1 Thessalonians 4 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
After three chapters of greetings, reports and blessings, the apostle Paul finally gets into the substance of his letter in the fourth chapter of the book. His primary exhortation to the Thessalonians centers on the theme of sanctification or holiness in the everyday lives of believers. He not only asks them to walk with and to please God, but he urges them to do so and that more and more. The very concept of sanctification implies an improvement in one’s holiness. Unlike justification which is an action completed by God on our behalf in declaring us to be righteous in God’s sight, sanctification is an ongoing work of our cooperation with God with the aim of growing into the likeness of Christ, the ideal or perfect man.
The end of holiness is perfect obedience to the law of God and perfect love for God and neighbor. Since none of us is anywhere close to perfection in these two areas, there is much room for growth in sanctification. And in our text this morning, Paul makes it very plain that the overarching will of God for our lives in every category of life is for us to grow in sanctification, for us to grow in our desire to please the Lord and for us to walk more closely with God. There are hundreds of laws in Scripture to help us to do that, but love is the essence of those laws, which is why Paul continually focuses on first loving God and then loving our neighbor. If we make these two things a priority in our lives, sanctification will be the natural byproduct.
But in this particular chapter, Paul also gives a very specific command regarding sexual immorality and the need for self-control over the body. In a highly sexualized culture, love is often replaced by lust, which is not giving, serving or sacrificial but, rather, covetous, demanding and destructive. These two pursuits are obviously antagonistic to one another, thus if we are ever going to grow in sanctification, we have to commit ourselves to the way of the love, which is just another way of saying that we must commit ourselves to Christ and to deny ourselves.