Recordings of recent messages from Monitor Bible Church.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 - Conclusion (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28)Tim Douglass, February 16, 2020
Part of the 1 Thessalonians series, preached at a Sunday Morning service
Due to technical issues we were not able to record the sermon on the 16th. This is a rough set of notes from the message.
We are rather definitely at the end of 1 Thessalonians, but not quite ready to leave it behind yet. I want to cover a couple of things before we move on and we also need to take a quick overview of the entire letter just to refresh our memory.
Looking back over the letter we want to first review the overall situation. We’ve talked about some of the historical facts about Thessalonica – how it is a major port city and was also a Roman naval base, how it was a crossroads city that had a very mixed population from all over the Empire, how that diverse population also led to a wildly mixed bunch of religious ideas and practices. From Acts 17 we know that Paul arrived and preached first in the Synagogue and then, when some of them objected he left Thessalonica and went on to Berea and then to Athens. Once in Athens Paul was concerned about the church he had left behind in Thessalonica and worked hard to stay in touch with them and to make sure they were doing well, both physically and spiritually. This letter is a follow-up after he has sent Timothy to check on them.
The letter begins with praising them for how well they seem to be doing based on the reports regarding their behavior and in Verse 1:10 he somewhat hints at the focus of the letter, which is about their waiting on the return of Christ. That complimentary section is followed by a somewhat defensive description of how he had both worked among them and his care for them after leaving. The letter continues with some exhortations to continue in their faith and to live as well as and better than they have been. From that he leads into the main issue of the letter.
It may be that Timothy reported this concern back to Paul because he didn’t really know how to answer, but for whatever reason, Paul addresses the concern the Thessalonians have regarding the return of the Lord, and particularly the implications of it being delayed. He is clearly concerned about how their fears might affect their faith and so wants to encourage and strengthen them. This gives us a very useful bit of insight into some of what God is planning for the return of Jesus, but it’s not intended to be a detailed description of that time and event. A large part of Paul’s discussion has to do with the fact that we can’t know when it will happen but that God will take care of all believers living and dead.
He then wraps up the letter with some more general instructions/advice regarding Christian living and how to keep the church working. The last bit, essentially a closing blessing, (which we talked about last week) summarizes that God is the one who saves us, cleans us, and keeps us. He is faithful.
And that brings us to the real closing of the letter. “Pray for us, greet one another, share this letter with the body, and may God be gracious to you.”
Paul desires the prayers of his friends. James writes that the “effective, fervent prayer of righteous man avails much”. Like James, Paul is a believer in the effectiveness of prayer. His faith that God is indeed listening to our prayers and will answer them is a large part of what keeps him going in his ministry. In this he is re-asserting his faith in God’s ability. Our prayers are not effectual because we pray well, but because God is faithful.
The final thing I want us to look closely at is the request that this be read to all the church. There is some argument about why Paul would so strongly word what seems to be a very simple request. When he writes “I charge you by the Lord” he is essentially telling them that he is calling on them to make an oath by God that they will do this. It’s a very emphatic way of asking that the letter be read. Why such a strong request?
I think that the thing that is important is to look at the letter as a whole and understand that Paul is particularly concerned that it not be only read to those who are in leadership (because there are parts directed to the people regarding the leaders) or only to those who have expressed concerns about the issues. The message is something that they all need to understand and the unity of the church really does somewhat depend on common understanding. Some interpreters think that Paul is also probably concerned that his message be taken seriously, but given the relationship with the church I doubt that’s much of an issue. More to the point is that Paul has a relationship with the people who make up the church and this is the best way for him to communicate his love and concern for all of them. He doesn’t want anyone to be left out of that because he doesn’t know when or if he will be able to come again, but doesn’t want anyone to feel like he has abandoned them.
The final words are asking for God’s special care, favor, and blessing on them. That’s part of what makes me think he wants it read to all so all are comforted. Paul is, as always, focused on the unity of believers and their mutual support of one another in love through Jesus Christ. As we consider what we take away from this letter, keep foremost in our minds that we are the family of God, united in Christ Jesus, both now and for eternity.
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1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
12And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16Rejoice evermore. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19Quench not the Spirit. 20Despise not prophesyings. 21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. 25Brethren, pray for us. 26Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. 27I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (KJV)