1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 [M]ake it your ambition to lead a quiet life . . . so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.
In their passion to advance the gospel, the Thessalonians were apparently too vocal, and were neglecting other duties. They may have been evangelizing, but they were living irresponsibly, and discrediting the gospel they proclaimed. Paul wanted them to simply settle down and earn the respect of outsiders. Outsiders do not have to like us, but we should try to win their respect through quiet living and hard work.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
The return of Jesus Christ will be the climax of history, and the Thessalonians were looking forward to it. But they were concerned about believers who had already died. What would happen to them? Paul explained that they would not miss out, but would be raised with all believers to meet the Lord in the air.
Some people think that when Christ returns, he will take his people back to heaven, but that is not required by this passage. It was, in fact, the custom to meet people outside the city to escort them in (Matthew 25:6, Acts 28:15).
The return of Christ will be so great that believers from every age, will rise to meet him in the air, and escort him down to earth. This will be a day of dread for unbelievers, but a glorious day for all who belong to Christ. Therefore, encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:18) wrote Paul.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you.
Many have wondered about the time and date of Christ’s return, but It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority (Acts 1:7), said Jesus. [A]bout that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36), he said.
Believers should be silent about the time of Christ’s return, since Jesus taught that no one knows the date. Nevertheless, dozens of dates have been predicted, most of which have already passed. Whenever someone predicts the date of Christ’s return, they are pretending to know more than Jesus. The best response is to simply ignore them.
Instead of telling us when he would return, Jesus emphasized the importance of being ready. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:44), he said. Perhaps your parents came home at at an hour you did not expect them, and you can still remember it.
My friend worked at a bicycle store, and his boss went on vacation. Since he was not due back for a week, my friend closed the store during lunch one day, and went out for pizza. To his surprise, his boss returned early and was waiting for him at the store. Jesus wants us to live each day expectantly, so we will not be surprised by his return.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 [E]ncourage one another and build each other up.
Life is hard for everyone, but it can be harder for Christians. That is why Paul made it the duty of every Christian to encourage other believers, and build them up in their faith. Few Christians suffer from over-encouragement, but many suffer from under-encouragement.
A group of college students met weekly to improve their writing skills. They were brutally honest, but twenty years later, not one of them was published. Another group also met weekly, but focused on encouragement. Twenty years later most had become successful. A little encouragement is all some people need to succeed. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 [G]ive thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul did not tell them to give thanks for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. We do not have to be thankful for a broken leg, but we should be thankful for the one that isn’t broken. We do not have to be thankful for our problems, but we should be thankful they are not any worse.
A homeless lady was having dinner at a rescue mission and was beaming with joy. I only have two teeth, she said, but they just happen to be opposite each other so that I can chew my food. This is the attitude Paul had in mind.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
God wants every part of us, and is often working in a certain area. It might be our words, thoughts, deeds, habits, money or a dozen other things. The struggle will be fierce at times, but God will not give up until we are conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
A friend of mine struggled with a particular sin for years. As he prayed, one day, he felt a strange sensation on his head—as though God was touching it. Then he lost all desire for that particular sin. This is rare, of course, but it shows what God can do for his children who want to be sanctified through and through. We should yield every part of our lives, and ask God to help us where ever we struggle most.
Reflection and Review
How can Christians win the respect of outsiders?
Why do Christians need encouragement?
Why should believers always be thankful?