“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (NASB)
If we include the last instruction in verse 14 of this chapter, we learn to “be patient with everyone.” And so, the next instruction teaches us that retaliation is not an option for a Christ believer. Paul the Apostle, writing this letter to the Church in Thessalonica is keenly, from personal experience, aware of the normal reaction we have when others do us wrong. It does not matter who does the wrong, believer or non-believer, we do not repay a wrong with a wrong. This is so very different than what we learn from the world. “If someone hits you, you hit back, harder.” That is the normal way most of us might have thought. But our promise today can be found in the next three instructions. Let’s look at them in the reverse order given in the verses. Give thanks for everything and in everything – God wills that to be our pattern. We give thanks for everything by praying on a regular basis. Make prayers a practice and that is where we can honestly give thanks all the time. What will be the result in our lives, in our attitude, in our perspective on life? We will rejoice always.
“For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB)
We continue to find promises that are given to us and which are coupled with our giving thanks to God. Today in our verse the Apostle Paul includes the two others in his team who came to the city from Philippi, Silas and Timothy. He expresses the reason they give thanks to God for the believers in Thessalonica. Why are they thankful? Because when the Gospel was shared by the missionaries it was the Word of God. That is just how they received and accepted the message as the Word of God. This is a second reason for Paul’s continual rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul expressed thankfulness not only because the fruits of righteousness apparent in the Thessalonian converts’ lives, but also their ready acceptance. Their reception of the preached Word of God warmed the apostles’ hearts. We know this word if we have believed and received Christ Jesus’ invitation. While a good number of the converts were Jews the greater number were Greeks or Gentiles. It was these non-Jews who became believers of God and received Jesus as their Savior. The “we also constantly” is the same as our instruction to “pray without ceasing.”
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (ESV)
As the American holiday of Thanksgiving has just past we consider that the period for giving thanks has not. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica he states that he, and those with him, are in the practice of giving thanks to God always; constantly including them in prayer; and remembering their spiritual commitment. Paul mentions three characteristics of their commitment. Their work which is produced by faith in Christ; their labor which was motivated by their love of Christ; and their steadfastness, which is also endurance and faithfulness⸺inspired by a sure hope of Christ. These believers and followers of Jesus Christ were anticipating the return of God’s son from heaven. Each of these virtues found its object in Jesus. Three virtues that mark every true obedient Christian⸺faith, love, and hope. These virtues are the focus of 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter of love, but with love and hope switched in the order. One of the promises given to all believers is that God loved us and chose us for eternal life and service. Paul and friends (we know) were certain of this truth. We can be certain also if we have believed in Jesus.
“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 (ESV)
In these verses from Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he gives a direct warning. We might say stern warning as he does not want us to be unaware. “Let us keep awake and be sober.” Yes, sober as opposed to drunk. Also sober as in having control of our thoughts and mind. Being alert and not dull and unaware that The Day is coming. Paul compares those of us who believe as being ‘of the light’ and those who do not as being ‘of darkness’. So our promise is that because we are not of the night or the darkness, we are to not fall asleep on the watch but be awake and of sound mind. One day, God will call out to this world “It’s a wrap,” the call a crew heard when we were done with a production. But when God chooses to “wrap it up” that will be the day of fulfillment. For all who have believed in Jesus Christ and persevere in faith are saved. We will be spared the wrath coming to the unbelievers. Just as it says in verse 11, “we encourage one another and build one another up.”