Warm up questions
Would you rather live in the idyllic society but as a janitor or in a oppressive regime but personally you live in the lap of luxury?
James 3:11 asks “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” What do you think this means?
Let’s read the passage (1 Thessalonians 3:12~4:8) with those questions in mind:
What does it say?
Briefly summarizing Chris Juby (Biblesummary.info) says: 1 Thes 4: “Live to please God. Avoid immorality. Love one another more and more. We do not grieve without hope, for the dead in Christ will rise.”
What does it mean?
First, let’s give a bit of background and review. Here we beginning for the second movement of this letter. Verse 1 starts with “Finally.” What this in context to? 1 Thes 3:12~14 – Prayer to increase in love, holiness, and hope in the Lord’s return.
∎ Live to Please God
Verse 1 – Finally, then, 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.
When he says “urge,” Paul is saying beg, entreat, beseech… this is a big deal. Notice here how there is both an encouragement but also a challenge here. The goal here is to please God.
Verse 2 – For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
These instructions are not only precepts but also commands; marching orders. And the source of this knowledge is not Paul but the Lord Jesus.
∎ Avoid Immorality
Verse 3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
Thessalonica, like Corith, was well known for “gross immorality …promoted under the name of religion” (Joseph B. Lightfoot). Dedication to the religion of pagan gods found in the city did not mean only overlooked sexual immorality but participated in it. It was God’s will that they dedicated themselves to Him alone and resist sexual misbehavior. The goal was for their sanctification; the lifelong process of being transformed and purified by God. This is still true for us today.
○ Verse 4 – that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
This implies that it might not come naturally at first; may require us to learn the habit of purity. Some versions translate this as “possess his own vessel” these could mean to either “controlling his body” but also might refer to finding a wife. Either way, This means waiting to enjoy physical intimacy only within God’s gift of the marriage relationship. The goal here is for holiness and honor: for ourselves and the other person.
○ Verse 5 – not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
Again reflecting the city’s view of pagan gods. We each are born with a range of nature urges and desires. It’s when we let them control us is when there’s a problem. For example, there is a difference between hunger and gluttony; between desire for rest and sheer laziness. The problem being controlled by desires of the flesh is there is never enough. Ultimately, it leads to destruction: for ourselves or others around us.
○ Verse 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.
To go beyond what is right and take advantage of others. Immorality does not only affect the offender; there are victims here. Sin dishonors and destroys people and their dignity. This grieves God to the point that He himself will avenge these things. It’s good that we have been warned. Instead we are to love the other person; putting our desires second to their dignity.
○ Verse 7 – For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
This seems to repeat what was already said. Repetition is usually used to emphasizes the importance of the topic. Can we live a life of impurity and holiness at the same time? Clearly no. Here emphasizes that point as well. God has called His believers to live a pure and honorable life.
○ Verse 8 – Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Therefore can be said as: “This means logically what must follow is…” To ignore or reject this truth, sets aside God. The Greek verb here (atheton/athetei) is where we get the English word “atheist.” Some identify as “atheists” and chose to set aside God to justify their immoral lives. If we are believers disregard this, we too are disregarding God. In doing so, we behave like “Christian atheists” or a more common term “hypocrite.” In this case, how can we expect the Holy Spirit work in our lives?
What does it matter?
James 3:11 asks “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” We can either chose to live a life of selfishly seeking to fulfill our passions; not caring who it hurts and ignoring that it leads to our own destruction. Or we can chose to live a life of purity and seek to please God.
Quietly think on this. Which will you choose?