We’re going to be looking at 1 Thes 4:1-12 this Sunday. (The Message version)
When Tim came back with his report about the young church in Thessalonica, he obviously saw that they had some things “lacking in their faith”, as Paul stated last chapter. That is, there were things they weren’t so clear on…things they hadn’t learned yet, or didn’t understand…and even things that needed to be changed in their lifestyles that would more properly reflect the faith that they had embraced.
So, Paul sets about to encourage them. They were under a lot of pressure from the people of their society to revert back to their former lifestyles. All Christians face that pressure, even if its just through the constant bombardment of popular media…we are all under pressure to be “normal“.
But Paul reminds the Thessalonians that Christians just ain’t that way…normal, that is. That’s basically what he’s getting across in v1-3a (especially in 3a). When you hear the word “sanctification”, what does it make you think of? That word is intimidating…and I may be way oversimplifying the concept…but it carries the idea of being “set apart” from the normal practices and attitudes of the world, and set apart to God’s character and values. In other words…we are no longer normal by the world’s standard. (So…obviously, this means “normal” from the world’s perspective…not God’s)
Now v3-5 Paul talks about how a Christian’s attitude toward sexuality deviates from the normal pattern of the world. How is it different? How important does this seem, as you consider Paul’s wording? Does this seem like a “petty” issue to you, based on these passages?
In v6-8, while the wording in English seems to indicate the same context as the previous verses…the original isn’t quite that clear…and I feel safer taking the straightforward meaning of “defraud” , which means to take advantage of or steal from…or cheat. We can apply those concepts to sexuality, but not as directly as we could to our business dealings. I could be wrong…but I think Paul has changed the subject, moving from our attitudes about sex to our attitudes about personal gain. If that’s the context, how is a Christian’s attitude toward personal gain a deviation from the world’s norm? Which number does the world tell us to look out for? Again…does Paul seem to consider these insignificant matters that we can take or leave?
In v8-10 Paul comes back to the subject of brotherly love. He indicates that they already walk differently from the world’s norms in this area, but he wants them to increase in the expression of it. Why not just say “good job” and leave it there?
V11-12 provides the last example of how a Christian should live, and it provides another incentive besides just being pleasing to God (which is our primary motive)…what is it? What does living this way do?
Stuff to ponder….see yer’ Sundee.