Published September 15, 2005
I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Sept. 25
Is it possible to fulfill one's purpose in life without giving dedicated effort to know and do what pleases God? If that were possible most scripture would be unnecessary. Think of passages like Romans 12:1-2 which describe the presentation of one's life to God in such a holy way that we actually prove what the will of God is.
He says the will of God is "good and acceptable and perfect." Therefore, if our goal in life is to find and fulfill the purpose for which God created us, we must be prepared to adjust our lives to His will and His ways that are recorded for us in scripture.
Live a Life of Committment, I Thess. 4:1-2
Paul begins this passage with both a plea and an exhortation intended to inspire greater commitment to fulfill the purpose for which God had created and saved them. By reminding the Thessalonian Christians of his previous teaching on the subject of living the Christian life to please God, he takes it a step further to say that this is something they ought to excel at. Since their culture, like ours, was so morally corrupt and spiritually lost, the vibrant witness of believers committed to the purposes of God was essential.
It was not only essential for the unsaved community but for the Christian community as well (v.1).
In verse 2, Paul reminds us that the commands he gave them were authorized by Jesus Christ. This being the case, every believer is responsible to adjust his life to them. Submitting to this teaching is to submit to the purpose of God for our lives (v.2).
Live In Personal Holiness, I Thess. 4:3-8
One area in which a believer can please God is morality. In a culture where sexual perversion is radically out of step with the word of God, believers are commanded to live differently. Paul commands us to abstain from perversions of God's original intent for sexual behavior. He uses the word sanctification to describe God's will for us in these matters.
Sanctification speaks of being set apart for a particular purpose. The one who is set apart is responsible to live according to the purpose of the one for whom he is set apart. In the case of the Christian, God Who set us apart, says that we should abstain from sexual immorality (v.3).
To practice a life of sexual purity demands that the believer learn how to bring his sexual desires under self-control (v.4). This means that he must sanctify himself morally, for the purpose of honoring God (v.4).
Not to do so would give the witness that he does not care what God thinks and is no different than the unconverted pagans who have no personal relationship with God(v.5). This is exactly what Israel did during the days of the judges and prophets. They lost their witness in their generation and were looked upon as no different than the nations around them.
In verse 6, Paul says that if a man is sexually immoral he has crossed a boundary that God established, and he has sinned against another person by taking something from him, disregarding his rights. This happens when one has sexual relations outside of the covenant standards established by God. This would include adultery, premarital sex, homosexual relations, observing pornographic images, and any other sexual perversion that God condemns in scripture.
Suffice it to say, sex was planned by God, to be enjoyed in the context of a biblical marriage covenant and nothing else meets His approval. He reemphasizes this by saying that we were called to a life of sanctification not a life of impurity (v.7).
Paul clearly confronts the believer in this matter, reminding us that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and He could never sanction unbiblical sexual behavior. To reject Paul's teaching concerning moral purity is to reject God and that is a very serious offense, certainly deserving of disciplinary judgment from Him (v.8). If the believer is going to please God he must have a growing commitment to personal holiness.
Demonstrate Exemplary Character, I Thess. 4:9-12
The counsel Paul gives the believers in these four verses has to do with living life around the saved and the unsaved. When it comes to fellow Christians, he tells them God has made it clear that Christians have a responsibility to love one another. They were doing a good job of that in Macedonia but he tells them that there is always room for improvement. Jesus said: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).
When it comes to non-Christians, he lists three keys issues that will win them a hearing. He reminds them of the importance of leading a quiet life. Some believers had quit their jobs and were spending all their time trying to convince the unbelievers that Jesus was about to return. Evidently they had also become obnoxious in the process, by intruding into other peoples business.
Paul tells them to tend to their own business and to go back to work. This teaching indicates that they were hindering their witness by appearing as radical extremist, busybodies, and lazy. This is improper behavior and does not communicate Christian love and character. This kind of radical behavior does not please God and pleasing God is the goal in Christian living.
If we expect to make a spiritual difference in our generation, we must adjust our lives to the teaching in this passage of scripture. Other Christians and non-Christians are watching us. They need living examples of purity and holiness, with balance, demonstrating exemplary living.
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