I Thessalonians

An Introduction

       In terms of chronology, Paulís first letter to the Thessalonians is not only the earliest letter we have from Paul, it is also the earliest Christian document which we posses. For that reason it is extremely important because it opens a window on the early Church which we would otherwise not have. But, of exceedingly great importance, is the need for us to remember that between Jesus and Paul there was a large Jewish-Christian movement which owed nothing to Paul or to his thought. In other words, the Church still existed before Paul and his brand of Hellenistic/syncretistic/Christianity. Before Paul, the Church was Palestinian and quite Jewish. Only after Paul did the Church begin to spread into purely Gentile areas. Because Paul was striking out into new territory, it was necessary for him to adapt his message to his audience. Because he did make certain adaptations, some of the vigor and ambiance of the earliest Church was replaced by a more worldly message. In other words, earliest Christianity was a religion of the village and field whereas Paul transformed it into a religion of the city and the marketplace.
       I Thessalonians is Paulís first effort to put into words this new viewpoint. He wrote the letter around the year 50, some 20 years after the death of Jesus. Paul established the Church at Thessalonica on his second journey and wrote the letter from Corinth shortly after his visit to Thessalonica. The issues he addresses have to do primarily with the early Christian expectation that Jesus would return before most of them died.
       An outline of the letter will aid us in seeing clearly its purpose:

 

1- Greeting and Thanksgiving (1:1-10)
2- Paulís Activity There (2:1-12)
3- Their Reception of the Gospel (2:13-16)
4- Timothyís Report of their Progress and Problems (2:17-3:13)
5- Ethical Admonitions (4:1-12)
6- The Coming of Christ, the Center of the Letter (4:13-5:11)
7- How to Live in Expectation (5:12-22)
8- Conclusion (5:23-28)

       The early Church wondered aloud why the promise of Jesus to come shortly was not yet fulfilled. Paul addressed this pressing situation, and a student of his addressed the same issue from a much later perspective in 2 Thessalonians.

On Monday November 24, we will start the study with chapter 1.

1 Thessalonians 1

1Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.

Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' Faith

2We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Explanation:

1:1   Thessalonica was the capital and largest city (about 200,000 population) of the Roman province of Macedonia.  The most important Roman highway (the Egyptian Way)-extending from Rome all the way to the Orient-went through Thessalonica.  This highway along with the city's thriving seaport, made Thessalonica one of the wealthiest and most flourishing trade centers in the Roman empire.  Recognized as a free city, Thessalonica was allowed self-rule and was exempted from most of the restrictions placed by Rome on other cities in the empire.  However, with its international flavor came many pagan religions and cultural influences that challenged the faith of the young Christians there.

1:3   The Thessalonians had stood firm when they were persecuted.  Paul commended these young Christians for their work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope.  These characteristics are the marks of effective Christians in any age.

1:5   The gospel came with power; it had a powerful effect on the Thessalonians.  Whenever the Bible is heard and obeyed, lives are changed!  Christianity is more than a collection of interesting facts; it is the power of God to every one who believes.  What has God's power done in your life since you first believed?  The Holy Spirit changes people when they believe the gospel.  When we tell others about Christ, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and convince them that they need salvation.  God's power changes people-not our cleverness or persuasion.  Without the work of the Holy Spirit, our words are meaningless.  The Holy Spirit not only convicts people of sin but also assures them of the truth of the gospel.  Paul wrote, You know how we lived among you for your sake.  The Thessalonians could see that what Paul, Silas, and Timothy were preaching was true because these men lived it.  Does your life confirm or contradict what you say you believe?

1:6   The message of salvation, though welcomed with great joy, brought the Thessalonians severe suffering because it led to persecution from both Jews and Gentiles.  Having believed the gospel message and accepted new life in Christ, apparently many Thessalonians believed that they would be protected from death until Christ returned.  Then, when believers began to die under persecution, some Thessalonian Christians started to question their faith.  Many of Paul's comments throughout this letter were addressed to these people, as he explained what happens when believers die.

1:9, 10   All of us should respond to the Good News as the Thessalonians did: turn to God, serve God, and wait for his Son, Christ, to return from heaven.  We should turn from sin to God because Christ is coming to judge the earth.  We should be fervent in our service because we have little time before Christ returns.  We should be prepared for Christ to return because we don't know when he will come.

1:10   Paul emphasized Christ's second coming throughout this book.  Because the Thessalonian Church was being persecuted, Paul encouraged them to look forward to the deliverance that Christ would bring.  A believer's hope is in the return of Jesus, our great God and Savior.  Our perspective on life remains incomplete without this hope.  Just as surely as Christ was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, he will return (Acts 1:11).

1 Thessalonians 2


Paul's Ministry in Thessalonica

1You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-5

Explanation:

2:1   Our visit to you refers to Paul's first visit to Thessalonica (see Acts 17:1-9).

2:2   The Thessalonians knew that Paul had been imprisoned in Philippi just prior to coming to Thessalonica (see Acts 16:11-17:1).  Fear of imprisonment did not keep Paul from preaching the gospel.  If God wants us to do something, he will give us the strength and courage to do it despite any obstacles that may come our way.

2:3   This pointed statement may be a response to accusations from the Jewish leaders who had stirred up the crowds (Acts 17:5).   Paul did not seek money, fame, or popularity by sharing the gospel.  He demonstrated the sincerity of his motives by showing that he and Silas had suffered for sharing the gospel in Philippi.  People become involved in ministry for a variety of reasons, not all of them good or pure.  When their bad motives are exposed, all of Christ's work suffers.  When you get involved in ministry, do so out of love for Christ and others.

2:4, 5   In trying to persuade people, we may be tempted to alter our position just enough to make our message more palatable or to use flattery or praise.  Paul never changed his message to make it more acceptable, but he did tailor his methods to each audience.  Although our presentation must be altered to be appropriate to the situation, the truth of the gospel must never be compromised.

2:5   It's disgusting to hear a person butter up someone.  Flattery is phony, and it is a false cover-up for a person's real intentions.  Christians should not be flatterers.  Those who proclaim God's truth have a special responsibility to be honest.  Are you honest and straightforward in your words and actions?  Or do you tell people what they want to hear in order to get what you want or to get ahead?

6We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
7As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
13And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-13

Explanation:

2:6-8   When Paul was with the Thessalonians, he didn't flatter them, didn't seek their praise, and didn't become a burden to them.  He and Silas completely focused their efforts on presenting God's message of salvation to the Thessalonians.  This was important!  The Thessalonian believers had their lives changed by God, not Paul; it was Christ's message they believed, not Paul's.  When we witness for Christ, our focus should not be on the impressions we make.  As true ministers of Christ, we should point to him, not to ourselves.

2:7   Gentleness is often overlooked as a personal trait in our society.  Power and assertiveness gain more respect, even though no one likes to be bullied.  Gentleness is love in action-being considerate, meeting the needs of others, allowing time for the other person to talk, and being willing to learn.  It is an essential trait for both men and women.  Maintain a gentle attitude in your relationships with others.

2:9   Although Paul had the right to receive financial support from the people he taught, he supported himself as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) so that he wouldn't be a burden to the Thessalonian believers.

2:11   No loving father would neglect the safety of his children, allowing them to walk into circumstances that might be harmful or fatal.  In the same way, we must take new believers under our wing until they are mature enough to stand firm in their faith.  We must help new Christians become strong enough to influence others for the sake of the gospel.

2:11, 12   By his words and example, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live in such a way that would be worthy of God.  Is there anything about your daily life that would embarrass God?  What do people think of God from watching you?

2:13   In the New Testament, the Word of God usually refers to the preaching of the gospel, the Old Testament, or Jesus Christ himself.  Today we often apply it only to the Bible.  Remember that Jesus Christ himself is the Word (John 1:1).

14For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Paul's Longing to See the Thessalonians

17But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us. 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

1 Thessalonians 2:14-20

Explanation:

2:14   Just as the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were persecuted by other Jews, so the Gentile Christians in Thessalonica were persecuted by their fellow Gentiles.  Persecution is discouraging, especially when it comes from your own people.  When you take a stand for Christ, you may face opposition, disapproval, and ridicule from your neighbors, friends, and even family members.   When Paul refers to the Jews, he is talking about certain Jews who opposed his preaching of the gospel.  He does not mean all Jews.  Many of Paul's converts were Jewish.  Paul himself was a Jew (2 Corinthians 11:22).

2:15, 16   Why were so many Jews opposed to Christianity?  (1) Although the Jewish religion had been declared legal by the Roman government, it still had a tenuous relationship with the government.  At this time, Christianity was viewed as a sect of Judaism.  The Jews were afraid that reprisals leveled against the Christians might be expanded to include them.  (2) The Jewish leaders thought Jesus was a false prophet, and they didn't want his teachings to spread.  (3) They feared that if many Jews were drawn away, their own political position might be weakened.  (4) They were proud of their special status as God's chosen people, and they resented the fact that Gentiles could be full members within the Christian church.

2:18   Satan is real.  He is called the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2).  We don't know exactly what hindered Paul from returning to Thessalonica-opposition, illness, travel complications, or a direct attack by Satan-but Satan worked in some way to keep him away.  Many of the difficulties that prevent us from accomplishing God's work can be attributed to Satan (see Ephesians 6:12).

2:20   The ultimate reward for Paul's ministry was not money, prestige, or fame, but new believers whose lives had been changed by God through the preaching of the gospel.  This was why he longed to see them.  No matter what ministry God has given to you, your highest reward and greatest joy should be those who come to believe in Christ and are growing in him.

1 Thessalonians 3

1So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Explanation:

3:1-3   Some think that troubles are always caused by sin or a lack of faith.  Trials may be part of God's plan for believers.  Experiencing problems and persecutions can build character (James 1:2-4), perseverance (Romans 5:3-5), and sensitivity toward others who also face trouble (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).  Problems are unavoidable for God's people.  Your troubles may be a sign of effective Christian living.

3:1-4   Because Paul could not return to Thessalonica, he sent Timothy as his representative.  According to Acts 17:10, Paul left Thessalonica and went to Berea.  When trouble broke out in Berea, some Christians took Paul to Athens, while Silas and Timothy stayed behind (Acts 17:13-15).  Then Paul directed Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens.  Later Paul sent Timothy to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to be strong in their faith in the face of persecution and other troubles.

3:4   Some people turn to God with the hope of escaping suffering on earth.  But God doesn't promise that.  Instead he gives us power to grow through our sufferings.  The Christian life involves obedience to Christ despite temptations and hardships.

3:5   Satan (the tempter) is the most powerful of the evil spirits.  His power can affect both the spiritual world (Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:10-12) and the physical world (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).  Satan even tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).  But Jesus defeated Satan when he died on the cross for our sins and rose again to bring us new life.  At the proper time God will overthrow Satan forever (Revelation 20:7-10).

Timothy's Encouraging Report

6But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Explanation:

3:7, 8   During persecution of pressure, believers should encourage one another.  Christians who stand firm in the Lord encourage both ministers and teachers (who can see the benefit of their work in those who remain faithful), and also those who are new in their faith (who can learn from the steadfastness of the mature).

3:9, 10   It brings great joy to a Christian to see another person come to faith in Christ and mature in that faith.  Paul experienced this joy countless times.  He thanked God for those who had come to know Christ and for their strong faith.  He also prayed for their continued growth.  If there are new Christians who have brought you joy, thank God for them and support them as they continue to grow in the faith.

3:11   Paul wanted to return to Thessalonica.  We have no record that he was able to do so; but when he was traveling through Asia on his third journey, he was joined by Aristarchus and Secundus, who were from Thessalonica (Acts 20:4, 5).

3:11-13   When our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones refers to the second coming of Christ when he will establish his eternal kingdom.  At that time, Christ will gather all believers, those who have died and those who are alive, into one united family under his rule.  All believers from all times, including these Thessalonians, will be with Christ in his kingdom.

3:12   If we are full of God's love, it will overflow to others.  It's not enough merely to be courteous to others; we must actively and persistently show love to them.  Our love should be growing continually.  If your capacity to love has remained unchanged for some time, ask God to fill you again with his never-ending supply.  Then look for opportunities to express his love.

1 Thessalonians 4


Living to Please God

1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

Explanation:

4:1-8   Sexual standards were very low in the Roman empire, and in many societies today they are not any higher.  The temptation to engage in sexual intercourse outside the marriage relationship has always been powerful.  Giving in to that temptation can have disastrous results.  Sexual sins always hurt someone; individuals, families, businesses, churches.  Besides the physical consequences, there are also spiritual consequences.  Sexual desires and activities must be placed under Christ's control.  God created sex for procreation and pleasure, and as an expression of love between a husband and wife.  Sexual experience must be limited to the marriage relationship to avoid hurting ourselves, our relationship to God, and our relationship with others.

4:3   Being sanctified or made holy is the process of living the Christian life.  The Holy Spirit works in us, conforming us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

4:11, 12   There is more to Christian living than simply loving other Christians.  We must be responsible in all areas of life.  Some of the Thessalonian Christians had adopted a life of idleness, depending on others for handouts.  Some Greeks looked down on manual labor.  So Paul told the Thessalonians to work hard and live a quiet life.  You can't be effective in sharing your faith with others if they don't respect you.  Whatever you do, do it faithfully and be a positive force in society.

The Coming of the Lord

13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:12-18

Explanation:

4:13   The Thessalonians were wondering why many of their fellow believers had fallen asleep (died) and what would happen to them when Christ returned.  Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that death is not the end of the story.  When Christ returns, all believers-dead and alive-will be reunited, never to suffer or die again.

4:15   What does Paul mean when he says according to the Lord's own word?  Either this was something that the Lord had revealed directly to Paul, or it was a teaching of Jesus that had been passed along orally by the apostles and other Christians.

4:15-18   Knowing exactly when the dead will be raised, in relation to the other events at the second coming, is not as important as knowing why Paul wrote these words-to challenge believers to comfort and encourage one another when loved ones die.  This passage can be a great comfort when any believer dies.  The same love that should unite believers in this life will unite believers when Christ returns and reigns for eternity.  Because Jesus Christ came back to life, so will all believers.  All Christians, including those living when Christ returns, will live with Christ forever.  Therefore, we need not despair when loved ones die or world events take a tragic turn.  God will turn our tragedies to triumphs, our poverty to riches, our pain to glory, and our defeat to victory.  All believers throughout history will stand reunited in God's very presence, safe and secure.  As Paul comforted the Thessalonians with the promise of the resurrection, so we should comfort and reassure each other with this great hope.

4:16   An archangel is an angel with a position of authority and leadership.  Michael is the only archangel mentioned in the New Testament (see Jude 9; Dan. 10:13; 12:1).

1 Thessalonians 5

1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Explanation:

5:1   Times and dates refers to the knowledge of what will happen in the future, specifically to the return of Christ.

5:1-3   Efforts to determine the date of Christ's return are foolish.  Don't be misled by anyone who claims to know.  We are told here that no one knows and that even believers will be surprised.  The Lord will return suddenly and unexpectedly, warns Paul, so be ready!  Because no one knows when Jesus will come back to earth, we should be ready at all times.  Suppose he were to return today.  How would he find you living?  Are you ready to meet him?  Live each day prepared to welcome Christ.

5:2   The day of the Lord is a future time when God will intervene directly and dramatically in world affairs.  Predicted and discussed often in the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:6-12; Joel 2:28-32; Zephaniah 1:14-18), the day of the Lord will include both punishment and blessing.  Christ will judge sin and set up his eternal kingdom.

5:8   For more about the Christian's armor, see Ephesians 6:13-17.

5:9-11   As you near the end of a long race, your legs ache, your throat burns, and your whole body cries out for you to stop.  This is when your friends and fans are the most valuable.  Their encouragement helps you push through the pain to the finish line.  In the same way, Christians are to encourage one another.  A word of encouragement offered at the right moment can be the difference between finishing well and collapsing along the way.  Look around you.  Be sensitive to others' need for encouragement, and offer supportive words or actions.

Final Instructions

12Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

Explanation:

5:12   Those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord, probably refers to elders and deacons in the church.

5:12, 13   How can you show respect to and hold in the highest regard your pastor and other church leaders?  Express your appreciation, tell them how you have been helped by their leadership and teaching, and thank them for their ministry in your life.  If you say nothing, how will they know where you stand?  Remember, they need and deserve your support and love.

5:14   Don't loaf around with the idle; warn them.  Don't yell at the timid and weak; encourage and help them.  At times it's difficult to distinguish between idleness and timidity.  Two people may be doing nothing-one out of laziness and the other out of shyness or fear of doing something wrong.  The key to ministry is sensitivity: sensing the condition of each person and offering the appropriate remedy for each situation.  You can't effectively help until you know the problem.  You can't apply the medicine until you know where the wound is.

5:16-18   Our joy, prayers, and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings.  Obeying these three commands-be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks-often goes against our natural inclinations.  When we make a conscious decision to do what God says, however, we will begin to see people in a new perspective.  When we do God's will, we will find it easier to be joyful and thankful.

5:17   We cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times.  This attitude is built upon acknowledging our dependence of God, realizing his presence within us, and determining to obey him fully.  Then we will find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers.  A prayerful attitude is not a substitute for regular times of prayer but should be an outgrowth of those times.

5:18   Paul was not teaching that we should thank God for everything that happens to us, but in everything.  Evil does not come from God, so we should not thank him for it.  But when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God's presence and for the good that he will accomplish through the distress.

19Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22Avoid every kind of evil.
23May 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. 24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
25Brothers, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-28

Explanation:

5:19   By warning us not to put out the Spirit's fire, Paul means that we should not ignore or toss aside the gifts  the Holy Spirit gives.  Here, he mentions prophecy; in 1 Corinthians 14:39, he mentions tongues.  Sometimes spiritual gifts are controversial, and they may cause division in a church.  Rather than trying to solve the problems, some Christians prefer to smother the gifts.  This impoverishes the church.  We should not stifle the Holy Spirit's work in anyone's life but encourage the full expression of these gifts to benefit the whole body of Christ.

5:20, 21   We shouldn't make fun of those who don't agree with what we believe (treat prophecies with contempt), but we should always test everything, checking their words against the Bible.  We are on dangerous ground if we scoff at a person who speaks the truth.  Instead we should carefully check out what people say, accepting what is true and rejecting what is false.

5:22-24   As Christians, we cannot avoid every kind of evil because we live in a sinful world.  We can, however, make sure that we don't give evil a foothold by avoiding tempting situations and concentrating on obeying God.

5:23   The spirit, soul, and body refer not so much to the distinct parts of a person as to the entire being of a person.  This expression is Paul's way of saying that God must be involved in every aspect of our lives.  It is wrong to think that we can separate our spiritual lives from everything else, obeying God only in some ethereal sense or living for him only one day each week.  Christ must control all of us, not just a religious part.

5:27   For every Christian to hear this letter, it had to be read in a public meeting-there were not enough copies to circulate.  Paul wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to hear his message because he was answering important questions and offering needed encouragement.

5:28   The Thessalonian church was young, and they needed help and encouragement.  Both the persecution they faced and the temptations of their pagan culture were potential problems for these new Christians.  Paul wrote, therefore, to strengthen their faith and bolster their resistance to persecution and temptation.  We too have a responsibility to help new believers, and to make sure that they continue in their faith and don't become sidetracked by wrong beliefs or practices.  First Thessalonians can better equip us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.