Daniel B. Wallace says:
October 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm
Second, it is true that ‘all’ can often mean something broader than what is indicated in the immediate context. The problem is the ‘but’ in [1 Thes 5:]v 21: it is immediately connected with the preceding two verses. Verses 16-18 comprise one unit of thought, one sentence, finished off with “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Verses 20-22 comprise the next unit of thought, five staccato-like commands in a row. The most natural way to read the text is thus as a unit with every command in vv 20-22 relating to the same subject. If you take the ‘all’ in v 21 as referring to vv 12-19 you miss the pointed warning that Paul gives to these believers in vv 20-22. Further, ‘all’ in Paul must be contextualized. The ‘all in v 15 (“be patient toward all”) is referring to those in the church, as John implied when he spoke of this whole section as dealing with intra-ecclesial relationships. But couldn’t we say that Paul believed that we should be patient toward all people? I suspect we could, but it would be illegitimate to use v 15 to make that case. Grammatically, it could even expand to cover all sentient creatures–including the devil and demons–but I really don’t think you want to go there! No, we must ask what is the context in which Paul’s ‘all’ is found? Does he make a coherent, self-contained argument? Vv 20-22 present just that, suggesting that it’s probably reading too much into the text to say that the ‘all’ means more than false teaching.