Devotional # 180. 3/7/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.
Intro. Last week we covered all of chapter 3 of 1 Thessalonians, talking about Paul’s concerns for the church there and also the differences between current tribulations and the Tribulation of the end times (Devotional # 179). For this week we need to realize what we’re talking about next week. This week, in verses 1-12, we’ll see how to be righteous Christians, and next week we’ll be talking about the Rapture of the church. So what Paul gives us this week in verses 1-12 will help us better understand the Rapture through context.
vv. 1-2. The key to this section is in the words, “How you ought to walk and to please God” (v. 1). Notice that Paul says that these commandments are given through Jesus. So the things that follow are clearly telling us how we can be found faithful whenever Jesus decides to rapture the church.
vv. 3-8. The first thing that we should be doing to be found righteous when Jesus comes back at the Rapture regards sexual immorality. “Sexual immorality” in Greek is porneia, where we get our word “pornography”, and means “prohibited sexual intercourse.” This is in regards to “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.” (Source 1). Why do you think this is the first thing mentioned? I believe that sexual immorality is very easy for every person to fall into and beyond that it affects every person. You and every person you know will be affected by this.
Notice that it says, “this is the will of God, your sanctification.” Any time the Bible tells us that something is the “will of God” we should pay attention! God’s will is our sanctification, which means “our purification” (Source 2). God wants us to be pure, according to His standards.
This applied to the Thessalonians in the same way it applies to us, we should not be overtaken by our lusts. God didn’t call us to be unclean but to be holy (v. 7). And the authority of it is unquestioned: if you don’t obey this you are not rejecting man’s command “but God, who has also given us the Holy Spirit.” The point is that we’re not like the Gentiles (v. 5) who don’t know God but we’re holy and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Interestingly the word porneia that we just talked about meaning “sexual immorality” has the meaning of prohibited physical intercourse but it can also mean prohibited spiritual intercourse. In places like Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 1:21; Ezekiel 16:30 in the Old Testament, when God’s people worshipped other fake gods He called it “adultery” against Him. Since Paul is helping us understand the end times here in Thessalonians, it’s important that we look at places like Revelation 2:18-29 where we see that the future church of Thyatira is blamed for the sin of “sexual immorality” against God. So spiritual “sexual immorality” will continue to be present until the end of the world but what does your life look like now? And do you stand against it? Are you an “overcomer” (from Revelation 2:26)?
vv. 9-12. In verses 9-10 Paul encourages the Thessalonians that they don’t need any special motivation to love each other in “brotherly love.” What they do need is to continue in it “more and more.” I know this mentality from my work: continuous improvement. If we accept something as “good enough” we will become lackadaisical and that “good” will eventually end. In the same way when we are doing well in showing love to others we must continue in it, never giving up and never thinking we’re doing “good enough.”
Lastly, we’re given 3 items to model our lives after: 1. “lead a quiet life”, 2. “mind your own business”, 3. “and to work with your hands.” When Paul says, “lead a quiet life” and “mind your own business” this is in direct contrast to the world. The unbeliever is all about how much noise they can make and how much gossip they can get and spread around. A truly changed Christian life doesn’t have wild fights or drunken parties, and it doesn’t spread news, even if it’s true, about others. A Christian doesn’t do this, not because they’ve been told not to or they are trying to obey a rule, but because Jesus died for their sins and the Holy Spirit truly has changed them.
The final model “to work with your hands” needs a little explaining. In looking at history it seems that the Thessalonian church was mostly made up of the working class of people. When they were saved and then heard that Jesus was going to be coming back (the Rapture) they thought they didn’t have to work anymore (Source 3). So this isn’t saying that only labor jobs are good work, but it is saying that whatever you do give it your best, as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23, Devotional # 162).
Conclusion. This has been a good lesson for us on what God’s will is for our life. So often we think about God’s will for our life as if he is a career planner trying to fit our resume into a position where we’ll be really happy. The truth is God is much more concerned with the shape your heart is in than what shape your bank account is in, or your job security or emotional happiness meter is registering. In reality the way He changes our lives, and uses us to change the lives of others, is much more important. Remember next week we’ll finish off this chapter talking about the Rapture in great detail. If we consider what our sanctification looks like by staying away from physical and spiritual sexual immorality and leading a quiet life while minding our own business and working to give Him glory then we will be ready if He does Rapture us tonight!
Source 2: hagiasmos, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G38&t=KJV
Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115003