5:4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
How are we to live? We are saved by grace through faith, we are not saved by any work we do…but we are saved for the purpose to do good works (Eph. 2:8-10). In other words, we are not saved by works, but we are save for works.
Paul contrasts darkness with light here. In the beginning God spoke light into darkness (Genesis 1:1-5). Jesus is the light of the world, shining into the darkness (John 1:1-5). And those who put their hope and trust in Jesus are children of light (Ephesians 5:8). Being in the light of Christ then, we are also new creations, as 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 makes clear:
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Doing good works becomes a natural part of who we are as new creations. If you are saved by grace and are a new creation in Christ, then the works will come. This could be taken the wrong way, so let me be clear, it does not mean we will not fail. It does not mean we will be perfect in this life. It simply means that as we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit of God will work a change in us, we will be set on the path of holiness (a nice theological word for this is sanctification). I believe it just kind of happens, the same way apple trees naturally produce apples (Galatians 5:22-23).
As we move through Paul’s letter to the Christians in Thessalonica we see him giving practical instructions in regards to these works a Christian produces.
First, we become people of faith, hope and love (5:8).
We encourage and build each other up (5:11).
We are to acknowledge (respect, appreciate) those who lead our church communities, serve as our mentors, care for us, and even confront us with challenging words (admonish) when necessary (5:12-13). When leaders are supported, there is peace in the community (5:13).
Some in the Thessalonian church were idle. But they were not just lazy, they were busy doing the wrong things: being disruptive, causing all kinds of problems (think gossip, for example). Paul mentions the same people in his second letter (2 Thess. 3:6-13). Every person in the Christian community is to use their gifts to serve God in whatever way they have been called. To put it another way: go to work, work hard, do your job well!
We encourage the disheartened, distressed, depressed, those having struggles of faith (5:14). It is not just spiritual things that concern us, we help the physically weak, those who are sick or hungry (5:14). Furthermore, we have patience with everyone. While the rest of the world is quick to seek revenge, we follow Jesus in not paying back wrong for wrong (5:15). Instead, when evil is done to us we repay it with good! Christians strive for what is good for the church, and also the entire world (“everyone else” – 5:15).
We rejoice, pray and give thanks continually (5:16-18). The natural temptation is to let our circumstances dictate how we feel, so that we are thankful when things are good but angry when they are not. Opposed to this, Christians seek to understand that God is in control when things are good or bad and thus, with our trust in Him, we are joyful and thankful and prayerful no matter what we are going through.
We are open to instruction from the Holy Spirit (5:19-22). Today this primarily comes to us through the Word of God found in the Bible. So we are not to ignore scriptural teaching (5:20) and we are to wisely test all teachers based on the revealed truths of God (5:21). From this we hold on to the good and reject the harmful teachings (5:22). I know that many college students today (not that this is a new thing) tend to think truth is pretty much whatever you feel. Many of you, even Christians, trust your feelings, emotions, intuition or reason. My prayer is that we would recognize the authority of God through Scripture in our life, and that this authority would teach and correct us (2 Timothy 3:16).
On that note, where is the Spirit speaking to us through Scripture today? These are some very practical instructions. Which of these areas are you convicted in? Where is the Spirit speaking to you? What aspect of your own life must you focus on?
Ask God to empower you by his Holy Spirit to grow in your faith, hope, love and life in Christ.