2016-09-16 - 1 Thessalonians Study
Letters to a Young Church ~ The Need for Holiness
First, we should note there is a natural flow between Chapter 3 vs. 13 and Chapter 4 vs. 1. The breaks, especially because this is a letter, are unnatural. Paul stated he was concerned that they continue to grow, in order to be prepared for the Christ’s coming. Now he goes on to give some specific instructions intended to benefit their daily walk, their relationships to God and to one another.
Paul notes that their life was to be one of continual growth. To this end, he gave them instruction and expected their obedience. We also have these instructions. But the question is: Do we follow them? The trend among people seems to be, “If all else fails, follow the instructions.” From God's perspective, if we read and follow the instructions from the start, then we wouldn't be in the position of having all else fail. The purpose of walking in obedience to God is to please Him.
“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”” (John 14:23–24).
Paul makes it clear these believers are pleasing God, but he wants them to do even better. If they were serving the Lord, then of course they were pleasing to Him. But conversely, they could and must do better. They had to either keep growing, or they would find that they were sliding backwards. For the believer there is no status quo.
Paul also feels it is necessary to remind them again that the commands that he gives are given in the authority of God. If Paul says it, it comes from God. I wish that those who try to undermine Paul's teachings today, would remember this. Paul didn't speak for Paul, except where he noted it; he spoke for God.
The first area Paul speaks of is that of sexual immorality. Once again we must remember sexual abuse was not only common in this society, but to some extent was “normal.” The reason was twofold. First, in all but the Jewish culture, women were considered property. Even in the Jewish culture, they could be second-class citizens. And what one did with property is one’s own business.
Second, sexual immorality was a regular part of the “religious” practices of the day. It was these facts that made an immoral life style acceptable, and therefore a potential problem for these believers.
These Christians were not to get involved in sexually immoral activities, because God forbade it. The word in Greek (fornication) relates to all sexual immorality, not just a specific sin. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is sin. The problem is, these behaviors were socially acceptable. Abstinence from sexual immorality was God's will, and for the purposes of the Thessalonians, it was part of the process of sanctification. Sanctification here means that as believers they were set apart for God. Since this was their goal, they needed to abstain from anything that would interfere with their God given role.
Their bodies were to be a source of honor and purity, that is holy, offered up to God.
“… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
Holiness refers to being separated from what is impure, and for a specific purpose, the service of God. We are to be holy, separated from sin, so that we can be adequate coworkers of God. To be holy
“… does not mean that the individual is morally perfect, but that he is given over to God to do His will. Thus a process is begun in which the old ways and the old habits are increasingly done away and re- placed with new ways which find in with the service of God.” 1
The issue is one of self-control, not being controlled by one's passions or lusts as the Gentiles were, but by the knowledge of what God expects from them. As part of this, they were not to take advantage of a brother. Sexual sin impacts everybody, and doesn't occur in a vacuum. All of our acts affect others. They were to control their bodies. This was to be a substantial difference from those who had no knowledge of God; the latter lived their lives to satisfy themselves. The Christian is to live his life to satisfy God.
Paul called the Thessalonians to live quiet lives. It seems that there may have been a problem with individuals interfering in the lives of others. Therefore they were instructed to mind their own business, to live at peace with one another. There is a difference between demonstrating the love and concern of one brother for another, and being a busy body.
There may have been some who where not supporting themselves financially, as well. The Thessalonians were to be positive and contributing members of the body in which they dwelt. By living a positive life within the body, they also would hopefully be a benefit to the secular community around them.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.