1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary

v.3 “Being sanctified or made holy is the process of living the Christian life.  The Holy Spirit works in us, conforming us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).”[1]

vv.9-10 “As exemplary as the Thessalonians had been (1:3; 3:6), however, further progress remained a goal for them (3:12). […] More love is always possible for Christians because the ultimate example of Christ himself (Jn 13:34; 15:12) is infinite and can only be approached, never fully reached.”[2]

vv.11-12 “From the subject of love, Paul changes to something quite different–namely, the importance of industry and individual responsibility in Christian living. The two are not completely unrelated. Nothing disrupts the peace of a Christian community more than the unwillingness of members to shoulder their part of the responsibility for it. To disturb tranquility violates the love that permeates a truly Christian community. More specifically, some members of the Thessalonian church appear to have taken advantage of the liberality of other Macedonian Christians (cf. 2Co 8:1-5) in accepting financial help while making no effort at self-support, a condition that later grew worse (2Th 3:6-15).”[3]

v.11 “A third exhortation, ‘work with your hands,’ suggests that idleness was likely a problem among the Thessalonians. In a Greek culture that degraded manual labor, Christianity joined with Judaism in viewing work as an honorable pursuit.”[4]

v.13 “Paul’s words ‘we do not want you to be ignorant’ introduce his correction of false impressions (cf. Ro 11:25; 1Co 10:1; 12:1). The Thessalonians had concluded that ‘those who fall asleep’ would miss the victory and glory of the Lord’s return. Paul chooses this phrase in lieu of the ‘the dead’ because of death’s temporary nature for Christians (cf. 1Co 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; cf. also Jn 11:11). ‘Sleep’ is an appropriate term for deceased Christians because of their assured bodily resurrection–a doctrine Paul had previously taught the Thessalonians. […]”

“Paul wants to deliver his readers from the grief experienced by ‘the rest of men’ (cf. ‘outsiders,’ v.12). Non-Christians sorrow out of pity for the departed who have entered an unknown realm. For Christians, however, there need be no sorrow on behalf of those who are dead. Grief on behalf of the living and the loss sustained when a loved one dies is legitimate for Christians (Php 2:27) […] Those who have died are better off than those left behind and will be equal participants in future resurrection and the glory of Christ.”[5]


[1] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2174.

[2] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III Gen Ed.Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (2 Volumes) CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994).

[3] Ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

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