Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Evening Sermon Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/ev/ev19981129.htm
1 THESSALONIANS: HELPING CONVERTS FROM PAGANISM
Part V: Starting Converts From Typically Dysfunctional Backgrounds Off In The Right Direction
(1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
Lesson: To get a new convert from a typically godless, dysfunctional background headed in the right direction, we, like Paul in his instruction to the Thessalonians, can use the following guide: (1) First, we should get the new convert to focus on excelling in moral excellence, addressing his sexual needs within the context of considerate interaction with his lawfully wedded spouse. (2) Second, we should urge the new convert to unleash his God-given desire to help other needy believers in tangib le ways. (3) Third, we should tell the convert to focus on a quality lifestyle testimony by resorting to a law-abiding, self-supporting, hard-working lifestyle. (4) Fourth, we show him that by such lifestyle practices that he is to become financially self -sufficient to his own economic advantage in God's will!
- As we find people coming to Christ from increasingly spiritually non-Christian backgrounds, we sometimes struggle in what to say to them to disciple them as there is so much they have to learn and so many pitf alls into which they can head to their spiritual harm.
- The Apostle Paul faced this challenge and set a pattern for us in the process as follows in 1 Thess. 4:1-12:
- Starting Converts From Typically Dysfunctional Backgrounds Off In The Right Direction:
- As we have learned already, Paul evangelized a number of the Thessalonians out of paganism (1 Th. 1:9) before having to flee Thessalonica from persecuting Judaizers, Acts 17:1-10.
- Since he had been such a short time with them, and had to leave under duress, Paul was concerned about the spiritual welfare of these relatively new converts in his sudden absence from them, 1 Thess. 3:1-2, 6- 8:
- In the process of writing to help these converts, Paul exampled for us how to direct new converts into godly living in a nutshell in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 as follows:
- First, Paul stated his admonition to these converts that they abound in living godly lives, 1 Thess. 4:1-2.
- Next, he laid out several areas of excellence as follows:
- Paul wanted these believers to excel in moral excellence, 1 Thess. 4:2-8: (a) God wanted these new converts to be separate from the immorality of their pagan backgrounds, 4:3. (b) To offset the temptations for such immorality, they were to direct their sexual drives to finding fulfillment in the marriage bond in a way that did not take dishonorable advantage of the spouse, 4:4-6. ["Vessel" is often used in Hebrew writers to refer to one's wife, and in the context, it fits well with the idea of acquiring access to one's spouse in an honorable way as opposed to the crude, selfish and abusive practices of much sexual abuse in paganism.] (c) To show how important this issue was, Paul reminded the believers that the Holy Spirit would avenge wrongs done toward the spouse in this matter, 4:6b. ( d) Thus, moral excellence is a priority in living for a convert out of paganism.
- Paul urged these believers to excel in brotherly love toward the Church, 1 Thess. 4:9-10: (a) The call for brotherly love in verse 9 is further explained in verse 10 as an exercise the new converts already were practicing toward Christians in the whole region. In the context, these converts had made contact with other believers in the region (1 Thess. 1:7-10), expressing the faith, and apparently also took up financial offerings for others in need, cf. Rom. 15:26 (cf. also 1 Jn. 3:16-18). Thus, Paul urged these believers to unleash their desires to help other believers in need in a tangible way through gifts of support, that they would grow in it all the more!
- Paul told these new converts to excel in lifestyle witnessing, 1 Thess. 4:11-12: (a) The call to live a quiet, non-riotous life, to do one's own business with his own effort would elicit the respect of unbelievers, v. 11. (b) Accordingly, Paul urged such quality living to that end in 1 Thess. 4:12a.
- Additionally, such living would cause these new believers to be good economic managers, 1 Thess. 4:11-12, esp. v. 12b: (a) besides having a good testimony, living a quiet, law-abiding life, sticking to one's own affairs and seeking to work independently so one could have maximum control of his livelihood made for a better income, 1 Thess. 4:11. (b) Paul thus asked for this style of life to increase the economic welfare of his new converts from godless economic backgrounds, v. 12b.