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Commentary on "Living Holy Lives (1 Thess. 4:1–12)"



Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, August 11, 2012 - Introduction



This week’s lessons have the title, “Living Holy Lives”. The key thought is, “Though human sexuality is a gift from God, as with all gifts, it can be abused.”

Today’s lesson introduces the subject and lays the groundwork by saying the fact that Paul “builds on the friendship he had affirmed in the first three chapters and offers practical advice for the Thessalonians’ everyday life.” The author goes on to establish that Paul is addressing the subject of sexual misconduct.



This week’s lessons tend to be morality vignettes, pages filled with moralizing and advice but with no insights that will truly help a person to overcome the lusts of the flesh or help him or her understand how to have a healthy marriage relationship. The accompanying Ellen White Notes for the week are incredibly demoralizing and guilt-inducing. There is no possible way any person can rise above his “base passions” and live a holy life by looking to God’s law and choosing to deny the flesh. This moral muscle flexing simply doesn’t work.

Once again, I cannot approach commenting on this week’s lessons without asserting up front: there is absolutely no hope for anyone to live in sexual purity in or out of marriage unless he or she is born again, made alive by the Spirit. Purity is not accomplished by a commitment to the Law or prayer to avoid sin. It is accomplished by becoming a new person. Only then will prayer help one avoid sin because one’s dead spirit will have been brought to life (Eph. 2:1-6) by the resurrection life of Jesus.

One other comment: author Jon Paulien states that Paul offers “practical advice” to the Thessalonians as an outgrowth of the friendship he had affirmed with them in the previous chapter. There are two problems with this assertion: first, Paul was not giving the Thessalonians practical advice. He was giving them commands from God. Second, Paul’s freedom to instruct the Thessalonians how to live pure and responsible lives was not a privilege he earned through building friendship. Rather, his authority stemmed from God’s grace to him: the grace of preaching the gospel to Gentiles. Paul was the spiritual father of the Thessalonians; he carried God’s direct commands to them. He hadn’t earned the right to instruct them; God had given Paul marching orders, and Paul was carrying the gospel and instruction on how to live after being born again. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians were God’s assignment; they were not fond advice given to his new friends.

To be sure Paul loved these people, but that love was flowing out of the spiritual unity he shared with them in the Holy Spirit who unifies all believers. Paul felt responsible for the Thessalonians spiritually, and indeed, he was by God’s assignment.

Paulien undercuts the authority and sovereignty of God and His empowering of Paul in order to fulfill the work He gave him to do. Paul considered himself to be a slave of the Lord Jesus; he was not merely a fatherly friend to these fledgling churches. He represented the Lord Jesus to them and carried the words of God to them.



  1. Moral and sexual purity it utterly impossible apart from being born of the Spirit.
  2. Paul is not instructing the Thessalonians on how to live pure lives on the basis of friendship.
  3. Paul is not giving “practical advice”. He is giving God’s direct commands.
  4. Paul is these people’s spiritual father. His authority to teach them is from God, and Paul is carrying out God’s direct command to him. He is not merely offering good advice to his friends. He is standing before them as God’s appointed apostle. His relationship with them was not mere friendship. Paul is not demonstrating the outcome of “friendship evangelism”. He is doing the work of an apostle.




Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Revised August 11, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email:

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Official Adventist Resources

Standard Edition Study Guide Week 7

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SSNET Study Guide Week 7

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