The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 31, 2008

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This post deals with the third and last section of the third and final part of Paul’s letter. The reader will recall that part three had the following concentric structure:

A1) Exhortations concerning right and holy conduct (4:1-12)
B) The resurrection of the faithful and Christ’s second coming (4:13-5:11)
A2) Exhortations concerning right order in the community (5:12-28)

1 Thess 5:12-13 Note the parallels with 1 Thess 4:1 (especially clear in the RSV Translation). in 4:1 Paul had exhorted the Thessalonians to live in the manner which they had learned from him. Here he exhorts them to respect those who admonish them. Note the terms Paul uses to describe the leaders: (1) they labor (work) among the Thessalonians just as Paul and his companions had (1 Thess 2:9-12). What the Apostolic missionaries started, the established leaders of the church are to continue doing. We see here the beginnings of Apostolic Succession (CCC 860-862). (2) they are over the Thessalonians in the Lord. This is possibly intended to call to mind the images of motherhood and fatherhood which Paul had applied to himself and his companions in describing their labor among the Thessalonians. (3) They admonish the Thessalonians.

Be at peace among yourselves. This could also read “be at peace with them,” i.e., the leaders.

1 Thess 5:14 in 1 Thess 1:6-7 Paul had noted how the Thessalonians had become his imitators. Here he suggests subtlety that they imitate their leaders by admonishing weaker member in the community. Note especially the reference to the idle. As I noted in my previous post on this letter, idleness was a particular problem with some of Thessalonians ( see my notes on 5:6-7).

1 Thess 5:15 Do good to one another and to all. See Paul’s exhortation not to transgress against a brother in 1 Thess 4:6, and see also 1 Thess 5:11.

1 Thess 5:16 See 1 Thess 1:6.

1 Thess 5:17-18 Recall that part 1 of the letter began and ended with a thanksgiving (see 1 Thess 1:1-10; 2:13-16). Note the emphasis on suffering and affliction in those passages. Had some of the Thessalonians given up praying and giving thanks “in all circumstances” (i.e., because of afflictions)?

1 Thess 5:19-22 In 1 Thess 4:8 Paul had warned that to disregard what he was teaching was to disregard God “Who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” Paul here is calling for spiritual discernment regarding prophecies. What is necessary for such discernment is fidelity to the traditional teaching; prophecies that contradict such teaching are to be rejected (see 2 Thess 2:1-15).

1 Thess 5:23-24 Spirit, Soul, Body “are not three elements that make up a human person. In the Semitic mind, the human person is a unity that can be viewed from three different points of view: one’s relation to God (spirit); one’s principle of life or vitality (the soul), a principle similar to that of all living beings; and one’s body” (Peter F. Ellis. SEVEN PAULINE LETTERS. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1982). By employing all three views Paul gives emphasis to the desire of his prayer: “May God keep you sound and blameless completely.”

1 Thess 5:25 The letter had begun with the missionaries noting how they prayed for the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:2-3); and we’ve just seen another of their prayers in written form (vs 23); now the missionaries ask their converts to return the favor. Several of Paul’s letters make such a request, or at least acknowledge that others were praying for him (Rom 15:30-32; Phil 1:19; Eph 6:18-20).

1 Thess 5:26-28 the holy kiss was probably to be given at the liturgy, when the letter would be read to all the brethren. Concerning the holy kiss see Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12. Concerning the public (almost certainly liturgical) reading of Paul’s letters and other Scripture see Col 4:16; 1 Tim 4:13; Rev 1:3; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:15;

3 Responses to “Notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28”

  1. Thanks for your commentary and resources, they’ve been very helpful.

  2. Thanks. It’s nice to know someone is using them. At the pickafig Catholic networking site people seem to be ignoring them like the plague.

  3. […] My Notes on Today’s Second Reading (1 Thess 5:16-24). Actually, this post contains brief notes on verses 12-28. […]

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