"To Please God" Page 2 of 2 (series: lessons on 1 Thess.)
by John Lowe
There are many things Christians can do and not lose their salvation and burn in hell; but there are many things Christians should not do because they are Christians. We are the children of God, and the world judges God by our daily living. Those who will not read the Bible will read every move we make and every word we speak. Someone has said, “You are the only Bible this careless world will read. You are the sinner’s Gospel; you are the scoffer’s creed.” Paul who has this truth in mind as he begs the believers at Thessalonica to be sanctified in soul, spirit and body, to live blameless and above reproach, because they are in the church in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:15-19).
The duty of pleasing God day by day in every aspect of living was a part of Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians. He declared that all they did, all they said and all that they were should be in the light of “pleasing God.” In verse 2:4 Paul speaks of himself and Silas as being governed in everything they did by the thought of “pleasing God,” and in verse 15 of chapter 2 Paul pours out judgment and condemnation on the Jews because they were not pleasing God. The conduct of the believer—always, in all things—should please God, and if we do not please Him we are automatically displeasing Him, because there is no middle-of-the-road with God.
Everybody lives to please somebody. Many people live to please themselves. They have no sensitivity to the needs of others. Christians cannot go through life pleasing only themselves “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). Religion is a life which finds its chief joy in divine approval—“And to please God.” It is, possible, then, to live in a manner that pleases God. What a powerful incentive that is to a holy life―the Lord takes pleasure in His people! We can rise no higher in moral excellence than to be acceptable to God. To enjoy the sense of His approval fills the cup of happiness to the brim.
We like to look forward to the day when we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But, my friend, in the meantime our feet are down here on the ground and we need to do some walking. We are to walk in a way that will please God. How do we know what pleases God? The same way we know what pleases an earthly father. By listening to him and living with him. As we read the Word, and as we fellowship in worship and service, we get to know the heart of God; and this opens us up to the will of God.
Paul was admonishing the believers—not censuring them. He was sure they were walking in the true path1, but he wished with all of his heart that they would continue in that straight and narrow way. He urged them to continue walking as they had walked; he did not want them to come to a spiritual standstill. He wanted them to abound “more and more,” to become stronger and stronger and to launch more deeply into spiritual things, thereby becoming better soldiers in the great army of the Lord.
Nowhere does Paul complain that the Thessalonians had not been living out the Christian life. They had heeded the exhortation when it was originally given (1:34, 6-10, etc.), and Timothy’s report showed that they were still putting it into practice. He lets them know that he has not forgotten their achievement. But the Christian can never rest satisfied. So Paul urges them to venture further into spiritual things. The substance of his exhortation is that they should abound “more and more.” Here Paul is concerned with the thought that Christians are to grow continually. Their lives are to be far from static. Ironically, it can be said of them that they are the slaves of Christ and at the same
time that they are the freest of people. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
The Thessalonians are under the necessity of living to please God, but far from leading them into a narrow and cramped existence; this opened for them the door to the abundant life. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
Special notes and Scripture
1) The exhortation and instruction given by Paul is based upon the report brought back by Timothy.
2) He is concerned with the whole of the Christian life, “how you must walk and please God, and then, he goes on to speak of “abounding.” “Walk” is commonly employed, especially by Paul and John, as a way of referring to the entirety of a believer’s manner of living (2:2).
3) “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.”(2 Corinthians 4:2)
4) “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
This gives a reminder that their conversion bound them over to a life of obedience. For they had been ransomed from the dominion of sin in order to serve the Lord in perfect freedom “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
. What Paul therefore means is that he had delivered these charges2 to them on the authority of the Lord Jesus. As an apostle in living union with Christ, Paul’s commission is not limited to recalling the words of Jesus; the absolute authority he claims for these commandments is that of the exalted Lord himself. The magnitude of this claim should make those who parade their fresh revelations today pause and ponder whether they really measure up to it!
In this letter Paul is reminding the believers of the things he taught them while he was with them and to assure his readers that he is doing no more than to lead them along the way he had showed them then. “You know,” he said, calling them to witness to the truth of what he is saying. In verse 11 we read, “and that ye study to be quiet . . . Do your own business . . . . Work with your own hands . . . as we commanded you.” Also note 2 Thessalonians 3:4. Here the Greek word suggests an announcement (or advice) publicly delivered. In 1 Timothy 1:3 and 18 the heart and soul of practical teaching as having to do with Christianity is referred to as a “charge.”
The exhortation (or charge) is given “by the authority of the Lord Jesus”; it did not originate with Paul. Notice 2 Thessalonians 3:6: “. . . in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This admonition appealed to the believers as having to do with their standing and relationship to Christ, who is coming in glory to reward each and every believer in righteousness. Since we know that He will come “as a thief in the night” we should be alert and blameless every moment of every day. These were not new charges or new commandments delivered unto the believers at Thessalonica, for they well remembered Paul’s preaching while he was with them in person.
Special notes and Scripture
1) The exhortation and instruction given by Paul is based upon the reporter brought back by Timothy.
2) The word “charges” has a military flavor and “is strictly used for commands received from a superior and transmitted to others”―“who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” (Acts 16:24).