1 Thessalonians 4:1–12
Paul has assured the young church at Thessalonica of his delight in their faith and joy in their evangelistic outreach. Now, he moves the conversation forward and “requests and exhorts” them in the Lord.
At the end of chapter 3 Paul had urged the Thessalonians not only to love one another, but to increase and abound in that love. Now he urges them again to walk and please God, even more than they have been.
Coming from paganism into the Christian faith, these young Christians needed reminding that the Christian life demands high morality. We are told the men of that culture had wives, mistresses and prostitutes as a regular part of their lives. But all of that has changed. We are to be holy like our Lord. This causes us to wonder: Are there problems in Thessalonica, something we are not told but can infer? Evidently so.
The new purpose in life is to please God. You are actually doing that, Paul tells the Thessalonians, but it should be your primary focus. Jesus said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to (God)” (John 8:29).
Throughout Paul’s epistles, choosing to please God over men is a big issue (Gal. 1:10). So many times spiritual leaders must decide whom they will please in their preaching and leadership. Let’s pray for them.
Sanctification is the lifelong process of becoming more and more Christlike. It culminates in that moment we see Jesus and become “like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Paul describes that amazing moment as “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:52).
Holiness is not an option, not something believers may take or leave. It is one of the essentials. The Apostle Peter counsels, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:14–16, quoting Lev. 11:44).
How practical is this advice: Lead a quiet life, attend to your own business and work with your hands. Repetition is a great teaching device, and Paul uses it several times in chapters 3 and 4: “We kept telling you” (3:4) and “you know what commandments we gave you” (4:2). Excel still more, Paul instructs, repeating 3:11–13.
As a new believer at the age of 11, I made a discovery. That night before I left the church building, I found myself overwhelmed with love for the other members, most of whom I had known all my life. It was a surprising and wonderful thing.
Through the years since, I have noticed when I am close to the Lord, I am in love with my pastors and members. But when I grow cold spiritually, the opposite is true. Let us stir up the gifts of God within us and be faithful.
By Joe McKeever
Pastor, writer and cartoonist from Ridgeland, Mississippi.