Summary: When Timothy returns from Thessalonica he brings with him some questions from the Thessalonians. In these verses Paul deals with the issue of broken love, which causes unsanctified sexuality.
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Living the Sanctified Life
Let’s start with a quick reminder about the timing of when Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians.
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia (to Paul who was in Corinth), Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching.
Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love.
Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica to find out how the church was going after the missionary group were forced to leave so quickly.
Now Timothy has returned and the news is good.
The news from Timothy is also up to date.
As a result of the quick exit the church of the Thessalonians were left with some questions and faith and practise. Timothy conveyed these questions and now Paul is using the letter to the Thessalonians to give answers – that is the content of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:11
Let’s turn to the beginning of that section 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
What an encouragement to the church.
“I want you to know that you have been doing so well in following the instructions we have given you.” Indeed this is how they became “a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:7).
However, even with this progress, the Thessalonians need to keep learning and growing.
Let’s keep reading 1 Thessalonians 4:3-12
Paul addresses two issues here:- Well it looks like two issues.
One has to do with issues of sexuality.
And one has to do with minding our own business and working.
But there is a sense where these issues are connected. And the connection is love.
Broken love … love which is not expressed the way God intended … causes unsanctified sexuality.
Real love … love which is expressed more and more … has application in unexpected areas of our life.
Back in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 Paul says , “may the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.” Here we are being given some specific examples on what that looks like in practise.
As we look at these examples let’s first take note of a key word in verse 3 … sanctified. The meaning of the word goes back to the Old Testament where holy items were chosen for use in the temple. Let’s say they need a pot.
The priest would go to the shop and there would be dozens of pots.
He buys one … one pot chosen from among many. Outwardly it may even look exactly the same as the pot next to it on the shelf … and that pot is brought to the temple.
It has been set apart. It has been made holy. It has been sanctified.
And so are we.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Romans 6:22 (NIV)
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Romans 6:22 (ESV)
Sanctification is not something you initiate, it is an action of God. It is God’s will that you should sanctified … it is the fruit of freedom in Christ from sin.
(God) has saved us and called us to a holy (sanctified) life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
Living such a life is your identity … the identity God gives you in Christ.
When this is your identity it impacts the choices you make, and the actions you do, and the thoughts you think, and the path you walk.
God has sanctified you … us. But that identity has implications on the way you act.
(L)et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
God has acted. We also act.
That creates a tension doesn’t it. The tension where we get to the end of the day – or we just get to the end of our breakfast – and we look at our lives and we say, “I don’t feel holy.”
The Thessalonians felt like this.
Which brings us to the issue of broken love … love which is not expressed the way God intended … causes unsanctified sexuality.