Pleasing God Through Obedience

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Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2.

American culture is caught up with the grand goal of enjoying life and pleasing oneself. For example, a recent magazine article discussing vacation homes as investments led with the caption: “The No. 1 reason to build a vacation home is to enjoy yourself.” Today more than ever society is caught up in concern for health and personal well-being. Churches sometimes try to attract people to their services by advertising that what goes on at church will be enjoyable to them. Some churches advertise that contemporary music and coffee will be served throughout the service. One can even enjoy breakfast beforehand at a church cafeteria or be entertained by “sitcom-like” plays. Some of these things may not be bad in themselves, but the impression is that of the church attempting to attract people by dangling before them the kinds of pleasures that they can find outside the church. If a church does this too consistently, then what it may have to offer may be no different, ultimately, than what the world offers.

We must not fool ourselves and think that things were radically different in the first century. In Turkey (old Asia Minor) are located many of the ancient sites of the towns where the seven churches of Revelation were mentioned. At Pergamum there are ruins of an ancient Roman health spa, where, among other things, people would go to be rejuvenated emotionally because of depression. There were rooms where a patient could rest; and in the ceiling were little holes through which the priestly attendants of the spa would whisper encouraging things to help the victims recuperate psychologically.

Whether in the ancient world or today, the chief end of humanity has often been to take pleasure in this life. In contrast, the passage I gave at the start begins by affirming the opposite: humanity’s chief goal ought to be to take pleasure in pleasing God. Such passages in Scripture as this fueled the great confession, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Granted, Christians enjoy the material pleasures of this life, but only as a gift from the gracious God whom they serve (1 Timothy 4:4). This world is not meant to be an end in itself to be enjoyed.

pd pleasing God

On the basis that God has begun to work in the readers and that they are beginning to follow the command that they ought to walk to please God,” Paul appeals to them to excel in this: we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more.” The meaning of the word “abound” in the original simply means “to go over and above, to go beyond.” The main point of verse 1 is that the ultimate purpose of living as a Christian is not to please oneself but increasingly to please God (Romans 8:8; 15:1–6). This develops further the earlier reference to pleasing God and walking worthily for the goal of achieving God’s glory for which they have been called as Paul wrote in chapter 2.

The Greek text of verse 1 reads “just as you received from us how it is necessary for you to walk so as to please God.” Although some translations like the NIV and the NLT leaves out “it is necessary,” most other translations attempt to express it, typically by “you must” or “you ought.” Some readers may understand this to mean that Christians should live in the way Paul had instructed, as if it is an option, and if they do not, they will not experience the full blessing they would be able to experience otherwise. Paul’s urging of them to excel, however, suggests that there is a necessity that his readers live this lifestyle and that such living is not optional for less seriously minded Christians. Indeed, this necessity is heightened by the fact that such a lifestyle is a divine commandment “through the Lord Jesus,” that God has called believers to this conduct (see verse 7), that God has given true believers the power to fulfill this commandment (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13) and that to reject living in this manner is tantamount to rejecting God (also see verse 8). Consequently, “it is necessary” that God’s true people live this way if they want to avoid the inevitable last judgment (see verse 6).

Paul says the basis for his appeal that they please God is grounded in the authority “through the Lord Jesus.” This reiterates and emphasizes the statement in verse 1 that his appeal was “in the Lord Jesus.” This appeal is none other than a renewed encouragement for them to obey the commandments given earlier by Paul. The main point then of verses 1–2 thus lies with Paul’s exhortation to please God, which should be heeded because his exhortation really comes with the authority of Christ Jesus Himself.

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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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2 Responses to Pleasing God Through Obedience

  1. Pingback: Pleasing God Through Obedience – NarrowPathMinistries

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