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Sanctification and Sexual Purity.
1,2. Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
The apostles had already taught the Thessalonians how they should live to please God. This teaching came not from themselves, but from Christ, and each command was given in His name and by His authority (Matt. 28:20).
The Thessalonians had already started to follow these instructions and so their lives were being changed as they lived for God. Paul insists that they must not to be content with the level of consecration to God they had reached, but that they must ever go on, yielding all their hearts and lives to Him.
3. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication.
It is God's will for every believer not only to be saved, but to be set apart for God.
In order to be separated to God, we must be separated from all that is unholy or impure. We are not to be joined with the people of the world or do the things they do (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Instead, we are to glorify God in our spirits (with right attitudes) and in our bodies (with right actions - 1 Cor. 6:20). Paul especially wanted them to know that in order for a Christian to be truly set apart for God, he or she must avoid sexual immorality.
The Lord Jesus Christ taught that "in the beginning God made them male and female," and "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and they two shall be one flesh" (Matt. 19:4-5). The sexual desire found in both men and women is part of God's creation and is according to His own will and purpose. From our Lord's own words we see that it is to be expressed only in the marriage relationship, which was instituted by God Himself (1 Cor. 7:2 ; Heb. 13:4). Our Lord's teaching shows that any indulgence in sexual intercourse, except with our own husband or wife, is contrary to the will of God.
4. That each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor.
Christians should learn to be self controlled, so that they may behave in an honourable manner and be fully sanctified (set apart) to God in spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23).
5. Not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God.
Christians are not to engage in immorality in the way that the heathen do, who burn with lust, their only object being to satisfy the appetites of the flesh. They act this way because they do not know God and are ignorant of His will. But since we do know God and His will has been made clear to us, we must not accept the standards of unbelievers, but of God.
6,7,8. That no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Having dealt with sexual immorality in general, we now turn specifically to adultery. Paul had previously warned the Thessalonians and now he warns them again that the Lord Himself will punish any man or woman who commits adultery. It may be that some sought to take advantage of the close relationship that they had with other Christians by sleeping with the husbands or wives of other believers. The Lord will bring vengeance on such people, who have by their actions rejected God who has called us from impurity to holiness - whose Spirit, whom he has given to us, is Holy (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Throughout church history there have been those who have given false and misleading teaching concerning sexual matters. Just as Balaam taught Balak how to create a snare to make Israel sin by leading them to have sex with the women of Moab, who then led them into idol worship, so there have been those that have taught the church the same things. The Lord Jesus deals very strictly with such persons (Rev. 2:14-16 & Rev. 2:20-23). This verse seems to suggest that there were those taking advantage of their Christian relationships by sleeping with other men's wives. Whatever excuse they found, Paul strictly condemns such practises with the words "the Lord will avenge/punish". The same applies to those that have taught young believers that there is no need for any marriage ceremony. Whilst it is true Adam & Eve had no such ceremony, we are not governed now as they were in their innocence. The Bible pattern is of announcement of the intention to marry, of making the legal marriage contract in whatever way local customs allow, and then of consummation and living together. This pattern is clearly seen in the life of Ruth & Boaz and also of Mary and Joseph.
9,10. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more.
The apostle is sure that the Christians at Thessalonica were loving each other just as Christ commanded and they had been instructed to do this by God Himself (John 15:12). They had proved this by the practical demonstration of their love to all the believers in their region (1 John 3:18). Yet Paul urges them -and us -that we are to continue to love each other more and more.
11,12. To aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.
J.B. Phillips says "make it your ambition to have no ambition!" Paul instructs the believers to live a quiet life, to mind their own affairs and to work in order to provide for themselves and their families. This will gain the respect of outsiders and will mean that they will not be dependent on anyone. That is, they were not to borrow money from outsiders or to get into debt (Rom. 13:8).
The Christian Hope of Resurrection.
13. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
Paul did not want the believers at Thessalonica to be unaware of what happens when a believer dies. Although we grieve and sorrow at the loss of loved ones from this life, we need not sorrow in the same way as those who have no hope beyond death.
14. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we know that death is not the end for a believer. God will bring with Jesus those who have died believing in Him, since Christ is Lord of both death and life.
15. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.
The Lord said in John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." On the basis of Christ's own teaching, Paul says that those of us who are still alive when the Lord comes again will have no advantages over those who have previously died. Nor shall we enter our eternal state before them.
16. For the Lord Himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
The Lord will personally come down from heaven with loud shout of command, the shout of an archangel and the sounding of the trumpet of God. Then those who are dead in Christ will rise again. Their spirits will be reunited with their bodies in resurrection. These bodies, which were once subject to death, will be changed and become incorruptible - not subject to death (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
17. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.
Then those who are alive and have never tasted death will be changed in the same way and all together we shall rise up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the atmosphere. From that time on there will never be a parting between us and the Lord or between us all as God's people. We shall be forever with the Lord. But the question may be asked, what about before the resurrection? Where are those who have died in Jesus at this moment? The Bible does not teach a state of sleep or non- conscious existence of the dead between now and the resurrection. Instead, it says that they are absent from the body and present with the Lord - which is far better (2 Cor. 5:8 ; Phil. 1:21-23). And that they are blessed (Rev. 14:13). So we see that we have no reason to sorrow in the same way as people that have no hope in Christ.
18. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Therefore, comfort, strengthen and uphold one another with these words.
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