DO YOU GET ALONG WITH OTHERS?
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 February 1 2009
Our two most recent studies in 1 Thessalonians focused
attention on references to Christ’s second coming. The
January 11 study (1 Thess. 4:13-18) considered the
resurrection hope believers have in the face of death. The
January 25 lesson (1 Thess. 5: 1-11) emphasized the
importance of living in readiness for Christ’s return. Here at
the end of his letter, Paul was thinking about the importance
of the Thessalonian Christians sharing life together.
The good news of the gospel goes beyond "Lone Ranger"
Christianity, in which isolated individuals strive to become
more like Christ in character. God’s plan is for saved persons
to join together in local churches. We will be more effective
as Christians by working together. On the other hand, life
together brings challenges. Getting along with others takes
hard work. Paul’s instructions in these verses provide good
advice for getting along.
Bible students have not detected in this Lesson Passage
any hint that the Thessalonian congregation was experiencing
internal conflict. Rather, Paul counseled preventive
maintenance, the kinds of actions believers always need to be
intentional about if we are to get along with each other.
Thus, if your church is strong and harmonious, this study
can help you become even more intentional about relating to
other believers in ways that strengthen congregational life.
If you currently are facing a situation of church difficulty,
following Paul’s advice will assist you in being part of the
solution rather than part of the problem.
1. Respect Leaders (1Thess. 5:12-13)
1Ths. 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who
work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who
admonish you. 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love
because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
The first area Paul mentioned in which believers are to
work to strengthen their churches is maintaining a good
relationship between leaders and followers.
First, they labor among you. Christian service is hard
work. Those looking for a cushy job need not apply. Also, the
phrase among you reminds us of the essential equality of
leaders and members. Leaders are neither lords over a
church nor hired hands at the beck and whim of members.
They consider the work a labor of love.
Second, they lead you in the Lord. The verb lead literally
means "stand before:’ This implies providing both direction
and care. Paul was not necessarily thinking of a church
office (pastor or deacon) but rather of the leadership
essential for keeping a congregation organized and supervised.
Those who work hard among you . Not much is known about
the organization and leadership of the church at this period,
but the reference is possibly to elders. Because of their work .
Not merely because of personal attachment or respect for
their high position, but in appreciation for their work. Live
in peace. The words apply to Christian relationships in
general, but here they probably refer especially to right
relations between leaders and those under them.
2. Reach Out to One Another (1Thess. 5:14-15)
1Ths. 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are
idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with
everyone. 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for
wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to
A second area in which believers are to work together
to strengthen their churches is meeting the needs of others
in the congregation. Six short, staccato-like instructions
burst from Paul’s pen like popcorn from the popper.
Those who are idle . Loafers. It seems that some
Thessalonians were so sure that the second coming was
close that they had given up their jobs in order to prepare
for it, but Paul says they should work. The Timid . . .
The weak . These are to be helped, not rejected, by the
strong (Romans 14:1-15; 1Co 8:13). Pays back .
Retaliation is never a Christian option (Romans 12:17;
1Peter 3:9). Christians are called to forgive
(Matt 5:38-42; 18:21-35).
3. Worship with One Another (1Thess. 5:16-22)
1Ths. 5:16 Be joyful always; 5:17 pray continually;
5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s
will for you in Christ Jesus. 5:19 Do not put out the
Spirit’s fire; 5:20 do not treat prophecies with
contempt. 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
5:22 Avoid every kind of evil.
A third area in which believers are to work
together to strengthen their churches concerns
corporate worship. Again Paul poured out short
instructions. If we follow these eight guidelines
when we gather for public worship, our meetings
will be truly centered in God and give Him glory.
People are naturally happy on some occasions, but
the Christian’s joy is not dependent on circumstances.
It comes from what Christ has done, and it is constant.
For the practice of continual (or regular) prayer
(1 Thess.1:3; 2:13; Romans 1:9-10; Eph 6:18; Col 1:3;
2Tim 1:3). As in (1 Thess 5:16), Christians are
differentiated from the natural man. Because of what
God has done, they are continually thankful whatever
the circumstances (Eph 5:20). Spirit’s Fire . There is a
warmth, a glow, about the Spirit’s presence that makes
this language appropriate. The kind of conduct Paul is
opposing may include loafing, immorality and the other
sins he has denounced. On the other hand, he may be
warning against a mechanical attitude toward worship
that discourages the expression of the gifts of the
Spirit in the local assembly (1 Thess 5:20). Prophecies .
For the gift of prophecy (Romans 12:6; 1Co 12:10,28;
13:2; 14; Eph 4:11). For the function of prophecies
(1Co 14:3). Test everthing . The approval of prophecy
(1 Thess.5:20) does not mean that anyone who claims
to speak in the name of the Lord is to be accepted
without question. Paul does not say what specific
tests are to be applied, but he is clear that every
teaching must be tested —surely they must be in
agreement with his gospel.
4. Pray for One Another (1Thess. 5:23-28)
1Ths. 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify
you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and
body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. 5:24 The one who calls you is faithful and he
will do it. 5:25 Brothers, pray for us. 5:26 Greet all
the brothers with a holy kiss. 5:27 I charge you before
the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The final area Paul mentioned in which believers
are to work together to strengthen their churches is
holding up each other in prayer. These last few verses
contain Paul’s final prayers and greetings to the dear
friends he was writing as well as his request for prayer.
(1 THESS. 5:23-24). The Thessalonians were not meant to
carry out all the instructions Paul had given by gritting
their teeth and getting to work. The Christian life is
impossible to carry out by willpower alone.
1 Thess.5;23-24 express Paul’s prayer for the
Thessalonians. The God of peace works in the lives of
believers to sanctify us (make us holy). He sets us
apart completely, meaning in every part of life.
Spirit, soul, and body refer to the whole person.
Human life involves both material and nonmaterial
elements, and God is involved in all aspects of our
existence. Blameless does not imply sinless perfection
but rather a well-deserved reputation.
At the coming of our Lord Jesus, He wants to
receive us as His mature, faithful, holy people:
"blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless
in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you
shine like stars in the world" (Phil. 2: 15).
Our faithful God will see to it that His work in our
lives is accomplished. True believers are sanctified and
kept. All who are in Christ have a secure future indeed.
A typical prayer. God of peace . A fitting reference
to God in view of (1 Thess.5:12-15). But Paul often refers
to God in this way near the end of his letters (Romans
15:33; 16:20; 1Co 14:33; 2Co 13:11; Php 4:9;
2Thess 3:16). Your whole spirit , Soul and Body . Paul is
emphasizing the whole person, not attempting to
differentiate his parts. Paul’s confidence rests in the
nature of God ( Gen 18:25), who can be relied on to
complete what he begins ( Num. 23:19; Php 1:6). All .
Paul sent a warm greeting to everyone, even those he
had corrected. HOLY KISS. A kiss was a normal greeting
of that day, similar to our modern handshake (Romans
16:16; 1Co 16:20; 2Co 13:12; and a “kiss of love,”
1Peter 5:14). I Charge you . Surprisingly strong
language, meaning “I put you on oath.” Paul clearly
wanted every member of the church to read or hear his
letter and to know of his concern and advice for them.
Paul always ended his letters with a benediction of
grace for his readers, sometimes adding other
blessings, as in (2Co 13:14).
Four of Paul’s letters reminded believers to
exchange a holy kiss. (See Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20;
2 Cor. 13: 12; 1 Thess. 5:26.) First Peter 5:14 refers
to this as a "kiss of love:’ A friendly kiss on the cheek
(men kissing men and women kissing women) was
widespread and socially acceptable in those days.
Such kissing was likely used in synagogues
throughout the Roman world, so it would be natural
for the practice to continue in the early church.
Justin Martyr noted this custom in his day, around
A.D. 150. The use of "holy" emphasizes such greetings
must be done purely. Paul’s point was for Christians
to greet each other naturally, just as they would
greet a family member.
The precise way this welcome should be given
today depends on the cultural setting. In most churches,
a warm handshake is suitable. Sometimes a "Christian
hug" would be right. In some countries today, men kiss
other men socially and affectionately. Yet because of
the possibility of this act being misinterpreted in
contemporary society, most would agree that North
American adult Christians will do better to seek
alternative ways to express affection for other