2.2.1 The content of the imperative in 1 Thess 4:1-12
We must remember that Paul’s exhortations in this passage are not as a result of problems in the church, but derive from the fundamental nature of the New People of God.
A. The content of the paraklêsis in vv. 3-8.
- 1 Thess 4:3-8 (ESV)
- For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
- that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour,
- not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
- that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
- For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
- Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
A brief interpretation is given here but a detailed exegetical analysis may be found in Appendix C. Both v.3 and v.7 contain ἁγιασμός (sanctification, holiness) which forms an inclusio, suggesting that the verses in between will explain what this means. Paul does not use ἁγιασμός frequently, “But where he does use it, it clearly denotes the fundamental constituent of christian existence as
- the effect of the activity of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Thess 2:13)
- begun in Baptism (cf. Rom 6:19-22, 1 Cor 1:30)
- ἁγιασμός is the process by which God communicates his own holiness to the Christian, thereby transforming the whole of his existence and conduct.
- ἁγιασμός therefore embraces the whole of the Christian’s moral activity.
- It’s application is not to be arbitrarily restricted to the sphere of sexual morality.
- But it can have such a restricted application”p.86-87[reformatted]
- the context must determine the sphere of ἁγιασμός in any given passage.
In these verses, Paul is only concerned with sexual morality.
- v.4 control of one’s body
- v.5 not to follow the sexual excesses of the ‘Gentiles’
- v.6 not to wrong a brother in regards to sexual matters
- v.7 for we are called to purity
- v.8 to ignore this “…is to resist the inward, sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit.”p.87
But we will see shortly that the particular perspective of ἁγιασμός in v.3-7 can only be properly understood in the context of the whole passage.
B. The content of the paraklêsis in vv. 9-12.
- 1 Thess 4:9-12 (ESV)
- Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
- for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,
- and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,
- so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Verses 9 & 10 are concerned with brotherly love, which raises the question as to how v.11-12 relate to this issue, a question that is debated. They are not to be a social nuisance by “…being materially dependent on others.”p.88 In 1 Thess 2:9 Paul reminds them of how he avoided being dependent on others for reasons of love, a motivation which fits well in the current context.
It is true that an additional motivation is introduced in v.12a…. But it is not an unrelated one. For it is not the fact that they ‘work with their own hands’ that will enable the Thessalonians to make a good impression on ‘outsiders’… but the fact that by so doing they will ensure that charity and order are maintained in the community. It is contention in the community that gives scandal to ‘outsiders’ (cf. 1 Cor 6:6).
So right from the start we see that Paul’s exhortations are focused on holiness, seen here in reference to sexual purity and brotherly love.
Updated 2009-09-27 (build:50) by Andrew Fountain