We finished up yesterday’s study with Paul’s exhortation to establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 3:13) Jesus is the Bridegroom coming for His bride, the body of Christ, and He could come for us at any moment! But how do we prepare? We seek His will, and we follow it, even in the midst of difficulty!
We must understand that God’s ways are always right, and He always has our best interest at heart. If we lose sight of that, God can seem a tyrant in our imagination. Think of a wise, loving father sitting a child down and saying, “Now look! You know I love you, and because I love you, sometimes I need to tell you difficult things. Afterward, we’ll go get ice cream!” That seems to be Paul’s position in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, where we will study today. So, take a moment to read those verses, then sit tight as we hear him speak what could be difficult things! Then, we’ll enjoy the ice cream!
Paul tells us 5 key things about how we are to walk while awaiting the return of our Bridegroom:
- Walk to Please God (verses 1-2)
- Walk in Sanctification (verse 3)
- Walk in a Responsible Manner (verses 4-5)
- Walk Separate from the World (verses 6-7)
- Walk Willingly with God (verse 8)
Walk to Please God (verses 1-2)
It is important to understand the culture in which the believers at Thessalonica lived. There was a horrific pagan belief system whereby self-worshipping, pleasure seeking and humanism were glorified. As a result, excessive indulgence in doing whatever they pleased was the common standard. So much so that it was considered honorable for young sons and daughters to be taken to pagan temples and sacrificed repeatedly as sex objects. Virginity was a mockery, and set young boys and girl apart as freaks.
With that as the backdrop, consider Paul’s first exhortation in verse 1. It is best stated in the New King James Version, so read it there, if possible. Can you identify it? Now, consider the word “abound.” In Greek, the word is perisseuo. Click here to discover its meaning. Based on that, rephrase Paul’s message of exhortation in verse 1. There was depth to that exhortation, wasn’t there! He is pushing us beyond mediocrity to “over and above, having more than enough to spare!”
This is serious business! We are to walk to please God!
Walk in Sanctification (verse 3)
According to the first part of the verse, what is God’s will? Isn’t it nice when God tells us exactly what His will is! But, if God’s will is sanctification, what does that mean? In the original language, it means the work of the Holy Spirit to:
- Set us apart from the world for the purposes of God in moment-by-moment growth, and
- Enable us to be recorded as holy even as God is holy, by the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus died for you and me so we can live for Him! It is the work of the Holy Spirit and we cannot do it on our own. Have you ever tried to be holy and sanctified? How did it go? Jump ahead to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to see how Paul describes it there.
Now go on to the second part of verse 3. What are we to abstain from? This is where we are tempted to say, “Whoa…wait a minute! You’re digging in a little too deep, Paul! We can’t be talking about this stuff!” (Remember the loving father sitting down to tell his child difficult things? This is it! But ice cream is coming!)
Interestingly, our culture today is pushing sex education to children as young as kindergarten, yet teachers can’t talk about abstinence! Our culture is beginning to mirror the culture of Thessalonica! Teen sex was expected for “religious sacrifice” in the pagan temples, and I dare say we have already sacrificed at least one generation (if not more) on the altar of sexual immorality in today’s culture because we have flat out refused this command! But it expands broader than sexual exploitation of children.
The Greek word translated “sexual immorality” in verse 3 is porneia. What does it sound like? Yes…pornography. But click here to find the Greek definition, then make a list of things considered porneia. Now, let’s get the Biblical definition. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9. What do you find there? What is the consequence of such sin, according to verse 10?
What firm, “fatherly” instruction do you find in 1 Corinthians 6:18-19?
Indeed, don’t do it! If you are involved in sexual sin, stop it now! Paul warns in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 that our hearts are to be established blameless in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus! Don’t be found in sexual immorality when Jesus comes for you. God never asks you to do something in which the Holy Spirit will not provide the power to do! If this is your struggle, you will not escape it on your own, so get help from your pastor, a Christian friend or a Christian counselor and be set free.
Now, a huge word of grace to those who have been mired in sexual immorality. (I told you ice cream was coming!) The blood of Jesus was spilled to take away your sin! All of it! Carefully read 1 Corinthians 6:11. Notice, it says such WERE some of you. But you are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God! If you belong to Jesus and are washed by His blood, you are now set apart for His use! You are free from your sin and the guilt it once brought. Verse 20 says: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. You are free to glorify God, so go for it!
Walk in a Responsible Manner (verses 4-5)
According to verses 4-5, what instruction is given regarding how we control our bodies? Beyond that, here are two other important passages:
- Your body is your own personal vessel, but should be submitted completely to the Lord for His use. Read 2 Timothy 2:20-22.
- According to 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, your body is a member of Christ, and should not be made members of a harlot. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is where He dwells, so don’t desecrate His dwelling.
Walk Separate from the World (verses 6-7)
To transgress means to go beyond a boundary, to take advantage or to defraud. A Christian must never put someone else in a position of temptation. Flirtation is an act of enticement, so don’t even go there. Such actions get strong responses:
- Proverbs 6:34 tells us jealousy enrages a man, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. Avoid enticing someone’s spouse, child or loved one. God has called us to holiness.
- Matthew 18:6-7 warns against enticing children to engage immorally. Our world is filled with sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children. We are to walk separately from the world, and even protect the innocent.
Walk Willingly with God (verse 8)
God’s commandment is to holiness, and He gives His Holy Spirit to empower us! Verse 8 is tied directly to 1 Thessalonians 3:13, where we are exhorted, along with the believers in Thessalonica, to establish our hearts blameless in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus. Being holy for His coming is being ready. Being ready is being watchful, and being watchful is being a real follower of Jesus Christ!
35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”~Mark 13:35-37 (NKJV)
Jesus is coming soon! Be holy, be ready and be watchful! Be a true follower of Jesus Christ!
PS: All sin is wrong, and God’s principles apply to all. Perhaps the sin you struggle with is not sexual immorality. None of us are off the hook! Paul taught here about sexual immorality for at least two reasons: 1. the culture of Thessalonica was fraught with sexual immorality, and 2. sexual immorality is the downfall, or at least one of the greatest temptations, for many even today. So, take heed, and apply the principles appropriately to your own life! But don’t forget the ice cream! Receive God’s gift of forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness reaches to the deepest pits, and His grace draws us to freedom! Don’t reject them!
Blessings friends, and see you back here tomorrow!