“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”
I Thessalonians 4:1
Ending his kind thanksgivings and gentle encouragement, Paul exhorts these saints to greater holiness.
He does not write anything new here, but reminds them of things taught in person (4:1,2,6,11; 5:1-2).
Sinful man, even after regeneration, needs intense and frequent reminders to his mind (II Pet 1:12-15).
While the flesh of preacher and hearers may desire new things, reminders would usually serve best.
Intro: Paul exhorts these beloved brethren to holiness and hope in their lives by serveral means.
He begins by reminding them to keep God’s commandments ever more perfectly (1-2).
He requires holiness in body by admonishing against fornication and uncleanness (3-8).
He exhorts to greater and greater love of each other by the power of God’s Spirit (9-10).
He warns of slothfulness and busybodies in vocational duties for two reasons (11-12).
He comforts them against hopelessness and sorrow over the deaths of saints (13-18).
4:1 Paul begins the exhorting section of the epistle by appealing to their need for perfection.
“Furthermore then” indicates the connection to and extension of his thoughts just made regarding the need for blamelessness in holiness at the coming of Christ (3:12-13).
In addition to the given love and holiness, they needed to add more exhortations.
Due to the importance of His coming, they were adding further spiritual goals.
These ministers were serious about this instruction, as they beseeched and exhorted.
Beseech. To beg earnestly for, entreat (a thing). To supplicate, entreat, implore (a person). [Compare Philemon 1:8-9; II Corinthians 10:1; Acts 26:2-3.]
Exhort. To admonish earnestly; to urge by stimulating words to conduct regarded as laudable. To recommend earnestly; to insist upon.
This work of the ministry is very comparable to being a good father (2:11).
They show gentle kindness by beseeching them as “brethren” (1:4; 2:1,9,14,17; 3:7), which does not restrict the words to male members only (Gal 3:28 cp Col 1:28; 3:18).
The most glorious name-dropping in the world is the name of Jesus Christ, which they did to lend authority to their exhortation by His power, glory, coming, and judgment.
Read the powerful English construction “as . . . so,” which defines precisely the matter.
They had already taught them in person how to walk and please God – true discipleship.
Walk. verb. Conduct oneself, behave. noun Manner of behavior, conduct of life.
Ministers teach, baptize, and then teach all His commandments (Matt 28:19-20).
Ministers bring us the precious knowledge of how to please God (Acts 10:33).
The prescribed conduct and manner of living would fit them for His coming.
Faithful ministers like Paul do not restrict teaching in any way (Acts 20:20,27).
They had taught this holy lifestyle by verbal instruction and example (2:9-13).
But they were now exhorting them to abound in this walk – even more and more, for perfection is the goal, not mere survival, appearance, or similarity (Col 1:28; Eph 4:12).
4:2 They appeal to the facts their exhortation was not new at all and was from the Lord Jesus.
The gospel of God is quite simple, but it requires much reminding (II Peter 1:12-15).
Both minister and people must recognize that the basics must be taught over and over.
There is nothing in the world to remind us of these commandments during the week, and our flesh and Satan are aggressively united in doctrine and action to defeat them.
Ministers do not invent their gospel or commandments – they are from Jesus Christ.
The gospel does not bring suggestions or recommendations, but rather commandments.
Though it may seem new at times, that is only the effect of the Spirit blessing the truth.
4:3 God’s will for disciples of Jesus Christ is very simple – sanctification from fornication.
Here is one of those precious texts declaring precisely what the will of God is for us.
Having introduced the need for greater obedience to Christ’s commandments in the first two verses, now the apostle and his fellow ministers begin specific exhortations.
Sanctification is to make something holy, pure, separated, and dedicated for God’s use.
It is to consecrate something for the Lord (Gen 2:3; Exodus 13:2; II Tim 2:21).
Consider how Paul connects several important terms in one verse (I Cor 7:14).
Consider related words: Saint. A holy person. Sanctuary. A holy place.
Having introduced the need for unblameable hearts in holiness (3:13), he calls it sanctification here, consistent with the definition of the word, making one holy.
Fornication is a large category of sexual sins, though here some emphasis is on adultery.
It has a broader meaning than just sexual intercourse between unmarried people.
It includes both adultery and sodomy in N.T. usage (I Corinthians 5:1; Jude 1:7).
Sexual sins are one of the most tempting and powerful categories of sins.
Sexual sins were rampant in the Greek world, as they are in our own generation.
Paul described the Gentiles at the time as aggressive fornicators (Eph 4:17-19).
Holiness, which is God’s will, is necessary for us to walk and please God more (4:1), and it was his great ambition for their hearts at the coming of the Lord Jesus (3:13).
Virginity and fidelity are godly, glorious, and ennobling; they are far more than a means of conservatives to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies.
God created the woman with physical proof of virginity, which was to be protected and preserved for her perpetual honor and value (Deut 22:13-21).
A girl who loses it humbles herself – gives away value (Deut 22:23-24,28-29).
A man who marries other than a virgin, without extreme care, is not wise, for she will likely repeat it, he will have jealous thoughts, and she lacked a father.
Of course, God can and will forgive fornication, but that does not lessen its evil.
Most carnal Christians today don’t care, and most conservatives are too prudish to teach it, discuss it, honor it, and reward it, when it should be a glorious thing.
Much more is available on this subject in the outline “A Scriptural Wedding.”
It is the responsibility of fathers to protect and preserve their children from fornication.
Fathers and brothers should jealously protect daughters and sisters, as this is God’s means for her protection over her own ability to avoid or resist, as the weaker vessel and responder (II Corinthians 11:2; Prov 2:16-17; Genesis 34:7).
A mother can never understand a man’s sex drive like a faithful father, and this superior wisdom should guard both sons and daughters from tempting situations.
The silly, prudish advice of many “Christian” mothers can drive children to it, as their “don’t let Johnny touch you” does not match raging hormones and “love.”
Unchaperoned dating is folly, as it leads to enormous temptation and perverts God’s plan for the man to be a charming and seducing leader and sexual initiator and the woman to be an erotically charged and sexually responding wife.
Every time your teenage children leave your house, there is opportunity for it; so all fathers are bound to establish checks and controls to protect them.
Television, magazines, music, and all provisions toward it must be eliminated.
More is available on this subject in the outline “Bible Child Training.”
4:4 Abstaining from fornication is both a holy and honourable way to live and walk in life.
It is holy, for God requires fidelity before and during marriage and rejects all guilty fornicators and adulterers, as they shall fuel the fires of hell (Rev 21:8; Eph 5:5-7).
It is honourable, for it promotes virtue and nobility in any society where observed, as fornication and uncleanness are dishonourable (Prov 6:33; Rom 1:24).
The will of God is for each person to know how to possess his/her body in a godly way.
Possess. To keep, maintain (oneself, one’s mind or soul) in a state or condition (of patience, quiet, etc.). Also to maintain control over, to keep calm or steady.
Vessel. Said of the body, esp. as the receptacle of the soul.
A weak case has been made for “vessel” meaning a man’s wife (I Pet 3:7), but such would limit this exhortation to married men honorably using their wives (Heb 13:4).
The exhortation is to “every one of you,” which is far broader than married men.
Fornication is a temptation for single men and all women as well, if not more.
The Bible’s general use of male nouns and pronouns is no argument at all.
The following verse cannot be limited to a wife, for it is still defining the possession of one’s vessel, and using her for concupiscence is far too restrictive.
Rather it fits better as referring to the body of either sex (II Cor 4:7; I Sam 21:5).
Fornication is a unique sin in this sense – it is against the body (I Cor 6:13b-20).
All natural sexual acts are honourable in marriage, but not outside it (Heb 13:4).
Paul kept his body under, which was to rule and control it holily (I Cor 9:27).
And God calls us to sacrifice our bodies to His perfect and holy will (Rom 12:1).
What is the “know how” here? The commandment is more than a bare prohibition.
Opportunities for temptation cannot be allowed here (Rom 13:14; Matt 5:29-30), regardless of how slight or “innocent,” as the temptation for this sin is great.
Consider the wise man’s warning against even getting close (Prov 4:14-15; 5:8).
Men are tempted by sight, so they must guard watching and reading (Ps 101:3).
Every young man should learn the Word of God and trust it on this subject as much as he does on creation or any other matter (Psalm 119:9,128).
Every young man should be heavily charged with school and/or work to keep his mind and body occupied with productive and good things for his great drive.
Women are tempted by emotions, so they must resist male friends and avoid flattery and praise and the telephone (Genesis 34:1-3; Prov 30:19; Hosea 2:14).
Fornication is impossible without being in private with other than your spouse.
God plants inhibitions in Christian children that is only undone slowly by a steady diet of carnal thinking, talking, viewing, reading, friends, and influences.
Every young man ought to remember the wonderful example of Joseph (Gen 39:7-20).
4:5 Fornication and concupiscence are characteristics of those who do not know God.
Concupiscence. Eager or vehement desire, esp. libidinous desire, sexual appetite, lust.
Paul admitted this sin had been in his life by the law against lust (Rom 7:7-8).
Paul further listed this sin with several other sexual sins of the flesh (Col 3:5).
Paul defines this sin of the Gentiles with other words very plainly (Eph 4:17-19).
It is a society that has forgotten God that obsesses with fornication, as America in 2002.
There are two ways to live sexually – disciplined for marriage or undisciplined in lust.
God created, exalted, and protected marriage; and woe to those who violate it (He 13:4).
He is coming to judge this world for this “innocent and pleasant” sin (Ephesians 5:5-7).
4:6 Sexual sins, especially adultery, defraud other parties and will bring God’s judgment.
“Defrauding” here is taking another person’s rightful spouse for your own pleasure.
God condemned adultery for the violence it does to two other parties (Exodus 20:14).
Paul had warned and testified while present in Thessalonica that God will avenge all those who steal sexual pleasure from any other than their spouse (Hebrews 13:4).
We are not libertarians in such matters – who condone all such “victimless” crimes.
What in the world can be wrong with casual sex between two willing parties?
If both parties are willing and they both get pleasure, how can it be wrong?
The flesh can agree with the world and Satan about this matter very easily.
But God said it; we believe it; and that settles it. It is wrong, wrong, wrong!
And while we can see and measure some consequences, we do not see them all.
Here is a secret about the future of casual sex participants – they are in hell (Rev 21:8).
Fornication is as anti-God as much as any idol-kissing, child-sacrificing devilish rite.
So we must not only avoid it directly, we must avoid thinking about it (Pr 24:9), learning about it (Rom 16:19), talking about it (Eph 5:12), reading about it, watching it (Ps 101:3), befriending it (Rom 1:32), excusing it (Eph 5:11).
God blasts various aspects of this sin with several words – whoremongering, chambering, concupiscence, uncleanness, filthiness, incontinent, lasciviousness, strange woman, harlot, whore, and wantonness.
There is an overwhelming approval of casual sex in our present generation.
Every married person who would never commit adultery should remember that limiting their spouse’s sexual pleasure in manner or frequency is also defrauding (I Cor 7:5).
4:7 God calls His children to live a life of holiness, rather than a life of sexual uncleanness.
Uncleanness is a large category of sexual sins, especially by its plain context here.
Holiness in sexual matters is primarily the matter of consideration here.
God has called us to be holy, for He is holy (Leviticus 19:1-2; I Peter 1:14-16).
We can never please Him, walk with Him, or dwell with Him without being holy.
4:8 Sexual sins are defiant acts against the ordinance of God and against His Holy Spirit.
A sexual sin definitely harms innocent parties, but the sin is primarily against God.
David confessed his adultery as being against God and only God (Psalm 51:4).
For there is little motivation in self-loving man to consider feelings of another.
Therefore, sexual sin is more than just altering the order or value of marriage.
Since the Holy Spirit has been given to us and abides in us, sexual sins are unique in their involvement of the Holy Ghost, as Paul argues closely elsewhere (I Cor 6:12-20).
4:9 Leaving sexual sins, Paul admits the Thessalonians had been taught about love by God.
Due to internal instruction by God of brotherly love, Paul’s instruction was not needed.
They were already doing what God had taught them by His Spirit in regeneration.
However, due to weakness of the flesh, they needed his constant ministerial exhortation.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and in its germ form in the heart is taught by God (Ga 5:22).
4:10 Yet Paul is not content with their great love of one another and so exhorts them to more.
Here we have the identification of those we are to love with brotherly love – saints.
Though they had shown such exceptional love, true ministers exhorted them to more.
4:11 It is an apostolic tradition for saints to work diligently and quietly in their own vocation.
Comparing Scripture helps to see the problem existing at Thessalonica (II Thes 3:6-15).
The first epistle was to comfort and encourage, so no rebuke. What wisdom!
But there were problems, (1) as an apostle would detect instantly, (2) as Paul shows by addressing vocational integrity in the first epistle (I Thess 4:11-12), and (3) as he admits clearly in this plain passage from the second epistle.
The disorderly problem was slothfulness and being busybodies (II Thess 3:11).
The ministers addressed this in person and carefully provided a good example.
The use of “disorderly” and “quietness” are defined plainly by context here.
“Disorderly” occurs three times here and no where else in the Bible.
Ignore those declaring others in “disorder” for matters of liberty and who would never prosecute a church member for sins as minor as these.
These verses teach church discipline for job performance (3:6,14-15), which shows the great importance of keeping a holy church body, even in such matters.
The gospel is enhanced or hindered by our work ethic (Tit 2:9-10; I Tim 6:1-5).
Study to be quiet = apply yourselves privately, peacefully to simple virtuous conduct in your profession and avoid temptations of strife, noisy company, and busybodies.
Paul defines quietness as avoiding intrusion into others’ lives (II Thess 3:11-12).
Paul condemns the clamour of tumults and swellings (II Cor 12:20-21; Ep 4:31).
The wise man declared the preeminence of quietness (Proverbs 17:1; Eccl 4:6).
David condemned foolish man for creating noise in his life for money (Ps 39:6).
We can sin here by talking too much with others and worrying about their lives.
Women who do not work and use modern conveniences can sin (I Tim 5:13-14).
Yet, in its proper place we are to care much for the things of others (Phil 2:3-4).
Study to do your own business = apply yourselves to obtain a career for yourselves and avoid that temptation to interfere or inquire foolishly into the affairs of others.
God hates busybodies, when we all have much to do (I Tim 5:13-14; I Pet 4:15).
Each man should be focused on acquiring and developing his trade successfully.
Study to work with your own hands = apply yourselves diligently with productive labor at your own trade to provide your own necessities without any need of charity.
Each man should work with his own abilities to provide all he needs (Eph 4:28).
Diligent labor was godly before the Fall and still is afterwards (Gen 2:15; 3:19).
A man who does not provide for his own is worse than an infidel (I Tim 5:8).
A man who does not provide for his own is to be starved (Pr 20:4; II Thes 3:10).
A sin of Sodom was abundance of idleness, as in America today (Ezek 16:49).
We believe in charity (Acts 2:44-45; I John 3:17; I Tim 6:17-19), but we do not believe in covering foolishness or slothfulness or sharing income equally.
Paul and his fellow ministers had taught them such practical things when they were there, which is a good lesson for God’s ministers to promote very practical instruction.
These matters are included in knowing how to walk and to please God (4:1-2).
The Bible is filled with practical advice on business, economics, finance, money, employment, marriage, parenting, sex, relationships, etc.
4:12 There are two noble reasons for saints to work diligently and quietly at their own jobs.
We want an honest reputation with the world, which sees and measures us vocationally.
A large part of ministerial qualification is to check their reputations (I Tim 3:7).
If a man is foolish with his profession or money, he is a fool (Luke 16:10-12).
We can adorn the doctrine of God with our work ethic (Tit 2:9-10; I Tim 6:1-5).
We can adorn the doctrine of God with our prudence (Prov 14:23; 28:19).
We want the financial means to provide all our needs without relying on any others.
The want of things is a self-imposed, foolish temptation to theft (Prov 30:7-9).
We want to have sufficient means to be able to help those in need (Eph 4:28).
4:13 Paul warned them against ignorance leading to excessive sorrow at death like the pagans.
Proper teaching and preaching will save saints from ignorance and its consequences.
Ignorance is the blight of man – he is born ignorant and learns nothing, blinded and hardened by a sovereign Power (Isaiah 44:16-20; Ps 49:6-14; John 8:44-45).
He sent apostles, prophets, evangelists, and bishops for knowledge (Ep 4:11-14).
His pastors provide knowledge and understanding, not entertainment (Jer 3:15).
There is a particular battle of our spiritual warfare against the coming of Jesus Christ.
Satan cannot have us filled with hope, for he has none himself, the world would not attract us, we would greatly seek holiness, and we could bear all persecution.
There have been attempts to destroy the hope and truth of the resurrection from the beginning (I Cor 15:12; II Thess 2:1-3; II Tim 2:16-18).
Pagans, who live and think according to Satan, are without hope (Eph 2:1-3).
The rejection of true baptism – by burial and resurrection in water – by many so-called Christians forfeits the figure of the resurrection (I Cor 15:29; I Pet 3:21).
There are facts to be known about the dead – the righteous dead – that will comfort us.
We should comfort one another with these facts as part of our fellowship (4:18).
Evil communications – false ideas of the resurrection – will ruin us (I Co 15:33).
Knowledge of Jesus Christ without hope of heaven is only misery (I Cor 15:19).
The world, because it has no hope of the hereafter, sorrow excessively about death.
Sickness, death, and funerals are horrible events to the average unbeliever.
They hide them all in sterilized hospitals, mortuaries, crematoriums, etc.
We here encounter the word “sleep” referring to those who have died in the Lord.
Their bodies are merely sleeping in the ground waiting for the resurrection.
Their spirits and souls are in heaven very alive in God’s presence (Heb 12:23).
This use of “sleep” is comforting and common (I Kings 1:21; 2:10; Matt 27:52; Luke 8:52-53; John 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 13:36; I Cor 15:6,18; II Peter 3:4).
While there is much to be commended regarding Preterist understanding of Scripture, there is also much danger and a severe lack of rightly dividing the Word of truth.
We are partial Preterists by our understanding of the significance of 70 A.D. and the numerous passages in the New Testament fulfilled by that remarkable event.
But we also understand Paul’s strong warning about rightly dividing Scripture, which dividing would not be taught unless there were divisions to make.
The full Preterist position has no hope, as there is nothing better to come.
There is no resurrection in the future, for it already occurred in 70 A.D.
They are so guilty of the very heresy Paul condemned (II Tim 2:16-18).
There was no resurrection then of the just and unjust (Jn 5:28; Ac 24:15).
The Lord Jesus has not yet put down all rule and authority (I Cor 15:24).
They provide no time for fulfilling Daniel’s prophecies of many years.
They provide no time for the falling away – apostasy – Paul required.
They provide no time for establishing the Man of Sin in God’s temple.
They hold the strange position that we are to take the world for Christ.
4:14 The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that His elect will also be raised from the dead.
If we believe that Jesus died, then He must have died so that others would live also.
If we believe that Jesus rose, then He has won victory over death His saints shall enjoy.
Those who die in the Lord are not lost – they will be delivered to us again in the future.
The saints who have already died – gone to sleep in Jesus – are with Him (Heb 12:23).
Leaving the body – separation of soul and body – is to be with Christ (II Cor 5:6-8).
Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of them that sleep – He will raise them also (I Cor 15:20).
4:15 Paul gives inspired teaching as to the order of events at the final coming of Jesus Christ.
The instruction we are about to receive cannot be learned from man or any observation in creation – it is by the pure revelation of God to His apostles and prophets.
Thank God for His inspired Scriptures, which reveal the mysteries of the gospel.
What hopelessness awaits those trusting man’s educational institutions, scientific research, psychoanalysis, or any other field of human inquiry.
Those saints still living at the coming of Christ will not preceed those already dead.
Prevent. To come, arrive, or appear before, to precede; to outrun, outstrip.
Much comfort exists regarding the dead, as they will be first in the resurrection.
4:16 Paul further details some of the events that will take place our Lord’s second coming.
The Lord shall descend from heaven, as He departed – bodily and visibly (Acts 1:9-11).
He Himself shall descend – this is not a figurative descent of national judgment.
He is in the third heaven, and He will come from there (Lu 23:43; II Co 12:1-4).
He will descend with a powerful shout, just as He plainly described (John 5:25-29).
The voice of Jesus Christ is glorious in power (Luke 4:33-37; Psalm 29:7; 33:9).
He called the dead to life while on earth (John 11:43-44; Luke 7:1-18; 8:52-56).
It is the voice of the Son of God that is the instrumental cause of regeneration.
It is the voice of the Son of God that is the instrumental cause of resurrection.
These words announce and define two resurrections taught elsewhere (Re 20:6).
The voice of a mere preacher or evangelist is not used at all in either quickening.
The archangel will assist Him.
Archangel. An angel of the highest rank. Arch. In titles of office, rank, or dignity: meaning, ‘Chief, principal, -in-chief; superior, master-; one who occupies a position or rank above those who bear the simple title’; as Archbishop, Archdeacon, Archduke.
Jesus Christ is coming with many angels (II Thess 1:7).
The trumpet of God will sound.
It is called the last trumpet (I Cor 15:52).
So how many trumpets should we expect after His coming?
The dead in Christ shall rise first.
What shall rise? Their bodies of course, because that is all that is buried.
Where are their souls? Coming with Christ in the air to be reunited to bodies.
Paul answered foolish questions about bodies like so: “Thou fool” (I Co 15:36)!
There are not multiple resurrections as modern speculators imagine, for Paul taught plainly that there shall be one resurrection of the just and unjust (Acts 24:15).
4:17 Paul then describes what will happen to us who are still alive when this event occurs.
Since the living require no resurrection, they shall be caught up body, soul, and spirit.
We shall be caught up to the first heaven and meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air.
This is better than walking on water, for we will be suspended by divine power.
And so shall we ever be with the Lord, in a glorified body, soul, and spirit.
“Then cometh the end,” for our resurrection brings the end of this world (I Cor 15:24).
He is reigning now, but He has not put down all rule, authority, and power.
He will deliver up the kingdom to God, when we shall be declared His forever.
We shall meet the Lord Jesus in the air, as He does not return for a place on this earth.
Christ-hating Jews and the followers of their fables hallucinate about Jerusalem.
C.I. Scofield and other carnal Israelites miss the entire New Testament.
Jerusalem, Israel, that now is, has less to do with Jesus than does San Francisco.
The Ashkenazi Jews have infected the world with their nationalist ambitions, but we know that all property promises to Israel have been fulfilled (Josh 21:43-45).
4:18 The truth of future events should cause us to comfort one another with this great hope.
“Wherefore” indicates that good reason has just been given for our mutual comfort.
Comfort. To strengthen (morally or spiritually); to encourage, hearten, inspirit, incite.
Can there be any greater encouragement in the face of tribulation (Rom 8:18)?
Can there be any greater motivation to hate the sins of this world (Phil 3:20-21)?
Can there be any greater hopefulness for those losing loved ones (Jn 11:20-27)?
Comforting “one another” emphasizes the action of one individual comforting another, which would bring great good in each body of Christ if done widely and fervently.
Paul admits before closing they comforted each other, but he sought more (5:11,14).
Their mutual comforting was to be based specifically on the glorious words of revelation and promise he had given them – the specific events of our Lord’s coming.
The saving power of resurrection truth – the hope of something far better than this life to motivate us to service – is only as good as our memory of it (I Cor 15:2; Col 1:23).
Our conversation is in heaven – after the resurrection – with new bodies (Phil 3:18-21).
Every baptism witnessed by saints ought to cause rejoicing (I Peter 3:21; I Cor 15:29).
The gospel is full of blessed hope, and we should never let Satan, the world, or our flesh steal it from us. These three conspiring enemies want to destroy our great hope.
What a chapter! Reminders of holiness and pleasing God! Warnings against fornication! Exhortations to brotherly love and vocational diligence! And comfort and hope in the coming of Jesus Christ!
What affect should the coming of Christ have in our lives? If you knew He was coming tomorrow, what you do today? Why should we not live this way every day, for we know not when He is coming!
One of us shall likely die soon, unless the Lord comes quickly. Are we full of confidence about them?