2.1.1 The ground of the imperative in 1 Thess 4:1-12
The following four questions will be considered:
(a) What are the precise ethical implications of Paul’s sources (Ez 36:27 & Jer 31:38) here?
The two prophecies are substantially the same. God intervenes in “…the ‘heart’, the core of the moral and religious personality…”p.53
It is implicit in Jer 31:38 “…knowing Jahweh is the result of Jahweh’s putting his law in men’s hearts.”p.54
It is important to note that Paul gives far more prominence to the ethical rôle of the Spirit than he does to the charismatic rôle (e.g. Joel 3:1-5).
(b) Does Paul take cognizance of these implications?
Although there is certainly a community aspect here, “Everything goes to show that in 1 Thess 4:8b [God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you], Paul is referring to the inward communication of the Spirit in the hearts of individuals.”p.56
It is important to note that in v.8 God’s activity is continuous (present tense) and the Christian:
It might be thought that God’s activity is some kind of “‘super-ethical energy’ that operates in man”p.57 but this is seen to be otherwise when we look at the expression “taught by God” in v.9. The O.T. (LXX) context of this word διδάσκειν (teach) is that of forming or training rather than instructing. “What is communicated necessarily issues in action, for it is addressed not so much to the intellect as to the will; better still, it is addressed to the whole man.p.57
This is certainly the case in v.9 where the teaching flows into the action of loving one another. The action of God in placing the Spirit in their hearts (v.8b) and impelling them into love (v.9) are not two separate events, but are one and the same thing.
(c) In what way does God’s inward activity (the content of v.8b & 9) ground christian obligation?
Paul is therefore talking about the possibility of the Christian “actually nullifying the effects of God’s activity within him by resisting the impulse of the Holy Spirit.”p.59
In the Old Testament, the consecrating power of God was his external presence in their midst, and so he demands: “Be holy because I am holy”. However now, “The christian imperative might be formulated: ‘Be holy because I am holy (sc. and deploy my sanctifying activity in the core of your being.)’.”p.60
The Holy Spirit himself provides this unity between the indicative and the imperative: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25)
(d) how are the motivations used by Paul in 1 Thess 4:1-12 related to the imperative underlying v.8b-9?
Merk finds three motivations in v.6b-8:
However, “will of God” (v.3) should also be included as a motivation, and in fact should be taken as the basic motivation. “The basic, unifying motivation is, therefore, God’s activity in the present …all that he has done in the past, and will do in the future, is to be understood in relation to what he is doing in Christians now.p.62
The motivation in v.10 to walk more and more in brotherly love is “in effect: ‘you are already doing great things (cf. 1:3): all the more reason, therefore, to increase your efforts and make even greater progress!’p.62 However he is not complimenting their own human achievement but bringing it up as evidence that God is working in them and they are being taught by him (v.9). So the ultimate motivation can be put like this:
This may be summed up as follows: “Because it sanctifies, God’s interior activity demands holiness; because it impels to agapê, it demands growth in agapê.”p.63 God’s inward renewal must not be resisted by sinful behaviour but they must second it by walking in holiness and love. The choice is to disregard this renewal or walk in it more and more.
Updated 2009-09-27 (build:50) by Andrew Fountain