THE BOOK OF 1 THESSALONIANS
Chapter 4:1-1, A Life Pleasing to God (negative)

J. Deering, AncientPath.net


1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-8

Chapter 4, Verses 1-8 "A Life Pleasing to God" Negative

 

In order to answer these questions properly you will have to draw from the entire chapter. Remember that CONTEXT is everything, so  answer the questions ONLY from the resources found in THIS CHAPTER unless otherwise noted.

 

The Questions are specific, the answers should be specific.


 

"A Life Pleasing to God"

4:1 Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more.

 

FINALLY

Paul's use of words can cause us to stumble once and a while, especially when translators tend to lean toward a literal understanding of the text (most always a good thing). Here Paul begins Chapter 4 with "Finally," when he has much more to say on many more topics before he is through.

 

Paul's understanding of this word is similar to "Therefore." It is a word of transition. While our English based minds want the word "Finally" to indicate that we are on our last topic, it does not mean that to those who spoke New Testament Greek in Paul's time. It does, however, carry with it some sense of closure on a topic, but not necessarily the last topic to be dealt with. It's more like "This is the last item in this list, before I move onto the next list." Paul is going to move onto his next list in 4:9.

 

Recapping "IN THE SPHERE OF"

Some time ago we lingered on the subject of being "In Christ." We learned that the phrase "In Christ" meant that those who were considered to be "In Christ" were a select group of people known as "The Way," the "Saved," those who were "Born Again," etc. This group of people make up the "Visible Body of Christ." This group does not contain those who have never yielded their lives to Jesus Christ. Thus, here in 4:1, Paul refers to "you, in the Lord Jesus." So, Paul's words here are directed to believers both local to Thessalonica as well as those believers who live elsewhere. He is not referring to those who may visit, or even belong to a local assembly, or any outsider to Christianity, who have not believed.

In our former studies we found that being "In Christ" came with certain benefits and responsibilities that are particular to the believer. It is now that Paul identifies his specific audience and some of their specific responsibilities.

 

LORDSHIP ISSUES

Who means what when they speak of Lordship.

 

In recent years there has become a rift between various Christians on the meanings of the word "Lord" and therefore the ramifications of these various definitions. Let's see if we can sort some of this out.

 

Biblically speaking, The Son of God, Jesus the Christ, is "The Lord of All". That is His title, His definition if you will. Whether or not anyone, anywhere, bows the knee to Him personally does not change the definition of Who He is. Just as "President of the United States" is our term for the absolute authority of our nation (ignoring the fact of our representative, balanced republic). Whether you agree with him, like him, or obey his dictates... he is "President of the United States."

 

Also Biblically speaking, believers are those who believe that this Jesus is "Lord of All" in a different manner than "Lord of All" the definition. In this way of understanding Jesus becomes your "personal" Lord in that you freely and willingly yield your authority over to Him as a response to His revelation about His power of authority over your personal life.

 

The Bible urges you, and that is an important concept to this discussion, to "live worthily of the calling with which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1).

 

Jesus is Lord - 28 times (Nasb)

Jesus as Lord - 17 times (Nasb)

Jesus the Lord / The Lord in the context of Jesus - 152 times (Nasb)

 

The difficulties that arise are personal definition problems and not Bible text problems. The personal understanding of these phrases varies with the individual's personal definition. There is a broad divergence in this area by believers that can be simplified by separating the whole into three categories.
 

Category #1 (The LEFT: most liberal understanding amongst believers)

"Lord" is Jesus' TITLE and infers little else. The individual has the option of "living their lives according to their wants and desires." Jesus is God's figurehead and wears a plastic gold colored crown. Those who hold to this kind of description of Jesus have effectively "locked out" the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

 

Category #2 (The CENTER: The Balanced Biblical view, held by the widest margin of believers)

Jesus is indeed defined by the word "Lord."  It is His TITLE, and He alone has the RIGHTS that come with the title. It is He that not only created the universe but also sustains it. Through His title He ADMINISTERS the Body of Christ as "HEAD." ALL those who "Believe," have freely and willingly placed themselves into His CARE, and by the GRACE of God enabled to RESPOND to His CARE in appropriate ways. Each believer knows that Holy living is a response to the extraordinary sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus, on behalf of all who would believe. Every believer has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God to provide ENABLEMENT to live as an appropriate response.

 

God has known from the very beginning that man is incapable of a Holy life and provided not only His Son as vicarious sacrifice, but also provided (both OT and NT) repentance, confession, and continuing forgiveness for believing mankind through that sacrifice.

 

Regardless of our outward confession and life, God has provided for "those who would believe." (Moses, David, Peter, etc.)

 

Category #3 (The RIGHT: the most "radical fundamentalist" view)

The concept of LORDSHIP occupies the minds and hearts of those with this view. It is a "militant" view, whereby those who "DO NOT OBEY," line upon line, of the multitude of commands and dictates toward Holy living, are not among the "saved, born again, or believers." The individual's inability to achieve the highest level of performance of "the law" are deemed not only unworthy of God's salvation, but are disallowed from belonging to the Body of Christ. At the far right of this group are those who believe that only those who believe exactly according to their understanding - are not, never were, saved. Salvation, for them, is a matter of PERFORMANCE not a matter of Grace, a matter of LEGALISTIC INTERPRETATION, and not the Normal, Literal, Historical interpretive method.
 

SUMMARY

The last three or four books we have studies have pointed to the #1 and #3 groups as "false teachers" who have entered into the Body of Christ and are to be "watched for" and avoided.

 

From the very start, God has provided for fallen man that they could be in a position to fellowship with Him at the great cost of His Son. To replace that great truth with a man-oriented, performance oriented gospel, is of great offense to God, Father - Son - and Holy Spirit. All that God has done is replaced by a system that makes for Salvation by WORKS. A great perversion of the Plan of God, and a disregard to the work of God in providing His Son as the REMEDY for the fallen heart of man.

 

God - Father, Son, Spirit - God of the Universe, the planet, of us.

God - The Lord God, worthy of Absolute Obedience

Man - God's second highest creation

Man - totally incapable of self-holiness, fallen

God - Through Jesus His Son, provides absolute salvation to "those who would" BELIEVE

God - Through the Holy Spirit, provides "God within" that we would suffer conviction, repentance, and confession when act human

God - Not only SAVES but continually RESTORES His Fellowship for the Believer, SEALED with the Holy Spirit, DELIVERED into His presence upon termination of this earthly vessel.

 

God defines the believer, not the other way around. It is God who calls, and God who saves, and God who empowers, and God who keeps. His desire is that you grow and "be conformed to the image of His Son," and fully expects that you will do this according to His timetable.

 

Don't let false teachers lead you astray into a human theology that makes YOU the keeper of your salvation.

 

It is to God's great Glory that some come through the whole process with "flying colors," and that some come through the whole process as complete failures according to human terms because HE IS ABLE to DELIVER THOSE WHO WOULD BELIEVE, into the very presence of GOD for all of eternity.
 

Continuing with Thessalonians 4:1

 

"4:1 Finally then, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more."

 

Coming out of our "Lordship" discussion makes its point now in the remainder of Verse 1.

 

Paul says "we ask you and urge you...about how you must live and please god... that you do so more and more."

 

At first glance it does look like the various lists of do's and don'ts are not only encouraged, but to be followed even more intently as time goes on.

 

However, I have left out the most important part of this verse.

 

Q.     What did I leave out:

A.     "As you are in fact living" or "just as you actually do walk"

 

Chapter 2 tells us that Paul, and his companions, had to "exhort, encourage, and implore" each Thessalonian to get them to "walk in a manner worthy of the one who calls you...." (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). In Chapter 3 we learn that Paul sent Timothy to them so "strengthen and encourage" them, and "find out about their faith" to see if it failed since their leaving (1 Thessalonians 3:2-5). Paul wishes to return to them in order to "complete what is lacking in their faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:10).

 

Look ahead now at Chapter 4:2-8 and see where Paul tells them not to live as the Gentiles do.

 

Q.     How?

A.     Abstain from sexual immorality; don't defraud each other - all one issue

 

So, it would seem - at first glance - that Paul was exhorting them that their "holy living" needed to be stepped to a higher level. That Lordship in their lives was not working out, and indeed that is the case. It's important to see that this very "pleasing" local body of Christ was not perfect but needed to grow in the things of Christ.

 

I bring this up as a result of our discussion of Lordship and how some would say, "if he's not LORD, you're not saved." However, Paul points out here, and in book after book, that believers are in the PROCESS of growth and not born fully mature. The Thessalonians - however pleasing - still had a list of things where they needed growth - and AT THE TOP OF THE LIST is IMMORALITY. Was Jesus not their LORD? Were they in fact all Unbelievers? Of course not. God intends that Spiritual Maturity is a PROCESS. The Thessalonians were IN that process, not FINISHED with hit.

 

4:2 For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

 

Q.     Make a list of some MORAL commands that God makes upon His Children

A.     Abstain from immorality, don't lie, cheat, steal, covet, harm, defraud, etc.

 

4:3 For this is Godís will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality,

 

These next 6 verses all talk about ONE problem the Thessalonians ALL shared in.

 

Q.     What is that problem?

A.     Immorality.

 

It is a good reminder that Paul told the Romans (13:14) to "Make no provision for the flesh - in regard to its lusts." Again in 1 Corinthians (5:18) we are to "Flee fornication (immorality).

 

Why FLEE? Because you cannot handle the flesh - believer or not!

Flee the flesh, flee from immorality - turn and RUN! ... or you will be caught up in it.

 

That was the Thessalonian CHURCH/BELIEVER problem - they were caught up in IMMORAL activities.

 

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1 Thessalonians 4:3a, "For this is God's will: that you become holy,"

 

HOLY

AGIASMOS

Consecrated

Purified

Become Holy (unto God)

Set apart (unto God)

 

1 Thessalonians 4:3b, "that you keep away from sexual immorality."

KEEP AWAY FROM

APEXOUSIN (Matt 6:2)

AHPEXESTHAI (Thess 4:3)

POSITIVE

NEGATIVE

have - in full payment, nothing more expected

hold back, keep off, prevent

"paid in full"

Fraud, promised but not paid

SEXUAL IMMORALITY

PORNEAIS (direct - Mosaic Law)

(as a Metaphor)

"Illicit sexual intercourse"

Worshipping idols

Fornication

Being defiled by idols

Lesbainism

i.e. eating the sacrifices

Incest

    offered to idols

Adultery

 

Homosexuality

 

Intercourse with animals

 

Intercourse with a divorced man or woman

 

 

4:4 that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor,

 

The standard, according to Paul, is that your body belongs to you. You have transferred ownership of "you" to God in response to what Jesus has done in His sacrifice for you. God, therefore, asks you to treat your body (use your body) only in ways that Glorify Him - in Holiness (set apart) unto God's use and in Honor (the opposite of baseness). Men are "pigs," and women are too. Both are human, both suffer from the desire to act in immorality. Paul (the Holy Spirit who inspires) tells us that we are to POSSESS our own body (not give, share, whatever with others).

 

The only Holy sexual use of the body is in the marriage relationship where both are "one flesh." Any other use of the body (sex) with another human being is inappropriate, unholy, not set-apart, common, wicked, and ungodly.

 

It doesn't matter how we "feel" about it. The MORAL use of the body is to be possessed by it's owner. No one else has access to that moral use except the spouse, and that only because you have become "one flesh."

 

The whole world is awash in immorality - it always has been. It seems to us that things are getting worse but that feeling is only part of a recurring cycle of immorality. When our parents were young there was new found "freedom" as the world broke away from "Victorianism." Then came backlash with two world wars that push us back into a slightly higher plane of living. Vietnam and The cold war era brought with it creeping socialism and the godless morality that came with it. We're still in that cycle and who knows when the backlash will come. The point is that the world is an immoral place and only Christ can provide us safe haven - and even there - in the church - we must always be on guard to keep the flesh beaten down. It was true for the Thessalonians, it is true for us. The moral aspects of the believing human being is to set our bodies into accountable subjection, set aside and Holy, and always it is to be associated with honor.

 

4:5 not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.

No list needed here....

 

4:6 In this matter no one should violate the rights of his brother or take advantage of him, because the Lord is the avenger in all these cases, as we also told you earlier and warned you solemnly.

 

Q.     What does the word FRAUD mean?
A.     Intentional Deception

 

Q.     How would FRAUD be construed as Sexual Immorality?

A.     Fraud would be to seemingly offer Love and the rights of the marriage relationship but in reality offering nothing. "Something for nothing."

 

Q.     Is God happy or place His blessing upon immorality? And Why?

A.     Answers found in :7-18 (:13-18 The Lord is coming for us!)

 

4:7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.

 

4:8 Consequently the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

This is a very powerful statement. As Paul writes his letter he "Speaks for God." This is one of those rare instances where God the Holy Spirit makes reference to Himself. The issue of impurity, immorality, is VITAL to God. Paul makes it clear that THE WILL OF GOD ON THIS MATTER IS THAT YOU ARE TO BE HOLY AS HE IS HOLY. There is NO PLACE for impurity / immorality / fornication in the PLAN OF GOD FOR THE BELIEVER.

 

Q.     What is the position of the believer before God when they are involved in impurity / immorality / fornication?

A1.    A believing impure person
A2.    A believing Immoral person

A3.    A believing Fornicator

 

Q.     What does scripture have to say about this?

 

A1.    Romans 12:3

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

 

A2.    Romans 15:1

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

 

A3.    James 3:10

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

 

A4.    The whole books of 1+2 Timothy
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2013-02-20