1 Thessalonians 4: The Embodied Spirit
By Sarah Snyder
As we continue to move through the Bible, we find ourselves in 1 Thessalonians. In this book, Paul is reaching out to one of his favorite churches. In Acts 17, we learn that Paul and Silas helped establish this church, but due to severe persecution, they were forced to leave. So Paul reached out to his beloved church in this letter.
In chapters 1-3, Paul celebrates the faithfulness of the church at Thessalonica as they have endured persecutions. In chapters 4-5, he moves to challenging the church to grow evermore in their faithfulness. In 4:13-18, Paul addresses their concerns over those who had fallen asleep. They feared that those who had fallen asleep would miss out on the Day of the Lord. This particular section reminds me of my favorite verse in the Bible, Romans 8:11 “Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.” I love this verse as it describes our embodied faith. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul also further elaborates on why the Spirit living in us has bearing on our future faith. In these two passages, Paul describes both the present and future realities of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In Romans 8:11, Paul tells the church in Rome that the life they now live in the Spirit will actually change their lives. He says in verse 8 that those “who are in the flesh cannot please God.” But they are not in the flesh, but are in the Spirit and live different lives. Their lives are so different, that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that lives in them!
In 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, the embodied Holy Spirit in our lives moves from having a present reality, to a future hope. The church was concerned that their dying brothers and sisters would not experience the future hope in Christ. But Paul reminds them that Christ will raise them from the dead as he was raised! This should remind us that we have the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and who will also raise us from the dead.
As we think and pray about our future hope, let us also remember that our current realities are grounded in an embodied Spirit. While we look forward to being raised with Christ or “caught up” (vv. 17) with him, let us not forget that our present life is one spent with an embodied Holy Spirit who was the one that raised Christ. We have that hope and power in the here and now. Let us live as embodied Spirit dwellers.