As we continue in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we move into the instructional part of the letter starting in chapter 4. The first three chapters were an overflowing of gratitude, thankfulness and encouragement for the way this young church endured the ongoing trials for following Jesus. Now in chapters 4 and 5, Paul addresses some of the particular concerns, which Timothy had brought back after his recent visit. Paul tackles big topics like sexual purity (4:3-8), an admonition against laziness (4:9-12), the Lord’s return and the events surrounding that time (4:13-5:11), and some matters concerning conduct in the church (5:12-22).
In these first two verses of chapter 4, Paul sets the table for the rest of the letter by laying the foundation as a good coach. He is pleased with the progress, but he does not want apathy or a “let up”. It was not enough that the Thessalonians were walking in a way that was pleasing to the Lord. The missionary team (Paul, Silas, Timothy) wanted them to grow more and more! Practical holiness is how we live and act on a daily basis. This is a process of change. The process of sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) is God’s will for us as believers and he uses people, circumstances and the spiritual disciplines to carry out this vital work.
As we will highlight, Paul speaks to key concepts of identity and authority, but clearly exhorts the church towards continuous improvement, growth and maturity in both their mission and ours: Walking to please God.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- What did Paul and the team “ask and urge” of the Thessalonians?
- Is the Christian life a “walk” or a “race”? What verses come to mind? How do both of those descriptors help us understand our calling as believers?
- The phrase “Walk Worthy” is sometimes seen as a prominent theme of this entire letter. (See 2:12) What are the essential components of “walking worthy” and pleasing God as a lifestyle?
- Why is pleasing God not a matter of earning his favor by following his commandments?
- By whose authority did Paul and the team give instructions to the church? Why is this important?
- What does sanctification mean? Why is this such an important, practical theological word?
- In which “big” daily areas should we be seeing sanctifying growth in our lives? (How we spend money, how we speak to one another, etc.) What are your targeted growth areas?
- Looking ahead to verses 3-8, in what area of life is sanctification particularly important? Why does this admonition seem more urgent now in light of our present day reality?