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Walk and Please God

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1 Thessalonians 4:1-8Willow Creek Baptist Church – November 22, 2009

4 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.[1]


The church in Thessalonica is young.  Paul spent some time there but almost surely more time than a suggested three week period in Acts 17:1-10.  The mission in Thess. had started through the preaching done over the course of three Sabbaths in the synagogue.

Paul reasoned from the scripture (Acts 17:2).

Paul explained and proved Christ had to suffer from the scriptures (Acts 17:3 a).

Paul explained and proved that Christ had to rise from the dead (Acts 17:3 b).

Some believed and joined Paul and Silas and it seems a large number of God-fearing Greeks and “leading” women (Acts 17:4).  This was a productive start and hints to the heterogeneous makeup of this church.  It seems the majority group is Gentile and/or female. (Act 17:4).

The Jews became jealous in the course of time of Paul’s success.  Perhaps they preached three Sabbaths before they were disallowed into the synagogue.  The Jews began a riot at some point in order to squelch the growing Christian community (Acts 17:5 a).  The Jews attacked Jason’s house which suggests that the early believers were no longer meeting in the synagogue but rather in Jason’s home.

The Jews charge Jason and the hidden Paul and Silas with disruption of city order (Acts 17:6).  Disorder seems to be the charge against the Christian community, especially against Paul, used most often to get the Christian community in trouble with the authorities.

Paul is escorted away to Berea and then to Athens.  Finally Paul ends up in Corinth (Acts 18:1) where he likely pens the letter to the Thessalonians.  Apparently the Jews gathered a following of rabble-rousers who stirred up trouble for him in the city of Berea (Acts 17:10) so Paul alone moves on to Athens leaving Timothy and Silas behind in Berea (Acts 17:15).

Sexual Immorality in Thessalonica:

Paul focuses in 1 Th. 4:1-8 on sexual immorality.  The pagan culture of Rome held a wide range of ethics regarding sexual matters but for the most part prostitution, cult prostitution, sexual abuse of slaves, mistresses and various other deviations were strongly opposed among the Jewish and Christian fellowships.  Paul particularly opposes the sexual practices of the pagan society and demands that the churches not even have a trace of such practice.

Paul’s Agency and Authority in Thessalonica:

Paul writes a particularly affectionate letter to the Thessalonians.  He did not demand payment or support during his time among the new believers.  He says that they returned his affections such that he was willing to share not only the gospel “but also our own selves” 1 Thess 2:8.  In 1 Th. 4:1 he claims his authority as an agent of God.  He also reinforces who is disregarded if the Thessalonians ignore his exhortation to abstain from sexual immorality.  God himself is disregarded.  Paul’s claim of agency is a prophetic weight which fits well with his coming claims about the end and the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11).  Thus Paul’s force is that of a prophet speaking God’s words.


4 Λοιπὸν οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ,

Finally, then, Brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus


[ ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν]

              Just as you received from us

(τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ,)

 how you ought to walk (indirect discourse infinitive) and to please God

       [ καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε,]

        just as you are walking

      ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον.

      So that you do so all the more


2 οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ.

For you all know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus


3 Τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,

For this is the will of God

                                     ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν,

                                     namely your sanctification

ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας,

to abstain from sexual immorality


4 εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ,

To know each one of you how to control this, his body in holiness and honor

5 μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν,

not in the passion of lust just like the gentiles who do not know God.


6 τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ,

to not transgress and to not wrong in this manner his brother

διότι ἔκδικος κύριος περὶ πάντων τούτων,

because the Lord is an avenger concerning all these things

καθὼς καὶ προείπαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα.

as also we beforehand told you and solemnly warned you


7 οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς θεὸς ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ

For God has not called us for impurity

ἀλλʼ (ἐκάλεσεν – elliptical verb) ἐν ἁγιασμῷ.

But God has called us in holiness


8 τοιγαροῦν ἀθετῶν οὐκ ἄνθρωπον ἀθετεῖ

Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man

ἀλλὰ ( ἀθετεῖ - ellipsis) τὸν θεὸν τὸν [καὶ] διδόντα τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς.[2]

      But he disregards God who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Preaching Notes:

Verse 4:1 Paul Asks and Urges the congregation in the authority of Christ:

Erwtaw and parakalew have the sense with the following ivna not of the content of the request but of the agency in asking.  Paul is asking and urging the following on Christ’s behalf.  This is a charge to the Thessalonians that comes with expected obedience.  It is spoken by Paul in the name of Christ Jesus and thus carries God’s approval.

The Authority of the command to walk and please God is always in view of the agency authority of Paul as he speaks for God.  1 Thess 1:8 reinforces the fact that it is God who is being disregarded.  1 Th. 4:9 teaches that God himself taught them the love they now know 

Paul reminds them of his teaching among them:

Paul’s original message had the same agency as his current exhortation.  Paul is not speaking something new but is charging them to continue as they have known from his message among them.  This is the message borne out of the love and affection Paul, Silas and Timothy had among the Thessalonians during their stay.  This message is of God and therefore demands obedience.

Paul has taught them how they are to walk in the manner of God and how to please God:

περιπατεῖν refers to a standard of behavior in which life is conducted.  Repeatedly live in the way you were taught.  Likewise, ἀρέσκειν means to please one’s master and in this instance even carries a military connotation: To please one’s officer in the army.  So, please the one giving the command by doing the command.

And the command is given for the book in 1 Thess 1:3 when Paul clearly references Faith, Love and Hope.  This is a reference (almost certainly) to the instruction he had given them

Paul exhorts them to live according to the manner of behavior they have been taught and to obey for the sake of God’s pleasure and in increasing measure.  They are to grow in their sanctification and obedience.

Verse 4:2. You know “οἴδατε” of the instructions given.  Paul is not commanding them to act in a way of which they are unaware.  In fact, the person of Christ expresses these truths.  This verse is the concluding summary of verse 4:1.

Verse 4:3.  God’s will is sanctification particularly in reference to sexual immorality. 

Whether or not there was a problem in the Thessalonian church with sexual immorality is unclear.  What is clear is that the Gentiles, much in the way modern society behaves, were immoral in regards to sexual morality.  Roman society had a social code of conduct which prescribed certain moral ideas but few followed this code. 

Paul amplifies his command to sanctification by calling it the will of God.

Be sanctified through abstaining from sexual immorality

4:4 Be sanctified by knowing how to control one’s body in holiness and honor

4:5 Not like the Gentiles around the church who follow their passionate lust because they do not know God.

Note the usage of οἴδατε in 4:2 “you know” and then εἰδέναιto know – substantival infinitive of qelhmafollowed by a substantival participle eἰδότα “the ones who know”.  The comparison is to the knowledge of the Thessalonians in 4:2 followed by the lack of knowledge of the Gentiles who act out of ignorance following the desires of the body into destruction.

Paul highlights the fact that sexual immorality on the part of the Thessalonians is willful opposition to God’s command as unruly soldiers

4:6 The failure to be sanctified in sexual matters but I think also in the whole matter of sanctification.

Failure to disciple, failure to grow in walk and obedience, failure to offer love and support, failure to follow the instructions of God along with direct offense.

Sexual immorality offends and transgresses ones brother in the Lord.  The community is offended by the behavior of the immoral brother.

Because God is the avenger on him who offends the brothers in regards to sexual immorality, God’s judgment is on him.

4:6b Paul again restates the fact that he has stated his restriction on sexual immorality and has warned them not to indulge the flesh as if they did not know God.

Those who know God do not act sexually immoral.  In the areas where they are ignorant they perhaps act immoral but Paul exhorts them in 4:1 to be moral and to please God all the more.

Verse 4:7 God has called us to holiness away from that which is refuse, garbage, immoral, impure.

There is no justifiable cause for immorality or impurity within the congregation.  Those who do not know God act in sexual sin. ἁγιασμῷ - personal dedication to the interests of the deity, holiness, consecration, sanctification[3]

As deep the refuse and immoral filthiness of the Gentile way of life so has God called the believer to holiness.  Paul makes the comparison between God’s call to holiness away from impurity to highlight how far removed the holiness of God is from the way of the world.  This holiness is dedication to God’s interests.

Verse 4:8 Those who disregard the charge to holiness are disregarding God, not Paul.  The one who gives his Holy Spirit is the one being disregarded.  Thus the charge given before in 4:1 is reinforced.  As a soldier disregarding his commander so is the man who commits sexual immorality or any other unholiness.  


Preaching Outline:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

What is the secret to a life of sanctification? 

This world is motivated by “get out of jail free” mentality.  As soon as the bill gets to high, the creditors come calling and the job is gone they cry out for help.   But where do they cry?  Often they cry for more debt to heal their initial debt.  They shuffle terms, extend repayment, end up in more debt.  But in the end they trade one jailor for another – one captor for another one.

What is the secret to a life of sanctification?

1 Thessalonians is divided into three parts in answering this question.  Our text today is right in the middle.  If you’re older you will like the latter portion of 1 Thessalonians – it deals with the Coming of the Lord and afterlife glory.  If you’re young you will like the former part of 1 Thessalonians because it deals with happy feelings and vibrant life.  Our text lies between these two portions of the book with an exhortation to sanctification.  Whether you are young or old you must be sanctified.

I have never met too old a saint who couldn’t be saint-lier nor to young a child who couldn’t be better disciplined.  Then what is the secret to sanctification?

II. Read 1 Thess 4:1-3a  The Authority of the Command

A.       Paul speaks as a sergeant not as human – he is speaking as prophet for God

a.        4:1 We ask, we urge – this means “do it!”

b.       Paul expects obedience because this is God’s command

B.       The Comparison

a.        Obedience is regard for God 4:1

b.       Disobedience is disregard for God 4:8

III. The Command is to walk in the standard of the command and to continually do so.

A.       Walk such that you grow in the instruction of the Lord

a.        As an ancient saint are you growing in your walk?

b.       Are you known for saintliness – I have known both kinds

                                                               i.      Story of my mentor in NC

                                                             ii.      Story of the battle-axe

B.       Please God as a soldier pleases his commanding officer

a.        Men, what would motivate you to rush into battle when the prospect of death is high

b.       Women, what would motivate you to have children when the prospect of pain is certain

c.        What would motivate anyone to leave his own pursuits for the things of God

C.       Grow in them.  Stagnant faith is no faith at all.  For the old live on and guide us, for the young grow up

IV. Sexual Immorality was a key concern for Paul in that the sexual norms of Roman culture were liberal at least.

A.       Paul exhorts them to abstain

a.        Because it displeases God and because you’re commanded to

B.       Paul exhorts them to control their own bodies unlike the Gentiles who do not know God

a.        Proverbs 9 read

b.       The wise follows the call of wisdom and repents and is corrected

c.        The fool follows the foreign woman to his death and will not repent or be corrected

C.       The real question is how to avoid these things – this is a freebie sermon from Proverbs

a.        Have a spiritual teacher, be a disciple of the Word, Fear God

b.       Come to the knowledge of God and be ready for repentance

c.        Erect barriers to sin, avoid lonely places, be accountable to someone

d.       Stay on course in prayer about your sin and walk

e.        Repent some more and have a teacher who calls you to repentance

V.       Paul exhorts them not to transgress a brother in these things: What things.

A.       In the areas of sanctification

B.       In matter of direct immoral behavior

C.       In areas of omission when we should be growing and walking and are not

D.       In areas of omission when we should be discipling and are not

VI.  The Call of God is Holiness not impurity

A.       This is summary to the ethical charge.  Grow in holiness in all things how much less the obvious.

a.        Rid yourselves of all the filth of life whether magazine, internet, TV, books, language, etc.

b.       Fill yourselves with all that is holy and good

VII.  Do not disregard God for the sake of your own agenda.

A.       Disregard Paul – fine

B.       But to disregard his command is to ignore the Holy Spirit among them.

VIII.  For the old the charge is to grow in godliness and reach back to help a young generation along.  The love and happiness of the first part of 1 Thessalonians exists for those who observe God’s command.  The hope for all rests in the coming Christ.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001, S. 1 Th 4:1-8

[2]Aland, Barbara ; Aland, Kurt ; Black, Matthew ; Martini, Carlo M. ; Metzger, Bruce M. ; Wikgren, Allen: The Greek New Testament. 4th ed. Federal Republic of Germany : United Bible Societies, 1993, c1979, S. 535

[3]Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 10

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