1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
Things the Believer can do to be Preserved (5:12-22)
Regarding our actions toward others (vv.12-15)
It is helpful to note that there is no mention of elders or bishops in the Thessalonian assembly. They were a young assembly, and Paul had not visited a second time. In Acts 14:21-23 we find it was Paul’s habit to appoint elders in a local assembly on a subsequent visit. We only ever read of apostles or special delegates that were given authority to appoint elders (Titus 1:5); never the local assembly. But this passage shows that even without the official relationship, there were those the Holy Spirit was stirring up to do that work; "those who labour among you, and take the lead among you in the Lord, and admonish you" (1 Thess. 5:12). Note that 1 Tim. 5:17 couples "taking the lead" with elders. The exhortation is to recognize those who labored among the saints and took the lead among them. There were overseers mentioned in Ephesus and Philippi, but not in Rome, Thessalonica, or Corinth. It is important to have oversight, and for the assembly to recognize it, in order to have peace in the assembly. Even without official appointment, we can recognize and esteem those who do the work of an overseer. Notice that there is no mention of elders in Corinth, because it was a young assembly, and Paul had only visited once. Yet even there, in the first epistle, there was "the house of Stephanas" who had "devoted themselves to the saints for service", and that the saints should "be subject to such, and to every one joined in the work and labouring" (1 Cor. 16:15-16). What a tremendous help this is to us, who live centuries after the apostles and their delegates passed off the scene. God is still raising up leaders in local assemblies, even though they have no official title.It is easy to despise elders, but we are instead to submit to them, and honor them; “Obey your leaders, and be submissive; for they watch over your souls as those that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not groaning, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17). Furthermore, we are to “regard them exceedingly in love on account of their work”. Being a leader is not easy. In fact, it is often messy and unrewarding. But the motive for that service is love, and that should produce a response in the hearts of the saints toward those the Holy Spirit has raised up to do the work of oversight. Recognizing leadership is one way for us to be preserved. Read more…
Regarding our personal soul-condition (vv.16-22)
Separation is always looked at as from something and to something. We are to be separate unto the Lord first (Num. 6:2), and then from the world and defilement (Num. 6:3). The order is important. We can fall into a legal frame of mind if we forget that separation is first positive, then negative. In fact, the negative aspect will follow almost automatically when the heart is right. However, God still does speak extensively about the negative side of separation because our consciences need to be exercised.
God’s Work in Preserving Us (5:23-24)
The verb "to sanctify" means 'to declare or set apart as holy, or for a holy purpose'. As an example, we read that "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Gen. 2:3), not because it was previously defiled by sin, but because the Sabbath was to be set apart from the other six days. But when sin is present, sanctification involves separation from it. God is holy (Rev. 4:8), and all that is in association with God or in proximity to Him must be holy too; "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Psa. 24:3-4). There are several different aspects of sanctification in scripture; sometimes called positional (or, once-for-all), practical (or, on-going), and provisional (or, outward). Read more...The aspect here is practical sanctification, which is ongoing through a believer’s life; therefore it is sometimes called “progressive” sanctification. Previously, in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul addressed the believer’s responsibility in sanctification. But now we have God’s side of it. This is a work that God is doing, and other scriptures give us information about His means of accomplishing our sanctification; i.e. by occupying us with Christ, through His discipline in our lives, and through the reading of God’s Word, etc. The emphasis here is on the wholistic nature and aim of God’s work; “…sanctify you wholly: and your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved…”. Practical sanctification is something that touches every aspect of our lives. God’s desire is not that we should merely be set apart in certain aspects, with other corners of our life untouched. We are to be holy in taking up with Divine things (spirit), in our emotions and desires (soul), and in our physical actions (body). God’s desire is that our whole person would be “preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. When the Lord comes, we will be transformed into the moral and physical likeness of Christ. But God’s grace can preserve us undefiled to the end. “He is faithful who calls you, who will also perform it.” Since God called us, we can be confident that He retains the power to preserve us “all the way home”. This doesn’t mean there are no trials in store for us as Christians. But we can be preserved “blameless”, that is without making shipwreck of our faith. Although we may fail, God is faithful! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
Greetings and Salutation (5:25-28)
The holy kiss is mentioned four times in the New Testament as a common expression of affection, to be used as a greeting for Christians (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:261). There was to be a ‘kiss’, or display of affection; but it was to ‘holy’ as well. They were to be careful that their greetings were genuine, and above reproach. There are at least two ways a kiss could be unholy. First, if it is not genuine, like the kiss of Judas (Luke 22:47-48) or Joab (2 Sam. 20:9). Second, if it is sexually motivated or gives the appearance of evil (1 Cor. 7:1). Paul wanted to see affection between the saints, but he wanted it to be pure. God's desire is for warmth and affection to be present in the greetings of His saints. It is remarkable how a simple greeting such as a kiss can remove barriers, soften bitter hearts, and draw the Lord's people together.2
- In addition, we have a "kiss of love" in 1 Pet. 5:14.
- Should we still practice the holy kiss today? If God had intended some other form of greeting He would have specified it. In many cultures around the world, a greeting with a kiss is still common and socially appropriate. However, in some western cultures a kiss in public would have the appearance of evil. For example, in the United States, two men kissing in public, or a man kissing another man's wife, would give the appearance of evil, and therefore could not be considered "a holy kiss". In these cases, a different greeting could be used, or else discretion should govern the times and places the holy kiss is used.