Setting

Paul has written extensively concerning the coming of the Lord and urged the believers to live watchful and sober lives in expectation of that day. Before closing the epistle, he has further exhortations for the Thessalonians concerning both church and personal life.

Key Verse

(5:16-18)

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Outline

  • Church Life
    (5:12-15)
  • God’s Will for the Personal Life
    (5:16-18)
  • Hold Fast to the Good and Abstain from Evil
    (5:19-22)
  • God’s Faithful Preservation
    (5:23-24)
  • Prayer Request, Greetings, and Instruction
    (5:25-27)
  • Benediction
    (5:28)

Segment Analysis

  • 5:12-15

    1a.

    Who are verses 12-13 about?

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    They are workers of God who have been entrusted with the responsibility to teach the word of God and keep watch over the church (cf. Acts 20:28; Heb 13:17).

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  • 1b.

    How should we recognize and esteem them?

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    We ought to heed and submit to their admonition, exhortation, and encouragement because they are speaking the word of God and doing the work of the Lord (Heb 13:17).

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  • 5:12-15

    2.

    Have you ever comforted the fainthearted or upheld the weak? What is required to do so?

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    We need to be genuinely concerned about the welfare of our brethren in order to know if anyone is going through spiritual weakness. After we find out about the needs of these brothers and sisters, we need to empathize with them, share with them testimonies about how God helped us in our weakness, and pray with them. All these require genuine love, sacrifice, and patience.

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  • 3.

    What kind of patience is meant in verse 14? What are some ways in which you can practice such patience?

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    The patience here has to do with the attitude we ought to have in meeting the spiritual needs or helping with the weaknesses of others. Teaching new believers, encouraging those who are suffering, praying for the weak, warning the unruly, correcting those who have erred, etc. all require much patience.
    On another level, patience involves loving those who are against us, as stated in 15. When others have wronged us or hurt us intentionally, it requires patient endurance to not only refrain from retaliation but repaying evil with good.

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  • 4.

    Think of a real life example of repaying evil with good. Share this with your group.

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  • 5:16-18

    5.

    What element is common to all three commands in this paragraph? What lesson can we learn from this?

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    Whether it is rejoicing, praying, or giving thanks, we need to do it at all times. Our joy, prayer, and thanksgiving should be a constant attitude regardless of our circumstances.

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  • 6.

    Which command(s) have you not yet carried out?

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  • 7.

    What purpose do you think God’s will, as stated here in the three commands, accomplishes?

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    The commands to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything are reminders to us to focus our hearts on our Lord Jesus Christ all the time. Since our Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can find peace and repose in Him if we center our thoughts and our lives on Him.

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  • 5:19-22

    8.

    What does it mean to quench the Spirit?

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    What Paul writes here may refer to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life or the workings of the Holy Spirit in the church. God has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth (Jn 16:13), help us subdue our sinful desires (Rom 8:13), intercede for us (Rom 8:26-27), guide the ministry of the church (cf. Acts 1:8; 4:31; 8:29; 11:12; 13:2,4; 15:28; 16:6-7), distribute gifts within the church for the benefit of all believers (1Cor 12:7-11), and enable unity in the church (Eph 4:3). So the Holy Spirit may move us in various ways to accomplish His good purpose. If we submit to the Holy Spirit, we ourselves and the church as a whole will be edified.
    But the Holy Spirit does not control us or force us to do things against our will (cf. 1Cor 14:32). If we are not discerning or if we are insistent on our own will, we may become oblivious to the guidance and work of the Holy Spirit or even resist the work of the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to quench the Spirit. If we continually quench the Spirit, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) and hinder the work of God in us and in the church.
    It is possible that some in the Thessalonian church enforced strict rules in the church in an attempt to guard the believers against false teachings (cf. 2Thess 2:2-3). But in doing so, they had also repressed all manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church, such as the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, or the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

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  • 9.

    What does it mean to despise prophecy? Why would a person despise prophecies?

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    “Prophecy” includes both prediction of the future (cf. Acts 21:10-11) and words of encouragement (1Cor 14:3,19) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Whether Paul has in mind divine predictions or messages, despising prophecy means ignoring or showing contempt for the word of God. There could be many reasons why a person would despise prophecy, and these include pride, unwillingness to leave error or sin, and looking down on the one who delivers the prophecy. Perhaps in the church in Thessalonica, some were not able to discern true prophecies
    from false prophecies and went to the extreme, turning a deaf ear to all prophecies.

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  • 10.

    Why should we test all things? How do we do so?

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    The purpose of testing all things is to discern what is good and evil so that we may “hold fast what is good” and “abstain from every form of evil” (21-22). If we do not have a discerning spirit, we may be deceived by false teachings and sin (cf. Eph 4:14). God’s word, which is the ultimate standard of good and evil, is the measure with which we use to test all things. We need to make careful judgments about the things we hear and do to see if they are according to God’s word (1Cor 14:29; Heb 5:13-14).

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  • 11.

    In a world where evil often prevails over what is good, what does it take for believers to “hold fast what is good” and “abstain from every form of evil”?

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    Discernment, courage, and persistence through the grace of God.

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  • 5:23-28

    12.

    How does God’s faithful preservation relate to the earlier exhortations and commands?

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    While we strive to carry out the commands of God, let us not forget that all our efforts need to be built on the saving grace of God. While we are called to diligently carry out the commands of God, it is God who begins the good work in us and it is God who will complete the work (Eph 2:10; Php 1:6; 2:12-13; 4:13; Col 1:29). We can stand to the end only because of God’s faithful preservation (cf. Jn 10:27-29; 1Pet 1:5).

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  • 13.

    How can the truth of verse 24 help you in your daily Christian walk?

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    God is faithful. He will not deny His promise or fail us. He will accomplish His work of sanctification in us if we depend on Him. Our efforts to carry out God’s commands are not struggles that are built on a slim chance of reaching heaven. While we strive to obey God, we can rest assured in God’s power, which is continually at work in us for our salvation.

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