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AM Bible Study Archives
"GOD'S WILL IS FOR OUR SANCTIFICATION"
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Wednesday AM Bible Study
February 25, 2004
I. PAUL'S GENERAL CALL FOR A PLEASING WALK BEFORE GOD (vv.
A. His words "Finally, then, brethren", mark this as a new topic
in Paul's letter. (The phrase in the Greek [liopon oun] means, "As
to remaining matters, therefore . . .") As is typical of Paul's letters,
the first half tends to be doctrinally focused, and the second half
tends to describe the practical conduct that naturally flows from
good doctrine. The 'practical' section of the letter is found in 4:1-5:22.
The closing section, 5:23-28, brings the doctrinal and practical together
in a final blessing - giving us the confidence that our faith in God's
revealed truth will lead to our full sanctification by God's grace.
B. The practical force of Paul's words is shown in that he is seeking
to "urge" and "exhort" his readers to do something. Though Paul isn't
afraid to point to his authority (v. 8), the nature of his appeal
in this section is as one in communion with his readers - that is,
as to "brethren". The first word speaks of a fraternal appeal - as
a brother to a brother; but the second word involves a stronger admonishment
- as a father to his children (see 2:11).
C. What Paul urges and exhorts is that his readers abound more and
more in the doing what they were then doing - that is, walking to
please the Lord.
1. It wasn't enough for Paul that they were then walking in a
way that was pleasing to the Lord. He wanted to see them doing so
more and more. Practical holiness isn't something that we should
consider that we have "achieved", but something that we should continually
strive to grow in.
2. Paul stresses that this appeal is based on what they already
knew. No new information was being given to them, but rather they
were being called upon to obey the commandments that had already
been given to them "through the LORD Jesus" (that is, under His
authority; see v. 8).
II. PAUL'S SPECIFIC CALL FOR SANCTIFICATION IN SEXUAL PURITY (vv.
A. In keeping with this being in Christ's authority, Paul stresses
that "sanctification" is God's will for His people. To be "sanctified",
in this case, means to live the life of someone who is truly set apart
as unto the Lord; and thus, to live a "set-apart" life - a life distinct
from that of the world (Rom. 12:1-2). God does not, here, leave us
to search around for what His will for our lives is; but He plainly
tells us. It is His will that we be sanctified.
B. Practical "sanctification" in sexuality would involve the following:
1. Abstaining from sexual immorality. The Greek word used is "porneia"
(from which we get the word "pornography"). It is a broad term that
includes all forms of sexual sin. Many of the practices of sexual
immorality were a part of the pagan worship of the culture from
which these believers came. God's command is that we "flee sexual
immorality" (1 Cor. 6:12-20).
2. "Possessing" one's own "vessel" in sanctification and honor.
"Vessel" may here mean "body" (see 2 Tim. 2:21); in which case this
would be a command to control one's own bodily passions and conduct
the use of one's body in a manner that's in keeping with God's demand
for holiness. But the word also may mean "wife" (1 Peter 3:7); in
which case it would involve the command to deal with sexual passions
by getting married (1 Cor. 7:1-5). With this is the command that
one should not deal with sexual drives by giving in to "passion
and lust" or to exercise marital rights in a lustful and immoral
way; which is how the unbelieving people of the world deal with
3. Not taking advantage of or defrauding one's brother in the
matter of sexual purity. This would prohibit both sexual practices
outside the circle of marriage (fornication), and the violation
of the marriage of another (adultery). Paul's clear warning is that
the Lord is the avenger of all who do this (Hebrews 13:4).
C. These words of urging and exhortation are consistent with our
calling in Christ. We were called in a state of uncleanness; but we
were not called so that we may remain in a state of uncleanness but
for a state of holiness (Titus 2:11-15).
III. PAUL'S CONFIDENT CLAIM TO DIVINE AUTHORITY (v. 8).
A. On the negative side, Paul recognized that these instructions
would be rejected by some. But he warns that the instructions being
rejected were not the instructions of man but of God (John 8:11).
B. On the positive side, Paul urges that these instructions are
consistent with the fact that God has given us His own Spirit; who
indwells every believer. The Spirit not only enables us and empowers
us to live a sanctified life; but is also Himself called "Holy", and
marks us as a people who must, like Him, be holy.