1 Thessalonians – Week 3
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 Intro
We’re skipping over chapter 3 and going ahead to 4:9-12. There’s plenty to dig into in chapter 3, but most of it is a personal report between Timothy, Paul, and the Thessalonians. Take a look at chapter 3 though, it’ll help as you get the flow of the entire book.
So Paul has worked his way from reminiscing about his time with the Thessalonians to talking about how glad he is that they’re doing well now. Now the instruction section of his letter starts. he begins by encouraging the Thessalonians to keep walking faithfully. You read this in the series intro, but note that this isn’t a condemnation; Paul isn’t slapping their wrist for not walking faithfully. He’s simply urging them to continue to do so. That dynamic of ministry is a really helpful one for us to remember, because even the faithful need to be encouraged to faithfulness.
In 4:9-12 we see this same dynamic; Paul praises them for loving each other with brotherly love, and tells them to do so “more and more.”(v.10) He then gives them some instructions on living faithfully, with some specifics on how they relate to others and how they work (see below for more on that). Picking up from last week, we can learn a lot from this letter about how to care for and relate to others, both inside the church in brotherly love and outside the church in walking properly.
What does Paul mean by “work with your hands”?
In v.11 Paul starts to list out some instructions he has for the Thessalonians: aspire to live quietly, mind your own affairs, work with your hands, walk properly, and be dependent upon no one. To us this maybe sounds like a crotchety old man telling some hippie to get a job. But, the Thessalonians needed some encouragement in this because they were struggling to know how to live in light of Jesus’ eventual return. You’ll see that topic later in the chapter when Paul explains more about the Second Coming (4:13-5:11). When Paul was with the Thessalonians he told them about the Second Coming of Jesus, but he likely had to leave Thessalonica before being able to clarify all the details. So, some of the Thessalonians had quit their jobs and were waiting around for Jesus to come back at any moment. Paul got word of this, and their questions about the Second Coming, through Timothy’s report to him (3:6-10), so Paul wrote this letter to help clear things up. Thus we find in this section his encouragements to lead faithful, hard working lives until Jesus’ return, instead of sitting around and having to borrow money, which some of them had apparently started doing. Also, it took a while for this teaching to really sink in for the Thessalonians; Paul had to say some of the same things again in his second letter (2 Thess. 3:10-12).
Questions for Discussion
• Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
• What stands out to you from the passage?
• Based on the passage, what are some ways God teaches us to love one another?
• What habits do you think Paul was combatting through his recommendations in v. 11?
• Why do you think the Bible is so concerned with how we relate to other people?
• How can we “live quietly” and “mind our own affairs” while still telling others about Jesus?