Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



IV. The Model Walk and the Blessed Hope, 4:1-18

In this chapter the Apostle begins to emphasize more definitely the Christian's state and walk. He calls our attention to the practical things of the Christian life, He sees the great need of that increase of faith and holiness necessary to set forth before the world the Christ in whom they believed, who is so wonderful in bestowing righteousness and gifts of which the world knows nothing. He warns the disciples that they must not allow themselves to be led away with excitement in thinking of the Lord's return, but with quietness and honesty perform their duties to the saved and unsaved, so the Gospel will be set forth by the believers through the Holy Spirit in a powerful, convincing manner to the unbelieving world.


Ver. 1. Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk, that ye abound more and more.

This introduces the practical part of the Epistle. It connects this exhortation with the closing verses of the last chapter. He prayed that the Lord would open the way by which he might visit this Church and that the Lord would increase the love and bond of union that they might be established unblamable in holiness before God. These Christians ought to be able to do their part and to do it well, so that the right influence of the Christian life might be felt by the unsaved.

“Exhort you by the Lord.” They were all in fellowship and therefore, Paul has great anxiety as to the walk manifested by the disciples. He writes as the agent sent forth by the Lord Jesus Christ. You know what. charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus. He here calls their attention to his exhortation based upon the Word of God during the three weeks of his residence among them. He wants these people to have an eye on God so that He may be pleased with their walk. God sets no bounds to the communion of His grace and Spirit to they who are faithful. There are no bounds to grace, and there should be none to the exercise in grace. No man can ever feel that he loves God too much or that he loves man too much for God's sake. The Apostle has great confidence in these disciples, and knows that they walk as Christians, but he also realizes the fact that there is something yet within which, if brought to the power of God, would make them abound more and more.

Ver. 2. For ye know what charge (commandment) we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle appeals to their memory in confirmation of what he had said. The charge or commandments that he gave them were not his except to deliver. These are the things that came directly from the Lord who is the all truth; and when the Apostle gives what he received from the Lord to deliver then the Lord is back of these commandments because they are His own. Here we have an illustration of what inspiration is. The Apostle received and gave from the Lord. The minister of the Gospel that receives and gives from the Lord is an inspired teacher. He has a message for the unsaved, not his message, but the Lord's.


  • By whom does the Apostle exhort the Thessalonians?

  • What were the commandments given by the Apostle?

  • Where did Paul get the commandments that he gave?


“The Apostle had prayed for increase of fellowship and holiness that at the coming of the Lord we might be found _ well-pleasing unto Him. God sent his Son to give His life that we might be saved. The Apostle Paul is all the time trying to help the Christian know and understand just what God did for us in order that we might be in Christ and Christ in us. The more we know of what God did for us the more we will try to do what he says in His Holy Word. God delighteth not in outward obedience as He doth in obedience to His voice and will. The Christian prayed, “Thy will be done.” a

Ver. 3. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification that ye abstain from fornication.

God is able to save and to destroy. The will of God, therefore, has two. significations in the Scripture: The one a determination to punish all who will not accept His Son through faith, the other to give eternal life and eternal inheritance to those who are obedient. The will of God is our sanctification. He willeth that all men should be saved. But salvation is possible only through sanctification, for “Without holiness no man. shall see the Lord.” Sanctification is the separation from all that is evil. Christ is our sin offering and through our acceptance of Him as our substitute we are saved. Christ is our burnt offering, and through our acceptance of Him we become sanctified, holy dedicated unto the Lord who bought us and separated from that which is not holy. This means a gradual confirming of the human will to the blessed will of God. Christ, therefore, is our sanctifier. “Ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). The Apostle is writing to those who had been among the unconverted heathen, and are now numbered with the disciples of Christ. In coming into this new experience it is necessary for the Apostle to speak to them very plainly and solemnly concerning practices among the heathen that ought not to be known and named among the disciples of Christ. The heathen do not stand in any sense related to the will of God as do those who are representatives of Him by His Son. If the will of God is our sanctification, sanctification involves purity. “The pure in heart shall see God.” The Lord Jesus through the Apostle Paul gives this much needed command to the Church which shows the change that should come over those who come out of darkness into” the light of Christ.

Ver. 4. That each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.

Interpreters are not fully agreed as to what the Apostle means in this verse. By some it is simply a figurative expression for wife. That every man use his wife for the purpose ”˜ alone for which God created her and instituted marriage. Peter calls the wife, “The weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Others believe that the Apostle has reference to the body of individual believers. The body is the vessel in which the soul dwells (2 Cor. 4:7). In this same sense the Apostle uses this in writing to the Romans. However, this is admitted by all, that purity and continency must be observed whether it refers to the wife or to the husband as the following verses sufficiently prove. It is well that everyone obtain the mastery over his own body, which mastery is his thorough regeneration. In this way he comes out of the old into a new nature which gives him the power to keep his body for holy and sanctified purposes,

Ver. 5. Not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not God.

We could not expect unregenerate Gentiles to know the result of this life as the regenerate who are born again, and know God. The moral sense of the heathen was so perverted and their nature so corrupt that they looked upon this as a thing of indifference. Ignorance of God is the fountain of impurity (Rom, 1:24).

Ver. 6. That no man transgress and wrong (defraud) his brother in the matter:because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified.

Paul said that fornication is contrary to sanctification, and therefore, contrary to the will of God. Now he goes on to say that it destroys brotherly love; that uncontrolled passion has destroyed and injured the rights of a brother. From the context it would appear that the Apostle meant to say that no man should by any means endeavor to corrupt the wife of another or to alienate her affections from her husband. The Lord is the avenger and will punish all those who defraud and are guilty of such sinful practices. The Apostle spoke before of the warning that he had received from the Lord concerning these sinful practices, therefore the Lord takes up here the case of the injured husband and all similar vices he will similarly punish. Every species of uncleanness was practiced among the heathen, who living themselves in such corrupt practices, did not consider them vices. The Christian religion not only discountenances these things but forbids them under the most awful penalty, therefore, wherever Christianity prevails, these vices, if they remain at all, are forced to seek the deepest gloom of midnight to cover them from the eyes of men.

Ver. 7. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification.

God, the creator of male and female and the author of marriage, has called men and women into this sacred union of which He is the author. God does not call men to uncleanness but unto holiness.

Ver. 8. Therefore, he that rejecteth (despiseth), rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth His Holy Spirit unto you.

What is rejected is either the above commandment to moral purity, or the Christian's calling to holiness, or Paul himself as the agent in bringing things of God unto man. In doing this, man as the agent of God has no commandment of his own to be rejected and therefore rejects God who is the giver of these commandments. Peter said to Ananias “Thou hast not lied unto man but unto God” (Acts. 5:4). In doing this you must recognize the difference between rejecting that which is human and that which is Divine. The author of these commandments is also responsible for the gift of the Holy Spirit unto the believer. It is no wonder that the Apostle asserts in the strongest and plainest terms that he is under the leadership and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given for the express purpose of sanctification, to bring about holiness which is contrary to uncleanness and impurity. Herein is the climax of this exhortation. The Christian man has no excuse when he is in possession of commandments that have come to him direct from God, and a sanctified body for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You see how God has made provision that all of us may live sanctified and holy lives.


  • How is God's will our sanctification?

  • What reasons are given to abstain from fornication?

  • Unto what has God called us?

  • Men who engage in the vices named here, rejected whom?

  • What does the Holy Spirit produce in the Christian's life?


The Church of God is the school of love and God himself known as the great teacher. He teaches us by His example. God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. The Son of God loved men and gave himself for men.

Ver. 9. But concerning love of the brethren, ye have no need that one write unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

This is the love of Christian to Christian, the special affection which believers bear to one another, a virtue which was carried to such a perfection in the primitive Church as to call forth the admiration of their heathen adversaries. The Apostle no doubt had intended to write to the Church especially on this topic of brotherly love, but on account of the report that he had received from Timothy finds it unnecessary to give any more attention to this subject which they so fully understand and practice. These early disciples were under God's instructions. The Holy Spirit dwelling in these sanctified temples was continuously teaching that which was from God. Brotherly love is a part of every regenerate nature, a spiritual instinct which does not need further instruction by the Apostle because so fully instructed by God.

Ver. 10. For indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more.

This God taught love cannot be limited to those persons abiding in Thessalonica, but to all the brethren in Macedonia. God considers them all as children of his and all the churches in Christ makes one glorious body (Eph. 3:1-9). The Apostle feels that this progress in brotherly love will always be needed in the Church that there might be an increase in purity, righteousness and holiness.

Ver. 11, And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands even as we charged you.

God means that the Christian should live in security and confidence in Him who has called him. Live in peace. Worldly ambition excludes quietness and promotes restlessness. Paul's admonition is that “you do the things that God has laid upon your heart, and do them under His direction.” That which generally disturbs the peace of the Church is not political but religious. The members did not fully understand the meaning of the blessed hope and right relation to the return of the Lord. ”˜Many have brought reproach upon this very important doctrine by teaching that which the Scriptures do not warrant. This seems to have been the trouble in this Church. They made disturbance through a neglect of their ordinary business and thus brought an influence to bear against those who ought to be saved. Instead of intensely working for the saving of men and the increase of holiness and righteousness, they became indifferent and idle. This is the reason for the command to study and to work with their own hands. The Apostle Paul gives a similar exhortation to the Church at Ephesus, “Let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good.” All should work and not become a burden to the Church of God. Idle persons, however smooth they may talk and fluently they may pray, cannot be Christians. They are hypocrites and deceivers. All true members pray and work.

Ver. 12. That ye may walk becomingly toward them that are without, and may have need of nothing.

The Christian walk should be dignified and becoming as members of the Body of Christ so that the right influence might go forth in the community. The Christian must always think of those who are unconverted, Jews and Gentiles who are in the unbelieving world. The Apostle says, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Col. 4:5). Of all persons the Christian should so pray and work that it might not be necessary to ask assistance, either from the heathen or fellow Christians. The Apostle means that these material things of which the world thinks so much about should in no way be used by the Christian to destroy his influence with the unregenerate. God is the source of all wealth and the Church is the redeemed body of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, God is her keeping power, able to enrich her with the gifts that are needed to carry forward her mission in the world.


  • Why was it not necessary for Paul to write concerning brotherly love?

  • Who was their great teacher?

  • What does Paul say about the love of these Christians?

  • Is there any unrest now that needs to be quieted and how?

  • Why does Paul emphasize, “working with your hands?”


In the Early Church the Disciples did not fully understand what would happen to those who died before the coming of the Lord, so the Apostle is giving words of comfort to those who are mourning the death of their friends. These words contain one of the great revelations of the Bible and require, therefore, a positive statement as to the blessings for those who are with Him when he comes and those who are still on the earth and will be translated at His coming. Their views as to the nature and time of the advent and of the future state in general, were confused. They expected that Christ would come immediately and establish His kingdom on earth, consequently they feared that those who had died would be excluded from the blessings of the kingdom.

Ver. 13. But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the tesf, which have no hope.

The Apostle uses this phrase frequently when he makes a transition to a new and important subject (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1). The death of believers in the New Testament is frequently called sleep. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11:11). When Stephen was stoned it was said, “he fell asleep” (Acts. 7:60). It was the common epitaph on the tombstones of the early Christian. It. is to be observed that it is not of the dead generally that the Apostle speaks but of the believers in Christ, and especially those members of the Thessalonian Church who died. When our friends die we are not to sorrow for them as those do who sorrow for the persons who have not accepted Christ as their redeemer, Why should we thus sorrow for those who know Christ and have the blessed hope of His coming and of a glorified Body after the resurrection? The tears of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus have authorized and sanctified Christian sorrow. It is all right to sorrow when earthly ties are broken, to grieve for those whom we know are regenerated and are included in the resurrection of the dead. The heathen are not in possession of this blessed hope. They have no hope of immortality. The heathen even have very little hope of the future life. They mourn after the death of their friends as an irreparable loss. One of the great things the Apostle Paul was concerned about after he became separated unto the Gospel of God was that he might know the power of the resurrection.

Ver. 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.

Our resurrection depends upon the belief that Jesus Christ died on the cross, that He was buried, and that He arose again; and now through His life we receive our life and our inheritance. The Apostle's argument proceeded on the supposition that Christ and the believers are one Body, of which Christ is the Head and the believers are the members, and therefore what happened to the Head must happen to the members. Our knowledge and belief of the future state is founded on the resurrection of the Head or Christ Himself (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

“Even so then.” Those who had faith in Christ Jesus members of the Body of Christ, who now sleep in Jesus since their physical death, will God bring with Him. They are now with Jesus and when Jesus comes they will come with Him. It is through Jesus that the believer falls asleep. We have been changed from the Adamic nature into the new nature of Christ Himself, and when separated at death, we go to Him, remain with Him, and when He comes we come with Him, as members of His body.

Ver. 15. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede (prevent) them that are fallen asleep.

The Apostle emphasizes the fact that what he is saying here is fully in harmony with the Word of God. He does not have anything to say Himself nor has the Holy Spirit anything to say for Himself but just what the Lord tells them they reveal concerning the great facts of His coming and the blessing to be enjoyed by all the members of His body. We can be assured that the Apostle does not refer to the last discourses of the Saviour recorded in the Gospels nor the sayings of God preseryed by tradition, but a new and direct revelation given by the Lord Himself so the saints might in no sense have any doubt of being in the Lord, no matter if they are with Him now in glory or on the earth at His coming. We know from the Word of God that Paul was one through whom He made known the secrets of His will. This puts Christ back of what Paul says and we should accept what Paul says as Christ's Word. Here are the words of Christ. Will you let the Holy Spirit help you hear His voice?

“That we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” The Apostle here means anyone who may be living at the time of the Lord's return. The Scripture is silent concerning the definite time when the Lord will return. The Apostle, however, included himself among the Thessalonians and emphasizes anyone in this age of grace who is living at the time that the Lord Jesus shall come.

Jesus says, “Watch and pray for ye know not the time.” The Lord's return may be immediate, may be any moment, and we are expected to be ready, not only ready but watching and waiting for His return. Those who are living and remain are distinct from those who sleep or have gone before. Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). Christ and the Apostles taught the immediateness of the event. The Scripture everywhere teaches the same, “that in an hour when ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am ye may be also” (John 14:3). This was a simple announcement that He would come again and receive those who are His to Himself. He did not say a word about the manner of that coming and how He would receive His own into glory to be with Him. No definite revelation had been given the Church concerning this glorious coming until we have it here in this chapter. As to the manner of His coming and concerning those who had already fallen asleep and their relation to that event, they were in ignorance. What a great comfort it has been to the Church in all ages that the Lord answered, through the Holy Spirit and the Apostles, the question of these sorrowing ones. No wonder the Apostle closes by saying, “Comfort one another with these words.” The Apostle believed as well as all Christians who knew and believed the Word of God, that Christ might return at any time and that he might be among those living ones who would see Him at his coming. Because the Lord did not come, in no sense weakened the faith of the Disciples because they had the promise of being with Him and returning with Him at His coming. The expectation of the coming of the Lord was a part of the doctrine and belief of the early Disciples, an incentive to purity and holiness. The Early Church believed that individually they were members of the Body of Christ and as a Body could not bear to be long separated from the Head. This is the revelation that Christ has given unto the Church. If we believe it and live in it, it becomes a part of us and will produce stability, purity, and holiness as we are nearing the morning of His coming.

Christ tells us that when He comes for His saints, those who have fallen asleep will not have an inferior place and that we the living ones, who remain to the coming of the Lord, will not precede them. When Paul wrote these words “we the living who remain,” he certainly included himself in that class. The two companies who are to be glorified by resurrection at His coming are those who have fallen asleep and those who are living; they are mentioned here for the first time. Just how this is to be done is further set forth by the Lord who is to do it.

Ver. 16. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven. After Christ rose from the dead He was on the earth about forty days proving Himself to be a living Saviour among the saints. He then took His departure from the Mount of Olives and went to the right hand of God in glory crowned with honor and majesty. Ever since His ascension He has been exercising His priesthood and making intercession in behalf of His people, by which He strengthens, perfects, and keeps those who are His. When the age of grace has come to a close and the last member has been added to the Church as His Body, that Body which is to be with Him in glory at his own right hand, He will leave the place that He now occupies at God's right hand and descend from Heaven with a shout. The meeting place for Him and His saints will be in the air and not on the earth. When He comes with His saints in His visible manifestation, then is the time that He will descend to the earth.

He descends with a shout, a commanding shout as that of a leader to His hosts when he leads them into battle. He comes at the head of an army of redeemed souls. This army is not going forth to battle under this captain at this time, but He has come for the purpose of uniting His forces, those who are with Him in glory and those on the earth. They return with Him into glory to make ready, however, for a later conflict when Christ will ride on the white horse with this united army, going forth to conquer and subdue all who have been and will be disobedient unto the Will of God. What words are used in this command or shout, we do not know. We who are looking for Him and they who are with Him would be glad to hear the word, “Come.” The disciples that were. with John the Baptist at the River Jordan when Jesus returned after his temptation in the wilderness, heard John say “Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” The two disciples came and asked Jesus, “Where dwellest thou?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” These same words would be welcome words to hear from the Master's lips when He comes to unite and glorify through resurrection His saints,

When Christ comes for His own there will also be the voice of the arch-angel (Michael) and the trump of God. Michael, the arch-angel is the leader of angelic hosts. The arch-angel will be with Him in His descent out of heaven into the air to unite His Body at the time of this glorious return. All Heaven is interested in the work of redemption. We are told of the joy that is known in Heaven when one soul is redeemed and added to the Church, the Body of Christ. This is the time that all sinners, saved by grace, are brought with glorified bodies into the holy, glorified family of God. The teaching of Jesus here, helps us to understand that there is a great difference between the graves of the redeemed and unredeemed. This glorious coming forth at this time will be enjoyed only by the redeemed. Such being the teaching of our Master it behooves us who are sinners saved by grace, separated unto the Gospel of God, to be active in the mission that Christ has given us in calling men out of darkness into light that they might come into possession of that which is to be enjoyed at the event of the first resurrection.

Ver. 17. Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Those saints who are still working on the earth for the Master shall be changed, transfigured and made immortal. They shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. We are saved by the power of God; saved by grace, not by works, lest any man should boast. We stand justified before God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died and by the power of God was brought forth into life. Then at the beginning of our new and glorious life we were made such through the supernatural power of God: If we remain on the earth at the coming of the Lord, God's power will be so gloriously manifested that the physical body within which we are then living will be miraculously changed and we will come in possession of an immortal and glorified body. Our hearts go out in gratitude to God for what He did in bringing us into fellowship with Himself and the saints, and what He promises to do for us to complete us for glory. All of what God is telling us about coming into fellowship and glory, is beyond man's reason and intelligence and we accept through faith the sayings of Him who knoweth all things. This is what Jesus Himself reveals unto us, He is the creator of the world, holds all things in the power of His hand, and therefore is able to do everything for us beyond our own thoughts and reason. It behooves us therefore to accept unreservedly all that He teaches - because it has back of it the authority and power of God.

Ver. 18. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The Apostle meant that the information concerning those who die and those who are alive, should bring comfort to the members here on earth. We are to receive comfort from these words. Much depends upon who speaks the Word as to the comfort they can gain. These comforting words are the words of Jesus. We are told here that all who receive Christ by faith will not only have Christ to abide with them now, but will abide with Him later with all redeemed in glory. Are not these words of wonderful comfort when we carry the body of our loved ones to the home of the dead and lay them away? We look at their graves as different graves from those of the unregenerate. These graves are to be opened and the redeemed come forth in glorified bodies. The Master's words are comforting because they tell us that upon His return these graves will be disturbed, while other graves will be undisturbed. It makes no difference how these graves may be sealed or guards placed about them, they will be opened by the same power that opened the grave of Jesus and brought Him forth, and those within will come forth with new bodies as He came forth. If you want comfort from these words you must be willing to obey the Christ, receive Him as your Saviour, work for Him and talk for Him, help others to know Him as their redeemer, and if you continue faithful in the mission that he gives you, these words will be a comfort to you when you lay away loved ones who have been redeemed, and they will be a comfort to you whether you have passed through death or are still living at the return of the Lord.


  • What was the ignorance that Paul referred to in the Thessalonian Church?

  • What ignorance is there in the Christian world on this subject?

  • Is it wrong to sorrow at the departing of our loved ones?

  • Whose words are these used by the Apostle?

  • Who is Christ to bring back with Him at His coming?

  • What about those who are living when Christ comes?

  • Do the Scriptures teach that some men never die?

  • Tell what comfort you get from the words?