“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…“
Chapter 4 begins the practical section of First Thessalonians. The first eight verses present the sanctified life.
The word “finally” does not introduce the conclusion to the book. Half of the epistle is yet to follow. Rather, Paul moves to the last remaining section of the book. There is a transition here from the historical to the exhortatory, the personal to the practical, the past to the prophetic, and the apologetic to the application.
With the word “then” Paul draws inferences from chapters 1-3.
Paul appeals to the Thessalonians by affection. They are his brothers in Christ. They come from the same source — born into the family of God. Paul holds in tension, affectionate appeal, and authoritative admonition. He does not take any personal liberties but prescribes personal holiness.
we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus
This challenge is so significant that Paul uses two words to describe the importance of this message: urge and exhort. “Exhort” is a little stronger than “urge.”
Paul urges and exhorts them “in the Lord Jesus” — in the sphere of everything that Jesus represents. Jesus personally passed this down to the apostles and they to us. The apostles operate on the authority of Christ.
The Thessalonians lived in a culture that mixed sex with its religion. These new converts previously went to their temples for sex with temple prostitutes regularly. Religion was prevalent in those days! The Roman Empire was morally debauched during the first century. Men had wives for having children, but they had their mistresses for pleasure. Paul will present a discourse on how to deal with our sex drives in this chapter.
that you should abound more and more,
The words “more and more” point to spiritual growth. It is not enough to exist as a Christian; we must move toward excellence. It is one thing to park ourselves in the Christian life, but it is another thing to prevail in it. God wants us to move beyond the status quo. We should ask ourselves whether we are making any progress in the Christian life. We do not tell our spouses that we love them the day we get married, which is supposed to last them for the rest of their lives! Neither do we live the Christian life in one fell swoop. Each day with the Lord should be sweeter than the day before, but it will take work.
The status quo in the Christian life always means stagnation, deterioration, and decay in holiness.
Doctrine precedes duty, and precept precedes practice. The Christian life is not a set of rules but a set of principles. The design of the Christian life is to teach us God’s viewpoint on life by forming that viewpoint into principles. When we apply those principles by faith, God transforms our lives.
Christians are no more fit for Heaven 25 years after they become Christians than they were the day they accepted Christ. God sanctified them completely the moment they received Christ as Savior in terms of positional sanctification. Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process.