A Commentary by John Stott
1 Thessalonians 5:24. b). Paul affirms God’s faithfulness.
Having expressed his double prayer for the thorough sanctification of the Thessalonians, he feels the need to remind both himself and them of the ground of his bold request. It is the call of God, which is a call to holiness (4:7; cf.2:12) and the faithfulness of God to his called, covenant people. God upholds those whom he calls, and fulfils that which he has promised. We can rely on his steadfast love, which never fails but endures for ever.
c). Paul asks for their prayers (5:25).
Three times in this letter Paul has told the Thessalonians of his prayers for them. He mentions them continually in his prayers he says (1:2). He prays both for the overflowing of their love and for the strengthening of their hearts in holiness (3:12-13). And he prays for their complete sanctification (23). Now he asks them to pray for him. It is a touching example of his personal humility and for the reciprocity of Christian fellowship (Cf. 2 Thess.3:1-2; Rom.15:30-32; Eph.6:19).
d). Paul tells them to greet each other (5:26).
Indeed, he is explicit in urging them to *greet all the brothers*, in other words to avoid discrimination and favouritism. He also bids them add a physical gesture to their verbal greeting, namely *a holy kiss* (Cf. Rom.16:16; 1 Cor,16:20; 2 Cor.13:12; 1 Pet.5:14 (a ‘kiss of love’). The form that kissing takes varies considerably from culture to culture. It may involve the use of both our hands, arms, mouths, cheeks or noses. Or the custom of our country may be to stand back and bow, without any bodily contact. Yet the apostle’s instruction is clear that when Christians meet each other they should greet each other, and that their verbal greeting should be made stronger, warmer and more personal by a culturally appropriate sign. Originally the ‘holy kiss’ was a social gesture. But already by the time of Justin martyr (in the middle of the second century) it had become a liturgical practice during Holy Communion. It is being helpfully revived in many churches today.
e). Paul insists that his letter be read publicly (5:27).
We have already noted this requirement, the strong terms in which it is framed, the emphasis on everybody hearing the reading, and its implications for Paul’s self-conscious authority as an apostle and for the church’s spiritual well-being.
f). Paul wishes them the grace of Christ (5:28).
Whether Paul took the pen from his amanuensis in order to write the previous verse or not, it seems extremely probable that he wrote this final benediction with his own hand. A concluding reference to grace was almost his signature, so central was it to his whole theology. He had begun by wishing them grace (1:1); he now ends in the same way. It is no empty, conventional formula, however; for grace is the heart of the gospel, indeed the heart of God.
If a local church is to become a gospel church, it must not only receive the gospel and pass it on, but also embody it in a community life of mutual love. Nothing but the grace of Christ can accomplish this.
Tomorrow: This finishes the studies on 1 Thessalonians and tomorrow we start on 2 Thessalonians.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|