In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, Paul gave the young believers in Thessalonica the general exhortation to live a God-pleasing life by continually keeping the commandments of God. From 4:3 to 5:22, Paul goes into more specific detail of what it means to “walk worthy” and live this God-pleasing life as a Christ follower.
In this first section of chapter 4, Paul addresses sex (4:3-8), love (4:9-10) and work (4:11-12). These timeless topics are highly relevant for us today as a church! In our last teaching in verses 3-8, we looked at Paul’s instruction to abstain from sexual immorality and to instead pursue sexual purity and holiness. In our text this week, Paul exhorts the Thessalonian believers to live a God-pleasing life by highlighting two more points of emphasis. First, to continue exceling in their love for one another in the church community (v. 9-10) and second, to be diligent in work and personal affairs (11-12). Following Jesus certainly involves a commitment to loving and serving others. Christians should be known as loving, reliable people who diligently work hard. We work not just to make money, but also to lovingly and generously share with those in need.
As we reflect on the text for this week, think about the areas of selfishness that need to be purged in your life as you seek to follow the great commandment of loving God and loving others. What new opportunities are there to show love towards your brothers and sisters in Christ? Have you reflected on Christ’s love for you lately? Is your life characterized by growth in the areas of contentment, quietness and diligence? What is holding you back from stepping into more simplicity and freedom at home? At work?
Praise God that he is committed to growing us into the likeness of Jesus. Sanctification (holification) is an all-encompassing operation that touches every part of our lives. God will surely accomplish that for all those he has started his redeeming work in. (Phil 1:6)
More Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Based on 4:9-12, what did Paul urge them to do more and more?
- What does love look like as it is worked-out in a local body of believers? What are some ways you can be more loving to the people around you? Why do we need a heart change and not just behavior modification? (Look at Romans 13:8, 1 John 3:14-16, 5:2)
- In verse 9, Paul says the Thessalonians were “taught by God to love another.” How do the great New Covenant promises from the Old Testament (like Jeremiah 31:33-34) connect to being “taught by God”? Is being taught by God different from being “preacher taught” or “Bible taught”? Why?
- What values and behaviors did Paul want to see embodied in the lives of the Thessalonians according to verse 11? What is the goal of those behaviors? Compare also to 1 Peter 2:12
- Does living a “quiet life” mean you hardly ever open your mouth to speak? (4:11) Compare with 2 Thess 3:11-12 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2
- Martin Luther is sometimes attributed (maybe incorrectly) with the saying, “If I knew Jesus was returning next week, tomorrow I would plant a tree.” In both 1 Thess and 2 Thess, Paul addresses laziness in the church, and many connect that behavior to an immature understanding of Jesus’ return. (If Jesus is coming back next week, I’m not taking a shower!) What might that Luther quote mean? Because of our hope and confidence in Jesus’ return, should this make us work harder and be more diligent in our efforts?