The caption in my Bible for these 16 verses is “Final instructions and benediction.” I don’t think it is a good caption, considering the depth of what Paul wrote. Fortunately, the captions are not part of the Word, but were added by editors, supposedly to make reading easier. Sometimes they can be helpful, but sometimes they don’t make sense.
There is so much packed into these verses. It’s a description of how to live out our faith on multiple fronts. I see three broad categories: act in love, choose joy, and use your mind.
Acting in love takes many forms. First, humility by respecting those who are called to teach us. Then, living at peace with each other – even when we guide each other into godliness. There is no place for disparaging judgment in the family of faith, only patient restoration done in and through relationships.
Choosing joy is a recurring theme in Scripture. Here, Paul says we should rejoice ALWAYS. Even when we don’t feel like it. We are to pray continually with gratitude for EVERY circumstance. That is so hard! It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me, but there it is: gratitude and joy are not feelings, but choices made when we converse with the Father.
God made us senescent, thinking, reasoning beings. We are not animals that act on instinct, nor are we to be gullible followers of any person who uses Christian jargon for selfish gain. Paul is clear: test everything. That means using the brain that sets us apart from the animals to think, question, challenge, and search out the Word, keeping what is true and turning away from that which is not. If someone teaches that what we do influences our salvation, it is evil. Only God can make us holy and that happens when we know Him with our minds, as well as hearts, souls, and strengths.
Paul saves the best for the end: He who calls you is faithful and He will do it [He will set apart and make holy those who follow Him]. Knowing that my salvation is in Jesus and my sanctification is the work of the God of peace Himself means I am free to act in love, choose joy, and use my mind.