“And we urge you, brothers to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. Make sure that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone”1 Thessalonians 5:14 BSB
The Church is God’s army. Its primary mission is to take the Good News of Jesus to the world and make disciples not by force but by influence and love. God calls His soldiers to walk in a manner worthy of Him, to be set apart, and to live holy lives. He calls us to love, do good, and have an attitude of gratitude. Paul ends his first letter to the Thessalonians by summarizing principles he touched on earlier in the letter, ways in which the Thessalonians could be good soldiers.
Admonish the Unruly
Good soldiers are disciplined. Their lives are orderly; they do their job and follow orders. They are not unruly. Unruly in Greek is ataktos, which means out of order, out of place, or slack in the performance of duties. This word is often used when referring to soldiers being out of rank.
Overall, the Thessalonians were good soldiers for Christ. However, Paul warns the Thessalonians about sexual immorality and reminds them that good soldiers should live quiet lives.
Warning Against Sexual Immorality
God calls his soldiers to be set apart and live holy lives. Much like our culture today, the Thessalonica culture was sexually permissive. Adultery, sex outside of marriage even pagan religious practices involving sexual acts were common. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Paul cautions the Thessalonians about copying the customs of unbelievers. He tells them they need to control their bodies and not wrong or take advantage of fellow believers by indulging in passionate lusts like those who do not know God. Paul reminded them that God would punish this sin and that if they ignored this warning, they weren’t ignoring man, but God. God has set us apart and given us His Holy Spirit, who lives inside of us. For this reason, we should glorify God in our bodies by living pure lives, free from sexual sin.
Live Quiet Lives
Paul wanted to be sure that the Thessalonians set a good example for unbelievers so that they would respect how believers lived. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live quietly, mind their business, and work with their hands, all traits of good soldiers. (1 Thess. 4:11-12 ESV) . These traits are the very opposite of unruly behavior. A believer’s actions should lead people toward Christ, not away from Him.
Living quietly, free from fights, arguments, and disputes, is attractive. Nobody likes troublemakers. Paul in Romans 12:18 says,” If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Nobody likes gossips either. They stir up trouble and are a source of insubordination. As the Proverb says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip, a quarrel dies down (26:20).
Finally, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to work with their hands. Greek culture looked down on manual labor, not unlike our culture today. God does not look down on it. In fact, His Son was a carpenter; the disciples were fishermen, and Paul was a tentmaker. God values work, and so should we.
Encourage the Fainthearted
Good soldiers never leave anyone behind. Paul was a good soldier. He set an example the Thessalonians could follow. He encouraged those who were afraid and unsure. Paul describes his treatment of the Thessalonians as gentle like a nursing mother taking care of her children (1 Thess. 2:7) and like a father with his children urging and encouraging them to live their lives in a way pleasing to God (1 Thess. 2:11-12). When he himself could not encourage the Thessalonians, he sent Timothy to strengthen and reassure them in their faith so that the afflictions they were facing would not move them.
When the Thessalonians became unsure whether Christ would return for those believers dying before His arrival, Paul encouraged them by teaching them that Christ would come for His followers wherever they were, in the grave or still alive, and take them with Him (1 Thess. 4:13-17, 5:10). Paul also strengthened their resolve to wait for Christ with hope when he told them that they were not “designed for wrath” but for salvation through Jesus (1 Thess. 5:9).
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He tells the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess. 4:18, 5:11). Christ’s army is one unit, one body. Fellow soldiers need encouragement through hardships and trials. When one soldier doubts, other soldiers should reassure. When another soldier fears, other soldiers should strengthen.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25 NIV).
Do No Evil, Do Good Only
Good soldiers don’t repay evil with evil. Paul was persecuted and jailed many times and ultimately lost his life for the cause of Christ. He didn’t repay evil with evil. He chose to preach Jesus instead. The Thessalonians were victims of evil too. They were mistreated and abused because of the Gospel. They could have endeavored to repay evil for evil, but they didn’t. They chose to love instead (1 Thess. 3:6).
Paul said he need not say more to the Thessalonians about brotherly love because God had taught the Thessalonians to love one another just as they were doing. But he encouraged them to love even more. As followers of Christ, we can never love too much. We will encounter opportunities to repay evil with evil, but instead, we should repay evil with love. As God’s army, we should do no evil; but do good only.
Paul took joy in knowing that the Thessalonians’ faith had not grown dim amid persecution (1 Thess. 3:9). Paul wrote the letter to the Thessalonians when he could have chosen to fret instead of rejoice, lament instead of delight. But Paul chose joy always.
“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:8b-10).
No doubt there will be times of trouble when fretting and lamenting will tempt us, but joy will always be a choice. So choose joy and rejoice always!
Pray Without Ceasing
Good soldiers keep the communication lines with their Superior open. They pray constantly. Paul began his letter telling the Thessalonians he prayed for them constantly and ended his letter admonishing them that they also should pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 1:2, 5:17).
Paul’s letters are filled with prayers for believers and are a good model for us today. Here is an article listing the Apostle Paul’s prayers in the New Testament with links to other resources on the subject.
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess. 3:12-13).
Give Thanks in All Circumstances
A good soldier has a good attitude, an attitude of gratitude. Paul’s life was one of thankfulness. In nine of his thirteen letters, he gives thanks for the recipients of his writing. Throughout his letters, he encourages believers to be thankful (Eph. 5:4, Phil 4:4-6, Col. 4:2). The Thessalonians were no exception. He not only told the Thessalonians to be grateful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), but he demonstrated his thankfulness to them in his first letter. Paul tells them that he always thanks God for them (1 Thess 1:2) and that he thanks God constantly that they received the word of God not as the word of men but as the true Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13).
An attitude of gratitude colors all aspects of our lives. It makes being a good soldier possible. It makes self-discipline and living a holy life easier. With gratitude, obedience doesn’t seem so much like a chore. When we have an attitude of gratitude, we can whistle while we work instead of complain in vain because we know work is a gift from God. When we are truly thankful for God and His gift to us of His Son, we can do good to others despite their doing us wrong. When we are grateful, we want to be in constant communication with the source of our gratitude, so prayer becomes how we live and breathe. Thankfulness and being a good soldier are inseparable.
” Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Col. 2:6-7
For further study, click the links below.