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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1


Finally, brothers. He says this to call their attention to what he is about to say. How you should live. The Gentile world was very wicked (see 1 Peter 4:1-5). One who lived a “Christian life” contrasted sharply with the world in which he lived. This is still true today.

Verse 2


For you know the instructions we gave you. Faith and actions cannot be divorced one from another (see James 2:14-26). After making people disciples of Christ, we are to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

Verse 3


This is God’s will for you. Now he gives an example. “Immorality” was the normal way of life in the Gentile world. [Immorality means any sex act outside the marriage relationship: adultery, homosexual acts, etc.] The Gentiles did not consider immorality a sin.

Verses 4-5

4–5. Each of you men should know how to take. “To take” = KTASTHAI “which can only mean ‘to acquire,’ not ‘to possess.’” [Alford (Greek Testament)] Paul is advising marriage, as he does in 1 Corinthians 7:2. The Gentiles went either to the extreme of celibacy or else unrestrained lust. Women were treated as “disposable,” and as “necessary evils.” God himself decrees marriage is holy (Genesis 2:18; Hebrews 13:4; see notes on Matthew 19:4-5). No Jewish High Priest would have believed marriage to be an unholy thing! [Paul speaks to men, but this would apply to women also.] Not with a lustful desire. “Lust” is obsessive desire outside the marriage relationship. Lust makes a poor standard to choose a prospective mate. God intended a man and woman to join for life in marriage. This is a holy bond, in which they fulfill each other’s needs. Paul makes this plain in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; and points out that celibacy is a special “gift” 1 Corinthians 7:7.

Verse 6


No man should do wrong to his brother. Paul is talking about adultery, and about stealing another man’s wife. The Lord will punish. This shows the seriousness of this sin.

Verse 7


But in holiness. God sets standards of purity for his people, and calls them to live transformed lives (Romans 12:1-2).

Verse 8


Whoever rejects this teaching. These are God’s commands. God calls us to holy living. Who gives you his Holy Spirit. Read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. We insult God when we defile our bodies with sin.

Verse 9


Have been taught by God. God teaches us to love our fellow believers. If we love them, we will not sin against them, or do things to destroy their faith. Read 1 John 4:19-21.

Verse 10


And you have behaved in this way. Their lives showed this love for their fellow believers.

Verse 11


Make it your aim to live a quiet life. Don’t be a “busybody.” It is implied that some at Thessalonica expected Jesus to come immediately, and so had quit working, and become loafers and troublemakers.

Verse 12


You will win the respect. It would be an insult to God if the unbelievers could say: “This new religion makes loafers and beggars out of men.” And will not have to depend. There is a strong “work ethic” in Christianity. Paul wrote: “The man who used to rob must stop robbing and start working, to earn an honest living for himself, and to be able to help the poor.” (Ephesians 4:28).

Verse 13


We want you to know the truth. What the apostle has said about “a life that pleases God” in the first part of the chapter, likely has something to do with their misunderstanding of Christ’s Coming. Some part of the preaching of the Good News had been twisted into a “reason” why they should not live a quiet active life; and why they were sad about those believers who had died. As are those who have no hope. That is, as the heathen and those of the Jews who do not believe in a “raising from death.” This shows their sadness had its roots in their belief that the dead would not share in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.

Verse 14


We believe. His argument is: We believe that Jesus raised from death; therefore, we believe the dead will be raised through Christ when he Comes.

Verse 15


This is the Lord’s teaching. He shows the authority of what he is saying. Will not go ahead of. Those who are living when our Lord Comes will not go into his presence before the dead are raised. [We also see that Paul (speaking by inspiration) says there will be Christians living when Jesus returns!]

Verse 16


And the Lord himself will come down. The signal for all this will be the archangel’s shout of command, and the sound of God’s trumpet blowing a blast. The Thessalonians must have believed the living Christians would rush to meet Jesus, but the dead would be unable to follow, and so would be left behind forever. Will rise to life first. Not “first before the other dead are raised,” but “first – before the living are caught up.” Compare Revelation 1:7.

Verse 17


Will all be gathered up. All of God’s people since the beginning of time will be gathered up, as the dead rise to life and the living are changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). To meet the Lord in the air. Nothing says Jesus will ever set foot on earth again. His people will rise to meet him! [Judgment will be a separation. See Matthew 25:31-33.] And so we will always be with the Lord. The Church Militant [the messianic community active on earth] will become the Church Triumphant [the messianic community in the eternal world – in God’s presence]. The church of Christ does not TERMINATE, but is united with Christ as a bride to her husband, and the Wedding Feast continues forever without end (Revelation 19:5-9)!

Verse 18


Cheer each other up with these words. Tell those who are sad about their fellow believers having died, that when they are called to meet the Lord, they will find their own dead raised to life and in that happy crowd of the Redeemed!

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.