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'Living in the light of His soon return ...' Part 4


A series of thoughts from Paul’s
First letter to the Thessalonians

Preached at Blyth Community Church ~ Summer/Autumn 2006 ~ by Brian Allenby

Read 1 Thessalonians Ch4

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

And so to chapter 4. We now move into the second half of the letter, which deals with practical instruction for these new believers. If the key thought in chapter 3 was establish, the key thought, in fact we can say keyword, is WALK. Paul is beseeching them to obey the word.

Christian behaviour is often compared to a WALK for several reasons:

  • Walking demands life; the dead cannot walk.
  • It requires growth; a newborn baby cannot stand never mind walk.
  • It requires liberty; somebody who is bound up cannot walk.
  • It demands light; nobody wants to walk in the dark.
  • It cannot be hidden; a walk is usually seen by all.
  • It suggests progress toward a goal.

Paul describes to these believers the kind of walk they should have. There are four: a Walk in Holiness (vv1-8), a Walk in Love (vv9-10), a Walk in Honesty (vv11-12), and a Walk in Hope (vv13-18).

1. The Walk in Holiness

Here Paul essentially deals with marriage and the home. The marriage vows in heathen cities said nothing about purity, so there was a great danger of immorality in the lives of these new believers. There is no doubt that love and purity did prevail in some heathen homes, the general atmosphere in these city-states (before the Gospel came) was one of lust and selfishness.

The Christian has the responsibility of building a Christian home that will glorify God, so Paul begins at this point. Immorality is basically selfishness and robbery. Thus Paul encourages them to lives to please God and not themselves. He had set the example (2:4), and now he expected them to follow. He had commanded them from the Lord to live in holiness and purity BY THE POWER OF GOD. God’s will for their lives was that they be sanctified – set apart for a purpose.

If you went to London, you could rent a room in a fine hotel, but you could not rent a room in Buckingham Palace – why? Because it has been set apart for a special purpose. As believers we have been set apart for a special purpose and so had these people in Thessalonica been set apart for God. We have a daily responsibility of devoting ourselves more and more to God, so that in body, spirit and soul we belong to Him. Nothing, but nothing defiles a person more that sexual sin. People who violate their marriage vows sin against God, themselves and their fellow believers. God will deal with them in truth!

The AV uses the word vessel in verse 4, more modern versions render this more correctly as the believer’s body. These vessels – bodies - have been purchased by the blood of Christ, sanctified by His Spirit and MUST be used for the glory of God. To despise God’s warnings about sexual sin is to grieve the Spirit and invite chastening. Remember David, Samson, Judah and others, who fell into this sin and paid dearly. We will always reap what we sow in sin.

2. The Walk in Love

There was really no need to write to them about love. He had taught them about this, and God Himself had taught them through the Spirit. Love is one of the birthmarks of a believer; remember, ‘Behold how they love one another’, was one of the ways in which witnesses described the fellowships of the early church.

But it is not enough just to love those in our own fellowship. Like these people in Thessalonica, we must love all of God’s people and the lost, more and more every day as we grow in the love, knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The Walk of Honesty.

Paul now talks about the believers vocation and his contacts with unsaved people. One of the problems of the Church in Thessalonica, was that some of the people had misunderstood the promise of Christ’s return, quit their jobs and become parasites, living off other believers. Paul really tears into these folk in 2 Thess Ch. 3 v 5-15.

In verse 11 he says study to be quiet or lead a quiet life. Literally it means be AMBITIOUS TO LEAD A QUIET LIFE! This means do not be one who frets or worries or becomes involved in worldly activities. Attend to your own affairs and therefore stay out of the affairs of others. It is a sad thing when believers have nothing to do and become busy bodies in other peoples lives. The Christian who does an honest day's work and who is careful to maintain a good testimony WILL influence the unsaved.

Let us be careful what we do. We do not want to use the Lord’s money to support Christian loafers and encourage them in a careless way of life.

4. The Walk of Hope.

This to me is a classic passage on the Rapture of the Church! Sorrow had come into the lives of these saints and they were wondering whether their dead fellow Christians would be left behind at the return of the Lord. Paul assures them by telling them that the Dead in Christ would be raised first and that all of the saints would be gathered to meet Christ in the air. Beyond this meeting with Christ we have all sorts of issues about which believers choose to agree or disagree and so we will not step in to these areas today. But we must realise that Christians are expected to mourn when loved ones die, but not to grieve as do the people of the unsaved world, for they have no hope and we do! Certainly the Lord expects us to shed tears and feel loneliness – remember He took on the human mantle, He knows just how we feel, as we go through the valley. But in the midst of our sorrow, there has to be testimony to the living hope we have in Christ.

There are three subsidiary issues that we can lean on here:

  • The Comfort that Death for the Beliver is only Sleep. Sleep in Jesus in verse 14 is literally – put to sleep through Jesus. Regardless of how the believer dies, Jesus Christ is there to put him to sleep. Of course the soul goes immediately to be with Christ. It is the body that sleeps NOT THE SOUL! The word cemetery means ‘a sleeping place’. It is the place where the body sleeps awaiting the resurrection.
  • The Comfort of Heavenly Reunion. The hardest thing about death is the separation from loved ones, but when Christ comes we will be together in the Lord forever. The living saints do not precede those who have died , all will be caught up together to meet Christ.
  • The Comfort of Eternal Blessing. We shall be forever with the Lord. We shall obtain new bodies. Paul described the body we leave in the cemetery as a seed awaiting the harvest (1Cor15). Of course the body turns to dust and that dust becomes part of the earth. The Bible nowhere teaches that God raises and unites every particle of the old body. What it does teach is that the resurrection body has identity and continuity with the body that was buried. Resurrection does not mean reconstruction. The words ‘caught up’ are full of meaning, they mean:
    1. To catch away speedily, for there will be no warning.
    2. To seize by force, Satan may well seek to hinder our rapture to heaven
    3. To claim for ones self, just as the Bridegroom claims the bride
    4. To move to a new place
    5. To rescue from danger, for the church will not go through the Tribulation.

Let us close with those comforting thoughts.

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