1 Thessalonians 4




Living to Please God (4:1-12)

1-2 There is only one ultimate purpose to man’s life, and that is to please and glorify God. Paul had taught the Thessalonians how they should live in order to please God, but now he urges them to live in that way more and more (verse 1). Here again, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul exhorts his spiritual children to grow in the Lord.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he does not speak by his own authority, but by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3 What kind of life is pleasing to God? The life that is pleasing to God is a holy life (verse 7). It is God’s will that we be holy. He has chosen us to be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4). Only those who are holy and pure in heart will get to see God (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14). God says: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

… avoid sexual immorality. In Paul’s day, the Greeks regarded sexual sins lightly; they did not consider them very great sins. Every kind of sexual immorality was practiced among them. Therefore, it was necessary for these new Greek believers in Thessalonica to completely give up all these sinful sexual practices that were considered acceptable by the society around them (Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Peter 1:14). God condemns all kinds of sexual immorality. The Thessalonians must follow God’s law, and do what is pleasing to Him (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3,5).

4 … each of you should learn to control his own body.4 It is necessary for each Christian to learn how to keep his own bodily passions under control, especially his sexual passions. We must keep our bodies holy and honorable. Any impurity or unholiness in our lives brings dishonor upon our bodies and upon the Lord. Let us remember that we belong to Christ; we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

5 Paul uses the word heathen in this verse to mean Gentiles who do not believe in Christ. Christians must not live as the “heathen” do. The heathen live in passionate lust. They do not know God. Yet they have no excuse for not knowing God, because God has revealed Himself to all men (Romans 1:18-20). But the heathen reject the knowledge of God. Therefore, God has given them over to sexual impurity (Romans 1:24) and to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28).

6 … in this matter—the matter of sexual impurity—no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. If, for example, we commit adultery with another man’s wife, we wrong that man. If we have sexual relations with an unmarried person, we not only wrong that person, but we also wrong whomever that person might later marry. God will punish5 the person who does such things (Ephesians 5:5-6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 13:4). 5:22; 2 Timothy 4:1). Therefore, let us go day we will all have to stand before His on striving in Jesus’ strength to be blame- judgment seat (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinless and holy, remembering this, that one thians 5:10; 1 John 2:28)

7 Here Paul repeats the thought of verse 3. Remember, we ourselves did not first decide to live a holy life. It was God who first called us in the beginning. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

In one way, we have already been made holy or righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ (Romans 3:24,28). But in another way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must lead increasingly holy lives. That is our responsibility. If God has chosen us to be holy, then we must determine to manifest that holiness in our lives (Ephesians 5:3).

8 If we reject this instruction—that is, Paul’s teaching in the above verses—we will be rejecting God; we will be disobeying God. We will be “grieving” the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us (Ephesians 4:30). It is the Holy Spirit who makes us holy (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Thus whenever we “grieve” the Holy Spirit, we cease being holy and separate ourselves from God. Therefore, the Thessalonians—and we also—must completely turn away from all impurity and unholiness, and devote ourselves totally to what is pleasing to God.

9-10 The love mentioned in the New Testament is spiritual love. It is God’s love. When we believe in Christ, God then pours out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

God loved us even though we were sinful and unworthy (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:910). Just as God loved us, so we must love our neighbor—whether our neighbor is worthy of our love or not! We must even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). But even more than our neighbors and our enemies, we must love our Christian brothers and sisters (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 John 4:11). This is the third great commandment that Jesus gave us (John 13:34). When we obey this third great command to love our fellow believers, then all men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). When we love our brother, we know that we have passed from death to life (1 John 3:14).

11-12 Here Paul gives some important advice to all of us: Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life (verse 11). That means:

Try not to let your life be filled with restlessness, turmoil, or anxiety. Then Paul says: … mind your own business. That is, don’t always be criticizing other people and interfering in their affairs. Next Paul says: … work with your hands. That means: Earn your living through the labor of your own hands. Perhaps the Thessalonians were surprised at this last piece of advice, because most Greeks, being highly educated, despised working with their hands. They gave such work to their slaves! But Paul says to them: … work with your hands! (see 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12).

When Christians become educated, they too, like the Thessalonians, begin to look down on manual labor, such as farming and crafts. But let this not be. Paul made tents for a living (Acts 18:3). And Jesus Himself spent most of His life as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

In all things our daily life must win the respect of outsiders—that is, non-believers (verse 12). In all things, our lives must be honorable and praiseworthy. Let us not be people who are lazy, who waste time, who indulge in idle gossip. Rather we must apply ourselves diligently to the work which God has given us to do. We must not always be hoping that someone will help us, or give us a handout. We should not be dependent upon anybody—except God.

The Coming of the Lord (4:13-18)

13 The Thessalonians had supposed that Christ was going to return again before any of them died. However, a few of the Thessalonian believers had recently died. Therefore, the Thessalonians were perplexed, and wanted to know what was going to happen to those who had died. In this section, Paul gives them the answer to their question.

When Paul mentions those who fall asleep, he is referring to those believers who have died. They will not remain “dead” forever. We Christians have the sure hope and faith that after our earthly bodies die, we shall live again. Therefore, the Thessalonians do not need to have any anxiety about those who have died. They are “sleeping” now, but will soon “wake up.”

In one sense, then, we don’t need to grieve for believers who die. When we grieve over the death of a fellow believer, we are really grieving over our own loss, and that is natural. But even as we grieve, let our hope of eternal life overcome our grief. Let us rejoice that our loved one is now in Christ’s hands.

14 How do we know that we will be raised? We know, because Christ Himself died and rose again. If Jesus died and rose (and we know that He certainly did rise), then we too, after we die, shall certainly rise again (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1718,20,22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:14).

15 Here and in verse 16, Paul says that when Christ comes again, believers who have fallen asleep (who have died) will rise and be carried into heaven first; then, after them, those who are alive at Christ’s coming will be taken up into heaven. Thus, those who have died will enter heaven first of all; they are at no disadvantage! The Thessalonians don’t need to be anxious about them.

Paul says that what he has written here is according to the Lord’s own word. This is the only place in the New Testament where the Lord’s word on this subject is mentioned.

16 In this verse, Paul briefly describes what will happen at Christ’s second coming (see Mark 13:24-27; John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and comments).

17-18 Those who are alive at Christ’s coming will be caught up and taken to heaven. At that time, those who are living will be joined again with those who have died, and from then on, all believers will live together with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words (verse 18).

The New Testament does not tell us in detail what will happen when Christ comes again. In fact, the New Testament contains very little teaching on this subject. We simply do not know all the things that will take place; and it is pointless to speculate and argue about it.

No one knows the day when Christ will come again. But there is one thing we do know, and that is that all believers must always be ready for that day (see Mark 13:3233; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 and comments). What will the Lord find us doing when He comes?