16 ¶ Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
The Christians in Thessalonica are told to rejoice. There is a lot to rejoice about in this letter to them, isn’t there? This has come up in other contexts for us to consider.
2Corinthians 6: 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
Jesus said in Matthew 5: 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Jesus, again, in Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Back to Paul in Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
If you believe in the promises offered in this letter for Christians there is no reason why in whatever circumstance you find yourself that you should not rejoice in the hope you have.
Praying, talking directly to God, is vital to the exercise of faith. Paul exhorts the Christian to pray always and constantly to be in a prayerful mind to God.
Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Colossians 4:2 ¶ Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
In the Old Testament it was promised;
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Being thankful is the basis of all Christian worship. Being ungrateful is the root cause of many sins.
Ephesians 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
When we are thankful we are in God’s will. When we are ungrateful and unthankful we are estranged from God’s blessings.
We are warned not to quench the Holy Spirit. Quench carries with it the idea of throwing water on a fire. In the following verse we see the Bible define “quench,” as “drown.”
Song of Solomon 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
Remember before the Holy Spirit of God came to live inside of man, in the days where the Law of Moses ruled the Hebrew’s life.
Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
Isa 63:10 But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
But now, under the dispensation of the church, we should still remember the principle that our willful sin diminishes our relationship with Christ and inhibits the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you are engaged in a sin now that is consuming you without your repentance, have unconfessed sin in your life, will not speak to God in sincere and genuine prayer, or permit God to speak to your spiritual heart through His Book then you are throwing water on the fire that is that Spirit inside of the Christian. The same can be said if you ignore meeting with other believers regularly in worship and prayer and service (just remember, in the context of church discipline, Matthew 18: 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.)
We must always remember to whom we belong and to not deliberately or carelessly do things that prevent the blessings that He wishes to give to us. We are sealed and cannot lose our salvation but how ungrateful it is to ignore God’s pleadings through the Spirit.
Christian men and women will live together with no intention of sealing a commitment for life in front of their church and family. They will commit adultery in their hearts, produce children out of wedlock having united physically with sometime to whom they have not committed their lives. They’ll be careless with money, flirt with sin, and see just how close they can get to the edge without embarrassing themselves, and live in such a way as if they thought God didn’t even exist until they need something. These are not lifestyles and attitudes that bring someone closer to God on favorable terms, but usually result in a cry for mercy and help when everything falls apart, if that person is truly saved.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Prophesying is preaching. It is what prophets did in the Old Testament, either telling what was going to happen or expressing what God wanted.
Nehemiah 6:7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem….
Christians are to prophesy although we have a completed Bible and no call to predict something other than what is already predicted. We are to tell forth what God has laid on our hearts through His word in His Book.
Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
We should not be contemptuous of preaching. Many Christians go against this admonition of Paul. They are too thin skinned to be preached at and can’t handle any kind of rebuke because they are too proud. I know Christians who will not sit under hard preaching because it contradicts the wonderful opinion they have of themselves. It wouldn’t hurt any of you to have some skin preached off your back to keep you from wallowing in your wicked sins.
One difference between preaching and the giving of advice is that the preacher need not have “arrived,” or have done it right himself. He is preaching from God’s word and it is God’s opinion he is supposed to manifest so he is likely just as much preaching at himself as he is you. Don’t be so proud that you can’t be humbled.
On that note, in verse 21, we are to “prove” or test or compare all things up against the words of God in His Bible. Notice the context, right after mention of prophesying.
Be like the Bereans.
Acts 17:10 ¶ And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
We are to prove or test and compare against the Scriptures all things we are told and then to hold fast to those things which are good. If a preacher told you to do something that was literally and clearly against God’s word you can only prove it by going to the Scriptures. If you wanted to do something but wanted to know if it was something God would bless you can only know that by going to the Scriptures.
Then Paul says to abstain from all appearance of evil. Let’s look at that word, “evil,” for a moment.
Evil is not just sinful iniquity. Evil is often maliciousness, malice, an intent to do harm, and calamity and catastrophe.
Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
You aren’t accusing God of creating sin, are you?
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
You don’t think Jesus is saying, “well, you’ve had enough sin for one day,” do you?
1Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Do you honestly believe that your coveting someone else’s wife or husband is based on your love of money?
Genesis 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Was this imagined evil beast intent on violence or some sin? Are animals capable of sin? Of course not.
Finally, Jonah reported,
Jonah 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
Would it not make more sense to say that the beasts were to be turned from violence rather than simply equating evil with sin? It is important to look at the context for the meaning of words. And yes, evil can also be sin.
But, my point is that there are two things present here. We should abstain from all appearance of sin, yes. A pastor should never counsel a woman alone, as an example. But, we are to abstain from all appearance of malice, as well. We are to give no one the idea that we are bent on harm.
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
In other words, don’t do anything to anyone that could be construed as meaning to get revenge or to do them harm. In the context of Paul’s writing here we are talking about the gossips, disputes, assumptions made, and hostility that can occur within a church body. Don’t even let someone think you hold anything against them. Abstain from all appearance of either sin or malice.