REJOICING, PRAYING, AND GIVING THANKS
Verse 16 says, “Always rejoice.” This exhortation is based upon the conditions mentioned in verses 14 and 15. Rejoicing includes calling on the name of the Lord. Can you rejoice in the Lord without calling on Him? I do not believe this to be possible. We simply cannot rejoice in the Lord without uttering His name. Hence, the name of the Lord is implied in Paul’s charge to always rejoice. When we rejoice, therefore, we rejoice with the Lord’s name.
In verse 17 Paul says, “Unceasingly pray.” This is to have uninterrupted fellowship with God in our spirit. It requires perseverance (Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2) with a strong spirit (Eph. 6:18).
In verse 18 Paul continues, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We should give thanks in everything because all things work together for our good that we may be transformed and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). The clause “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” modifies all the three preceding items. God wants us to live a rejoicing, praying, and thanking life. Such a life is a glory to God and a shame to His enemy.
The sequence in verses 16 through 18 is according to Paul’s experience. Paul knew that first we rejoice, then pray, and then give thanks. If you try to practice these in the opposite order, you will find that Paul put them in the correct sequence according to experience. The will of God in Christ Jesus for us is that we rejoice, pray, and give thanks.
NOT QUENCHING THE SPIRIT
In verse 19 Paul goes on to say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Spirit makes our spirit burning (Rom. 12:11) and our gifts flaming (2 Tim. 1:6). So we should not quench Him.
The Christian life is a life inspired and stirred up by the Spirit. Throughout the day we must have the Spirit inspiring us, stirring us, and moving and acting within us. Thus, instead of quenching the Spirit, we need to fan the flame that is within us. The word “quench” implies fire. The Spirit is burning within us. We should not quench this fire, but instead we should fan it into flame.
NOT DESPISING PROPHECIES
In verses 20 and 21 Paul says, “Do not despise prophecies; but prove all things; hold fast what is good.” To despise here is to count as nothing, lightly esteem. The prophecies in verse 20 refer mainly to prophesying, to prophetic speech from a revelation. This does not need to be a prediction (see 1 Cor. 14:1, 3-4). To prophesy is to speak for the Lord and to speak forth the Lord. Only a small percentage of prophecy is related to prediction. We should not despise this kind of speaking. To prove all things includes to discern the prophecies (1 Cor. 14:29), to discern the spirits (1 Cor. 12:10), to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), to prove what is the will of God (Rom. 12:2), and to prove what is well-pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 5:10). On the one hand, we should not despise prophecies; on the other hand, we should not follow blindly. We need to prove things, to test them, and then hold fast what is good.
ABSTAINING FROM EVERY FORM OF EVIL
Verse 22 says, “Abstain from every form of evil.” The King James Version of verse 22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Using this translation, a number of Bible teachers have misunderstood this verse, thinking that it tells us to avoid not only evil but even the appearance of evil, anything that may be suspected of being evil. In the past, we also were influenced by this understanding. But if we consider the meaning of the Greek word rendered “form,” we shall have the proper understanding of this verse. Literally, the word is species, as subordinated to the genus; hence, kind. It denotes anything in view, anything in perception; hence, a sight. It does not refer to the appearance of evil, but the kind, the form, the shape, the sight, of evil. The believers who live a holy life in faith, love, and hope should abstain from evil in any form and of any kind.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 18, by Witness Lee)