"To Please God" Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
Lesson : To Please God (1Th 4:1-2)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (NIV)
1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are complete in themselves, carrying a complete message for the believers in Thessalonica. Paul had accomplished the chief object for which he began the epistle—which was that of assuring the believers of his deep interest in their welfare (spiritually and otherwise), and to express to them heartfelt sympathy because of their persecution as well as explaining how he had longed to return to them but Satan had prevented his doing so. These things were uppermost in his mind and rested heavily upon his heart. Thus the first three chapters carry a complete message to the Christians at Thessalonica. Throughout this letter the apostle expresses his concern for spiritual advance in the Thessalonian church; the subject has come up a number of times, but in Chapter 4 he gives it more concentrated attention.
Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians addresses a very serious matter. He underlines it with the double injunction, “we ask you and urge you.” The two verbs have their own proper meanings, but in this context the difference is not important; they simply reinforce one another, and the combination gives emphasis to the apostle’s request. The affectionate “brothers” fits into this pattern, for Paul is putting the right way before people who were dear friends of his. Indeed, it is this which makes his exhortation so very important to him. He exhorts them “in the Lord Jesus.” That is to say, he is not taking up any position of superiority, nor, on the other hand, is his attitude one of hesitant timidity. He speaks as one who has authority committed to him by the Lord. He speaks as one who has “the mind of Christ” “for, ‘who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16). He speaks to people who themselves are in Christ.
However, Paul could not let the occasion go by without also admonishing and exhorting the believers concerning certain subjects and doctrines in which they needed further guidance and instruction. Chief among these was the misunderstanding that had arisen concerning the second coming of the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13; 5:11); but before Paul dealt with that subject there were a few things he wished to say to them about morals and their conduct toward each other. We will find these subjects discussed in chapter four and to some degree, in chapter five.
It is significant that Paul puts these things first in his exhortation, for surely his heart was bursting with the desire to instruct them concerning the Rapture, which he calls, “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
The Christian life can be compared to a walk. The Christian life begins with a step of faith. But that step leads to a walk of faith, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Walking suggests progress, and we must make progress in the Christian life (Philippians 3:13-16; Hebrews 6:1). Walking also demands strength, and God has promised, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).
But we must be sure to “walk in the light” for the enemy has set traps and detours to catch us (1 John 1:5-7). Of course, at the end of life’s walk, we will step into the very presence of the Lord.
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 (NIV)
1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
Paul wrote to young Christians in a
vulgar, promiscuous society much like ours to live “blameless and holy in the presence of our God” (3:13). He then instructed them on “how to live in order to please God.” God’s word reveals what to believe and how to live—a blend of belief and behavior, of words and works, and of motives and action.
It may seem strange that Paul would go to such lengths to instill sexual purity in a Christian congregation; but two things have to be remembered:
• First, the Thessalonian had only recently come into the Christian faith and they had come from a society in which chastity was an unknown virtue; they were still in the midst of such a society and the infection of it was playing upon them all the time. It would be exceedingly difficult for them to unlearn what they had for all their lives accepted as natural.
• Second, there never was an age in history when marriage vows were so disregarded and divorce so disastrously easy. The phrase which we have translated “that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable (4:4),” could be translated “that each of you may possess his own wife in consecration and in honor.”
Have you ever asked yourself questions like these? How can I please God? What are His boundaries? What does He want? What are His demands for me? In view of my love for Him, what are my obligations to Him? Paul explains it clearly “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified holy
” (4:3). I am made entirely by a specific work of God in response to my wholehearted surrender to Him. I can never grow into holiness, but once made pure and empowered by God’s Spirit, I can grow “in” holiness. The concept appears here in Paul’s sentence, “For God wants you to be holy and pure” (4:3, TLB). Throughout Scripture, God promised to deliver us not only from the punishment of sin but also from the power of sin. Thus, “conscientious obedience to the known will of God is . . . the . . . foundation for success and growth in the Christian life.” When anyone is saved by the work of Christ, they are not completely free to decide whether they will serve God or not. He has been bought with a price “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
. He has become a slave of Christ. Christian service is not an optional extra for those who like that sort of thing. It is a compelling obligation that lies on each one of the redeemed.
The redeemed of Thessalonica could certainly say, “I please God by living a holy life in an unholy world. It is also beneficial for me to experience the highest quality of life that holiness, purity, and blamelessness provide.” Paul then goes on to explain safe boundaries within which I can walk2 in joyful fellowship with Jesus. Walking is connected with pleasing God. The whole Christian life is God-centered. Christians do not “walk” with a view to obtaining the maximum amount of satisfaction for themselves but in order to please their Lord elsewhere Paul warns against walking in evil paths, (2 Cor. 4:23; 10:2).
. Paul does not specify any particular way in which they should “please” God, for he is concerned with the entirety of the individual life. Paul states specific boundaries for a life that pleases God. Though these are not the only boundaries, they are ones Paul chooses to emphasize to the young Christians in Thessalonica. God has established these boundaries for believers in all generations. That includes all of us.
Paul asks the believers at Thessalonica to consider these things because of him; they are his converts, and he does not want them to disgrace him through immorality or any other sin of the flesh or sin against each other. He also exhorts them because of their duty to Christ, since they are children of God. In other words, “because you are Christians you should practice these things every moment of everyday.”