1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Pleasing God
Home group Notes
As we enter chapter 4, Paul’s focus changes.  In chapters 1 to 3 he has been concentrating on his apologia, that is, his defence of his ministry in Thessalonica.  As chapter 4 begins, the focus is turns to exhortation. 
Paul picks up on his prayer from the end of chapter 3, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  (3:12-13)  In chapter 4 he elaborates on the themes of love and holiness.
Read 4:1-3a

  • Paul wants the Thessalonians to live lives that please God.  How easy is it to make this our goal?
  • What other motivations compete with this aim and distract us from pleasing God?
  • God’s will is that we be sanctified (v3 – literally, be made holy, set apart for God)  How has this call sometimes been misinterpreted or misapplied?
  • The Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said, “If all Christians were Christians - that is, Christlike - there would be no more Islam today.”  What do you make of this claim?  What role does holiness play in our witness to the world?
  • How can we support and encourage one another in the process of sanctification?
Paul goes on to highlight three areas of life in which this holy distinctiveness should work itself out:  Sexual morality (v3b-8), brotherly love (v9-10) and our work ethic (v11-12).

Read 4:3b-8
v4a is possibly the hardest verse in this letter to translate, hence the footnote in NIV.  Whichever sense is most appropriate, two things are clear:  the conduct implied is holy and honourable (v4b) and it stands in contrast to the passionate lust displayed by the heathen (v5).  It seems most likely that some sort of sexual self-control is in mind, possibly linked to the notion of marriage (for which cf 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 36)
  • What distinguishes lust from genuine love?
  • Do you think our society encourages lust or love, and in what ways?
  • What might a holy and honourable approach to sexual relationships look like?
  • How has sex been used to take advantage of others, or deliberately to wrong them?
  • How can the church corporately present a counter-cultural approach to sexual relationships that is both godly and relevant?
  • v6-8 indicate that God takes our sexual conduct very seriously.  Do we share his viewpoint? 
Read 4:9-10
The Thessalonian Christians had learnt to love from the God who is himself love.  Even though they are clearly living out that love, Paul still urges them to love “more and more”. 
  • How has God taught us to love?
  • What assessment do you think Paul would make of the love evidenced in your homegroup, or in your congregation, or across the parish as a whole?
  • How, practically, can we spur each other on to love more and more? 

Read 4:11-12
Glance back to 2:9 and remind yourselves of Paul’s example of work in Thessalonica.  In these final verses we see that our attitude to work and the mundane toil of daily life is important in God’s eyes. 

  • Why do you think Paul wants the Christians to have the ambition of a quiet life and to mind their own business?
  • In what ways can our work become a part of our Christian witness?
  • Why is it important to not be dependent on anybody?  When does a godly commitment to work for an employer tip over into an unhelpful dependence on them?
  • How can we encourage and enable members of our fellowship who are struggling to find enough work?
  • How can we encourage and enable members of our fellowship who are struggling to keep work in the right balance? 

The Thessalonian Christians were encouraged to pursue God’s will in their lives, that they would be sanctified through the power of the Spirit he gave them.  Why not finish by spending some time praying for his Spirit to work in you, transforming and shaping you to live lives of love, filled with holiness?

Jon Prior, 16/06/2014