Thesis: The requisite response to "The Hope" begins with a "spirit-soul-body" approach.
Introduction: Once Paul had made his last attempt to establish the issue of "The Hope", in 5:9-10, he began to write a series of commands (imperative mood verbs) that actually run all the way down through 5:22. Initially, the commands focused upon the general theme of applying the "parakalesis" (2:3; Paul's summary description of The Gospel) to the Thessalonians in terms of their need to be involved with each other in order to "build each other up" (5:11). This was followed immediately by a "request" to the "brethren" that they fall in line under those whom the Lord had appointed to spear-head this practice of "application" (5:12-13). This is the automatic necessity in a group of both mature saints and new born saints. Someone has to set the standard and it makes no sense for the immature to be that "someone".
Then, beginning in 5:14, Paul began a litany of imperatives that are, apparently, the more critical issues involved in getting "believers" to live in ways that support "The Summons" rather than deny it. Verse 14 is Paul's basic approach and we will give it our attention in this study.
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
March 15, 2015
- I. The Setting.
- A. After the litany, Paul summarizes the commitment of the God of the Peace in 5:23.
- 1. This summary will be an object of our study at a later time, but it has a major contribution to the study of 5:14 that we need to understand.
- 2. This summary is made in specific terms.
- a. It addresses God's desire to "sanctify...unto completion".
- b. Then it gives the three categories wherein that "complete sanctification" is actually accomplished: the "spirit"; the "soul"; and the "body".
- c. And it is set against the backdrop of "The Hope" (in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ), found at the end of the verse.
- B. Thus, it is no surprise to discover that 5:14 begins with "parakaleo" and runs immediately to four imperatives that are easily discernible as addressing the Big Three.
- 1. There is a category of "The Unruly" -- which is a characterization of those whose "spirits" are in serious need of "sanctification".
- 2. There is a category of "The Small-Souled" -- which actually implements the word "soul" in the word that characterizes those whose "souls" are in serious need of sanctification.
- 3. Then there is the category of "The Sick" -- which, after some careful examination, is directly related to the condition of "bodies" that need to be sanctified.
- 4. And, finally, there is an umbrella command that assumes the process will take a good bit of both "diligent labor" and "long" suffering (sanctification consumes large amounts of "time").
- II. The Specifics.
- A. An argument can be made that every time the verb "parakaleo" is used in this letter, it has reference to the characterization of The Gospel as a "parakalesis"; i.e., a "summons" issued by God to His elect.
- 1. Paul's term is "brethren", a word he first used in 1:4 in conjunction with his claim that he was in possession of a "knowledge" that these "brethren" were "elected" by God.
- a. There are 18 uses of the word "brethren" in this letter.
- b. Based upon the reality that the first reference typically colors the following references, we are supposed to think of "brethren" in terms of their "election by God".
- 2. Additionally, Paul does not use the verb "parakaleo" (which he did 8 times in this short letter) until after he had called The Gospel his "parakalesis".
- B. The summons to "apply" the "parakalesis" by means of the verb "parakaleo" in 5:14 is Paul's final use of that verb.
- 1. As a final use, we might be disposed to think that he is going to bring things to a summation.
- 2. We are not disappointed.
- C. The first area of "application" of The Gospel to the lives of the Elect is identified by the need to "summon" The Unruly to return to a harmony of agenda with The Gospel.
- 1. The "unruly" are described by a word that is found only once in the New Testament in its actual form as a combination of the negative "a" and an adjective that means "settled into a governing form".
- 2. It is technically an adjective but it is attended by the definite article that effectively turns it into a noun: The Unruly.
- 3. That the problem is the negation of a settled governing form indicates that some of the elect in Thessalonica either are, or liable to become, rebels against the established order.
- 4. This effectively boils down to those who consider their own agenda to be superior to that of The Gospel.
- 5. This is, fundamentally, a "spirit" issue of producing behavior that is "out of line".
- 6. The summons Paul issues is to "confront" this rebelliousness so that it is untolerated by the Church (this is the "nouthetic confrontation" that we ran into in 5:12 as a function of the elders).
- D. The second area of "application" of The Gospel to the lives of the Elect is identified by the need to "summon" The (badly translated) Feebleminded to return to a harmony with the main promise of The Gospel: I will never leave you.
- 1. The word badly translated "feebleminded" is another adjective serving as a noun and it also is only used once in the New Testament and is not widely found in extra-biblical Greek.
- 2. We are pretty much forced to appeal to the etymology since the uses are ambiguous in the few places they are found.
- a. The etymology identifies the characteristic of being "small of soul".
- b. This translates into being seriously weakened in "soul" function, the major issue of which is loyalty in relationships: fear dominates the "small of soul" so that the "soul" will sacrifice its loyalties to others if the scenario of terror insists upon it.
- c. This use of the word "soul" in combination prejudices our understanding in the direction of Paul's reference to the "soul" as a major category of need for sanctification.
- d. The summons Paul issues is to "comfort" those whose fears make them emotionally and relationally unstable.
- e. This is most clearly illustrated by Jesus' dealings with Martha and Mary at the death of their brother in John 11.
- 1) They "blame" Him; He rejects their "blame" and challenges their thinking about Him.
- 2) Then he does a major miracle to address the foolishness of their "blame game".
- f. The most straightforward implication of meaning is that those who are so dominated by their fears that they are willing to sacrifice their relationships, both with God and their brother's need to be challenged about what they really believe and press the issue beyond the cliches.
- E. The third application of The Gospel to the lives of the Elect is identified by the need to "summon" The Sick to return to a harmony with the transcendence of spiritual things over physical things found in The Gospel.
- 1. The word is widely used and has applications to a variety of issues that deal with "weakness" (of body, soul, or spirit).
- 2. But, since the spirit and soul have already been addressed, we look to the realm of the body for Paul's meaning.
- 3. At issue is what happens to those who become ill (James addressed this in some detail in his letter).
- 4. The dangers are averted if the "brethren" take a firm grip on the sick in order to sustain their attitude of Hope in the face of their illness.
- F. The fourth application of The Gospel to the lives of the Elect is identified by the need to be "longsuffering" toward all.
- 1. The primary implication is that comprehensive sanctification is such a mixed up hodgepodge that it requires a long time to actually get everything ironed out.
- 2. The activities of addressing the unruly, the small-souled, and the ill, need to be pursued, but with the understanding that we may not see much improvement except over the long haul.