1 Thessalonians: 4:13-15

map of greeceThe afterlife

(1 Thess. 4:13 ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

First, just to break the ice, I can’t read this verse without being reminded of a preacher story — you know, one of those stories told as true so many times by so many preachers that its veracity is uncontested — with no supporting evidence of any kind.

Many years ago, it seems that the deacons were gathered outside the church building one Sunday evening after church, smoking and discussing the afternoon’s NFL game. A lovely young single woman, a church member, walked past. One deacon said, “Sally, why haven’t you gotten a man from here at church and married?” She replied, “If you knew your scriptures, you’d know the answer.” Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 4:11-12 (Hermeneutic reflections)

map of greeceWhen we run into a difficult passage, such as this passage, how do we decide what’s really being said and whether it is literally binding on the church as written?

I took several shortcuts in my blog post, just to avoid having to write 6,000 words on the subject. But I did do my hermeneutical homework before posting it. For example, I read several different commentaries from multiple authors and multiple schools of thought (10 or so). I checked the NET translator notes (nearly nothing on the question I addressed). And sorted through the passage in terms of the great over-arching narrative of scripture.

Two approaches. I’m going to compare and contrast two approaches to hermeneutics. There is the approach that includes the Bible’s over-arching narrative (“narrative hermeneutics”), and then there’s the approach that simply says “means what it says, says what it means” (“simplistic hermeneutics”). Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 4:11-12

map of greeceI’ve been in the hospital the last few days dealing with an infection. I’m still there, and so I apologize for any mistakes I make. I blame the drugs.

Not sure when I’ll be up to joining in the comments. But I’m feeling well enough to do a little expository Bible study.


(1 Thess. 4:11-12 ESV)  11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,  12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 

Interesting stuff … I mean, how many sermons have you heard on “work with your hands” or “mind your own affairs.” Our preachers (and many of our members) do neither. Are we sinning? What is Paul really expecting? Is is wrong to have a job that doesn’t involve manual labor? Or do we just decide we don’t like this verse and so strike it from our Bibles? — which is exactly what we’ve done, you know. Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 4:7

map of greece

There’s another subtlety here I want to look at more closely.

(1 Thess. 4:7 ESV) 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Paul says that his readers have been “called.” Now, when I was growing up in a north Alabama Church of Christ, “called” was considered the language of Calvinism — and it was taken to mean “irresistibly called.” Therefore, when we ran across this language in a text, we tended to either ignore it or explain it away. That is, we’d demonstrate the error of Calvinist without bothering to explain what it does mean.

I remember reading to our college class nearly 40 years ago a passage where Paul spoke of Christians being “predestined.” I explained that I believe in predestination, because Paul believes in predestination — but I don’t believe the Calvinists have it right. But our preaching and teaching should be perfectly comfortable speaking of predestination, foreknowledge, and being called — because Paul and the other NT writers are.  Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 4:7-10

1-thessaloniansPaul continues to address personal    holiness —

(1 Thess. 4:7-8 ESV)  7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

“Impurity” refers, of course, back to fornication or sexual immorality. What God wants is “holiness.” Well, what is that?

We tend to think of “holy” in terms of ritual. That is, because the auditorium is holy (or as we say in north Alabama, it’s not holy but it can be made unholy — at which point we imposed restrictions on the assumption that God requires ritualistic holiness), we must sing at 30 beats a minutes, since very slow is very reverent and so very holy. We must not talk to our brothers and sisters since holiness requires silence in God’s presence — not that God has any special presence in the auditorium but we’re supposed to act as though he is. Coats and ties are holy. Jeans are not. Dresses are holy. Pantsuits are not. And on it goes. Continue reading

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1 Thessalonians: 4:5


I want to go back over 4:5 in a little more detail.

Paul warns his readers against “the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” Of course, many of the converts in Thessalonica were Gentiles, so why does Paul use “Gentiles” to refer to the damned? Most likely because the church saw themselves as establishing a single, third race that is neither Jewish nor Gentile.

(1 Thess. 4:3-5 ESV)  3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

“Gentiles” translates ethnos ἔθνος, from which we get “ethnic.” The meaning in Paul’s day was “nations.” For example, in the Septuagint (LXX), Psalm 2:1-3 says, Continue reading

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To Infinity … and Beyond!

infinite scrollOn an experimental basis, I’ve set the blog to “infinite” scroll — meaning that when you scroll to the bottom of the main page, the next 7 posts will appear without your having to click an arrow for older or newer posts. It will also load 7 at a time rather than 10, which should speed up loading the site.

This behavior will continue all the way back to 2007, which is not quite infinity, but it’s nearly five thousand posts.

It may not work on the mobile version, but should be no problem on a regular computer.

The idea is that if you remember something from a few days ago that you want to look at, you’ll be able to just scroll down until you find it. It’s the same as Facebook and Twitter, which are the cool kids on the block, and far be it from me not to be a cool kid.

While I was messing with the settings, I also shifted the RSS feed setting to send out 10 items at a time rather than 3. That is, if you subscribe to comments by RSS (such as through Feedly), you’ll be able to keep up with them through your reader, because most days, you’ll receive all comments fairly timely. Of course, some days have much higher comment traffic than other days, and so 10 may not always be enough. But for most days and most readers, this should work pretty well.

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