In this passage Paul outlines certain aims and aspects of Christian living. In today’s thought we will consider what these are. Tomorrow we will look at why we should live in such a way.
In essence, Paul’s call is that believers should live in a way that pleases God (1) and make progress in such a life. There is no time to stand still. There is a repeated emphasis in these verses not only on upright behaviour, but also on advance and progress in the things of God (1b, 10). Where the Thessalonians were doing well, the apostle asked for ‘’more and more’’ of the same. Someone said, ‘’I’m in the biggest room in the world – the room for improvement.’’
So Paul is writing to the Thessalonians about the life of sanctification; of holiness (3a, 7). This is the kind of living that pleases God. It is instructive to note that there was nothing new about this teaching (1, 2). They were, in fact, being reminded of what they already knew. One important facet of the church’s teaching ministry is to repeatedly go over material that people know, but may not be fully living. It’s in their heads, but not yet in their feet! The expression in (4) ‘’that each of you should learn’’ shows, for example, that growth in purity is not automatic; it takes time. (The new Christians in Thessalonica had come from a ‘’heathen’’ background, and it would probably be a lengthy process for many of them to divest themselves of attitudes and practices that were natural to them in heathenism.)
Paul, in this section, writes about three particular areas for growth in sanctification. There is nothing exhaustive about his treatment of the subject, but probably these three things were particularly relevant to the Thessalonians. They remain of great importance to today’s church:
- Sexual purity/self-control (3, 4);
- Love (9, 10);
- Daily work (see also 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Ephesians 4:28). It would appear that some of the Thessalonian Christians had, deliberately or otherwise, mistaken Paul’s teaching about the second coming of Jesus. They were sitting twiddling their thumbs in the departure lounge at the airport, cases packed, waiting for their flight to be called! What’s the point of working if Jesus is coming back soon? Paul gives good reasons, as we will see tomorrow.
If you content yourself with standing still in the Christian life, you won’t tread water for long. You will soon start to go backwards. Warren Wiersbe says that ‘’more and more’’ should be the desire of the dedicated Christian.
Prayer: Lord, I am aware of the temptation to stay close to the shore; to just paddle in the shallows. But deep within me I long to go deeper into your unfathomable depths. Please hear the cry of my heart for growth, progress and development. I don’t want to stay as I am.