1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 | Attractive Holiness
1Finally, 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. 2For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
- ‘More and more’ indicates that our sanctification and the manner in which we please God is not something that we arrive at or can complete, but that we strive to grow in more and more
- It is not enough to simply say that our lives ‘are pleasing’ to God, but that our lives would become more and more pleasing to God as we strive to deal with the smaller and less noticeable sins of our lives
- This is how we are to encourage each other in our walks with God, that we affirm and acknowledge what is pleasing to God in their lives and actions, and yet spur them on for more
3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
- Sexual immorality is something we have to abstain from, the desire and opportunity will always be present, however small. It is something we must continually choose to separate from
- Abstain means “to have by separating from”, in that in abstaining from sexual immorality we have a healthier and holier marriage or celibacy. Abstinence is about choosing the greater rather than succumbing to the lesser
- ‘Control his own body’ literally means ‘own his own vessel’. Abstinence is a continual and present choice because our bodies (vessels) are full of desires which need to be controlled and mastered. Paul likely uses the word for vessel (skeuos) here instead of body (sōma) to create that sense of disconnection between the will and the body. Our bodies are simply vessels filled with desires, and either they will master/own us or we will master/own them
- The other alternative is to allow our bodies to overwhelm us in their passionate desires, the types of desires which grow and grow if not challenged and subdued. This would be the practice of ‘Gentiles who do not know God’. When God is not in the equation of life, then we are left only being able to listen to and gratify the desires of our bodies
6that 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. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
- Sexual immorality is not just transgression against God but often against others too, particularly in the context of adultery whereby we clearly wrong someone else by having sexual relations with their spouse
- The Lord is described as an ‘avenger’ in this context of adultery, and the Thessalonians have been solemnly warned about this before. The transgression of adultery greatly offends God’s heart because it is a picture of how humanity has given itself in adultery to sin, running the once perfect unity that God had with his people
- God has not called us ‘based upon’ our impurity but called us ‘in’ our sanctification. This is not describing what we have been called to, but where we have been called from. Despite our impurity, God has already began to sanctify us, and it’s in this sanctification that he is calling us
- Therefore, to disregard acts of holiness is to disregard the work which God is doing in us through sanctification, by the Spirit. God has begun the process of sanctification and we either walk in line with that or reject it.
9Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
- Paul has already shown how the Thessalonians love each other and are examples of this to others. They have been ‘taught by God’ through the process of sanctification, as sanctification is like sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning his ways.
- Despite loving others well, Paul encourages them to do this ‘more and more’. There is always more to be done in the way of brotherly love, not just in opportunity but also in practice.
11and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
- To live quietly is not to live excluded from others, but quietly and peacefully amongst others, minding one’s own affairs and working faithfully. It is to live a life free from chaos, conflict and complaint and instead to live in peace, patience and joy. This is attractive holiness.
- Being dependent on no-one is not about being self-reliant and separated from others either, but that our lives might be a blessing, not a burden to others