< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: 1st Thessalonians 4

Monday, March 29, 2010

1st Thessalonians 4

This is the second part of Paul’s first letter and it deals with problems the Thessalonians had and the way to maturity of life in Christ.

Paul is telling them that their new Christian faith and life are sound inspite of what their enemies charge and now they should go on to maturity of life in Christ with full confidence they were on the right track.

He sort of divides this chapter into 3 parts: verses 1 – 8 deal with personal sexual morality (so if you need scripture to tell your kids why it’s wrong to live together before marriage, look here!) Verses 9 -12 deal with love and work in the community. And verses 13 -18 with the destiny of the Christian dead.

1st Thessalonians 4:1-8 1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

My application Bible says, “Sexual standards were very low in the Roman Empire…and in many societies today they aren’t much higher!”

These recent converts had no previous sense of moral restraint, so this would be a new thought. The Jews had, of course, many rules about how to live, but we’ll see a little later that even their rules were lax compared to Jesus’ on this subject.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

There are a lot of people today who see nothing wrong with living together before or without marriage, but the Bible is clear on God’s standards. Again from my application Bible: “sexual sin is any sex outside of marriage and it always hurts someone. It hurts God because it shows we prefer following our own desires instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit and it hurts others because it violates the commitment necessary to a relationship. It can bring disease to a person. And it deeply affects our personalities which respond in anguish when we harm ourselves physically and spiritually.”

Skip Heizig talked on this subject once on his radio program. He said in the past thirty years the number of people who live together before marriage has gone up 400%
From the people who get married after living together the chances of divorce are 50% more likely than those who hadn’t. And surveys have shown that these marriages aren’t as happy.

Every law and rule God has given us: from what the Israelites shouldn’t eat in the dessert to the 10 commandments have been on target. They are all for our best!

In verses 1 and 2 Paul tells them that Jesus is the authority for His instructions. In other letters Paul alludes to scripture as the authority, or accepted church practice or even in 1 Corinthians 7:25 for example: his own trustworthy opinion. But for this section he specifically says The Lord Jesus.

In Matthew 5:27 – 28 Jesus said even lust was an adulterous act. The Jews allowed divorce for trivial reasons, but Jesus held that permanence in marriage was God’s intention. (Mark 10:2-9)

Paul is telling us in these verses that God has a will for humans in sexual matters and what Christians do with their bodies is important. His will is sanctification: becoming Holy. The separation from unclean things and practices. Growing to be like God.

Pleasing God is not a matter of personal choice. Pleasing God is imperative for Christians.

When you become a Christian you accepted an obligation to become more like Christ and to show Christ to the world. While we can’t earn grace, we can grow in it. No matter how well we are doing, we can always do better. And we won’t stop growing spiritually until the day we stand before the Lord. Becoming Holy is a life long process and this process is called sanctification.

Ephesians 5:1-6 1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

The whole Christian life is God centered. We do not belong to ourselves, we belong to God. He purchased us with the blood of His Son!

We live in a time when we are bombarded with the ethics and values of a Godless society: TV, music, ads, movies, books…But it’s no excuse. The Bible and the Holy Spirit tell us what’s right and we make daily choices how we act and live. There are consequences to our actions and we can’t choose the consequences.

We’re going to see this subject in some of Paul’s other letters, especially Corinthians, but his view as a whole, which is Christ’s view; includes the importance of marriage itself, fidelity and respect for one’s partner within marriage, self-control and chastity outside of marriage and the permanence of marriage.

Click here for God's View on Marriage

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