International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday June 27, 2010
Purpose: To understand that in order to please God, we must continue to grow in Christian commitment
Scripture Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (NRSV)
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
(1)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. (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 fornication; (4)that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honor, (5)not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (6)that no one wrongs or exploits 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. (7)For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. (8)Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.
(9) 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; (10)and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, (11)to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, (12)so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As Paul transitions from chapter 3 to chapter 4 he continues the holiness theme. Paul is telling those in the Thessalonian community that being a Christian carries with it a responsibility. They can no longer live as the heathens or other Gentiles do. Paul and the others from his party had lived with the Thessalonians for a short period of time, and in that time they taught both by example and by teaching what God, through Jesus Christ, had revealed to Paul. Paul is teaching that becoming a Christian is more than a formality, it is a lifestyle change.
Paul relates to the Thessalonians that living in a way that is pleasing to God is an evolving thing, the more we learn about God's holiness and righteousness, the more we are compelled to raise our own individual standards.
In addition to holiness and righteousness, there is another part of God that permeates love, patience, kindness, and self-control. Most of these traits were not exhibited by those living in the Thessalonian community. Macedonia was not only a part of the Roman Empire; it was also an important part of the old Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great. In those societies sexual promiscuity was a way of life, and considered a right. You only have to observe the leaders of those societies and communities to understand how rampant improper sexual active was. There were seemingly no boundaries to what was acceptable in this heathen society.
In verse 6, Paul points out that being Christian is also about not hurting or harming in any way your brothers and sister that have joined you in this new lifestyle. Paul combines the Moral Law of God (The Ten Commandments) with God's Law of Love, (do unto others). Paul warns that God will avenge for those that fail to treat all of His creation with respect, and reverence. God wants us to respect our selves and others and understand our bodies were not created for our own pleasure, but rather to fulfill a higher calling, to help in fulfilling God's will throughout His creation.
Paul continues with additional instructions on how this new life can be achieved; it can be achieved because the Holy Spirit has been given to each of those that have accepted Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Son of God that can take away the sins of this world and remove them as far as the east is from the west. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can become more than conquerors, we can be set apart for God's work.
As Christians we should have some goals in mind and we should be striving to achieve those goals, not because it endears us to God, but because it presents to us the best way to show our gratitude and love to a God that sent His own Son to redeem us from the punishment for sin, which is eternal death. The old adage, “If you are not growing you are dying” comes to mind.
In Lewis Carroll’s book “The Annotated Alice, the following conversation takes place between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. [Alice asked,] “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don't much care where ---” said Alice “then it doesn't matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Paul believed that Christians should be headed in a direction that brings them closer to God. And they should do it “more and more.”
Where are you headed? How will you know when you get there?