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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIANS

1 Thess 5:14-22 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Here we have Paul's inspired exhortation, primarily to the elders that oversee the church of Christ in Thessalonica, but also, to a lesser extent, an admonition to their entire Christian membership. They are told that they must recognize, and warn them that are unruly. Many, if not most, scriptural churches have one or more members that are disposed to follow their own self-will; that are wayward and headstrong; that, at times, conduct themselves in a disorderly manner. We know this problem existed in the church at Thessalonica, and continued to exist there after this letter warned them of such unruly conduct. Paul addresses this same condition in his second letter to them by writing: For we hear that there are some, which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (2 Thess. 3:11-12).

Christian conduct, as expected and required by God, can be found throughout His holy word. Righteous conduct must be required; those having authority must consistently and firmly administer it, and it must be supported, and upheld, by all members of the body of Christ. The work of the church, its purpose on earth, as well as its spiritual influence within its community, can, and often is, severely hindered by the unruly conduct of a few disorderly members. God condemns unruly conduct within His body. It must be controlled, and whenever and wherever possible, its affect must be eliminated from Christ's church.

Christians are also exhorted to comfort the feeble-minded. Each body of Christ has members that are sad, downcast, or discouraged by many things that occur, due to life's trials, toils, and temptations. Many things in life can cause a person to become disheartened. It is the responsibility of each member of the church to give comfort to one another in all instances such as this. To those that feel lost and alone, there is much comfort and consolation in the understanding, and encouraging words of a fellow Christian, especially one that found themselves in similar circumstances, and was effective in overcoming them. Christians need help to overcome a sad, discouraged, despondent spirit. Fellow Christians must fill this need.

It is also the duty of all Christians to support the weak. Some are physically weak - unable to perform work necessary to support themselves and their families. Christian love requires one to render physical assistance where needed - to help bear the burdens of fellow Christians that are unable to bear them alone. To the Christians at Rome, Paul gave this admonition regarding those that are weak. He wrote, We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Rom. 15:1).

Those in the body of Christ are to be patient toward all men. Patience, forbearance, and long-suffering, have the same general meaning in God's word. The nature of this Christian characteristic is found in most lists of godly virtues, which all children of God should demonstrate in their lives (See 1 Cor. 13:4, Gal. 5:22:23, Eph. 4:2-3, Col. 3:12-13, 1 Tim. 3:3-6, 6:11, 2 Tim. 2:24-25, etc.). Patience toward all men is required by God in order to be pleasing in His sight, but patience is also necessary in coping with the pain and hardships of life that all must face from time to time. Paul also wrote that a Christian must be patient in tribulation (Rom. 12:12). With faithful people found in the writings of God's word, as our examples, the writer of the Hebrew letter tells us that we must lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (as our example); who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1-2).

Obedient Christians are not to render evil for evil unto any man. It is not God's will that His children exercise evil retribution in kind toward others. Although vengeance was allowed in certain instances under the old law given through God's servant, Moses, it was replaced with forgiveness under the New Covenant. This "new law" was established by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and applied to all of His followers. Under New Testament law, Jesus said that Christians are required to resist not evil; ...love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (See Matt. 5:39-45). To defend ourselves, our family, neighbors, fellow Christians, and fellow countrymen against perpetrators that intend to do harm, is within God's will. But to render personal, vindictive revenge without forgiveness, and without extending the hand of friendship, to those that oppose Christian doctrine, is contrary to God's will.

Instead of rendering evil for evil, Christians are to ever follow that which is good.To do so,we must know what is good, in the sight of God, for us to follow. We find the meaning of "good" in His holy word; it is to be studied, learned, accepted, and practiced in the life of every Christian. True love for God, and our neighbor, must guide each Christian in performing acts of kindness, deeds of charity, works of compassion, and words of comfort toward others, both among yourselves (within the Christian family), and to all men. This is exactly what Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia: As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).

Rejoice evermore. Faithful, obedient Christians that are filled with knowledge of God's word are also filled with happiness, joy, and gladness. All that place their devoted trust in God, find this promised happiness (Prov. 16:20). Rejoicing, as spoken of here, is the spiritual joy that comforts and satisfies the soul. However, it cannot be restrained within us. Others around us can see our joy, by our physical expressions, and manner of life. The reason for the rejoicing is because Christians are in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). They have believed, and obeyed God's will, have been baptized for the remission of their sins, and have been added, by God, to the church of Christ. As His children, they rejoice, because ...(their)names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). They rejoice in hope of eternal salvation (Rom. 12:12). They rejoice and are exceeding glad: for great is (their) ...reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Christians rejoice in Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (See 1 Pet. 1:7-9).

Another Christian responsibility: Pray without ceasing. The meaning here is not that we should fill our days in prayer, but, rather, nothing we do should be done without first the wisdom and guidance of God in prayer. Christians must always be in a prayerful attitude. Introducing a parable teaching the importance, and necessity of prayer, Jesus tells us that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1b), and again to watch ...and pray always (Luke 21:36). By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter tells us to be sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Pet 4:7), while Paul writes that we must be instant in prayer (Rom. 12:12), continue in prayer (Col. 4:2), and that we must be found praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Eph 6:18).

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. God wants all of His children to be thankful for all things, at all times. For God's abundant gifts to us, and we must show our appreciation for them. Since this is His will, it commands obedience. To the church in Ephesus Paul gave this same inspired commandment. He wrote that they were to give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:20). For all things that sustain our life on earth and make it more comfortable, we are to continually give thanks to God. But most of all we are to thank God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and for the hope of eternal salvation that He died to establish. That gift alone established a debt for which we can never repay with our thanksgiving. Therefore we must voice, as well as demonstrate, our thanks to God for eternity.

Christians also have this commandment: quench not the Spirit. As water extinguishes a fire, so resisting, counteracting, and refusing to obey God's Holy Spirit-inspired word quenches its spiritual intent for mankind. And, in doing so, God's will is replaced by the self-willed acts of worldliness. The burning, zealous desire to study God's Holy Word, and conduct our lives according to its tenets, must never be quenched. Eternal salvation is lost to all that neglect God's will, which was given to us by His Holy Spirit. The writer of the Hebrew letter assures this truth with this question: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will (Heb. 2:3-4)?

Despise not prophesyings, is another commandment to all of God's children. As used here, prophesying is the teaching of the apostles of Christ, and all other teachers, to whom they imparted the Holy Spirit of God, by the laying on of their hands, the gift of teaching and interpreting, for others, the word of God. These Holy Spirit-inspired teachings became the New Testament covenant between God and all mankind. In these inspired messages, we find God's plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. They are not to be despised, cast aside, and disregarded by any man or woman, who aspires to gain an eternal home in heaven. God's word has been given, once and for all time, by inspiration of His Holy Spirit. It is not to be added to, deleted from, or changed in any manner by mankind (Rev. 22:18-19). To follow any "religious teacher" that proclaims any other doctrine than that found in New Testament scriptures, is to despise both God and His holy word.

In order to assure the true, biblical interpretation of God's wore, Christians must prove all things that are taught in their presence, before they are to be believed and obeyed. Once proved, they are to hold fast to that which is good. Faith and trust must be reserved for God; never is it to be placed whole-heartedly in any man or woman by any one, after attaining the age of knowledge and responsibility. The world is filled with false prophets proclaiming to be chosen and ordained by God. The apostle John says that we are to believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God. ...They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We (the apostles teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ) are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (See 1 John 4:1-8). Receive only true and pure spiritual teaching that is rooted, grounded, and can be proven as coming from the inspired word of God. Your salvation depends upon it.

Finally, according to the lesson text, all members of the church of Christ are exhorted to abstain from all appearance of evil. Whatever form evil takes, we are warned to beware of it, and avoid coming into, and remaining in, its presence. Not only are we to shun sin, but also we should avoid that which appears to be sin, borders upon sin, or may lead to sin. The reason is that one is more inclined to sin when in the presence of sinful conditions. The "pleasures of sin" tempt the human spirit. Because we live in a world filled with the temptations of sin, Christians should avoid evil, and what may appear to be evil, as much as possible. Why is this necessary for the child of God? Firstly, because we are to become and remain pure in the sight of God. And secondly, in order to avoid leading others astray, we are to be the best possible example toward all that we have occasion to influence, by our manner of life. Be assured that both evil and righteousness in our lives are contagious. Therefore abstain from all appearance of evil that we, as members of the body of Christ, not infect others with the disease of sin.