1 Thessalonians 5:14-17
Posted January 20, 2014
14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing...
These words were spoken by Paul to the church in Thessalonica at the end of his first letter to them. One of this letter’s main theme was regarding Jesus’ return and the practical implications of His return on our every day lives. We find a series of admonishments that we would do well to pay attention to. This week we’ll look at the first 4 verses, and then next week, we’ll look at the following 5 verses.
Urged as Brothers
Note that Paul bases his urging on a simple truth: we are brothers. The foundation of any activity is our identity in Christ, not moralism or seeking simply to do good for goodness sake. We are urged to act out of and from our identity as God’s children, not in order to create it or earn God’s favor or prove ourselves. If we are God’s children, then the trajectory of our lives should be to be more and more like our heavenly Father. We are blood-bought brothers and sisters who by the power of the Spirit are being changed and conformed into His likeness and doing the works of our Father.
Admonish, Encourage, Help, Be Patient
Once established on the foundation of the gospel and our identity, in turn we’re given a series of commands: to admonish the idle, to encourage the fainthearted, to help the weak, and be patient with them all. As we live out our faith in the family of God (the local church), we bear a horizontal responsibility to our brothers and sisters. Each relationship bears a unique need. We should know where each of our friends are at and seek to be a blessing to them in whatever season that is. Is it one where they might need a hard word? In humility, seek to give it. Is it a season of weakness? Help them! Are they fainthearted? Be a voice of encouragement. In all of these (even the admonishing) we are to model patience. Why? Because of the gospel and the truth that God is so patient with us. He admonishes us when we’re idle! He encourages us when we’re fainthearted! He helps us when we’re weak! We are merely imitating the same grace we’ve been given in Jesus.
Imitating Our Good God
Those who are God’s children are also to refrain from repaying anyone evil for evil. This is part of us imitating our good Father! Not only are we to refrain from evil, but we’re also to seek to do good to those in the church and outside it… Note that Paul doesn’t merely say, “Do good…” but rather, “seek to do good.” This entails a pro-activity and keeping a vigilant eye open at all times to be a doer of good to all. Be marked not only by what you refrain from (evil), but especially what you do (good).
Rejoice & Pray
This section ends with two very short yet very difficult commands: to “rejoice always” and to “pray without ceasing”.
First, to “rejoice always”. As a culture, we rejoice over success stories, not hardship. However, Paul calls us to a different sort of rejoicing: a 24/7, “in every season” sort of rejoicing. Christians are to have a different perspective than the world! Why? Because we recognize that even in chaos there is a King on the throne who loves us and is working His good purposes throughout the earth. Because we know the hardship is not end of the story.
Secondly, we are called to “pray without ceasing”. Just because there is a King on a throne doesn’t mean we’re fatalists. Rather, the King invites us to approach His throne of grace with confidence with our requests! There is no daily quota for approaching him. This brings about a picture of relationship! The King on His throne says, “Come to me with your whole life, all your joys, and all your burdens.” All of life is to be lived under His gaze. JR Vassar said that prayer is both an act and an attitude. Without the initial act of prayer, it’s difficult to maintain an attitude. Set aside time for the act of prayer, but also carry that prayerful attitude with you into every corner of your life. God is with you and is listening.
Song by Young Weather (feat. James Coe & Becca Ragland).
Artwork by Jonathan Lindsey.