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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

1 Thessalonians 4

Verses 1-12

The Sanctification of Man’s Body: Labour of Love in the Holy Spirit The second aspect of our sanctification will be man’s physical body. Paul places emphasis upon this aspect in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. This passage of Scripture could be described as a discussion of sanctifying their vessels (or bodies). He first focuses on the sanctity of marriage; for in this pagan society sexuality morality was widespread, and even incorporated into temple worship. The next major issue that Paul addresses is ethical behaviour between one another. We can imagine how much fraud and deceit ruled these pagan societies. Thus, in this passage he focuses on moral purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) and “brotherly love” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12).

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Comments - Some modern translations insert the phrase, “just as you actually do walk.” ( ASV, NIV)

ASV, “Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk , --that ye abound more and more.”

NIV, “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living . Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”

In this phase, Paul, due to his love for them, speaks good things about them that he believes to be true. Love thinks no evil, and so Paul does not give them a hard time trying to tell them that they are living evil. He rather encourages them to strive for a closer walk with God, even as now they are walking. This is an attitude of love. Note this attitude also in 1 Thessalonians 4:10.

1 Thessalonians 4:10, “And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;”

1 Thessalonians 4:2 Comments - The New Testament church, because of its Jewish heritage, immediately incorporated the Old Testament Scriptures into its daily worship. However, these new believers quickly realized that some of the Old Testament teachings, such as the Law of Moses, must now be interpreted in light of the New Covenant. We see this challenge taking place at the first council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:0.

Acts 15:1-2, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”

In addition to the recognition of the Old Testament, the apostles realized that they had been given the authority to reveal the new covenant with as high authority as they held the Jewish Old Testament. According to 2 Corinthians 3:1-11, they were appointed ministers of this new covenant.

The major requirement for all of the New Testament writings to be considered “divinely inspired Scripture” was apostolic authority. These twenty seven books had to have been either written by one of the twelve apostles, or either been imposed by these apostles upon the churches as an “instrument” of the Church, to be read and obeyed by all.

Therefore, Paul’s qualifications as a minister of the new covenant was elevated to a level higher than others due to the fact that God had given him the calling of writing much of the New Testament. Paul realized that his writings were on an equal level of authority as the Old Testament Scriptures. Therefore, Paul held the authority to speak on the level of authority that Christ Jesus spoke while on this earth.

Paul was also a man under authority. When the first church council met in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15:0, the apostles and elders decided to send an epistle to all of the churches dealing with four subjects: abstaining from meats offered to idols, from blood, from strangled meats and from fornication.

Acts 15:28-29, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

As Paul makes a reference in 1 Thessalonians 4:2 to these commandments, Paul immediately speaks about the topic of fornication in the following verses (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Thus, we see how Paul was obedient in honoring the decree of the church apostles and elders in keeping this teaching before the believers.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Comments Paul the Teacher - In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 we see Paul as the teacher, as he refers to his instructions that he gave to them while he was with them, a clear example of his teaching ministry.

1 Thessalonians 4:4 Note:

1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

2 Timothy 2:21, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.”

1 Thessalonians 4:4 The word “vessel” is used figuratively throughout the New Testament as your own physical body. Paul is saying that each person should know how to gain the ascendancy over his own body rather that his body ruling him.

1 Thessalonians 4:5 “Not in the lust of concupiscence” Word Study on “lust” Strong says the Greek word πα ́ θος (G3806) means in the bad sense means, “in a bad sense, depraved passion, vile passions.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 3 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as “inordinate affection 1, affection 1, lust 1.”

Word Study on “concupiscense” Strong says the Greek word ε ̓ πιθυμι ́ α (G1939) means, “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.” The Enhanced Strong says it is used 38 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as “lust 31, concupiscence 3, desire 3, lust after 1.”

Comments - This phrase is translated in modern English translations with phrases such as “lustful cravings,” “the passion of lust,” “the affection of desire,” “the passion of evil desires,” and “passion and lust.” It is paraphrased as “do not have sex with a person to whom you are not married.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 Comments - Abstaining from Fornication It is unusual that Paul immediately deals with the issue of fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4) when discussing the sanctification of believer’s bodies in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. It seems that Paul was referring to the gross sin of Gentile temple worship, which so pervaded in this region of the Roman Empire. Such “worship” consisted of temple prostituted and eating foods offered unto idols, which amounted to acts of pleasing the sensual desires of the flesh. The Gentiles believed that this was a proper way to use their bodies, or vessels, to please their gods. Paul will deal with these two aspects of Gentile “worship” in his first epistle to the Corinthians. However, to the church in Thessalonica Paul limits his comments to a few short statements.

1 Thessalonians 4:8 Word Study on “therefore” Strong says the Greek word “therefore” “toigaroun” ( τοιγαρου ̂ ν ) (G5105) “truly for then, consequently.” Strong says it is a compound of ( τοί ) (G5104), meaning “in sooth,” ( γάρ ) (G1063), which is a particle “assigning a reason,” and ( οὐ ̂ ν ) (G3767), meaning, “certainly, accordingly.” BDAG translates this word “for that very reason.” Thayer tells us that this particle introduces “a conclusion with some special emphasis or formality…” The Enhanced Strong says it is found 2 times in the New Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “therefore 1, wherefore 1.”

Comments - This same Greek word is used in Hebrews 12:1.

Hebrews 12:1, “ Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”

Perhaps in Hebrews 12:1, after such a lengthy and winded list of Old Testament examples, the author chose a particle with strong enough emphasis to reach back to the beginning of this long passage preceding it.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 Comments Moral Purity 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 gives us several practical helps to direct our lives towards sanctification:

1. Abstain from fornication, which is immoral and unlawful sexual acts (verse 3)

2. Control one’s own body and desires in sanctification and honour (verse 4).

3. Do not become lustful for earthly things (verse 5)

3. Do not sin and take advantage of your brother (verse 6).

1 Thessalonians 4:10 Comments - Although the average believer recognizes obvious abuses of love in his Christian life, there is a deeper walk with the Lord where we become much more sensitive to walking in love with others. In 1 Thessalonians 4:10 Paul exhorts the believers to strive to grow in their love walk by saying “that ye increase more and more.” John the apostles defines this type of mature love as “perfect love” (1 John 4:18). John explains that it means a believe can come to the place where he no longer makes decisions based on the fear of man, but he strives to please God in pure love and devotion to Him as all costs. We find an excellent example of mature, self-less love in the life of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:15-18). In contrast to Phygellus and Hermogenes, who were ashamed of Paul’s bonds and hid their faith in Christ for fear of Roman persecutions, Onesiphorus boldly kept the faith in the face of possible persecutions, even going as far as visiting Paul during his Roman imprisonment, which Luke mentions in general in Acts 28:30. Onesiphorus walked in self-less love, while many others in Asia were self-centered because they were moved by fear.

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11 “And that ye study to be quiet” Comments - Webster defines the use of the English word “study” in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to mean, “t o endeavor diligently; to be zealous.”

2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11 “and to do your own business” - Comments - The NKJV reads, “mind your own business.” This phase implies not only the need to stay out of other people's affairs, including the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4), but it implies that a man should give his own business much attention and hard work. Thus it also means that we are to work hard and focus on our responsibilities.

2 Timothy 2:4, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11 “and to work with your own hands” - Comments (1) - Note that the world is looking for a get-rich-quick scheme such as gambling or the lottery, where they can get something for nothing. Most of the time these riches stay just beyond one’s grasp.

Proverbs 23:5, “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”

“and to work with your own hands” - Comments (2) - William Alexander notes how there was a pervasive aristocratic spirit in this Greco-Roman culture, a spirit that looked down upon the slaves and working class. This spirit is found in the writings of Aristotle, “who knew Macedonia so well.” [72] Thus, Paul’s teachings to work with one’s hands elevated the working man to a position of dignity and honor and wisdom. We see in Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians how he had to speak harshly towards those believers who had retreated to this aristocratic spirit of hierarchy and pride that hindered them from working with their hands (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).

[72] William Alexander, 1 Thessalonians, in The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Pub. House, 1954), in Ages Digital Library, v. 1.0 [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2002), “Introduction.”

1 Thessalonians 4:12 “That ye may have lack of nothing” Comments - In 1 Thessalonians 4:12, the Greek word ( μηδενος ) is translated in the neuter in the KJV. However, it could as well be singular, genitive, masculine meaning “from no one,” or neuter, “of nothing.”

The NIV reads , “so that you will not be dependant on anybody ” (The masculine gender)

The NASB reads , “and not be in any need” (It could be either gender)

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Comments Practical Examples - Having asked the believers to grow in their love walk, Paul now provides several practical examples in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. We may compare this to the structure of the book of Exodus where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which Jesus summarized as loving God with our heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbour as ourselves. God then gave Moses a set of statutes, recorded in the following chapters of Exodus, which essentially are practical ways in which to walk in love with God and one’s neighbours. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Paul tells them to mind their own affairs rather than getting too involved in other people’s affairs. If we will do three things (1 Thessalonians 4:11), God will bless us in two ways (1 Thessalonians 4:12). If we:

1. “study to be quite” To lead a quiet (and contented) life, not running about getting caught up in wanting to be somebody in life and admired by everyone, trying to outdo others and look good. Note:

1 Timothy 2:2, “For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

2. “to do your own business” To mind your own business and affairs, and not interrupting the lives of others unnecessarily. This does not evade the need to help others in need.

3. “To work with your own hands” Physical labor is rewarding and healthy.

Proverbs 14:23, “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.”

The results:

1. “ye may walk honestly toward them that are without” - The world will see you and respect and consider you of high standing, giving you “Favour with man.”

2. “ye may have lack of nothing” - You will also not be dependent upon others, but also you will have your needs met.

Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Verses 1-18

The Sanctification of the Believer - After opening his first epistle to the Thessalonians with a brief Salutation (1 Thessalonians 1:1), and after introducing the work of divine election in the lives of the Thessalonians from the perspective of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10), Paul spends the entire body of the letter fully developing the three-fold aspect of divine election. He discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying the believer by explaining the process of that a person goes through in order to be fully sanctified, spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

A. Sanctification of Man’s Spirit 1 Thessalonians 2:1 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13

B. Sanctification of Man’s Body 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

C. Sanctification of Man’s Mind 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11

1. The Rapture of the Church 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

2. The Day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

D. Commending Them Unto Their Leaders 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Verses 13-18

The Sanctification of Man’s Mind: Patience of Hope in the Father’s Plan The third aspect of our sanctification will be man’s mind in which dwells our hope, which is the anchor of the soul. Paul places emphasis upon this aspect in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 he encourages the Thessalonians by instilling a hope of seeing their loved ones again as he discusses one of the clearest passages in the Scriptures on the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 he then teaches them that in order to be ready for the Rapture they must prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). He explains how this event will be sudden for the world (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3), but can be anticipated if they are alert by walking in the three-fold aspect of their sanctification in faith, love and hope that is emphasized in this epistle (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8). God’s wrath is not designed for His children (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Paul closes this passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 by exhorting the believers to comfort one another with these words of hope (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

It is important to note that Paul will refer back to this two-fold teaching of the Second Coming in his second epistle to them by saying “by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1)

While 1 Thessalonians places more emphasis upon the Rapture of the Church preceding the Tribulation Period, the second epistle places more on Christ’s Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation Period. But these events are placed before us in these two epistles as the goal of our sanctification.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Rapture 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

2. The Second Coming of Christ 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.