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

Father macEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 16, 2017

This post opens with a brief analysis of all of 1 Thess chapter 5, followed by notes on verses 15-24. Text in purple indicate Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 5

After having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the order and several other circumstances of the Resurrection, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians in this, that there is one circumstance of the General Resurrection, which it is neither necessary nor possible for them to know at present; that circumstance is, the precise time at which it will occur (1). They know from faith, that it will come unexpectedly, and will bring sudden destruction on the wicked; but it will not surprise, nor will it come unawares upon, the just, so as to find them unprepared, since, as children of light, they are always on the alert, always employed in the works of light, in hopes of the Lord’s coming (2–8). He exhorts them to correspond with the designs of God in their regard, putting on the breast-plate of faith and charity, and the helmet of hope—to live in the expectation of salvation from the goodness of God, who gave us his Son for Saviour (9, 10, 11).

He inculcates, with regard to the people, the necessity of discharging certain duties towards their Pastors; while, to the latter, he points out the duties which they in turn owe their people (12–15).

He enjoins on all the faithful to cultivate and exhibit spiritual joy—to practise assiduous prayer—to employ the gifts of the Holy Ghost with profit and discernment, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (16–22).

Finally, he beseeches God to grant them the gift of perfect sanctity both of soul and body, and recommends himself to their prayers; he salutes them all, and adjures them to have this Epistle read to all the brethren. He concludes with the usual form of Apostolical benediction.

1 Th 5:16 Always rejoice.
1 Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

Under all circumstances spiritually rejoice. Pray without ceasing.

“Pray without ceasing.” This, of course, is to be understood in this sense, that we should frequently and at certain times pray, and that the intervals of labour should be consecrated to God by prayer, and that our actions should be of such a nature as to be referable to his glory.

1 Th 5:18 In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all.

Give thanks to God in all things (whether in prosperity or adversity), for, this is the will of God, that you should all do so, through Jesus Christ.

“This is the will of God;” is referred by some to the three preceding precepts of spiritual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving; by others, it is confined to the precept of thanksgiving.

1 Th 5:19 Extinguish not the spirit.

Do not extinguish the Holy Ghost in his gifts, by altogether prohibiting the exercise of spiritual gifts.

It appears that many pretended to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, prophecy, miracles, &c., who had them not, and that to prevent altogether, any such practices of imposition, the heads of the Church wished to prohibit the exercise of these gifts, in every instance. Of this the Apostle disapproves. Others interpret the verse, do not expel from you the Holy Ghost; thus, as far as you are concerned, destroying him. The word “extinguish” has reference to the form in which the Holy Ghost is frequently exhibited in SS. Scripture—viz., that of fire.

1 Th 5:20 Despise not prophecies.

But especially do not despise the useful gifts of prophecy.

For the meaning of “prophecies,” see chapter 16, 1st Epistle to Corinthians.

1 Th 5:21 But prove all things: hold fast that which is good.
But examine all matters proposed to you by those who have the gift of prophecy, and retain what is good.
1 Th 5:22 From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.
Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

There is question here of private prophecies, and of doubtful matters, which had not been defined by competent authority,—and the Apostle is addressing the rulers, whom he authorizes to judge of such matters, and reject or retain them, as they may think fit. Hence, this passage contains no argument against the Dogmatic Decrees of Councils; for, in them, there is question of quite a different matter altogether, a matter defined by a competent authority.

1 Th 5:22 From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.

Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

1 Th 5:23 And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things: that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God, the author of peace, perfectly sanctify you, so that your entire being, your soul, considered both as to its sensitive and rational part, and your body, may be preserved without reproach, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall render to every one, according to his works.
1 Th 5:24 He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it.
God, who called you to sanctity, is faithful, and he will perfect what he has begun, by giving you the grace of perseverance.

“Your whole spirit and soul.” He considers the human soul under two different respects, and as exercising different faculties. “Spirit,” is the rational soul guided in its judgment by reason, and exercising the higher faculties of intellect and will. “Soul,” the sensitive, concupiscible part, guided by sensation, common to us with the beasts. So that your mind, your will, and all your senses, external and internal, be preserved from the stain of sin.

The Greek subscriptions add: The First to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.

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