Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: Emotional stability follows true understanding.
Introduction: As we have looked at Paul's "topics" in 1 Thessalonians, we have noted that he really does have a definite focus upon his thesis in 5:23: the Father's entire sanctification of His children, spirit, soul, and body so that they end up "blameless" when the Lord Jesus Christ comes from heaven. This reality is what gives sense to his "topic selection" in the letter. The first three chapters were given over to the expression of Paul's intense desires for the Thessalonians to remain "in the faith" in spite of Satan's opposition. Then, in a kind of unexpected turn, chapter four put a strong focus upon sexual restraint. But, when we realize that this "topic" is actually a turn to the sanctification of the body, it suddenly "makes sense" in light of the larger issue (5:23).
In the paragraph before us this evening we come to a new and different "topic" -- one that is only given the specific details here. No other texts of the New Testament actually address the coming of the Lord in the way this one does. This paragraph gives us a fairly graphic explanation of what will happen to believers when the Lord comes. But, its rationale is given in the first and last statements: the problem of "grief" and its solution in "comfort" (paraklesis).
It is my intention this evening to simply look at Paul's introductory remark; that he wants to spare the Thessalonians from the unwarranted "grief" that often overwhelms people in this life.
December 7, 2014
- I. The Problem: Grief in the Soul.
- A. In Luke's record of the parable of the soils, there is a characterization of certain root problems that form a basis for our understanding (Luke 8:12 and following).
- 1. There was a type of soil that allows the devil to remove the impact of the Word of God from the person's life with the consequence that the person does not "believe and be saved".
- 2. Then there was a type of soil that sponsored the germination of the seed of the Word, but could not sustain it's living presence so that the people "believed for a while" and then fell away in the time of temptation [This is clearly Paul's concern in 1 Thessalonians 1-3].
- 3. Then there was a type of soil that received the Word, but did not discriminate between it and the impact of "cares" and "riches" and "pleasures" so that no mature fruit resulted [This seems to be Paul's concern with sexual restraint and emotional grief in 1 Thessalonians 4].
- 4. And there was what Jesus called "good earth" that was characterized in terms of "a good and honest heart" that was willing to be patient until mature fruit could be realized.
- B. The particular problem of our text: grief.
- 1. This would fall into Luke's category of soil that allows "thorns" to "choke the Word".
- 2. At issue is whether or not a person's physical demeanor can be used by God to validate the truths of the Word.
- 3. Grief or sorrow is not conducive to this divine intention.
- II. The Solution: Removal of "Ignorance".
- A. The particulars of the "ignorance".
- 1. There is a range of issues in "ignorance".
- a. Several of Paul's remarks in his letters about ignorance have to do with no information.
- b. Mark 9:32 says a statement was not understood, leading to ignorance (information that is not grasped).
- c. 1 Timothy 1:13 is a claim by Paul that "unbelief" results in ignorance (information that is pretty clearly understood, but rejected as true).
- 2. This context does not deal with the issues of "beloved ones" who die outside of faith.
- a. The implication is that there must be some level of discretion about how deeply one commits the welfare of his/her soul to an unbeliever.
- 1. Jesus addressed this issue rather pointedly in Matthew 10:37 [the phileo word is in play here; the degree to which one commits his/her soul to another].
- 2. The Scriptures are clear that true "brotherhood" is not a matter of "blood", it is a matter of love/faith (loyalties that are rooted in "blood" are false loyalties and put "believers" in significant danger: Matthew 10:36).
- b. There is no "relief" from grief that is the result of misguided values/beliefs (as illustrated by those who wail over material losses and are not consolable).
- 3. That Paul felt constrained to address "grief" that arose from the "death" of a believer means that he clearly understood the implications of his earlier commitment (2:8 and 3:1, 3).
- 4. The particular issue: those who are being 'put to sleep'.
- a. The verb is always passive in form in the New Testament.
- b. Robertson says that its passivity implies "an act of God" is in the mix.
- B. The root fact: hope produces a buffer against grief.
- 1. The particulars of "hope" are strongly implied by this book to be tied to The Hope that is stated and restated throughout this letter: Jesus is coming again.
- 2. This "hope" effectively puts the "sleep" of a fellow believer into the category of a long vacation absence.