‘Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.’ — 1 Thessalonians 4:1–2
Grace is a wonderful thing. Grace is God giving us through Christ what we do not deserve. Grace is the unmerited favour of God. It cannot be earned or worked for. If we find ourselves working or striving to earn or keep the love and grace of God, then we have fallen from grace and into the common error of legalism.
Another common error is license in which a person uses grace as an occasion to serve the flesh. This error is when we continue in sin that grace may abound. As Paul says in Romans 6, God forbid that those who are dead to sin live any longer therein.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, believers are encouraged and exhorted to live out their faith and to please the Lord more and more. The idea here is not that we can earn God’s favour or live in such a way to merit His grace, but we should want to obey the Lord and please Him because of what He has already done for us.
In other words, let’s please the Lord because in Christ He is already pleased with us. Let’s live for the Lord because He has made us alive in Christ. Let’s obey the Lord because He has already made us righteous in Christ.
To say we should obey certain commandments and live to please the Lord may sound like legalism, but the key question is why? If we are obeying in order to gain salvation, then we are in error. But if we are obeying in order to live out our salvation, then we understand the truth that grace saves us and changes us.
So, let those of us who have been saved by God’s grace seek to walk in the commandments of the Lord and to please the Lord, not in order to gain God’s favour but in order to please the One who already approved us in Christ.
An example that might help is in a healthy marriage. Both husband and wife who know they are unconditionally loved will seek to please each other – not out of fear of loss of love but out of gratitude for great love. May God help us do the same and more for the great love that God has given us.