Wednesday

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (vv. 16-18)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Wednesday 3 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 69:30-36


Background

Paul's short letter is drawing to its close, and he gives somefinal advice to the Thessalonians. Verses 12-15, about rightbehaviour in the Christian community are expanded somewhat in Romans12, and then comes his advice, or rather command, to rejoice,to pray and to be thankful. Paul has already written of his ownexperience of prayer and thanksgiving in response to the faith ofthe Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 3:9). Joy, prayer andthanksgiving can be seen as marks of Church life but if thecommands were addressed to a persecuted community, they are wordsof both encouragement and challenge. The Thessalonians had littlecause for either joy or thanksgiving - they were persecuted, theyhad concerns about those of their number who had died, and fromreading verses 12-14, it looks as if they didn't have muchconfidence in their leaders. Nevertheless, they are encouraged togive thanks 'in all circumstances.'

Reading between the lines of verses 19 and 20, it looks as ifone of the areas of controversy among the Thessalonians has beenabout spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy. Paul impliesthat such things enhance the life of the Church, but he emphasisedthat all should be tested, presumably against the revelation of Godin Jesus Christ.

Paul's final prayer for the Thessalonians (verses 23-24) is thatGod will sanctify them. It is a wish that they might take on aChristlike character and thus draw closer to God. Paul does not usethe phrase "spirit and soul and body" (v. 23) to draw distinctionsbetween different aspects of human life, but to describe itstotality and wholeness. Such sanctification will enable them to beready for the coming of Christ.


To Ponder

  • How realistic is it to encourage thanksgiving "in allcircumstances". Do you think that there are situations wherethanksgiving is an inappropriate response? When might that be? Andwhat might you do instead?
  • Do you think it is possible to "pray constantly"? What do youfind helps you to pray?
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