LIVING TO PLEASE GOD
I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Living to please God should be the goal of every Christian. Who are you trying to please with your life? Are you living to please God?
In our text for this sermon, Christians are challenged to live lives which are pleasing to God. There is an exhortation to live to please God in verse 1. Then there is an explanation of what lifestyle pleases God in verses 2-12. If Christians wish to live lives that are pleasing to God, they must live holy lives, harmonious lives, and honest lives.
I. THE EXHORTATION TO PLEASE GOD (I THESS. 4:1)
Everybody lives to please someoneeither self or someone else. Christians should live to please God. The desire of Pauls heart was for the Thessalonian Christians (and all Christians) to live in such a manner. In I Thessalonians 3:13, he expressed a prayer that they might be established in holinessTo the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. Then in I Thessalonians 4:1, he exhorted them to live lives that pleased God. Notice with me the spirit of the exhortation and the substance of the exhortation.
A The Spirit of The Exhortation (4:1a)
1. Two verbs are used to stress Pauls sense of the vital importance of maintaining proper Christian conduct.
The verb translated beseech conveys the thought of a friend entreating a friend.
And the verb exhort has the force of urge, exhort, appeal, and carries an arousing note.
Together beseech and exhort convey the ideas of gentle petition and tender request. The present tense of both verbs indicates continuing actionwe continue to request and urge you.
By the Lord Jesus indicates that their union with Christ is the basis for the request and exhortation. The phrase may also point to the authority that Christ has over believers.
The endearing term brethren pointed to the spiritual brotherhood that exists in Christ. Christians share the new birth and salvation life through faith in Christ.
B. The Substance of The Exhortation (4:1b)
As ye have received of us reminded the readers that what Paul was asking was nothing new.
Received was used here as a technical expression for their reception of authoritative Christian teaching.
These instructions had been given while the missionaries were at Thessalonica. Of us pointed out that the missionaries had personally transmitted these instructions to their converts.
How ye ought to walk and to please God states the substance or essence of the exhortation.
The word for ought is usually translated must and denotes the compulsion of duty. It stresses a moral obligation because of their personal relations to the Lord. Christian living is not a casual option but a compelling obligation.
To walk and to please God are not two separate and distinct activities. Walk always emphasizes personal behavior or godly lifestyle. Pleasing God is the outcome of walking (living) properly before God.
The expression to walk and to please God is parallel to that you should walk worthy of God (2:12). Living to please God sums up the thought of these expressions.
Christians must continue so to walk, a common figure for moral conduct, that by their conduct they will please God.
So ye would abound more and more is actually a compliment and a challenge.
Paul recognized that they were already engaged in living to please God.
Abound more and more indicates that their lives already reflected the influence of Christ but Paul wanted this quality to increase to overflowing proportions.
That Paul does not name any specific quality in which they are to abound indicates that the exhortation applied to every area of their lives.
II. THE EXPLANATION OF LIVING TO PLEASE GOD (I THESS. 4:2-12)
The apostle exhorted these and all Christians to live lives that are pleasing to God. Paul explained that living to please God means that Christians must live holy lives, harmonious and honest lives.
A. Live Holy Lives (4:2-8)
1. A clarification of holy living is given in verses 2-6a.
A reminder of past commandments was given in verse 2.
Commandments was a semi-military term referring to orders handed down from a superior.
By the Lord Jesus indicates that Jesus is actually the superior who handed down the orders.
What the missionaries had taught them was that which had the authority and approval of Jesus behind it.
In particular the commandments had instructed them that it is the will of God for Christians to abstain from sexual impurity (vv. 3-6a).
The will of God is a descriptive phrase referring to Gods plan for their lives. Part of Gods will for a Christian is sanctification or being set apart to or dedicated to God. The term describes the process of reaching the state of holiness expressed in 3:13 the process of becoming like God who is holy. Your defines this sanctifying process as Gods will for the readers personally.
The application of Gods will concerning their sanctification finds expression in three demands. They were to abstain from fornication (v. 3b). Abstain means to "hold ones self off from, to keep away from." The present tense denotes that Christians are to constantly keep away from fornication. Fornication translates a comprehensive term denoting every kind of unlawful sexual activity. Gods will for these Christians also included knowing how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor (vv. 4-5). To know means to understand how one must act in this matter. The root meaning of possess is "to acquire or purchase something." Here it probably means, "to acquire mastery over." Vessel most likely refers to ones own body here. In sanctification and honor means to control ones body in order to bring glory to God.
Living in sanctification and honor contrasts to living according to ones passions and lusts as the Gentiles did (v. 5). Not in the lust of concupiscence describes a living according to the desires of the flesh. Christians must not allow their desires to dominate them and make them slaves of passion.
Even as the Gentiles which know not God indicates that a life governed by ones passions is the lifestyle of a non-Christian.
Finally the will of God for these Christians, identified as their sanctification, including avoiding wronging ones brother (v. 6) Go beyond and defraud concerns the reaching beyond that which belongs to someone. Go beyond carries the thought of passing over the line that divides right from wrong. The present tense with the negative has the force of that there be no going beyond. Thus Paul asserted that sexual sin doesnt just affect the one who is impure, but it violates the lives of others as well. The verb translated wrong has the root meaning of to have more, and so is used to mean to take advantage of, to defraud, to cheat. The present tense prohibits the continuation of such a practice. Brother refers to the husband of any woman with whom one had an adulterous affair. In any matter applies this instruction to any occurrence of moral impurity.
2. A confirmation of the calling to holiness as a lifestyle is found in verse 7.
Immorality must be avoided because it is inconsistent with Gods gracious call to salvation.
The tense of called indicates a past historical eventtheir conversion.
God is the one who issued the call. Ye were called brings out the fact that God took the initiative in bringing men to salvation.
Gods purpose in calling to salvation was not for uncleanness but unto holiness. But marks the strong contrast between these two conditions.
Uncleanness is a general term for moral impurity, which expressed itself in many ways.
Holiness refers to the progressive holiness of growing in the Christian life. The ones who are called must follow through in their call to progressive holiness.
3. A caution against living impure lives is given in verses 6b and 8.
The reason for the caution is that the Lord is the avenger of all such (v.6b).
The Lord is characterized as the avenger or one who punishes or extracts legal justice from a wrongdoer. He satisfies justice by inflicting due punishment upon the wrong doer.
In all such refers to the different forms of sexual impurity.
As we have forewarned you and testified describes Pauls previous warnings of Gods judgment against sin.
Testified adds solemnity to what was taught to them. It has the force of solemnly affirmed and was meant to penetrate their consciences and to awaken them to the truth of the matter.
A caution is issued also against rejecting or setting aside Gods demand for sexual purity (v.8).
Despiseth means to set aside, to nullify, to make void, cancel. He therefore that despiseth describes one who takes Gods demand so lightly that he makes it void by refusing to obey it.
Despiseth not man but God means that the one who rejects the divine call to holiness and maintains that he can go on living in uncleanness rejects God. (To reject Gods word on a matter is to reject God Himself.)
The God who demands moral purity is the one who gives the Holy Spirit to believerswho hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.
The obligation to live holy lives arises out of the reception of the Holy Spirit who makes us holy. For a Christian to continue in impurity is a sin against the Holy Spirit and an insult to the One who gave Him to us.
B. Live Harmonious Lives (4:9-10)
A commendation for their brotherly love is given in verse 9a.
Their love of the brethren is commended by the assertion that it is subject about which they need not be written to (v.9a).
But marks the transition to a new topic. The paragraph offers a further elaboration of what is involved in a God-pleasing life.
The statement in verse 9a implies a contrast with the preceding paragraph; there was need for the warning concerning sexual impurity.
This commendation of their love for the brethren was an honest and courteous recognition of an attractive feature of the Thessalonian Church.
Brotherly love in the New Testament always denotes love for fellow believers. The term spoke of a close and tender relationship. The missionaries gladly acknowledged that on this subject the readers had no need to be instructed further.
A confirmation that these Christians were practicing brotherly love is given in verses 9b-10a.
For ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another is confirmatory evidence for the preceding statement of fact: But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you.
Taught of God signifies the teaching in their hearts by God Himself through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
To love one another conveys not only the content of the teaching but also the purpose or aim of the teaching. The word for love here is the word meaning the God-kind of love rather than the word for brotherly love. The present tense indicates that this love is to be a continual, habitual practice. The reciprocal pronoun (one another) indicates that this love is to be mutual.
These Christians did not need to be urged to acquire this virtue because they were already practicing it (v.10a).
And indeed ye do it is in the present tense indicating that it was their continuing practice.
Toward points to the destination of this love, it is a love that reaches out unto all the brethren which are in Macedonia. Their expression of love was as wide as their opportunities.
Along with the commendation in verse 9a and the confirmation in verses 9b-10a, the apostle gave a challenge for these believers to increase in this kind of love in verse 10bBut we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more.
The verb translated beseech conveys a feeling of tender personal concern yet leaves no doubt as to the urgency of the exhortation.
Brethren marks the exhortation as grounded in the spiritual brotherhood into which the readers had been brought.
That ye increase more and more expresses the desire of the missionaries that the Thessalonian Christians, and all Christians, would be more active and increase to an overflowing measure in their love for on another. In their practice of love, Christians can never sit back satisfied and feel that they have done enough. Love must be always be stretching out after a closer approximation to the divine standard of love in Christ.
C. Live Honest Lives (4:11-12)
This exhortation to live honest lives is twofold in its application: mind your own business and manage your own behavior.
The exhortation to mind your own business has three facets (v.11). In all probability, these exhortations were intended primarily to be preventative in nature.
1. The first facet of the exhortation dealt with a need for calmness of spirit. And that ye study to be quiet dealt with the problem of mental agitation or excitement.
This excitement was due perhaps to the new salvation experience and hopes which had gripped their minds. No doubt, the teaching concerning the return of Christ had much to do with their agitation as well.
The apostle was not cautioning them concerning the joyful and excited attitude of being a Christian. Instead he was dealing with a fanatical frame of mind that caused them to be meddlesome and idle.
Study literally means to be ambitious for, to strive eagerly to bring something to pass. The idea seems to be seek earnestly to be quiet.
To be quiet basically means to be at rest and was used of silence after speech, rest after labor, peace after war, etc. Here it is used to urge the living of a calm restful life.
The present tense of study and to be quiet stresses that they must constantly strive to lead such a life.
Instead of allowing them to succumb to fanatical excitement, Paul recalled them to restfulness of mind and a balanced outlook upon life. If they would develop a quiet, restful attitude, the outward manifestations of restlessness or agitation would cease.
2. A second facet of the exhortation dealt with meddlesomenessand to do your own business.
To do means to busy oneself with, to be occupied with, to practice, hence, to mind or give attention to your own business, more literally, your own things, your own personal affairs. The present tense verb points to this as their continual duty.
Christians are to serve God by a faithful performance of their own individual responsibilities. We are to have the habit of attending to our own duties.
This is a warning against meddling into the business of others. We are to have proper concern for the needs of others, but we must not neglect our own responsibilities in an attempt to interfere with someone elses duties.
3. A third facet of this exhortation to mind your own business has to do with idlenessand to work with your own hands.
The reference is to manual labor. Excitement about the future must not keep these Christians from their daily responsibilities. The present tense marks working with their own hands as their standing duty.
As we commanded you reminded the readers that these demands were not new to them. The tense of commanded indicated that the missionaries had given them explicit instructions on these issues while they were still with them.
For the people to mind their own business would result in the purpose that they manage their own behavior (v.12).
Basically Paul was telling these Christians to keep a good testimony so that they could maintain their witness to those who were outside the Christian faith.
The word honestly means in good form, in an honorable manner, so as to cause no offense.
To walk honestly is to behave properly.
Christians can never be indifferent to the impact that their behavior will have on unbelievers.
Toward them that are without describes the non-believers, the unsaved. Proper behavior by a Christian will influence people positively.
That ye may have lack of nothing is related to working for a living.
Perhaps some of these Christians were taking advantage of the brotherly love and being unnecessarily dependent upon the other Christians.
Paul urged them to work and look after their own duties so that they would have the ability to provide for their own material needs.
By doing so, they would maintain a good testimony toward the lost.
All of these truths are basic to a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. Who are you trying to please with your life? Are you living to please God? The life that pleases God is a life that is holy harmonious, and honest. We have been given the exhortation to live to please God and the explanation as how we can live to please God. What then will be the goal of our lives? Will we purpose to live our lives to please God, to please ourselves, or to please someone else?