Year 2 Day 346
Read - 1 Thessalonians 4v1-12
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Thessalonians caused Paul's heart to soar. They were standing firm in the faith even under trial. They loved Christ, loved Paul and loved each other. They had been taught by Paul himself how they should walk before the Lord and they were doing it (v1). So were these Christians the finished article? By no means. Paul urges them to walk as they have been walking and to "do so more and more" (v1b).
It isn't that Paul is a hard taskmaster, he simply wants to guard these people from arrogance. In all of our hearts there is the capacity to believe our own nonsense. We tell ourselves that we're pretty great, we don't struggle with sin, we're always loving and before we know it our hearts are pride filled pits of sin. The Thessalonians are walking rightly before the Lord but Paul urges them onwards. No complacency was allowed. They practiced love and they should practice it all the more.
Paul had already given them these instructions as a word from Christ Himself (v2). They were being sanctified by the Lord (v3). What is sanctification? Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man or woman after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
One dangerous hindrance to our sanctification is sexual immorality. In this regard the modern and the ancient world are remarkably similar. Around 25 years or so after Paul wrote to the Thessalonians the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Remarkably both towns were preserved under the fallout of the eruption and to this day you can walk the streets and enter the homes of ancient Romans.
Both towns are famous for their erotic art. There are images of couples enjoying sexual intercourse, oversized carved images of male genitalia and even a preserved brothel. In Paul's day as well as ours, sex was everywhere. The Apostle knew this and urged his hearers to control themselves (v4). They weren't to live like the passionate and lust filled Gentiles who didn't know God (v5) but they were to listen to God who had given them the Holy Spirit (v8). Their sanctified lives were to be marked by holiness and not impurity (v7) for the Lord would surely judge the individual who wronged his brother in the area of sexual immorality (v6).
If a warning was necessary about sexual immorality the Thessalonians didn't need to be reminded about loving one another (v9). They were doing this in their own town and throughout Macedonia (v10). Paul's advice was once again to do this and to keep doing it (v10b). They were to excel in loving one another.
As the passage comes to a close we reach one of the most radical verses I know. It is a glorious summary of the Christian life and one that I suspect you've maybe overlooked. That isn't a criticism by the way - I overlooked it for years and then one day I read verse eleven and realised the liberating freedom of it. How should I walk in this world? How should I live before outsiders and not be a burden on anyone (v12)?
Paul's answer is powerful. Live quietly, mind your own affairs and work with your hands (v11). Do you realise the scale of that? Sometimes we think the Christian life is about moving from great victory to great victory. It is a life spent on mission teams during the summer and having moving worship experiences in the autumn. Yet for most Christians life is running the kids to school, arguing with elderly parents and failing to concentrate during sermons. So what's the Christian life really like? Live quietly, mind your own business and do your daily work. I sincerely pray that this verse sets you free from that exhausting and endless striving after so called "victorious Christian living".
Here's radical Christian living untried by many. Go to church every Sunday and attend to the ordinary means of grace. Love your neighbour and don't try to sleep with his wife. Live quietly in your local community and keep your nose out of business that doesn't concern you. Finally go to work, do your work and put bread on your own table.
It is the will of God to sanctify us (v3) so may we love one another and walk uprightly before the Lord. How? Live quietly, mind your own affairs, work with your hands and do so more and more.
Q99 What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer? The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called, The Lord’s Prayer.