Summary: Having shared his heart and burden for the church, Paul now shifts his focus to the lives expected of believers. They were no longer their own, and were expected to live in a way that honored and glorified the Lord.
An Exhortation of Expectation
1 Thessalonians 4: 1-8
In the previous chapter Paul devoted a substantial portion of this letter revealing his heart and desire for ministry. In case there was any doubt, Paul assured them of his love and devotion for the Lord and His church. He presented a challenge unto them through the life he lived before them.
As we come to Chapter 4, Paul turns his focus toward the church and the life believers are to live. The text verses we have read stand as an exhortation to all who read these words to live a sanctified life that glorifies the Lord.
As I read this passage, I was reminded of the words of Peter in 2 Pet.3:11 – Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness. The matter of sanctification and holy living are little addressed in the day in which we live. Our society has embraced an anything goes mentality and there is little, if any, accountability today. That may have been accepted as modern philosophy, but we as the children of God have an obligation to live a life that honors and reflects our Lord!
That philosophy was prevalent in Paul’s day as well and he sought to remind the church of their obligations unto the Lord. As we look at these verses, I want to consider the responsibilities a believer has as we think on: An Exhortation of Expectation.
I. The Priority of the Believer (1-2) – Here Paul discusses the priorities we all should possess and exhibit in our daily lives. First, we discover:
A. Our Challenge (1) – This challenge is actually two-fold. It involves:
1. The Expectation (1a) – Paul reminds them yet again of their association with Christ and His church, brethren. He then exhorts them to walk in a way that pleases God, following the example of Christ the Lord and Paul, His apostle. This was not something they were unable to do; it had been modeled for them time and again. They were expected to be imitators of Christ.
We are all aware of the need for purity in our lives and the obligation we have to walk in a way that pleases the Lord, but I fear, many times we fail in fulfilling that obligation. I have been challenged as I studied this passage in that I was reminded of my responsibility to live upright before the Lord, seeking to imitate the life He lived.
2. The Excellence (1b) – so ye would abound more and more. This reveals a consistent and continual growth that was expected of the church in Thessalonica. The word abound has the idea of “exceeding a fixed number or measure; to literally overflow; to excel, or make abundant or excellent.” Paul was saying that average was not good enough. Simply living a bit better than the world around them was not all that was required. They were expected to excel in their faith and abound more and more for the Lord. (Illus. how we ought to abound.)
B. Our Commandment (2) – Here Paul speaks of the commandments they were given of the Lord. Christ had given them a charge to fulfill, a life to live, and a ministry to perform. This was not an option; it was an obligation. The Lord has not merely suggested that we live according to His words, but He has commanded that we do so.
That is one of the biggest hindrances and pitfalls of the modern church today. Many, even those who are willing to serve the Lord, treat His Word and His desire for us as if it were a buffet. We don’t have the right to pick and choose when it comes to the things of God. We are commanded and obligated to live according to His way and will for our lives. We cannot read any passage of Scripture and pretend it doesn’t apply to our lives. All Scripture is there for our good and admonition, and we must be obedient unto it.
II. The Purity of the Believer (3-8) – This is a passage that all need to read and understand. Paul declares that this is the will of God for their lives. The remaining verses in our text deal with the purity of the redeemed.
Many today are seeking the will of God for their lives and seem to have a hard time discovering what it is that God wants of them. Much of the lack of knowledge concerning God’s will can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of the Bible. Some, however, may know what God’s will for their life is and yet refuse to embrace it. These verses are very clear in regard to God’s will for our lives. He desires and expects: