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1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Wednesday AM Bible Study
February 25, 2004


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).


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 such things.

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).


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.

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