Verses: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Leading Question: When, in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul urgently admonishes the Thessalonians toward sexual purity, is that a concern that applies directly to our culture and age?
1. Saying the nice things first. In the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians, there is no hint of rebuke. But with chapter 4 Paul addresses specific concerns more directly. How crucial is it in the church that we start with the “yes” before moving to the “yes, but”? How can one avoid the danger of being manipulative and two-faced in such a separation of the good news from what is likely to sound like bad news?
2. Abounding in prayerful love, abounding in holy behavior. The author of the official study guide, Jon Paulien, regrets that an important verbal parallel between 3:12 and 4:1 has gone missing in most modern translations. In his prayer, Paul asks that their love for each other “abound”; in his admonition of 4:1, he wants their good behavior also to “abound.” In other words, there is a direct link between what we pray for and how we live. In our culture today, how can we best make that connection clear between prayer and behavior?
3. Sexual immorality (1Thess. 4:3-8). Paul is blunt about the contrast that should exist between the licentiousness of the Gentile culture and God’s ideal for his people. How great is the danger in our day that we also may simply reflect the sexual laxity of our modern culture?
Note: A teaching colleague at Loma Linda University tells of his experience in teaching the “Introduction to Adventism” class to non-Adventist students who were entering one of the allied health programs at Loma Linda University. Many of the students were evangelical Christians who came from independent evangelical congregations in Southern California. When he presented the Adventist position on soul sleep, his students wrote him off as a dangerous liberal; the same thing happened when he described the Adventist position on salvation for the heathen who have never heard the name of Jesus but who have reflected God’s way in their live. Again he was seen as a dangerous heretic. But when he presented the Adventist position on sexual ethics, they simply laughed him to scorn, claiming that the Bible’s standards on sexual morality simply don’t apply to us today. Does Adventism face a similar challenge, perhaps just not as outspoken?
4. Mind your own business (1 Thess. 4:9-12). In addition to his concerns about sexual morality, Paul addressed certain “practical” matters that could be instructive for out day as well. These can be summarized as follows:
- Make it a point – an ambition, even – to lead a quiet life.
- Mind your own business.
- Work with your own hands
- Win the respect of outsiders.
- Don’t be dependent on anybody.
What potential dangers might be lurking in each of those admonitions? Can we imagine circumstances when taking those “principles” to extremes have been dangerous or destructive?