This Is the Will of God
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians transitions from his fond remembrances and explanation of his absence to instruction and exhortation as he begins supplying what was lacking in their faith. Though he had only known them for a short time, Paul recognized what was true in the life of every Christian, namely, the desire to walk with and to please God. Whereas sanctification covers a broad range of sins to avoid and duties to perform, Paul focuses their attention on abstaining from sexual immorality and calls upon them to exercise Spirit-empowered self-control for the following reasons: sexual immorality indicates that one does not know God; sexual immorality often involves and harms others; sexually immoral people set themselves in opposition to the Word of God; and sexually immoral people incur the judgment of God. And yet, embedded in these warnings is a message of great hope: God wills our sanctification and will therefore work in us to deliver us from evil.
01. Sexual immorality is not a vague term lacking meaning, requiring nuance, or an outdated way of thinking; instead, it is clearly defined in Scripture, understandable to all, and applicable for all time.
02. Sexual immorality is powerful in its urges, common in our communities, accepted in our culture, and satanic in its origin; yet, sexually immoral people can be forgiven by Christ, can overcome sin by the Spirit, and find great joy walking with the Lord.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. Note Paul’s prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. How does his prayer naturally lead to his instruction about walking with and pleasing God? Why is it important for us to pray and read Scripture in order to know how to walk and to please the Lord? Why is it important for us to abound in love for one another than to pursue love apart from God’s Word?
2. Despite our culture’s attempt to normalize sexual immorality, the Bible has much to say about it, calling us to avoid it in all its many forms. For examples, see Matthew 5:28; Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 5-7; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3-6; Colossians 3:5; Jude 7; and Revelation 21:8. With such abundant evidence, why do you suppose that even some professing Christians insist that such behavior is not sinful? How can we reach out to people who struggle with sexual sins without compromising God’s Word or minimizing His grace?
3. What indicators from the text suggest that Paul recognized his instructions were not just from himself or for his time but from the Lord and for all time? See 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 4:3, and 4:8 for examples. Do you feel the same weight of importance and authority inherent in God’s Word, namely that to disobey the Bible is to disobey God? Do you find comfort in God’s Word as the culture continues to go awry?
4. Paul envisions the lives of Christians differing from that of “Gentiles, who do not know God” (verse 5). In what ways can Christians practice lifestyle evangelism, that is, showing the world a contrast in values by the way that we live our lives and thus drawing them to the faith? How can your marriage or your singleness point people to the Lord? Pray that the Lord will use His work in your life to draw others into a gospel conversation.
For Further Reading: Denny Burk, What is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013); and Ray Ortlund, The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility (Crossway, 2021).