Reading for Monday, Dec. 17: 1 Thess. 4
This chapter can be subdivided into two major sections: v1-12 dealing with living a God-honoring life in the flesh; and v13-18 addressing the hope of life eternal with Christ.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification,” (v3). Specifically, Paul addresses the sin of sexual immorality. Paul follows the ancient Jewish understanding of religious commitment and responsible sexual behavior. Sensual living seems to be a constant temptation for the churches of the NT, and we quickly realize that little has changed in this regard in the nearly 2,000 years since Paul wrote his letter. “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness,” (v7). Rather than being dominated by lust and sexual immorality, the follower of Christ submits his body to the will of God — a will focused on sanctifying holiness, not sensual lawlessness.
Paul encourages the Thessalonians “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,” (v11). In light of the coming of the Lord, some may inevitably choose to abandon their everyday concerns — think of those who sell everything and wait atop some mountain, awaiting the end of humanity (i.e., this week’s Aztec calendar foolishness!). Paul refutes this by teaching this church to follow through on their commitments in quietness, not to be religious busybodies.
Finally, Paul addresses the return of the Lord. Christians do not grieve as those without hope (v13). Rather, we have a concrete hope — resurrection, hope made alive and tangible in the raised body of Christ. The bodily resurrection of Jesus stands as God’s promise to the living, a promise that extends beyond the grave, even beyond the scope of human history and into eternity. I can think of no better words of comfort for a nation grieving the loss of so many children in Connecticut this week.
“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”