How to end a letter in a great way: 1 Thessalonians 5.12-28

Here’s an outline for 1 Thessalonians 5.12-28, significantly adapted for English, that I’ve been using the last couple of weeks in our Sunday Bible study in Taubaté. An amazing close to this letter which may well be the first document of the New Testament to have been written. The version used here is the NET Bible.

  1. Christian workers and Christian work (12-15).
    At the same time that Paul wants us to honor Christian workers (vv. 12-13, with three honors by the saints [acknowledge, preside, be at peace], matching three activities of the workers [labor, preside, admonish]), he reminds us, with action verbs (admonish, comfort, help, be patient, pursue), that the work of Christ belongs to all (v. 14-15). The two facets of the section are marked by the similar phrases: “we ask you, brothers and sisters” (v. 12) and “we urge you, brothers and sisters” (v. 14).
  2. Eight final imperatives (vv. 16-22).
    Paul gives eight “rapid-fire commands”/1 as he crowds in his last counsels. Three blanket words (always, constantly, everything) on performing the will of God (vv. 16-18) lead to five means of preserving the truth of God (vv. 19-22). The first three deal with right disposition, or attitudes, the second five, with right doctrine, or teaching.
  3. Final prayer (vv. 23-24).
    Paul closes with a prayer (as he has closed each major section of the letter) for peace, purity, and preservation (v. 23), a prayer that he knows God will answer (v. 24).
  4. Goodbye (vv. 25-28).
    a. Paul’s request for prayer shows the reciprocity (“one another”) of the kingdom (v. 25).
    b. A holy greeting to all shows the reality, or genuineness, of our kingdom relationships (v. 26).
    c. Reading the letter to all shows the responsibility of the kingdom’s subjects (v. 27).
    d. Ending the letter with the same grace mentioned at the beginning shows the resources of the kingdom (v. 28).

1/ V. M. Smiles, “The First Letter to the Thessalonians,” in David Durkin, ed., New Collegeville Bible Commentary: NT (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008): 665.

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