Devotional # 180. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

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 1:

Source 2: hagiasmos,

Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown,


Devotional # 61. Acts 21:1-40

Devotional # 61. 11/18/13. Paul and the Will of God.

This week’s Reading: Acts 21:1-40.

Introduction. In past chapters we’ve talked a little about the will of God. But we haven’t studied it in depth. Every person wants to know about the will of God. A person who is not a Christian wants to know was it God’s will to have the typhoon hit the Philippines? Christians want to know what God’s will is for their life. This chapter will show us how God’s will works with our will and what our response should be. Pay attention to the 8 highlighted points.

vv. 1-7. This section shows where Paul went with Luke (the author of Acts) and others. Paul is told by the Holy Spirit to not go to Jerusalem. Point #1: the Holy Spirit uses the men (“disciples” but not the 12 disciples) who meet up with Paul to tell him that he shouldn’t go to the destination he had been trying to reach for a while. Do you remember in Acts 18:18 (Devotional 58) when Paul first cut his hair so he could keep the purification tradition? In Acts 20:16 (Devotional 60) he even sailed past Ephesus quickly so he could get to Jerusalem faster. Now he is told that he isn’t going to do what he wants to do. It must have been frustrating for him. The Bible doesn’t record how he took the news but he was probably disappointed. Either way the families of the followers of Jesus follow Paul down to where is ship is going to depart from. They have a prayer meeting on the beach. It must have been really neat for those kids as they grew up to remember when Paul came into town and they all prayed with him.

vv. 8-11. Paul and his companions go into Caesarea and stay with a guy named Philip. This Philip isn’t the Philip who was one of the 12 disciples, this is “the evangelist” that we first met in Acts 6:5. As they spend their time there a prophet named Agabus gives Paul a message from the Holy Spirit. Agabus takes Paul’s belt and ties it around his (Agabus’) own hands and legs. Often God uses real life examples to teach us something because we’ll remember it forever. Think of when Ezekiel laid on his side for over a year (Ezekiel 4:4-8) or Jeremiah wasn’t allowed to marry or have kids (Jeremiah 16:1–12). For more on symbolic prophecy see the site: Notice that it took “many days” of Paul feeling the weight of not getting to go to Jerusalem. Point # 2: Now Paul is told he does get to go (implied by the fact that he will be arrested there!) but he’s not told that he’ll get to keep the purification just that he will go through difficulty. Often God tells us His earlier “no” was actually just “wait” but there will be hardship.

vv. 12-14. When Paul’s traveling companions and the people from Caesarea heard that Paul would be arrested they didn’t want him to go. They pleaded and begged him not to go because they were looking through human eyes. We tell God not to make us change jobs or to not let our loved one die or to not give us a certain teacher or professor. But we aren’t looking through our spiritual, eternal eyes. How can we, if we don’t give in to God’s perfect will? What is the response of Paul, who has given over his will to God? He tells them that they are breaking his heart by begging him not to go. Because he loves them and feels for them but he wants to do God’s will. Paul is willing to die for Jesus, so he certainly doesn’t care about being arrested. Point # 3: the obedient Christian will affect others to give themselves over to the perfect will of God. By Paul doing God’s will he helped the others to do God’s will and gave them an example of what it means to be a Christian who desires God’s will over their own.

vv. 15-25. The plan is detailed. The elders are excited to hear about the Gentiles who have become Christians but they also know what the local Jews who became Christians have been saying about Paul. The “believing Jews” still felt many of the rituals and knowledge of the Old Testament was important. Which is true. But Paul had told Gentiles that they didn’t have to keep all the Hebrew rituals because Jesus brought in a New Covenant. Which is true. So the Jews felt that Paul was doing the Gentiles a disservice and that he had lost his heritage. The elders show wisdom (which Paul sees otherwise he would never have complied with their request) by coming up with a way to unify the Gentiles and Jews. Paul is going to be purified in the temple. Beyond that he is going to pay the fees for 4 other guys who also want to be purified in the temple. Point 4: God gives Paul the desire of his heart!

Notice here Luke details what James and the other elders actually said to Paul. Obviously this was God’s will being spoken by men to Paul (Point # 5). It’s interesting that Luke didn’t detail exactly what the men told Paul in verse 4. I think the reason we are told exactly what happened here is because it was a turning point between Gentile and Jewish relations but also because it is a model for how we’re supposed to handle situations. What do we learn? We learn what Paul tells us in Romans chapter 14: Christians have individual freedom. If something doesn’t go against God’s Word and His will then it is OK to do it. Point 6: You must know God’s Word (by reading the Bible) and His will (by reading the Bible) before you can claim that you have freedom to do something. God’s Word will transform you so you won’t desire to do evil things with your freedom. Of course we are commanded not to stumble other Christians while we practice our freedom since we answer to God (Romans 14:13).

vv. 26-29. The execution of the plan. Just as they discussed Paul and the others start the purification process. They are almost done when they are interrupted by the same Jews from Ephesus that have caused Paul so many problems in the past (Source 1). They incorrectly think Paul brought a Gentile into the temple so they use it to stir up the multitudes against Paul.

vv. 30-40. The commander in charge of keeping the peace (as we’ll see in Acts 23:26 is Claudias Lysias) brings soldiers to break up the riot. When he asks what is happening, everyone says something different so he decides to arrest Paul. Point 7: God’s will is done in His timing, in His way, when a Christian is obedient. If Paul, remembering what Agabus had prophesied, had gone in picking fights and trying to get arrested it wouldn’t have brought God glory. Instead he is minding his own business visiting the temple.

The commander mistakes him for a revolutionary leader known as “the Egyptian.” The Egyptian was part of the assassins known as the “dagger-men”. The dagger-men targeted Romans and pro-Roman Jews. Interestingly “the Egyptian” is credited with the assassination of Ananias the high priest, in 66 AD (Source 2). But when the commander learns Paul is an educated man (“‘can you speak Greek?’”) he allows Paul to speak to the crowd. Point 8: God’s gospel will go out to the masses no matter what! Only God could have set up Paul to be given this huge of an audience.

Conclusion. We can learn much from the 8 points about God’s will: 1. You may pray for  something and it seems like God is telling you “no” but instead it’s “wait”, we must trust on His timing. 2. When we’re taken off “hold” we may only be given partial information and it may hurt us. 3. When we do or don’t obey God’s will, it will affect others for better or worse. 4. When our heart is turned towards God he doesn’t hold any good thing back from us (Psalm 84:11, Matthew 7:7-8, 1 Corinthians 1:20). 5. God can talk to you as a thunderous voice from heaven but nowadays He often uses other Christians to tell us His will. 6. God can talk to you through the pages of His timeless Scriptures, telling you His will. 7. We must rely on God every step of the way; if He has revealed a portion of His will to us we must be careful to not be so zealous that we go too far. 8. God will call every person to the redemption of Jesus many, many times during their lives.

Think about it like this, when Paul was initially told by the Holy Spirit (v. 4) not to go to Jerusalem it was so he could receive the prophesy of Agabus (v. 11), go to purification with the other four guys (v. 26) and be a good witness to untold numbers of people. None of these things would have happened if Paul had backed out anywhere along the way. In the same way we must be diligent to trust the Lord as he directs our paths for His greater good.



Source 1: John MacArthur, the John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1675.

Source 2: Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, p. 567.