V1515See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.. Do you know the temptation to repay the evil that has been done to you, with evil? In that case you are no exception. It is in our blood to respond like that. Therefore it is not for no reason that we must see to it that this does not happen. It means that you should be alert that you would not unexpectedly still do any harm to another, because he or she has done harm to you. It could easily happen in a reflex, an almost automatic response.
If you used to live under the law, people could sympathize with you. It is even written in the law as a regulation that the other has to be repaid with the same coin, although you are not allowed to do it by yourself, but it has to be done by the judge (Exo 21:2424eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,). But you now belong to Christ and such a way of acting does not fit with Him as He now is (Mt 5:38-3938“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’39But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.). In that case it doesn’t matter whether the other is a believer or an unbeliever. The Thessalonians were suffering under the persecution by faithless compatriots and experienced a lot of harm from them. But they were not to strike back out of vengeance and retaliation (Rom 12:19-2119Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God], for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.; 1Pet 3:99not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.). Responding in that way would reveal the spirit of Lamech (Gen 4:23-2423Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
After the instruction of what you ought not do, you now hear what you ought to: seek after which is good. And always do so, not for just once, but in all cases. And not just a weak attempt, but to seek after it with the input of all the power you have. To seek after has something to do with perseverance. A lot of problems could have been prevented or overcome if we always would have sought after that which is good. Then you do not seek to harm anyone spiritually or wound him physically, but you on the contrary would want to be of use.
You want to be of profit to the other person, so that the contact with you delivers something of permanent value. The other refers again to both the believer – which is enclosed in “for one another” – and the unbeliever – which is enclosed in “for all people”. It is God’s desire for His children that each contact that they have with another person, will be a blessing to that other person concerning his spirit, soul and body. A gentle word or gesture and a helping hand may soften the sorrow of the other, may give courage and strength and work feelings of gratitude. This attitude requires self-denial, but in that way you then look like the Lord Jesus.
V1616Rejoice always;. After Paul had addressed their attitude, care and effort towards others, he tells them what personally should characterize them. The characteristics are joy (verse 1616Rejoice always;), prayer (verse 1717pray without ceasing;) and giving thanks (verse 1818in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.).
“Rejoice always.” ‘Always’ means at any time and whatever the circumstances. There is always a reason to rejoice. Even tribulation and tests are a cause to rejoice (Jam 1:22Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,). You do not rejoice in miserable circumstances, but while you are in it, you rejoice in the Lord (Psa 34:22My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
; Phil 4:44Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!). When you look up to the Lord and think of Him, there comes joy. He stands above the circumstances. He absolutely knows what to do when you sometimes don’t know how to continue life.
Joy belongs to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:2222But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,). The Lord Jesus speaks about “My joy”, which He wants to be in you, so that you may know full joy (Jn 15:1111These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and [that] your joy may be made full.). That joy is your part when you abide in His commandments, which is when you do what He says in His Word.
Therefore joy is not a feeling of ecstasy, but happens by having fellowship with Him. I know of Christians who say that you should silence sorrowful and hurtful experiences by praise. The Bible does not know that kind of joy. What Paul says would be more helpful to you: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2Cor 6:1010as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.). Sorrow finds its cause in the temporary things, joy finds its cause in eternal things and is therefore not to be muted.
V1717pray without ceasing;. The fact that a Christian is not insensitive to misery and need, appears from the second characteristic, the prayer. Because of the ever present need, the command is: “Pray without ceasing.” The Lord Jesus strongly encourages us to do that (Lk 18:1-71Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,2saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.3There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’4For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,5yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”6And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said;7now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?). You can pray for your own needs and you can pray for what others need. You can pray to the Father (Eph 3:1414For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,) and you can pray to the Son (Acts 7:5959They went on stoning Stephen as he called on [the Lord] and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”). You read nowhere about a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
You are allowed to pray everywhere. There are no special buildings for the Christian where he should go to be able to pray. When you are in a place where you do not feel free to pray, you should ask yourself whether you are in the right place. You are allowed to pray during all your activities, like Nehemiah did (Neh 2:44Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.). When you are engaged with things that cause you to be hindered to pray, it may possibly be that you are engaged with wrong things. From God’s side the access to the throne of grace is never closed. You may freely go there (Heb 4:1616Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.). He is always ready to listen to you.
Do you see how many exhortations there are for you to pray without ceasing? Praying should be like breathing, you do it without realizing it, but you notice it immediately when you stop breathing for a moment. The point is that you as a child of God, live by a conduct of prayer. The Lord Jesus is also in this characteristic the perfect Model (Psa 109:44In return for my love they act as my accusers;
But I am [in] prayer.
). He always lived in conscious fellowship with God when on earth, wherever He was and whatever the circumstances He found Himself in. In this you may follow Him.
V1818in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.. You were called to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. Now you hear the exhortation: “In everything give thanks.” When you just for a while think about everything that God has given you, then you will see more and more reasons to give thanks. Can you mention something that you have not received from Him? You will not find it with the people of the world. They will, in case they are polite, indeed say ‘thank you’ when they receive something. But there is no gratitude with them towards God.
Everything that the modern, autonomous man possesses is gained by him by working hard for it or by his thought of being entitled to it. It is possible that he has worked hard for it, but he does not consider Him to Whom he owes the power and capacity.
The appeal is to give thanks “in everything” (cf. Eph 5:2020always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;). Thereby you can think of ‘in all circumstances’. When you have to face a trial by sickness or by losing your job or having a financial need, you can still fix your eyes on the Lord in those circumstances and give thanks to Him for knowing your difficulties. You will even experience that He comes to you in your difficulties. You will experience His presence in a way that you will never be able to if it was otherwise. You will even automatically give thanks for that. Yet, it is still not about the circumstances working giving thanks, but that you will actively give thanks in those circumstances, for instance that He will never allow that things get out of control.
The Lord wants to teach you to give thanks. You can make it your own by concentrating yourself on it. Just like need teaches us to pray, need also teaches us to give thanks. Only, praying is easier for us to do in that situation than giving thanks.
The Lord Jesus is also the great Example in this. When His whole ministry looked to be in vain, when the cities, in which most of His miracles were done, rejected Him, we hear Him say: “I thank You, Father” (Mt 11:20-2620Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.22Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in [the] day of judgment than for you.23And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.24Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in [the] day of judgment, than for you.”25At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from [the] wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.26Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.).
Nevertheless, the importance of these three typical expressions of the Christian is again underlined by the addition that this is “the will of God”. It is therefore not an advice without obligation. It is the will of God “in Christ Jesus”, which may probably mean: as you see in Christ Jesus how God’s will is to be done. The Lord Jesus is your life. Therefore it is possible that in your life God’s will becomes visible, like it also became visible in the life of the Lord Jesus, when He was on earth.
Also at this moment that He is in heaven, He is engaged in doing the will of God. You may also look at Him as He is in heaven. He is there for your sake and He is tirelessly making efforts for you there. By looking at Him you will be transformed after His image (2Cor 3:1818But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.). Then His power will become visible in your life, because you will live as a joyful, praying and thanks giving Christian.
Now read 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 again.
Reflection: What could you be more joyful about? For what and when could you be praying and giving thanks more?