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1 Thessalonians Chapter Five                            


I. Content of the Chapter


The Lord’s Second Coming and Christians’ Sanctification

A.  Christians should watch and be sober to wait for the Lord’s coming again (v.1-11):

1. For the day of the Lord comes as a thief (v.1-3);

2. Christians shall watch and be sober in faith, love and hope (v.4-11);

B.  Believers become sanctified by co-operation with God before the Lord’s coming again (v.12-24):

1. Be at peace among Christians and pursue what is good (v.12-15);

2. Do everything that is connected with the will of God, the Spirit and what is good (v.16-22);

3. God will sanctify us completely and preserve us until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.23-24);

C.  The concluding remarks (v.25-28);


II. Verse by Verse commentary


1Thess. 5:1 “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.

   YLT: “And concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need of my writing to you,”

   Literal Meaning: but concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, “times” and “seasons” are a pair of synonyms. Both of them are in plural form, referring to the period when the Lord comes to the earth, namely, “the day of the Lord” (v.2).

According to other scriptures, this period will be about many years (some even counts the kingdom of one thousand years in this period), during which many prophesies shall be fulfilled, and many things shall happen step by step. Therefore, when we read the Scriptures, we shall discern the day of the Lord so as not to be vague about the order of time. For example, in the Second Book of Peter, the elements shall be dissolved in that day (2Pet. 3:10-13). However, it happens after the period of the kingdom of one thousand years just before the new heaven and new earth (see Rev. 21:1).

From the times of the Lord’s disciples, there were many people who were interested in “times and seasons” (see Acts 1:6-7). Besides, there were also many people who often prophesied the Lord’s coming again. However, since the Lord had said “of that say and hour no one knows … nor the Son” (Matt. 24:36), we Christians shall not make presumptuous conjecture, but shall know His coming is near (Matt. 24:32-33) according to various signs and thus watch and prepare ourselves.

“You have no need that I should write to you”, it indicates he needs not to illustrate by epistles, for they have “known perfectly” (v.2).


1Thess. 5:2 “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.

   YLT: “for yourselves have known thoroughly that the day of the Lord as a thief in the night doth so come,”

   Literal Meaning: for you yourselves know perfectly”, when Paul was with them there, he had early taught them clearly about this matter, so they were supposed to have no doubts. 

“That the day of the Lord so comes”, “the day of the Lord” refers to the day when the Lord Jesus comes again (see 2Thess. 2:1-2), namely, the day when the Lord comes again. Most of the scriptures in which the day of the Lord is mentioned are relevant to the Lord’s judgment (see 1Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 5:5; 1Cor. 1:14; 2Tim. 4:8). Therefore, the following paragraph (v.3-6) is mainly for the purpose of warning believers.

“As a thief in the night”, there are three aspects of meanings: 1) such a sinful world is like a dark night; 2) the majority are in the state of deep sleep (see v.7); 3) the whereabouts are difficult to be known in darkness. “Thief” also has double meanings: 1) who comes in an unexpected time; 2) who specially steals things of value;

The day of the Lord will come suddenly without expectation. Believers who are mature in life shall be taken and those who are left will experience the Tribulation never seen before (see v.3).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    “Know perfectly” is one thing. And yet real knowledge and the practical application of the knowledge is another thing. Many Christians clearly know the truth of the Lord’s coming again, but they have not led a life of waiting for the Lord’s coming. Therefore, we shall not be satisfied with the knowledge of the truth only.

2)    Though we have heard or known some truth, if we have not hold fast it, we may still be deceived. Therefore, we need always to receive light humbly and judge ourselves.

3)    Concerning the date of the Lord’s coming again, one thing we are sure is that no one knows in advance when the Lord comes.

4)    Christians need not to guess the date of the Lord’s second coming. No matter when the Lord comes, we shall always lead the life that Christians are supposed to live.

5)    Since we have clearly known the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, we shall always watch and be sober (see v.6). Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis said, “Christian shall watch from the first day when he has become a Christian”.

6)    Now the night is far spent and the day is near (Rom. 13:12). The Lord’s coming is also near. Therefore, we shall prepare us at any time.


1Thess. 5:3 “For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

   YLT: “for when they may say, Peace and surety, then sudden destruction doth stand by them, as the travail [doth] her who is with child, and they shall not escape;”

   Meaning of Words: destruction”: punishment, death;

   Literal Meaning: for when they say, "Peace and safety!" “They” here refer to “those who are fallen asleep” (v.6), namely, unbelievers in the world; “when they say, "Peace and safety!"”, it is self-deceiving comfort; men in the world believe “there is no so-called judgment or affliction at all” so they can take pleasure in this life.

    "Peace and safety!" It suggests that possibly a short period of days of peace because of the conclusion of peace treaty may appear on the earth (especially in the areas of Middle East) before the Lord’s coming.

“Then sudden destruction comes upon them, destruction” here does not refer to eternal destruction, but the trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world (Rev. 3:10), namely, the Tribulation in that three years and a half (see Rev. 11:2; 12:14-17; 13:5, 7)

“As labor pains upon a pregnant woman”, “labor pains”: the pains that the woman bears when she delivers her baby. It shows that the Tribulation will make men as painful as the women who are in labor pains (see Ps. 48:6; 13:8).

And they shall not escape”, “shall not”, the double negative in the original is emphatic, which shows none of them shall escape.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Some believers who are asleep in spirit say in their hearts, “my lord delays to come” and thus behave outrageously (see Matt. 24:48-49). Woe to such men!

2)    To those who have not well prepared, the Lord’s coming is “destruction” that they shall not escape.

3)    “A pregnant woman” is able to infer when her baby is due, but unable to expect when the twinge of pain may suddenly come. Likewise, Christians are able to know in advance the Lord’s coming is near (see Matt. 24:32-33), but unable to predict the sure date.

4)    If man’s “lust” has “conceived”, it will give birth to sin (see James 1:15) and make man unable to escape the impending “labor pain”. Therefore, man shall deal with it early.


1Thess. 5:4 “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

   YLT: “and ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day may catch you as a thief;”

   Literal Meaning: but you, brethren, are not in darkness, darkness” is the sign of sin and death. Men in the world are “in darkness”, for the devil has blinded the thoughts of them (see 2Cor. 4:4). Therefore, they are unable to see their own conditions or the dangerous future and walk and live as usual with their heart at rest.

    “Brethren”, it indicates it is spoken to believers; “you are not in darkness”, it shows that believers have turned from darkness to light (Acts 26:18) since the Lord has opened their eyes, thus: 1) walk in light (1John 1:7); 2) have the guidance of the light of life (John 8:12); 3) watch and be sober (see v.6) to wait for the coming of the light of the Lord.

“So that this Day should overtake you as a thief”, “overtake”: seize suddenly; to believers who live in light instead of darkness, that Day shall not overtake them as a thief, so they shall not be caught unawares.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Since the identities of believers and unbelievers are different, their statuses are different. Therefore, believers shall in no wise live in darkness or wickedness.

2)    In other words, this verse indicates that if we believers live in darkness instead of light (see 1John 1:6-7), that Day shall overtake us as a thief. It is a significant warning to those who firmly believe that Christians shall “peace and safe” (see v.3) and by no means suffer the Tribulation.

1Thess. 5:5 “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.

   YLT: “all ye are sons of light, and sons of day; we are not of night, nor of darkness,”

   Literal Meaning: you are all sons of light and sons of the day”, “sons of”, it is a habitual usage of the Jews to refer to a special nature. “Sons of light”, it shows that the “life” of Christians has the nature of light (Eph. 5:8-9).

    “Light” is opposite to “darkness” and both of them refer to two different periods. The present age is darkness, and the impending age is light (see Rom. 13:12). “Sons of light”, it indicates that Christians always live for the eternal glory and are of eternity.

We are not of the night nor of darkness”, “of…” is different from “in…” (v.4). The former is governed and ruled and controlled by the object, and the latter is living in the object.

“Of the night”, it reveals that the conversation is in darkness as in the night; “of darkness”, it means it is darkness by nature and is governed by the power of darkness (Col. 1:13).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The nature of one’s inner life decides the conditions of his daily life. The life of light and the day must live in light. And yet the life of darkness and the night must live in darkness.

2)    Believers not only live in light but also have the nature of light. We Christians no longer live in darkness, for we are not of darkness.

3)    The problem of Christians is that though we have the life and God and of light, we often ignore it and live in the old and natural and corrupted life. Therefore, we may live in darkness.

4)    Though we walk in this age, we live in the eternal spirit. The full glory of the coming Christ is our inner nature and motivates us to press on.


1Thess. 5:6 “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

   YLT: “so, then, we may not sleep as also the others, but watch and be sober,”

   Meaning of Words: “watch”: keep awake, be vigilant, wake; “be sober”: discreet;

   Literal Meaning: therefore let us not sleep, as others do, “sleep” does not refer to the death in the flesh (see 4:13, 15), but the unwatchful condition in spirit (see Rom. 13:11).

“But let us watch and be sober”, “watch” is opposite to “sleep”, and “sober” is opposite to “drunken” (see v.7). Therefore, the opposite meaning of “sober” is “befuddled” and “spiritually blind”.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Since Christians have the life and nature of the day and light (see v.5), if we let this life grown in us, we shall not be afraid of the Lord’s coming and shall be prepared to see the Lord at any time.

2)    “Sleep” (sleep in spirit) is not the supposed condition to Christians. Therefore, we shall “watch and be sober” in any case. And this is God’s warning and command to us.


1Thess. 5:7 “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.

   YLT: “for those sleeping, by night do sleep, and those making themselves drunk, by night are drunken,”

   Literal Meaning: for those who sleep, sleep at night, generally, men work out in the daytime and lie down in the night. If it is reversed, it is special or uncommon.

“And those who get drunk are drunk at night”, it is because man shall keep sober in the working time during the daytime.

   Spiritual Meaning: “sleep”: it is complete relaxation without any soberness (see v.6). “Drunk”: indulgence in pleasure without constraint; “night”: the realm under the power of darkness;

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    He who has fallen asleep is senseless to the danger he is faced with and continues to sleep. He who has drunken is out of his sense and unable to control himself. Both of the conditions should not appear in Christians.

2)    Unbelievers idle away the night by sleep and drunkenness. But we Christians live in the dark night for the purpose of shining for the Lord (see Phil. 2:15).

3)    Christians are those who are of the day (v.5, 8). Sleep and drunkenness are in no wise proper. We shall work more while it is day (John 9:4) and walk becomingly (Rom. 13:13).


1Thess. 5:8 “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.

   YLT: “and we, being of the day -- let us be sober, putting on a breastplate of faith and love, and an helmet -- a hope of salvation,”

   Literal Meaning: but let us who are of the day”, “of the day” has two meaning: 1) the life of Christians has the nature of light; 2) the life of Christians is for the purpose of waiting for the Lord; 

“Be sober, here it is like the soldiers who are ready to fight at any time. He who always keeps sober and be ever vigilant shall be enabled to deal with the enemies who come to attack suddenly.

“Putting on the breastplate of faith and love, “faith”: have right heart toward God; “love”: have right heart toward men (see Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4); “breastplate”: it is used to keep man’s heart;

“And as a helmet the hope of salvation”, “the hope of salvation”, when the Lord comes, we shall enter into the hope that we are delivered from the impending wrath (see 1:10); “helmet”, which is used to protect man’s mind and thoughts so that he will not be deceived by Satan (see 2Cor. 10:5) because of the mind of the earthly things (see Col. 3:2).

   Controversial Clarification: the hope of salvation”, since this paragraph mentions how to watch and be sober in order to escape the sudden destruction (see v.3). Therefore, some Bible exegetes interpret the “salvation” here as “being saved from the Tribulations in the last days”. However, such interpretation causes two serious contradictions: 1) the word “salvation” is also mentioned in verse nine, so men must believe God appoints all Christians to be delivered from the Tribulation, namely, “the rapture of the church before the Tribulation”. However, it contradicts with other scriptures, so it is difficult to be accepted (please refer to the “Controversial Clarification” of verse nine); 2) if “the rapture of the church before the Tribulation” is not agreed with, and the hope of deliverance from the Tribulation is held, it shows that the “hope” of Christians may either be fulfilled or not fulfilled. How poor and miserable such hope is (see 1Cor. 15:19). Moreover, it seriously denies the faithfulness of God (see 2Thess. 2:16).

    Therefore, the “salvation” of this verse refers to the eternal and perfect salvation, including obtaining the adoption, namely, the redemption of our body (see Rom. 8:21-25). Such hope of believers shall be fulfilled step by step when the Lord comes. And since we have such “hope of salvation”, we shall apply it to be our protection in our short life on the earth, lest we should experience an unnecessary stage when the Lord is coming.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life (Pro. 4:23).

2)    A believer shall have firm faith in his will, abundant love in his emotion and endless hope in mind so that he is enabled to prepare himself to meet the Lord’s coming.

3)    It is a kind of spiritual war that believers lead a watchful and sober (see v.6) life. And such war requires the whole armor of faith, love and hope so that Satan cannot attack us and we are able to keep the true Christian life.

4)    Faith, hope and love are believers’ spiritual virtues (see 1Cor. 13:13), and yet now have become believers’ spiritual weapons. Many times, we struggle by the weapons of spiritual virtues instead of intelligence, means or others.


1Thess. 5:9 “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

   YLT: “because God did not appoint us to anger, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

   Meaning of Words: “appoint”: set, lay down, settle; 

   Literal Meaning: for God did not appoint us to wrath, here it means that God appoints Christians the end of life. “Wrath” is not “the Tribulation” (see “Controversial Clarification”), but the eternal punishment.

“But to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”, “salvation” refers to eternal salvation, namely, the ultimate and perfect salvation.

Controversial Clarification: according to this verse and 1Thess. 1:10 and 4:17, those who keep “Pre-Tribulation” think since God does not appoint Christians to wrath and sends Jesus to deliver us from the coming wrath, believers who are alive when the Lord comes will be caught with the risen believers together and not suffer “the Tribulation” ---- the punishment of God’s wrath.

Though the Tribulation is the wrath of God (see Rev. 15:1) and mainly aims at Gentile unbelievers (Rev. 6:17), we shall not regard “the Tribulation” equal to “the coming wrath of God”, because: 1) God has promised that He shall keep some believers from the trial that is come upon the whole world (Rev. 3:10); 2) there are still believers in the Tribulation (see Rev. 12:17 “have the testimony of Jesus”; 14:12 “keep the faith of Jesus”); 3) the Tribulation is not only the wrath of God but also the anger of Satan at Christians and the Jews (Rev. 12:12, 17); 4) to Christians, the Tribulation is not wrath, but discipline for the purpose of making us grown (see Rev. 14:15; Heb. 12:10-11); 5) the “wrath” here and in chapter (the wrath to come v.10) both refer to the eternal punishment.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Believers will ultimately obtain the full salvation, which is the end that God has appointed us. Therefore, no matter what condition we are faced with, there is God’s good pleasure therein. We shall hold fast the hope of salvation and wait for the Lord’s second coming.

2)    Our being saved is not out of God’s occasional mercy, but a great thing that God has predestinated in eternity. Therefore, we shall take it serious and not ignore this great salvation (Heb. 2:1-3). Yet a little while, we shall prepare ourselves to meet the Lord’s coming.


1Thess. 5:10 “who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

   YLT: “who did die for us, that whether we wake -- whether we sleep -- together with him we may live;”

   Literal Meaning: “who died for us, it reveals that the death of the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ has transformed the significance and purpose of our life. Henceforth, we shall no longer live for ourselves (see Rom. 14:7; 2Cor. 5:15).

“That whether we wake or sleep, Paul seems to imply two aspects of meaning: 1) no matter live or die (see 4:13-17; Rom. 14:8); 2) no matter our spirit is sober or sleeping (see v.6; Rom. 13:11). However, according to the context, it may also be interpreted as “no matter awake in the day or sleeping in the night” (see Mark 4:27).

“We should live together with Him”, “live together”: have the same life with Christ because of the union of life with Him;

On account of the different interpretation of “wake and sleep”, this verse can be explained in two aspects: 1) we were cursed but were delivered from death for Christ died for us. Therefore, when the Lord comes again, no matter believers who live or who died, they shall live with Him forever (see 4:16-17); 2) Christ died for us so that we shall receive His risen life. No matter the condition of our spirit or flesh is, we are able to turn to the Lord and live with Him in His risen life. Thus, when the Lord comes again, we shall be caught by Him and be delivered from the coming wrath.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The redemption of the Lord Jesus who died for us leads us into an eternal and efficacious relationship of oneness with Christ.

2)    On one hand, the Lord leaves us and we are waiting for His coming. On other hand, He is still with us (Matt. 28:20), and we lead the life of living with Him (see Rom. 6:8).

3)    To live with the Lord is the secret of believers’ soberness and watchfulness. We are unable to watch or be sober by ourselves. However, we will surely be able to lead a life of watchfulness and soberness by the life of the Lord and living with the Lord.


1Thess. 5:11 “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

   YLT: “wherefore, comfort ye one another, and build ye up, one the one, as also ye do.”

   Literal Meaning: therefore comfort each other”, it indicates the hope that “the Lord is coming and we shall live with Him” is the theme of believers’ comforts and exhortations among one another in the church.

“And edify one another, “build up”, this verb is used to describe the building of house. However, Paul often uses it to refer to the building of Christians’ virtues and spirit (see Rom. 14:19; 15:2; Eph. 4:16).

“Just as you also are doing”, it shows us that the church at that time rather emphasized “the Lord’s coming” and its relevant doctrines in truth.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Truth is by no means kept for any individual. Believers are responsible to share the gospel of the redemption with unbelievers in the world and the truth edifying men with other believers.

2)    We are all members in the body of Christ, not individual members that live separately. Therefore, once every trial or frustration or challenge comes, we shall support and edify each other to strengthen our spiritual building and let it abide in the trial of fire.


1Thess. 5:12 “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

   YLT: “And we ask you, brethren, to know those labouring among you, and leading you in the Lord, and admonishing you,”

   Meaning of Words: recognize”: know, consider, understand; “be over”: stand before, take the lead;

   Literal Meaning: and we urge you to recognize those who labor among you, “recognize” means confessing the value and position of them; “those who labor” refer to the elders, ministers and teachers in the church. They labor to serve the Lord and the saints and are worthy of double honor (see 1Tim. 5:17).

“And are over you in the Lord and admonish you”, “be over”, it emphasizes setting oneself as an example for all so that men shall imitate according to the pattern; “admonish”: teaching and warning;

This verse suggests that the leaders in the church must include three conditions at least: 1) the labor of love (see 1:3); 2) the decent care and shepherding in the Lord (see 1Pet. 5:1-3); 3) provide right guidance to believers in truth (2Tim. 2:15).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Only when believers recognize the labor of the Lord’s servants and know what they have given and consider the hardship of their dealing with the church, can they truly honor the leaders. The more believers know of the hardship of the ministry of preachment, the more will they honor the preachers.

2)    The leaders in the church are totally different from those in the society. The former serves laboriously and sets them as an example, and the latter domineers over servants and enjoys privileges and presides over others with mouth.

3)    Labor is not only physically laborious but also mentally laborious (see 2Cor. 11:28). No matter how laborious, if one has not worked by heart, it still does not count before God.

4)    Only those who set them as examples by their own conversation are qualified to admonish others. Preachers shall do the word first, and then their preachment shall be honored.

5)    The worst problem in the church today is that those who shall take responsibility perform their duties in a perfunctory manner and those who are supposed to obey are unwilling to honor. Therefore, there is no “comfort or edification among each other” (v.11).

6)    If believers do not honor spiritual leaders, there will be no peace in the church. It is the normal condition in the church of honoring spiritual leaders and being at peace among one another.


1Thess. 5:13 “and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

   YLT: “and to esteem them very abundantly in love, because of their work; be at peace among yourselves;”

   Meaning of Words: very highly”: most exceedingly, beyond measure; “esteem”: count, judge, suppose;

   Literal Meaning: “and for their work's sake”, “for”: not only the “person” of them but also their “works” are worthy of honor.

    “To esteem them very highly in love”, “very highly”, it is used to express “love”. “Esteem them very highly”, it also means that we shall not esteem them in a cold manner, but in a fervent and loving manner. “Esteem” in the original means “a kind of recognition after judgment and consideration”.

Be at peace among yourselves”, it is not only used in the relationship of Christians, but also in that between governors and those who are governed or the relationship among governors.

   Enlightenment in the Word: 

1)    One is not honored because of his background or social status or gift. In fact, it is his uncommon “works” and selfless devotedness that make him worthy of “high honor”.

2)    Believers do not honor the Lord’s servants because of their famous works or names or great learning and talents. Instead, they are worthy of honor for they desire a good work and are willing to labor.

3)    Those who labor highly in love (see v.12; 1:3) are worthy of high honor.

4)    Believers shall wait for the Lord’s second coming with double diligence. The motivation of our works is the Lord. We shall work better because of the hope of the Lord’s second coming.

5)    If there is no peace among believers, it will be difficult for preachers to work. Therefore, “be at peace among yourselves”, it is another form of treating the Lord’s servants well.


1Thess. 5:14 “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

   YLT: “and we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the infirm, be patient unto all;”

   Meaning of Words: fainthearted”: little capacity of soul;

   Literal Meaning: now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, “unruly”: in the original it means “departing from the troops” in a military tone; “those who are unruly, apart from those who walk disorderly (see Col. 2:5) and those who have made mistakes (see v.22; 4:6), it also refers to those who ignore their own duties and are idle to work and are busybodies (see 4:11-12; 2Thess. 3:11).

“Comfort the fainthearted, fainthearted”, according to the original, it means that the little capacity of one’s soul makes him unable to bear any blow; “the fainthearted”, probably, it refers to those who are shaken because of the tribulation (see 3:3) and those who are sorrowful for the death of their family members or friends (see 4:13).

“Uphold the weak, “the weak”: those who are physically infirm and thus unable to work in a normal manner (see 20:35) and those who are infirm in faith (see Rom. 15:1).

“Be patient with all”, it indicates that all the members in the church shall be patient with all since each member has the shortcomings or difficulties more or less.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God allows the fainthearted and the weak and even the unruly in the church in order to let us comfort and uphold and warn one another. This is not only the responsibility of the fellow workers but also that of all believers.

2)    Those who are strong shall sympathize with and bear the infirmities of others (see Rom. 14:1-15; 1Cor. 8:13) rather than despise or reject them.

3)    He who exhorts or warns or encourages or upholds others shall be patient and help them unto the end in love.

4)    There are always many troubles in the church life and each of us may become the trouble of others. In the face of all these difficulties, there is only one changeless principle, namely, patience and rendering good for evil (see v.15).


1Thess. 5:15 “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

   YLT: “see no one evil for evil may render to any one, but always that which is good pursue ye, both to one another and to all;”

   Literal Meaning: see that”, it is after the previous verse, “be patient…”, which shows that if one is unable to “be patient”, he may have fierce response, so we shall “see that…”.

“No one renders evil for evil to anyone,renders evil for evil”: to lower oneself to a degree the same as others and reward them in the same manner. That is to say, “since you are not like a Christian, I will also not be a Christian”.

“But both for yourselves and for all”, to treat others in private or in public;

“Always pursue what is good”, in fact, no one is good but God (see Matt. 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). “Pursue what is good”, that is to pursue how God deals with us and we shall still deal with others in like manner.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    No matter how we are treated in the church, even though we are evil-treated, we shall not “tooth for tooth”. Christians shall overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).

2)    Christians shall in no wise choose the way of revenge (see Rom. 12:17; 1Pet. 3:9). Christians are called to forgive others (see Matt. 5:38-42; 18:21-35).

3)    To deal with the flesh with flesh is to render evil for evil. He who treats men with the life of God is pursuing good.


1Thess. 5:16 “Rejoice always,

   YLT: “always rejoice ye;”

   Literal Meaning: “rejoice always”, it means that one is able to rejoice at any time and in any place and even in affliction.

    Since this verse is after verse fourteen and fifteen, very probably, when one is evil-treated, he shall not only be patient (v.14) but also treat men with joy (v.15).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    We exult with joy unspeakable and are filled with glory because of believing Him (1Pet. 1:8). Therefore, the faith of the Lord is the reason for our joy.

2)    Men must rejoice in a joyful occasion. However, if one rejoices always, he cannot rely on the environment only but shall surpass the environment and rejoice in any condition.

3)    If we rejoice at things of this world, our joy must be of constant change However, if we rejoice at God and things of God (Luke 1:46-47), we will be enabled to rejoice always.

4)    The joy of Christians comes from what Christ has fulfilled, and it is abiding.


1Thess. 5:17 “pray without ceasing,

   YLT: “continually pray ye;”

   Literal Meaning: “pray without ceasing”, it does not mean praying with audible voice unceasingly, but means keeping intimate close fellowship with God always and leading the life of “abiding in the Lord” (John 15:4-7).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Christians should commit our troubles unto God unceasingly and thus always experience the acts of God from prayers.

2)    Prayer is spiritual breathing of believers. Just as the physical breathing should not stop, neither should the spiritual breathing.

3)    If we Christians act after praying to God in everything, we will see the good hand of God upon us (see Neh. 2:4, 8).


1Thess. 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

   YLT: “in every thing give thanks, for this [is] the will of God in Christ Jesus in regard to you.”

   Literal Meaning: “in everything give thanks”, everything”: all things, no matter great things or small things, favourable circumstances or unfavourable circumstances, joy or sorrow; “give thanks”, since all things we Christians have met are according to the good will of God (Rom. 8:28), we give thanks to God (see Luke 10:21).

“For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”, it shall be applied in the previous three verses: 1) rejoice always; 2) pray without ceasing; 3) in everything give thanks; such life is the will of God who has ordained to Christians.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Christians are different from men in the world. Christians are able to give thanks to God in any case (see 5:20) because of all the works done by God.

2)    If we have truly confessed that we have nothing, we must be able to give thanks to God because of what we have owned at present.


1Thess. 5:19 “Do not quench the Spirit.

   YLT: “The Spirit quench not;”

   Meaning of Words: quench”: go out, extinguish;

   Literal Meaning: the Spirit works in believers as fire (see Acts 2:3), which makes them zealous in spirit (see Rom. 12:11). Therefore, believers shall be kindly affectioned towards one another and be zealous in service (Rom. 12:10-11). However, if we do not obey the Spirit, we shall become cold or neither cold nor hot (see Rev. 3:16).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Though the Spirit burns as fire, we may still quench the Spirit. Therefore, we believers shall work together.

2)    The more believers obey the Spirit, the more prosperous will the fire of the Spirit be. If believers are hard and resist the Spirit, the fire of the Spirit will be quenched.


1Thess. 5:20 “Do not despise prophecies.

   YLT: “prophesyings despise not;”

   Meaning of Words: “despise”: see at nought, contemptible, least esteemed;

   Literal Meaning: prophecies”, the prophets who are inspired by the Spirit are able to declare the revelation and message of God in order to edify and comfort and exhort believers (1Cor. 14:3).

“Prophecies”, in the Scriptures, it more emphasizes the sermon of opening the will of God (forth-telling, e.g. 1Cor. 14:31), and yet less refers to prophecies (foretelling, e.g. Acts 11:28).

The basic attitude of believers toward the prophecies is not to despise. Besides, we shall also not receive any prophecies flippantly but shall judge (see v.21).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The right prophecies are inspired by the Spirit. Therefore, he who despises the prophecies is quenching the Spirit.

2)    He who likes to hear the prophecies may not emphasize the prophecies. He who hears the word and yet does not do the word is despising the prophecies.

3)    Many believers like to tell and to hear the word of God as news like the Athenians (see Acts 17:19-21). They are unwilling to receive the word by heart. Therefore, the word of God will not be kept in them.


1Thess. 5:21 “Test all things; hold fast what is good.

   YLT: “all things prove; that which is good hold fast;”

   Literal Meaning: test all things”, it means one shall not “receive all the prophecies without any judgment”; “all things”, here it especially relates to all the prophecies; “test”: it means searching the Scriptures and proving whether the prophecies are according to the Scriptures or not (see Acts 17:11) in the perfect and balanced light of the whole Scriptures. 

    The Scriptures teach us that we shall test all things, including: 1) judge the prophecies (1Cor. 14:29); 2) discern all spirits (1Cor. 12:10); 3) prove the spirits whether they are of God (1John 4:1); 4) prove what the will of God is (Rom. 12:2); 5) prove what is agreeable to the Lord (Eph. 5:10).

“Hold fast what is good”, here it is not the good or evil works, but the prophecies (see v.20). If it is according to the Scriptures after testing, it is good. Otherwise, it is evil.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    To any sermon which is claimed to be in the name of the Lord, we shall not receive without any doubt, but shall put it in the light of “the word of God” and test carefully.

2)    All the works of the Spirit and spiritual gifts are possibly to be made use of or abused. Especially some supernatural phenomena, the evil spirit may make use of men to copy the same appearance. Therefore, believers shall test with exceeding caution.


1Thess. 5:22 “Abstain from every form of evil.

   YLT: “from all appearance of evil abstain ye;”

   Meaning of Words: “evil”: hurtful, grievous, malicious;

   Literal Meaning: “evil”, here it especially refers to the evil works under the pretence of the Spirit, including the sermon of false prophets, false tongues and unreal gift of healing etc. “every form of evil”: the various falsehoods in the church;

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    Speaking and walking under the guise of God and making all misunderstand the will of God are the most things that irritate God’s abomination. We shall abstain from such evil things.

2)    If we believers have made sure that something or some words neither conform to the will of God nor please God after proving (see v.21), we shall not force us to do them for any reason (including pleasing men). 


1Thess. 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

   YLT: “and the God of the peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved unblameably in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ;”

   Literal Meaning: now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely”, God is the God of peace. He is willing to let men reconciled to Him and to one another (see Eph. 2:14-16). Only when we have peace among one another (see v.13), will we have the presence of the God of peace (2Cor. 13:11). He is the God of peace, and is willing to grant grace and peace to men (see 1:1). Only when we have part in His holiness, shall we enjoy His peace (see Heb. 12:10-11).

“The God of peace Himself sanctify you completely”, the sanctification can only be perfected by God in the Spirit. Therefore, we shall obey the Spirit rather than quench the Spirit (see v.19).

“Sanctify completely”, it refers to thorough and complete sanctification without any spot or wrinkle or any of such things, holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27).

“And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved”, it openly points that man is constituted by spirit, soul and body. Please refer to the “Controversial Clarification” as below.

“Be preserved”, and “sanctify” have a slight difference: preservation is being kept from the external elements, and sanctification is perfected by the internal transformation.

“Blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, “blameless” is slightly different from “sanctify…completely”: the former emphasizes the apparent state, and the latter emphasizes the inner nature;

   Controversial Clarification: your whole spirit, soul, the dualists cannot give clear and proper explanation to this verse, but only parry the problem on the pretext that here they refer to the whole man and cannot be separated. However, the Scriptures have clearly revealed us that spirit and soul are different and are separable (Heb. 4:12). However, many theologians are unable to distinguish both of them. Besides, they themselves lack true spiritual experience. Therefore, they confuse spirit with soul, and uphold the dualism of “soul” and “body”.

In fact, man’s difference from all is that man has spirit, soul and body. And yet the animal has only soul and body, and the plant has only body. Therefore, when God created man, it described: “And Jehovah Elohim formed Man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And Man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7). In this verse, it points that man’s body is created by dust, and man’s spirit comes into being by God’s breathing. When the spirit enters into man’s body, man’s has become a living soul.

Man’s physical “body” is the faculty, through which man is enabled to be in contact with the physical world; “soul” is the personality of a man, including thoughts, emotion and will. And it is the faculty through which man is enabled to touch the mental world. “Spirit” is the faculty through which man is enabled to get in touch with the spiritual world. It is the special organ that God has granted to men, through which man is enabled to receive the spirit and life of God so as to have fellowship with God.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    The power of sanctification is not out of oneself, but out of God.

2)    We shall believe God “is able to” sanctify us and He “will” keep believers completely blameless in Christ (2Tim. 1:12).


1Thess. 5:24 “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

   YLT: “stedfast is He who is calling you, who also will do [it].”

   Literal Meaning: “He who calls you is faithful, “He who calls you” refers to God Himself; “call”: the calling of God or the election of God; is faithful, since He is a faithful God (Deut. 7:9), He cannot deny Himself (2Tim. 2:13).

“Who also will do it”, “it” refers to our sanctification and God’s keeping our spirit and soul and body completely blameless.

This verse suggests that thee aspects of God’s nature have utterly ensured believers’ sanctification and being preserved blameless: 1) God’s calling; 2) God’s faithfulness; 3) God’s power;

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1)    God does not preserve all men in the world nor those false believers, but preserves those whom He has called.

2)    God and the Spirit will sanctify us (v.19, 23). God’s faithfulness and power will preserve us unto the day of Christ.


1Thess. 5:25 “Brethren, pray for us.

   YLT: “Brethren, pray for us;”

   Literal Meaning: Paul not only prays for believers in Thessalonica but also asks them to pray for him. He pays great attention to intercession for one another, for it will make the hands of God work.


1Thess. 5:26 “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

   YLT: “salute all the brethren in an holy kiss;”

   Literal Meaning: greet all the brethren with a kiss”, “greet with a kiss”, it was originally a sign of welcome when the Jews met one another (see Luke 7:45; 22:48), just like the handshaking in modern times. In the old times, they embraced each other, cheek to cheek. Later, believers of all the churches did so to express the fellowship of one another (see Rom. 16:16; 1Cor. 16:20; 2Cor. 13:12).

    “Holy”, greeting with a kiss is originally a sign of loving one another. However, if one’s inner motivation discords with the outer actions, he is hypocritical and wicked and is unholy before God.


1Thess. 5:27 “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.

   YLT: “I charge you [by] the Lord, that the letter be read to all the holy brethren;”

   Literal Meaning: “I charge you by the Lord”, this is a kind of very strong tone. That is to say, the receiver of the epistle should not ignore it.

“That this epistle be read to all the holy brethren”, the words in the epistles of Paul are refined and concise, and even Peter appreciates him (see 2Pet. 3:15-16). Later, the church collected this epistle into the New Testament in the inspiration of the Spirit.

   Enlightenment in the Word: today, in the church the preachment and hearing the words are much more emphasized, and yet the reading of the Scriptures is less emphasized. Actually, if the Scriptures are read well, the word of God will naturally work in those who have heard it.


1Thess. 5:28 “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

   YLT: “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [is] with you! Amen.”

   Literal Meaning: grace be with you”, this epistle starts from “grace to you…”, and ends at “grace be with you…”, which indicates that the enjoyment of grace is the secret of believers’ sanctification.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Relation of the Day of the Lord with Believers

A.  The day of the Lord shall comes as a thief (v.1-2);

B.  Those who do not pay attention to the day will not be able to escape the destruction (v.3);

C.  If believers watch and are sober, they shall not suffer the wrath when the day of the Lord comes (v.4-10):

1.  For believers are sons of light, and are not in darkness (v.4-5);

2.  For believers are of the day, and will not sleep or get drunk at night (v.6-8a);

3.  For believers have the armor of faith and love and hope, and will be enabled to guard (v.8b);

4.  For God does not appoint believers to wrath, but to obtain salvation (v.9);

5.  For Christ died for us so that believers should live together with Him (v.10);

D.  Believers shall comfort and edify one another according to the above-mentioned truth (v.11);


The Conditions that Believers Should Have before the Lord’s Coming

A.  The conditions that the leaders in the church are supposed to have (v.12-13a):

1.  Labor;

2.  Be over in the Lord;

3.  Admonish in the Lord;

4.  Do the work worthy of honor;

B.  The conditions that all the members in the church (including the leaders and common believers) are supposed to have (v.13b-15):

1. Be at peace among yourselves (v.13b);

2. Warn, and exhort and uphold those whose conditions are not good (v.14a);

3. Be patient with all (v.14b);

4. Not render evil for evil (v.15a);

5. Pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all (v.15b);

C.  The conditions that the common believers in the church are supposed to have (v.12-13a):

1. Recognize those who labor among us and are over us in the Lord and admonish us (v.12);

2. Esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake (v.13a);

D.  The conditions that believers are supposed to have toward God (v.16-22):

1. Keep the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (v.16-18):

a.    Rejoice always (v.16);

b.    Pray without ceasing (v.17);

c.In everything give thanks (v.18a);

2. Nor quench the Spirit (v.19-22):

a.    Not quench the Spirit in us (v.19);

b.    Not despise the prophecies of the prophets in the Spirit (v.20-22):

1)    Do not despise prophecies (v.20);

2)    Test all things (v.21a);

3)    Hold fast what is good (v.21b);

4)    Abstain from every form of evil (v.22);


The Forms and Results of Quenching the Spirit

A.  The forms of quenching the Spirit:

1. Do not esteem others (v.12-13a);

2. Have conflict instead of peace with one another (v.13b);

3. Fail to fulfill the duty of warning, or comforting or upholding (v.14a);

4. Be not patient with all (v.14b);

5. Be not good to all and render evil for evil (v.15a);

6. Not pursue what is good (v.15b);

7. Despise the prophecies (v.20);

8. Not distinguish what is good or evil: neither hold fast what should be held fast nor abstain from what should be abstained (v.21);

B.  The results of quenching the Spirit:

1. Not rejoice always (v.16);

2. Not pray unceasingly (v.17);

3. Not give thanks in everything (v.18);


The Will of God in Christ Jesus for Believers

A.  Rejoice always (v.16) ---- in any case, we are able to bear the fruit of “the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22);

B.  Pray without ceasing (v.17) ---- at any time, we are able to keep good fellowship with “Christ” (John 15:7);

C.  In everything give thanks (v.18a) ---- anything is connected with the good will of “God” (Rom. 8:28);


Seven Aspects of Protection for Christians’ Mind

A.  The protection of joy (v.16) ---- believe God’s works with whole heart;

B.  The protection of prayer (v.17) ---- praying is not unbecoming in any occasion or environment;

C.  The protection of thanksgiving (v.18) ---- all that is appointed by God is the best;

D.  The protection of the Spirit (v.19) ---- obey the working of the indwelling Spirit;

E.  The protection of teaching (v.20) ---- esteem the vessel and channel selected by God;

F.  The protection of judgment (v.21) ---- test everything by the word of God;

G.  The protection of holiness (v.22) ---- avoid any evil thought;


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou