#196 “HOW TO PLEASE THE LORD IN YOUR LIFE” (1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-8)
I. Expounding in Love (4:1-2)
- Finally, then (GK, loipos—“furthermore,” a sharp transition), brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.The term walk is a go-to phrase of Paul’s to describe the Christian life. He uses it 32 times. The metaphor “to walk” is a Hebrew expression, halakhah, and is often used in association with Torah observance. NKJV Study Bible, “Paul commonly uses the word walk as a description of a Christian life (Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 5:16; Col. 1:10; 2:6; 4:5). The Christian life not only begins with faith, but it continues as a daily walk of faith. Just as people are dependent on their limbs to support them in every step, so Christians walk in dependence on God. As walking has a direction, so does the Christian life. Christians are not to walk like unsaved Gentiles (Eph. 4:17), instead they are to walk worthy of their calling from God (Eph. 4:1). John exhorts Christians to walk in the light, that is, in the revealed will of God (see 1 John 1:7).” Please God—Another phrase commonly used by Paul. 1 Thess. 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” 2 Cor. 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” Just as you are doing—Earlier, Paul mentioned receiving a good report about the Thessalonian’s faith: “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith” (1 Thess. 3:6-7).
- 2 For you know (2:1, 5, 11; 3:3, 4; 5:2) what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.Paul’s instructions weren’t unfair or too demanding (2:6). Paul uses a military term to depict the sense of urgency and importance of following his instructions. If the Thessalonians were going to continue to grow in their faith, then they needed to obey Paul’s counsel for them.
II. Progressing in Holiness (4:3-6)
- 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;Paul details an aspect of God’s will for his people: The GK word for sanctify is to be “set a part” or “dedicated to God’s holy purposes.” Paul uses the GK noun hagiasmos (holiness) four times (3:3; 4:3, 4). Earlier, in 3:13, Paul stated, “so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” There are three demarcations to holiness in the NT: (1) justification/positional holiness (1 Cor. 6:11), (2) sanctification/progressive holiness (Rom. 6:12-23), and (3) glorification/perfected holiness (1 Thess. 3:13). Paul is addressing the second form of holiness, sanctification. Sexual immorality—The GK word is porneia (fornication) and encompasses every form of sexual impurity. The Greek pagan culture that the Thessalonians lived in was bursting with sexual improprieties. In fact, chastity was considered an unreasonable restriction. So, the first exhortation Paul gives is for the Thessalonians not to commit sexually immoral acts. Other passages that deal with the will of God: (1) Rom. 12:1-2 – Be a living sacrifice; (2) Eph. 5:18 – Be filled with the Holy Spirit; (3) 1 Pet. 2:15-17 – Live as servants of God.
- 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,Paul uses the term metaphorically to introduce a second exhortation for the Thessalonians to learn to control their own bodily desires. Body—The GK is skeuos, is translated “vessel” or “household utensil.” The context implies destructive behavior that violates people on a spiritual, physical, and social levels. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, “The noun in secular Greek had such a euphemistic use. The strongly phallic character of the Cabirus and Dionysian cults, which were popular at Thessalonica, also supports this meaning.” Holiness and honor—It seems to be related to following a biblical marriage that honors God and the spouse.
- 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;Paul was reminding the Thessalonians of their former life of bondage before being redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Greco-Roman culture was consumed by all kinds of lusts, sexual pagan rituals, and the like.
- 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. Paul’s third exhortation is that they don’t take advantage of other people’s bodies. The verb transgress indicates a crossing of a line or boundary.Sexual sin harms both parties involved. NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, “Paul gives three reasons why believers must live a holy life with regard to their sexual conduct, and each reason involves a different time period and person of the Trinity: (1) the future coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to “punish all those who commit such sins” (v. 6); (2) the past electing action of God, who “calls us . . . to live a holy life” (v. 7); and (3) the present working of the Holy Spirit, whom “God gives” to empower believers to live a holy life (v. 8).” Lord is an avenger—God sees all things and will judge people of their sins. Solemnly warned you—Paul’s three exhortations (1) abstain from sexual immorality, (2) control your bodies, and (3) honor others stem from three unshakeable truths: (1) Jesus will judge (v. 6b), (2) God’s calling to purity (v. 7), and (3) the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 8). 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
III. Obeying the Holy Spirit (4:7-8)
- 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. In v. 3, God’s will is for his people to be set apart for his divine purposes. Here, in v. 7, Paul reiterates God’s effectual calling on his people to be holy as he is holy. The fact that Paul changes the preposition from epi (for) to en (in) strongly conveys that holy living is to be the calling for the Christian life. The great commentator, Marshall observes, “What God calls his people to be, he will do for them, and sanctification in particular is his work in the believer.” In Hebrews it reads, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14).
- 8Therefore whoever disregards (to reject or lay aside; to judge as invalid) this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. To continue to live a life of sexual immorality is to go against God. Who gives his Holy Spirit—What an amazing statement from Paul! To reveal to the early church that God gives freely His Spirit to those who believe in the Lord Jesus for salvation.
- 1 Cor. 6:12-20, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”