Since 4:1 falls within the next section of Thessalonians I think it is important to highlight this verse. 4:1 is the key verse of the book of 1 Thessalonians. In it we have both the occasion (why the letter needed to be written) and purpose (what the letter is about) of the book. We also have an important literary device.
In the Ancient World bold face and italics was not used to draw attention. However, there were certain literary devices (techniques authors use to convey meaning) that were used for emphasis. One such literary style was including a petition verb. Petition verbs are often translated into English as beseech, urge, plead, beg, exhort and the like. In the letters of the New Testament they play an important role in helping us understand the purpose of a particular book.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, we have a petition verb included. Depending upon your translation it is beseech, request, exhort, or a similar word. To the astute Bible student this should draw our attention to the verse.
Finally, brethren, we plead with you by the Lord Jesus, as you received from us teaching concerning how you should walk and please God, as you currently do, we ask that you excel more and more (1 Thessalonians 4:1, My translation).
What does the verse teach us? First, we learn that they had received certain teaching on how a Christian is to live his/her life. Second, we see that they are in fact living this life. Third, we notice that they are encouraged to grow in their faith. This really is a microcosm of the whole book. Paul throughout speaks kindly of their walk with the Lord. There are no real problems with this church. At the same time faith is supposed to progress. It is not ever to be stagnant. So the book is written to encourage brethren to greater faithfulness based upon the teaching they had already received.
Applying this verse to us today begins by recognizing that no matter where we are in our walk with God we can do more. Our constant goal is to grow. Christian faith is not stagnant faith. Likewise we take encouragement from the fact that God is pleased with where we are, even though we are not where we should be. These two ideas (that fact that we need to keep on growing and the fact that God is pleased with our progression) provide us with the necessary motivation to abound more and more.
What application would you make?
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