1st Thessalonians 4:1-2--Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
When we come to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it’s not the end of some long journey to redemption. In fact, the journey is just getting started. When we bow our knee, and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit--which is He who called us to salvation in the first place--goes to work in our lives, pointing out the things we need to get rid of, and showing us how we should behave. And in the first 12 verses of this chapter, tells us three different ways the Holy Spirit does this. You see, one knock many people have against us Baptists is what they dismissively refer to as the doctrine of "once saved always saved." They see people who say, "Yeah, I got saved when I was a little boy," yet to look at their lives, they look nothing like one would expect a Christian to be. And that is what Paul is warning us about here.
First, we need to know THE WILL OF GOD.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality...
The word “sanctify” means “to set apart”. We get the word “sanctuary”, which means “a place that is set apart,” specifically for the worship of GOD. Paul is telling us that GOD’s will is for us to be “set apart” from the rest of the world. In the New Testament, many things are said to be in “the will of GOD”:
1st Timothy 2:3-4--For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Our submission to authority:
1st Peter 2:13-16--Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
1st Thessalonians 5:18--in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What do we mean by “the will of GOD”? You’ve heard the saying “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”? Or people say “GOD willing we’ll be there next week”. Some people think of the will of GOD as some particular mood He’s in on a certain day. But it is so much more than that. The will of GOD simply refers to what He wants to see in our lives.
Next we’re gonna look at AVOIDING THE WAY OF THE WORLD.
...that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God...
First, we ABSTAIN FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY.
There used to be a pattern that people followed that worked quite well. Two people would be attracted to each other. They would date for a while, get to know each other. Then they would get engaged, and marry, and then perhaps have children. But over the last 20-30 years the pattern has changed. Now, two people meet, they are attracted to each other, they jump into bed. If the girl gets pregnant, either (a) she gets an abortion or (b) they wind up living together and, maybe, one day, decide to get married. Unfortunately, there are many in the church who think that that’s not so bad. I think they need to listen to these verses:
Colossians 3:5—Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Ephesians 5:3—But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you…
Galatians 5:19—Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, etc.
1st Corinthians 6:18—Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
It took me a while to figure out that last one. This is what I think it means: Two verses before that, he writes that when two people fornicate, they become one flesh. So when you commit fornication, you are committing the other person’s sin also. In the end, we are sinning against ourselves. If I’m wrong in my interpretation, you can apologize later.
Number two, we need to POSSESS OUR VESSELS IN HONOR.
When the church starts letting the world teach us how we should deal with sex, we are in heap big trouble. But Paul says here, “Don’t act like those who don’t know GOD, and just let their bodies tell them what to do. You love GOD, and you know He doesn’t want you acting like that.” So how do we do this? How do we possess our vessels in sanctification and honor? Think about a river. Many times, they start off as a spring. Eventually, that spring fills up and spills over, and from there it goes straight downhill. And it doesn’t stop until it reaches the ocean. Sexual thoughts are like that. We let one in, and if we don’t get rid of that, another one creeps in, then another. Pretty soon, things start going downhill, if you know what I mean. GOD’s will for us is that when those thoughts come into our mind, we get rid of them as quickly as possible.
James 1:12-15—Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for…he will receive the crown of life…Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. He lets Satan do that. GOD will allow temptation to come into our lives. He won’t tempt us, but he will allow us to be tempted. Now listen to this last part of this passage from James. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires…Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. That is the difference between holding onto temptation and letting go of it. That is the difference between life and death. The will of God is our sanctification: that we should abstain from sexual immorality; that we should know how to possess our own vessel in sanctification and honor.
DON'T DISRESPECT OUR NEIGHBOR.
...that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
There’s another way to translate this verse. You can find it in Exodus 20:17—Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife… That word “defraud” means “to gain or take advantage of another, to overreach.” What happens when you do overreach, and covet your neighbor’s wife? What happens when desire gives birth to sin and sin brings forth death? In 2nd Samuel 11, we see the story of David and Bathsheba. David saw a woman bathing, asked who she was. When he found out she was the wife of one of his generals, he went ahead and slept with her anyway. She got pregnant while her husband was away. So David sent word to his general to have Uriah killed...“But make it look like an accident.”
It says here in 1st Thessalonians that GOD is an avenger of all such. The child died when he was 7 days old, and David lost his kingdom. That’s quite a different picture than the world paints about sex. Remember that movie “Indecent Proposal”? Robert Redford's character offered Woody Harrelson's character one million dollars to sleep with Woody Harrelson's wife, played by Demi Moore. Eventually, Demi Moore, against her husband's wishes, agreed to the deal. What was her justification? “It’s just sex.” When we go forth and defraud our neighbor by coveting his wife, and after desire gives birth to sin, and sin brings forth death, GOD will avenge these things.
Then Paul says, DON'T DESPISE THESE COMMANDS.
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
When we commit a sin that harms another person, we haven’t sinned against men, we have sinned against GOD.
Luke 10:16—"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."
Psalm 51:3-4—…I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.
Finally, we WALK THE WALK OF LIFE.
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more...
First, we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
These people knew how to love one another. And you know, when we come together with other believers, we should feel the love that each one of us has for one another. And as Paul says here, I would urge us all to increase that love more and more. Because there is no weapon that Satan can use against love. Galatians 5:22-25—But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Then in verse 11a, Paul tells us to LEAD A QUIET LIFE.
...that you also aspire to lead a quiet life...
Matthew 23:12—“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Don’t LOOK for the spotlight, don’t SEEK recognition. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to be like those who seek the praise of men, to be noticed by men and have people say, “Ooooh, there goes a holy man!!” But rather, He says, "...what you do, do it secretly, and GOD will reward you openly." The world says, “Look at ME!!!!!” The true Christian says, “Look at Christ!!!!!”
Then he tells us to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
...to mind your own business...
I don’t think I need to say much about this, do I? 1st Timothy 5:13 warns us against wandering about from house to house, against being not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which we ought not. Boy that can get you in some trouble, huh? My mom used to talk about these ladies she knew that couldn’t wait to run over to whoever’s house and chatter about so-and-so. Paul is telling us here, "Don’t do all that. Love one another, Lead a quiet life, and mind your own beeswax!"
And WORK WITH YOUR HANDS.
...and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you...
These Thessalonian believers thought that Christ was coming back soon, so some of them stopped working and were just gonna wait for the day. Paul is telling us here, “Don’t stop doing what you are doing thinking that the Day is coming soon. Keep working until that Day.” You know, this brings us back to that first part of verse 3. GOD’s will is our sanctification, that we may be set apart from the rest of the world. Listen to what the prophet wrote in Isaiah 35:8-9—A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness…Whoever walks the road…shall not go astray…The redeemed shall walk there. We walk it when we know the will of GOD, when we avoid the way of the world, and when we seek to walk that walk of life. Sanctify GOD in your hearts, and He will sanctify you. Increase in love for one another.
And mind ya bidness.