by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3 March 29, 2015 Dayton, Texas
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.
19 Quench not the Spirit;
20 despise not prophesyings;
21 prove all things; hold fast that which is good;
22 abstain from every form of evil.
I. Always Rejoice.
A. The "always" is a repeat of the "always" in 5:15 (always pursue The Good). 2 Corinthians 6:10 is parallel, as is Philippians 4:4.
B. The "rejoice" is a shift away from "agenda" issues [The Good] to "emotional" issues; the issue of Life.
1. This is a shift away from "spirit" issues; the residing place of all activity issues.
2. This is a shift toward "soul" issues; the residing place of all "emotive" issues.
a. The New Testament is filled with "rejoice" issues.
1) Luke 6:23 (Matthew 5:12) includes being castigated for "the Son of Man's sake": "leaping for joy, for ... your reward is great in heaven." [Note John 16:20].
a) This text reveals that "rejoicing" has a foundation in either some present good, or in some future expectation; it is not about denying the reality of the ugliness of sin.
b) The bedrock of such statements as this text is Romans 8:28.
2) At issue is always some form of "fulfillment" of a desired thing (Matthew 2:10; Mk. 14:11).
a) John 14:28 ties "love" to "rejoicing".
b) 2 John 1:4 is also very instructive in this regard.
b. This specific term is not found at all in Ephesians and The Revelation only has it twice.
c. Philippians is the "rejoicing" book; all about the soul.
3. Romans 12:12 ("rejoicing in hope") is a key support text for the connection between the Thessalonian epistles and Philippians.
II. Pray Without Ceasing.
A. The verbal idea is referenced by Paul three times in this letter (1:2; 5:17, 25). Trench says that it is a general word for prayer, but is only used in "prayer to God", never requests made to men.
B. The "unceasing" concept is addressed three times by Paul in this letter (1:3; 2:13; and 5:17). Interestingly, it is a concept that can be attached to a continual, on-going, reality that is not ever not in the picture, but it can also be a concept that simply carries a "non-cessation of a practice" in the sense of someone who does something on a regular basis and does not stop because of "other" issues. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a parable about "prayer" that consisted of a woman who refused to stop going to an unjust judge and finally "wore him out". The point here is that it is often said that "pray without ceasing" means "praying continually while also doing a multitude of other things", but the idea is most likely not that; it is "praying" on a regular basis and refusing to stop seeking God in the midst of the difficulties of life.
III. In Everything Give Thanks.
A. Adding to "always" and "without ceasing" is another "perpetual" phrase: "in everything".
1. The command to "give thanks" is built off of the typical idea of "gratitude": the recognition of the presence of "grace" in the situation. No one can be commanded to "give thanks" for things earned, only for things undeserved.
2. Thus, there is a recognition of the perpetual presence of "grace" in all of life's circumstances. 1 Corinthians 10:13 fits this bill. No temptation comes without "grace".
B. The phrase, "this is the will of God" can be linguistically understood in two ways.
1. The "this" is neuter, just as is the "everything". This means that Paul may have meant that whatever is happening is the will of God "for you".
2. On the other hand, Paul may have meant that the activity of "giving thanks" is what is the "will of God...for you".
C. Clearly, the ideas are pretty divergent.
1. Paul's use of "the will of God" crops up twice in this letter (4:3 and this text). Since it is tied in the first case to "sanctification" (4:3, 4, and 7), and 5:24 sums up the letter with a desire expressed that God "sanctify" His people, it is no "jump" in logic or context to assume that Paul yet has in mind the fact that "the will of God" is our "sanctification". This would lead us pretty straightforwardly to the conclusion that it is the giving of thanks that is the will of God because there are few "sanctifying" forces greater than the infusion of grace into our circumstances and the recognition of that infusion by God's people.
2. That the "will" of God is "desire", not "predetermined plans", indicates that Paul is not saying that the circumstances are "the desire of God for you". There are no circumstances that God cannot turn to good for those who trust Him (Romans 8:28); there are many such that are directly contrary to God's "desires". How things can develop that are contrary to God's "desires" is simply a matter of God's "desire" to allow creatures the ability to make choices and take actions as long as those actions do not undercut the promises of God. Much great evil comes from God's willingness to allow men and demons to pursue their courses, but that does nothing to kill His willingness to infuse grace into every situation.