Lesson 12: "Follow That Which is Good" (I Thessalonians 5:15) contiuned

I Thessalonians 5:12-28

This is lesson #12. Welcome again. Back to Patience, I Thess. 514. Paul commanded patience. We all need more of that stuffcalled patience. Do you remember the question that Jesus asked in the sermon on the mount? "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" We tend to expect perfection in others and forget the two-by-fours and the four-by-fours associated with us. Do you remember the sermon Jesus gave in Matt, ch., 23? "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and commin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith." It's so easy to get involved with the specks and the splinters hi the eyes of others and at the same time swallow a camel ourselves; as Jesus said in the next verse. I'm talking about Matt. 23:23-24. So, a Christian must be patient — patient with who? - "all men!" Of course, the word "men" here is used in the generic sense, meaning all mankind; so, this applies to men and women.
Then, going on to v. 15 in I Thess. Ch. 5; item #8, as we have styled it, "See that none render evil for evil unto any man." Who did Paul write this to"? Notice back in v. 12, "we beseech you, {Who?], brethren." Paul was writing to all Christians. See that none re-pay evil with evil. Under the Mosaic law, there were certain places where it was done an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth, but, Christians are NEVER to repay evil with evil. This implies further, that we are to teach all our brethren not to return evil for evil. In v.19, Paul added, "avenge not yourselves...for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." It's so easy to get into that mood: you kill my dog and I'll kill your cat, However, such thinking is forbidden in Christians. Now, let's see, that just applies to dealing with other Christians, right? WRONG! Paul said, "See that NONE render evil for evil unto ANY MAN." That includes all of them, men or women. Got it?
"But," i.e. in contrast to that, :ever follow that which is good." (Item #9)..What's good? People are pretty shrewd. Understanding good and evil when dealing with one another, is almost an innate trait. Jesus said, in discussing this in the sermon on the mount, what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask him?" If we are not to repay evil with evil and we understand that and try to apply that; we won't have any trouble following that which is good. Do you remember "love", the Greek "agape" form that Christians are commanded. It mans: "to seek the highest interest and the highest welfare of another." Up in v.8, Paul said, "putting on the breastplate of faith and LOVE." Do you see that? The word in v.8 is "agape." That's a different thought than what Paul said back in 4:9, where Paul said, "as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you..." That was buddy-buddy love back there and the Thessalonians didn't have any trouble with that. We don't either! So, you see, it's not a mater in interpretation; it's a matter of doing what we know to do. and then finally, at the end of v.15, Paul repeated, in essence, what he said at the end of v.14, "toward all me." Here he said, "both among yourselves, and to all men." Remember, a Christian is a Christian whether dealing with another Christian or dealing with a now-Christian; it makes no difference.
Alright, that brings us to item #10, found in that big long verse, v. 16, "Rejoice evermore." Some translated this verse, "Rejoice always." Another translation has the verse like this: "Be happy in your faith all the time." Christians should be the happiest people upon God's green earth. With God's everlasting arm around us and the glory of heaven in front of us; we shouldn't let anything deter us from enjoying life to its fullest within the context of our Christian faith. The people at Thessalonica were people. Have you ever know any one to gripe, grumble, fuss, fret, whine, complain, blame, whimper, accuse, murmur, worry, criticize or protest? What was Paul telling his brethren at Thessalonica. Only a few months before, those brethren were undoubtedly worshiping idols, according to 1:9 of this book. They had turned to serve the living and true God. They now had a hope in Jesus. Our faith and our hope can sustain us through great struggles; if we can just learn to live and apply what it means to be a Christian. In Rom. 8:28, Paul said, "we know that all thins work together for good to them that love God." When we get that in focus, it takes away a lot of pounds. It keeps us on the right path from day to day. Paul was saying, learn to appreciate what it means to be a Christian. Rejoice evermore! Can you see why the Holy Spirit preserved this book for us? I need it! We all need it! Rejoice always. Now THAT, of course, doesn't mean to go around with your head up in the stars. You see, it takes a little balance in this life.
Then Paul hastened to say, "Pray without ceasing." Item #11, v.l 7. As we begin to think upon these things; it doesn't take long to realize our shortcomings and our weaknesses and how dependent we are upon God. A very sobering thought that helps to give us that balance we need in this life. How does one pray without ceasing? A very common question asked often. Obviously, the idea of "without ceasing" hi this verse means very simply that we are to cultivate or develop a subconscious recognition that God is always near us. Paul said in his speech on Mars' hill as he waited in Athens, Acts 17:27, that "the Lord...be not far from every one of us, for in him we live, and move, and have our being...: To develop this perpetual realization of God's presence and to keep one's self in the right spirit, with the right disposition, to constantly be ready for and to participate in prayer to the heavenly Father, the maker and sustained of the universe, is certainly not an easy disposition to develop and especially is that true at the beginning. If we add those two short verses together, v.l6 and v.l7, in their proper context and proper perspective; we get a beautiful picture of the personality and temperament of a real Christian.
To that thought, Paul adds another dimension in v. 18, item #12, "In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." In the idea of giving thanks for everything, can you see both the aspect of rejoicing and the ingredient of prayer as commanded in v.l 6 and v.l 7 up above? V.l8 combines the other two thoughts in a practical way.
Item #13, another short verse, "Quench not the Spirit." As you focus on v.l9, please notice that the word "Spirit" in this verse is capitalized in the KJV, meaning of course the Holy Spirit, or the third person of the Godhead that we talked about back in Acts ch.2 and other places in other courses. We are taught that the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians, Acts 2:38. Exactly how the Holy Spirit dwells in a Christian is (and has been) one of the most discussed themes of the New Testament. To most of us, this is variously and mysteriously understood. I suppose the very fact that this third person of the Godhead is a Spirit accounts for part of the difficulty. The Bible says just as clearly that God dwells in us, I John 4:12; and that Christ live in us. We, of course, do not understand THAT to mean that God and Christ dwell in us personally. Apparently the idea is the same as what Paul said to the Corinthians in I Cor. 4:15. He said, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." James said (1:18), "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth..." Look to Paul's statement here hi I Thess. 5:19, Paul portrays the Spirit hi this verse as a fire burning and flaming up within us. When Paul said, "Quench not the Spirit"; Paul was saying undoubtedly: don't smother or overwhelm that which came by the Spirit by overloading our lives with worldly cares, I would assume, it is the same thought that Jesus gave in the parable of the sower. With respect to the weedy ground or that which fell among thorns, Luke 8:14, Jesus said, "that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go, and are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Here in v.l9, Paul was cautioning Christians not to let other things crowd out that which came by the "Spirit.

Let's go to v.20, item #14, "Despise not prophesyings." The word prophesy means very simply to predict or foretell the future. The word here carries with it the idea of that which came by inspiration, i.e. a message miraculously understood through the Holy Spirit. As has already been emphasized, the New Testament, as we know it, did not exist at that tune. However, the apostles spake as they were guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) then hi turn the apostles laid their hands on some in almost every congregation and imparted to them what was known as spiritual gifts. It was by these spiritual gifts, congregations operated in the beginning without the written word. Reference is made to about nine different spiritual gifts in I Cor. Ch. 12, one of which was prophecy. Take a moment to review Acts 8:17-18 where Peter and John (both apostles) apparently imparted spiritual gifts to some of the brethren in Samaria. Do you remember Judas and Silas as mentioned in Acts 15:32? They were prophets. Silas was the same man who came to Thessalonica with Paul and was called Silvanus in the first verse of this book. Do you remember Agaus back in Acts 21-10? Agabus was a man who had received the spiritual gift of prophecy by the laying on of the apostles hands. (See also Acts 11:27-28) Possibly other examples could be given here; but, it goes back really to the idea in the last verse in the book of Mark, where it is said the apostles went forth "confirming the word with signs following." In Hebrews, the writer talking about salvation, said (2:3), "which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him..." It's another way of saying the same thing. These propOhets did it similar to the way Jesus taught, you see. It was not some lightning stroke that caused them to start babbling in a mysterious language, as some imply today. This was part of the regular teaching (speaking) in their worship assemblies. We learn here in our text, ch., 5:20, that undoubtedly some at Thessalonica had received the gift of prophecy also. By the laying on of the apostle Paul's hands, no doubt. Possibly two or three prophets in the whole congregation, I would assume. So, Paul said to the brethren there; "despise not prophesyings." Those who received such miraculous teaching gifts and abilities stood in rank next to the apostles. It's different today, in that prophets have now been replaced by the written New Testament. We'll get back to this before we finish this course. But, BE SURE you get the thought here. The preaching by those prophets at Thessalonica must have been as boring to some members there as gospel preaching apparently is to some in our day. Some didn't enjoy it, even then. Paul was admonishing them not to neglect to hear such prophesy and further, of course, to not to neglect to obey the same. In v.21, item #15 blends into the same thought; in that, prophecy (even by those miraculous teachers) did not contradict or conflict with the scriptures they already had, i.e. what we call the Old Testament. Item #14, Paul said, "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." You see, Paul put the responsibility on them to check these things out, i.e. study the scriptures. Research everything, i.e. "Prove all things," and then, "hold fast that which is good." It was under the guise of being prophets that many false teachers eventually sprung up. So, Paul was admonishing the brethren at Thessalonica to be prepared to recognize such. Then finally, the last item (item #16) in v.22, Paul said, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." Sort out that which is good and appropriate, and do it. Reject evil in any form. Some translate this, "shun every for of evil." I suppose somewhat a catch-all statement; but, very skillfully hooked on to the study idea. They were to Test what they we taught, and they were, like we are, individually responsible.

V.23-24 is Paul's prayerful wish in behalf of the Thessalonians. Let's read it. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." The only question I can think of that might come to your mind is the way Paul referred to man in three ways, i.e. body, spirit and soul. The distinction between soul and spirit is another of those questions that has been debated and argued and discussed for centuries by the theologians. For all practical purposes the "spirit" and "soul" are used interchangeably in the New Testament. I would be inclined to say there is no distinction, if it were not for a few passages likeHeb.4:12. I'll let you read that.

In v.25-26-27, Paul made three requests. First, Paul requested their prayers on his behalf and on behalf of his companions, Timothy and Silas. Second, Paul requested they greet each other with a holy kiss. The third and last request was that this letter be read to all the disciples at Thessalonica. And, just so we can say we read it all; put you eye on v.25 and we'll read down through v.28. Ready? "Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I charge yo by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." Someone may wonder about the holy kiss. I can't help you much on that. It is generally agreed that the customary greeting between close friends in the east was the kiss and still is. Our western custom is the hand-shake. My concept is that Paul did not intend to start a new custom. It was not be done in a lustful way; but Paul commanded them to greet each other. The thing that makes it holy or unholy, of course is the thought and sentiments behind it. In their greeting, they were to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ; children of the heavenly Father; thus, of a common family. No bowing, kneeling, kissing rings or anything that would tend to establish rank among Christians. The custom ofhand-shaking is undoubtedly just as acceptable; but, it should be meaningful. Put a little effort into it! Let your brothers and sisters in Christ know that you appreciate the. Don't hand them a dead fish. This concludes First Thessalonians. We'll start Second Thessalonians in lesson #13. Until then, you have a good day.

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