Summary: 5th in series on 1 Thessalonians (5 of 8).


1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

INTRO: Along with jogging, walking has become a popular exercise and outdoor sport. You can see entire families out enjoying a walk together.

The Christian life can be compared to a walk. It begins with a step of faith. But that step leads to a walk of faith. Walking suggests progress, and we must make progress in the Christian life. Walking also demands strength.

But we must be sure to “walk in the light” for the enemy has put traps and detours to catch us. Of course, at the end of life’s walk, we will step into the very presence of the Lord. Paul described a threefold walk for the Christian to follow.

I. WALK IN HOLINESS (vv. 1-8).

The moral climate in the Roman Empire was not healthy. Immorality was a way of life; and, thanks to slavery, people had the leisure time to indulge in the latest pleasures. The Christian message of holy living was new to that culture, and it was not easy for these young believers to fight the temptations around them. Paul gave three reasons why they should live a holy life.

1. - To please God (v. 1). Everybody lives to please somebody. Many people live to please themselves. They have no sensitivity to the needs of others. Christians cannot go through life pleasing only themselves (Rom. 15:1).

We must also be careful when it comes to pleasing others. It is possible to both please others and honor God, but it is also possible to dishonor God. Pleasing God ought to be the major motive of the Christian life.

Pleasing God means much more than simply doing God’s will. It is possible to obey God and yet not please Him.

2. - To obey God (vv. 2-3). In v. 3, Paul reminded these new believers that sexual immorality did not please God. God created sex, and He has the authority to govern its use. We never have to seek to know the will of God in this matter; He has told us clearly that fornication and adultery are wrong.

3. - To glorify God (vv. 4-5). This is the positive side of God’s commandment. Christians are supposed to be different from the unsaved. The Gentiles (unsaved) do not know God; therefore, they live ungodly lives. But we know God, and we are obligated to glorify Him in this world.

Paul devoted a great deal of space to this theme of sexual purity because it was a critical problem in the church of that day. It is also a critical problem in the church today. For many people, marriage vows are no longer considered sacred, and divorce is no longer governed by the Word of God.

II. WALK IN HARMONY (vv. 9-10).

The transition from holiness to love is not a difficult one. Paul made this transition in his prayer recorded in 1 Thes. 3:11-13.

There are four basic words for love in the Greek language. Eros refers to physical love; our word erotic comes from it. It does not have to be sinful, but in Paul’s day its main emphasis was sensual. This word is never used in the N. T. Another word, storge (pronounced STOR-gay), refers to family love, the love of parents for their children. This word is also absent from the N. T.

The two words most used for love are philia (fil-E-uh) and agape (a-GA-pay). Philia love is the love of deep affection, such as in friendship or even marriage. But agape love is the love God shows toward us. It is not simply a love based on feeling; it is expressed in our wills. Agape love treats others as God would treat them, regardless of feelings.

The word philadelphias is translated brotherly love. Because Christians belong to the same family, and have the same Father, they should love one another. In fact, we are taught of God to love one another.

Have you ever noticed that animals do instinctively what is necessary to keep them alive and safe? A Christian has God’s nature, therefore, he should love because God is love.

III. WALK IN HONESTY (vv. 11-12).

The word in verse 12 that is translated honestly carries the meaning of becomingly, in a seemly way. Christians not only have the obligation to love one another but also to be good testimonies to the people of the world. Paul’s great concern was that the Thessalonican believers earn their own wages and not become freeloaders depending on the support of unbelievers.

For the most part, the Greeks despised manual labor. Most of the work was done by slaves. Paul was a tentmaker, and he was careful in Thessalonica to set the example of hard work. Unfortunately, some of the new believers in the church misunderstood the doctrine of Christ’s return and gave up their jobs in order to wait for His coming. This meant that they were supported by other Christians, some of whom may not have had sufficient funds for their own families. It also meant that these fanatical people could not pay their bills, and therefore they lost their testimony with the unsaved merchants.

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