by Mike Ratliff
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 ESV)
The Christian walk that John Bunyan set before us in his masterpiece The Pilgrim’s Progress is not one of “having your best life now” nor is it having all of your problems suddenly replaced with “opportunities.” No, Bunyan understood, and we need to as well, that no where in God’s Word are we promised that all we have to do is “come to Jesus and all our problems are over.” No, in fact, the opposite may very well be true. Jesus was not exaggerating when he said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Why does the world hate real Christians? They are not of the world, but have been chosen by Christ out of the world, regenerated and made part of His Kingdom. This change is radical. This salvation is by grace through faith not according to merit or works, but according to Ephesians 2:10 good works are part of what this Christian walk is all about, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In fact, our Lord Jesus went so far as to say it very plainly in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Therefore, genuine Christians will be evident to the world because they will serve their Lord with their lives in obedience walking in the good works set before them by God Himself. That means also that they will not be those compromising all over the place with false religions seeking unity with false brethren and obvious wolves in sheep’s clothing for the sake of a friendly, false peace. That sorta explains why the world hates us don’t you think?
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post, which is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Here it is from the Greek New Testament:
Πάντοτε χαίρετε, ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα Θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. τὸ Πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε, προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε. πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε, ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ τηρηθείη. πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 GNT)
Here is my word for word translation:
Always rejoice, unceasingly pray, in all give thanks; this for will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The Spirit not quench, speaking before not despise, all but prove, the good hold down, from all visible form of evil hold off. Himself but the God of the peace may make holy you wholly completed, and wholly called of you the spirit and the soul and the body faultlessly in the presence of the Lord of us Jesus Christ may keep. Trustful the one calling you, who also will do.
The word translated here as “rejoice,” χαίρετε is the present tense, imperative mood, active voice form of χαίρω or chairō, which is related to χάρις or charis, which we most often translate as “grace.” This is a command to pattern your life after a certain way. That way is by πάντοτε (at all times) χαίρετε (be joyful.) This is appropriate behavior for the Christian in all circumstances (Philippians 2:17, 18; 3:1; 4:4). This is another reason the world hates us. However, it is also something that most of us, especially me, needs to work on quite a bit through prayer and repentance.
Verse 17 reads, “ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε” or “unceasingly pray.” What does that mean? When I was a new Christian I took this literally. I thought we could actually walk through each day in prayer. In any case, ἀδιαλείπτως is an adverb of ἀδιάλειπτος which has the meaning of permanence or consistence. Paul is telling us that Spirit-filled believers pray persistently and regularly. This is backed up in scripture (Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4”6; Colossians 4:2, 12).
Verse 18 is also an area that the Holy Spirit uses to x-ray our conscience and show us the areas of our walk in which we are way to self-centered. If we are walking as God centered bondservants or slaves of our Lord Jesus Christ then we will be serving Him from grateful hearts in that we will also be Spirit-filled with hearts full of joy. No matter what our circumstances we need to take them to the throne of grace and, “in all give thanks; this for will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is not what the natural man does. It is not what the disingenuous christian does. It is not what those in other religions do. This is unique to genuine Christianity.
In v19 we have an interesting Greek word, σβέννυτε, which is translated here as “quench.” How many times have you puzzled over this verse about quenching the Spirit? Here is v19, “τὸ Πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε” or, literally, “The Spirit not quench.” This is obviously metaphoric language. The word σβέννυτε here is the present tense, imperative mood, active voice form of σβέννυμι or sbennumi. It literally means to extinguish by drowning with water, as opposed to smothering. The fire of God’s Spirit is not to be doused with sin hence, the metaphor here is that it is willful sin in our lives that quenches the fire of God’s Spirit in us.
In v20-22 Paul shifts gears. It is like he is showing us what to avoid so that we do not quench the spirit. He says, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” These prophecies are authoritative messages from God through a well-recognized spokesman for God that, because of their divine origin, are not to be treated lightly. When God’s Word is preached or read, it is to be received with great seriousness. I have taught and preached in settings where the opposite took place though. The message was so polemic that a few decided to “despise” it and attempt to keep me from finishing. It is all quite amazing to be in a church setting witnessing professing Christians actually getting angry as all you are doing is reading scripture as an answer to a question they have asked. I asked one fella if he was angry with me or the Apostle Paul. In any case, this passage also tells us to be discerning as we hold on to God’s truth, turning from what is evil.
In vv23-24 we have the promise, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Are you walking through this life as a Spirit-filled believer? That means that you are God-centered in your walk. That is talking about every part of your day, every day. Are you all about yourself in all you do or is it about God? Are you about the temporal or the the eternal? To get an eternal focus and keep it, we must become Spirit-filled and practice what Paul was talking about in these verses. That part about not quenching the Spirit is crucial and younger Christians blow it off. I have been a believer a long time and I hope that I have matured some. Sometimes I wonder. In any case, the more successful we become at walking this way, the more we will see that we worship God with our lives all the time, not just on Sunday when we “go to church” and they have that period of time when they have that singing or music time.
Soli Deo Gloria!