica. He strongly commanded that it be read to the whole church and, by extension, every church in the area. Fortunately, this letter has been preserved and is still read to churches today. The principles outlined here are not specific to the Thessalonian circumstances. The truths expressed herein have application across cultures, people groups, time, and locations.

Not all people could read, so it was important that the letter be read allowed during their meetings. Also, since there was only one copy at the time, it made practical sense to do this rather than pass the letter around for each individual to read. In many places Christians are blessed with an abundance of Bibles, but there are other places where Bibles are rare, especially among smaller language groups. There are a few organizations attempting to cross these language barriers, and they deserve our support. In those places were Bibles are rare, it should be a common practice to read the Word aloud. There are many Christians who can not read, and they would consider it a blessing if they could at least partner with someone who was willing to read to them. The truths of Scriptures are not to be secreted among the "elite." We should make every effort to make the Word easily available to every Christian and everyone searching for Truth.

28 Finally, Paul ends with the blessing of Jesus' grace - His unmerited favor towards all those who believe. We cannot earn His love; He freely gives it to us. Likewise, we need to live lives of grace after the example He has given us.