Download the Discussion Guide for GOD PLEASERS. Paul is giving instructions to the church at Thessalonica about practical living. His focus here is to call the church to holiness, literally “sanctification”. The word he uses is built off the root word for Agape- God’s unconditional love. There is a way to live life that expresses practically a love for God. This “sanctified” life, pleases God. Paul defines it in terms of both agape (God’s unconditional love) and philos (friendship or brotherly love). We must love God and therefore love our brother. The Holy Spirit testifies to both of these things. Paul applies the idea of loving oru brother as an expression of loving God in two specific issues- sexuality and work ethic. We understand that we are to love both God and each other. But the Thessalonians, like us, lived in a mixed up world and needed some
practical teaching about how that principle impacts how they handle their sexuality. There were many forms of sexual sin (“pornea” in greek), which were tolerated, and even accepted. That definitely reflects our American culture. Paul needed to remind them, as he reminds us, that a holy love for God and each other, calls us to sexual purity. In Paul’s day, these sexual allowances were meant to allow men other ways to get sexual pleasure than through their wife. Mistresses were for pleasure, concubines were for daily sexual appetite, and a wife was for an honorable home and the rearing of children. While we don’t allow such things in America, we have provided the same avenues for sexual expression outside of marriage. Movies, the internet, magazines all provide opportunities for men and women alike to experience sexual fulfillment outside of their marriage union. These things are all founded in the idea that the other person’s sexual role is to fulfill me, and are therefore selfish to the core. They violate the God-given gift of the man-wife sexual union- to love the other person and provide for their needs. These modern day mistresses and concubines are just as destructive to the divine provision for a fulfilled marriage. We must reject them and hold fast to the gift of God in our spouse. Paul’s instruction to live a holy life- the process of sanctification- moves beyond sexual instructions to how we handle our work ethic. There were those in Paul’s day who believed that the 2nd coming was imminent and so they quit working. They were obviously excited about the 2nd coming, but had allowed their excitement to lead to a lazy life that was in direct violation of Jesus’ prohibition of going to the hills to await his coming. Paul reminds us that our work ethic as believers says something about God’s character. As we stand for him in our communities, how hard we work gives testimony to God’s character. As believers, we are not to be lazy. There is a difference between those who need help because they are going through a difficult time, and those who refuse to work and take the life-style of dependency on the kindness of others. Paul calls us to work hard so we can help those in need, AND to refuse to live life in such a way that we are dependent on the generosity of others when we could work hard and help those who truly need it. So, for Paul, the call to live a life that is pleasing to God is an overarching principle of living out God’s character. Whether we are talking about how we handle our sexual appetites or how we handle our work ethic, the point is the same. We are to allow the unconditional love for God to impact how we love our neighbor. We are to put their needs above our own. That includes both sexual purity, and being a hard worker who helps others. When we choose to live out the love of God in such a way that we love our neighbor, we are God pleasers- Holy…being sanctified.