“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
In this passage Paul is summing up how the Christian should live. In seven verses he gives us seven commands for Christian living. Let’s go through them one by one.
1) Rejoice Always
In 1 Peter 1 we’re reminded to rejoice with “joy inexpressible” because we have a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
Even when we go through hardships we still rejoice because we’re focused on this hope. We rejoice in spite of the fact that the bank is about to foreclose, or the doctor has bad news, or whatever else comes our way. We rejoice because the source of our joy doesn’t come from our earthly circumstances, it comes from our heavenly standing. We rejoice always because we belong to Christ.
2) Pray Without Ceasing
If we’re always rejoicing, and always focused on our relationship with Christ, that will lead us to being continually in prayer.
To pray without ceasing doesn’t mean we’re to go on and on repeating the same words. Jesus told us not to do that in Matthew 6:7, “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
To pray without ceasing means that there shouldn’t be a long gap in our prayer life. In other words, we shouldn’t just pray once in a while, we should pray all the time.
In Mathew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us how to pray. We learn that it’s through prayer we praise God, make our requests known to Him, ask forgiveness for our sins and forgive sins done against us, and ask for His protection against evil.
Someone once described prayer as the breath of the Christian’s life. Just as we can’t live without breathing, the Christian life can’t be lived without praying. And just as we don’t wait a long while in between breathing we shouldn’t wait a long time in between praying.
3) In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
If we’re rejoicing in Him, and we’re constantly in prayer, the result will be a heart that gives thanks for all things.
Thankfulness is a characteristic of the Christian. A.J. Gossip once said that “thanksgiving is the language of heaven.” This is in contrast to the unbeliever who, we’re told in Romans 1:21, “neither glorify God nor give thanks to Him.”
We praise God from who all blessings flow. From who all things work together for the good of those who love Him. Who gives us beauty for ashes, whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.
We don’t always understand the reasons for our hardships but we’re promised that even though these things aren’t good, God will bring good out of it.
In John 16:21-22 Jesus was talking to the disciples about His death and resurrection. He told them that, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
In other words, “you won’t understand what’s happening now, and it will grieve you, but later you’ll understand and when you do you’ll have a joy no one will ever be able to take away from you.”
Now you’ll notice that Paul adds, “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We always ask, “What’s God’s will for me?” Here’s our answer: rejoice always or always keep focused on your relationship with Christ, pray without ceasing or don’t go a long time in between praising God and seeking His blessings, and in everything gives thanks or be glad that even in bad times God is working in your life. If you’re doing these things then you’re doing the will of God.
4) Do not quench the Spirit.
John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. Romans 8:14 says the Spirit leads us. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 tells us the Holy Spirit teaches us the spiritual things of God and us discernment.
So we shouldn’t quench or, as the NLT puts it, “stifle” the Holy Spirit as He works in our lives to make us more like Christ.
5) Do not despise prophecies.
In other words don’t reject the preaching, interpreting and applying of Scripture. Remember Acts chapter 8 where Philip meets the Ethiopian who’s reading Scripture? Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
God has given the Church teachers to help them understand the Bible. We should never reject good bible teaching.
6) Test all things; hold fast what is good.
Just because someone claims to be a bible teacher that doesn’t mean we’re to automatically accept their teaching.
Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15 to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 warns us that “Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
False teachers present themselves to the Church as good teachers.
Charles Spurgeon gave good advice, “Do not believe all a man says because he is a clergyman, or eloquent, or learned, or even because he is kind and generous. Bring all to the bar of Holy Scripture, and if they cannot stand the test, do not receive them.”
Do not accept any teaching from anyone unless it lines up with Scripture.
7) Abstain from every form of evil.
If we’re holding all things up against Scripture then it’s inevitable that we’ll find teachings and actions that are unbiblical. When we find these things we’re to stay away from them.
If we do accept something unbiblical 1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, Christ is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
To sin is to go against God’s will and to be out of fellowship with Him. To abstain from sin is to draw closer to the Lord. Closer to the Lord is the place every should Christian want to be.