1 Thessalonians chapter 4

Paul says we should grow in holiness. That will please God. And Paul describes the events leading up to our resurrection. [UPDATED]

 


 

GROW IN HOLINESS

 

VERSE 1. Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more.

we beg and exhort you. Paul is making an appeal to them. He is urging them.

more and more. Paul urges them to continue to grow. They are to make more and more progress. To not grow in the Christian life is abnormal.

 

VERSE 2. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

you know what instructions we gave you. They did not forget what they were taught. They remembered these things. And they put them into practice.

through the Lord Jesus. What they received was not simply Paul telling them Paul’s ideas. Rather, Paul taught them in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

VERSE 3. For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality,

this is the will of God: your sanctification. One of God’s big priorities for us is that we be holy. What does that mean?

Could it mean that we are to achieve some sort of holiness through our own efforts? For example, to grow in the ways of Christian discipleship or to abandon sin.

Or could it mean the holiness that Jesus Christ gained for us? That’s the only holiness that really counts.

that you abstain from sexual immorality. Paul tells them to not fornicate.

We wonder if fornication was a common concern in the church of Thessaloniki? Otherwise, Paul would not have addressed it.

This requirement harmonizes with the instructions of the Council of Jerusalem to the Gentile believers :

Acts 15:29. that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.

 

VERSE 4. that each one of you know how to control his own body in sanctification and honor,

 

VERSE 5. not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God,

not in the passion of lust. Selfish lust was not to be a part of their lives.

even as the Gentiles. That is, like the pagans. Like those who do not know God. The unsaved.

who don’t know God. It is meant that the behavior of a believer be different than the behavior of a nonbeliever.

 

VERSE 6. that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified.

take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister. This is a message that some Christian leaders do not take to heart.

They take advantage of their flock. They fleece their sheep, just like the corrupt religious leaders of old that Jesus condemned.

 

VERSE 7. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification.

not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. God has called us to be holy, not immoral.

 

VERSE 8. Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.

doesn’t reject man, but God. This command about not fornicating is not “just” from Paul. Rather, it is from God the Father.

 

VERSE 9. But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another,

you yourselves are taught by God. God had taught them to love one another.

 

VERSE 10. for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more;

we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more. Even for these “advanced” disciples in Thessaloniki, there was still room for growth.

There was still plenty of room for their love to be increased. There was still progress to be made.

 

VERSE 11. and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you;

lead a quiet life. This does not mean “Being quiet about Jesus Christ,” or “Don’t speak about Jesus Christ,” or “Do not evangelize.” Rather, it means to not be arrogant.

do you own business. Elsewhere Paul writes that some Christians are busybodies, nosing about in everybody’s business, gossiping here and there. But we are to attend to our own business.

work with your own hands. Paul had commanded them to earn their own living.

Some believers say we should not have a paid job. They say once we are saved, we should rush out to evangelize the whole world. That is the only “job” worthy of a Christian. And as we give ourselves to that on a full-time basis, God will take care of our needs.

 

VERSE 12. that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.

that you may walk properly toward those who are outside. That is, that they be respected by non-Christians.

In those days, there was no shortage of traveling spiritual teachers. They would teach out on the streets, and expect donations from those who received their teachings.

But the Christians in Thessaloniki were not to resemble those spiritual charlatans.

may have need of nothing. Paul does not wish for believers to be in a state of lack.

He’s probably referring to the poverty-condition that often results when a minister makes his wellbeing dependent upon freewill donations from others.

 

HOW THE RESURRECTION WILL TAKE PLACE

 

VERSE 13. But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope.

we don’t want you to be ignorant. Concerning the resurrection, Paul doesn’t want us to be uncertain.

Rather, Paul wants us Christian believers to have certainty. He wants us to know what will happen. So he spells things out for us.

This is not a topic that is ambiguous. Here it is, in black-and-white. There is no need for a Christian to be ignorant about death and resurrection.

so that you don’t grieve like the rest. Once we know what will happen to believers who pass away, the death of a believer won’t have to be an awful thing.

Whether the person passing away is someone we love, or whether it’s ourselves that’s passing away, we can face it with hope.

It’s still OK to grieve. Grief is normal and healthy and fine. But we won’t have to grieve like people who have no hope. For us, death is not the end.

 

VERSE 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Jesus died and rose again. We know death is not the end because Jesus underwent death and came back again.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a core Christian belief … and so is our belief in the resurrection of the dead.

This will happen, not because we have some magical power, but by God’s power. It has nothing to do with our own strength.

 

VERSE 15. For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep.

we tell you by the word of the Lord. Paul assures us that he’s not just making this stuff up. He and the other apostles are teaching this issue by the word of the Lord. This is very high-level teaching.

we who are alive. In those days, some believers thought it was better to be alive at the exact moment when the Lord Jesus Christ returned in glory.

They hoped Christ’s return would happen within their lifetime. They felt that being alive at that very moment, it would be sort of like being at the head of the line to get into a concert.

in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. But Paul indicates that at the End of Days, nobody will have a particular advantage over anybody else.

We who are still living at the coming of the Lord, will not go before those who have already passed away. It is neither better nor worse to be alive when Christ returns at the End of Days.

 

VERSE 16. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first,

the Lord himself will descend from heaven. Paul tells us how the End of Days will happen. He steps us thorough the sequence of events.

It begins when Jesus Christ comes down from heaven.

Meanwhile, the chief angel shouts, and there is the sound of a horn. This is a blast from a trumpet. It is heard throughout the entire planet. It is so loud that no person anywhere is able to mistake it for anything else.

Without any doubt, it signals to us that this is the End of Days. Perhaps God has programmed the sound of this trumpet into our being, so that when we hear it, we will know with absolute certainty what it means.

The dead in Christ will rise first. Then comes the Moment of Moments: the dead in Christ will come to life first.

This is the resurrection of the deceased.

All the people who have ever passed away, from every land and nation, tribe and tongue and people-group: they will all be resurrected.

 

VERSE 17. then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.

then we who are alive. After the deceased are resurrected, Jesus turns his attention to those who are still living at this moment. They will be taken up.

This is the event that’s often called the “rapture.”

They’ll be taken up into the clouds, where they will join the vast assembly of all people who have ever existed. There, we will all behold the Lord Jesus Christ.

we will be with the Lord forever. What these events lead up to is wonderful. We will be for ever with the Lord. There’s no need to fear this event.

Yet some Christians do fear it. They feel Christ will judge them and send them to hell.

Perhaps their misunderstanding arose from unbiblical preaching, or perhaps from not knowing the Bible’s teaching about these important events.

 

VERSE 18. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

comfort one another. This teaching from Paul about the resurrection and the End of Days is meant for our comfort. They can give us great comfort.

Yet many Christians avoid them, as if they are Bad News.

We feel sorry for them, as they deprive themselves of a very rich source of hope, one that Jesus Christ means for them to have.

Not only do we comfort ourselves with these words. We also comfort one another with them. These words aren’t meant only for our own consumption. We’re meant to talk about them with one another. They’re to be a rich part of our fellowship.

How about you? Do you believe the Christian teaching about the resurrection of the dead? Can you foresee it happening? Can you draw comfort from these things? Can you bring it up in your conversations with other believers, and comfort them?

 

 


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Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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