1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verses 1-8

1 Thessalonians 4 Verses 1-8
1 Thessalonians 4 Verses 1-8
Explaining the Book
Explaining the Book
1 Thessalonians 4 Commentary Verses 1-8
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How would you characterize the American church right now in one word?

•           Maybe “fractured” comes to mind. So many denominations and groups. So little agreement among those groups as to what God actually wants from us.

•           How about “worldly”? The attitudes, lifestyles, and worship of the members and leaders of churches can tend to distract from truly worshipping God and following his will for your life.

•           “Lukewarm’, perhaps describes the church. How many of God’s professing people are really interested in doing his will in our lives - to the point that we’re actually doing it?

These considerations lead to a question of what exactly God’s will is.

We don’t want to be needlessly fractured - we want to know what God’s will is and - along with God’s people - do it. We don’t want to be worldly - we need to rather do what God wants us to do. We don’t want to be lukewarm - we need to know God’s will and do it.

What is God’s will for you?

The passage before us this evening in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 is going to tell you what God’s will is for you.

Here it is.

God’s Will: Your (Bodily) Holiness

Let’s read the text and see this exposition of God’s will for you in the details of the passage.

The Text

1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 AV 1873

1 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.

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

5 not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

6 that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

The Message

Paul begins here a new section of this letter to the Thessalonian believers in chapter 4, verse 1. It’s emphasis is on exhortation and instruction.

And here’s again how it starts…

1 Thessalonians 4 1

1 Thessalonians 4:1 AV 1873

1 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.

Furthermore then

Furthermore then

Λοιπὸν οὖν,

I mentioned in our last message how this word translated as “furthermore” here is used by Paul in several of his letters to indicate a transition into “final” materials in his letters.

Oftentimes, in Paul’s other letters, he follows a doctrinal or teaching section by an exhortative section where he presses upon his listeners what they ought to do with that knowledge that he’s just imparted to them.

But 1 Thessalonians is different even as it’s similar to that typical pattern. In 1 Thessalonians, the opening section of chapters 1-3 has not been doctrinal so much as it’s been relational.

Nevertheless, as Paul opens into this new section, he’s borrowing from that first section. Based on the relationship that Paul had with those Thessalonian believers, he can now speak into their lives concerning areas that could be potentially uncomfortable or even controversial - like the area of sexual purity.

And these matters can be controversial and difficult to discuss even among believers…

brethren

brethren,

ἀδελφοί,

And yet, I think what gives anyone who’s attempting to reach out in ministry to others any hope of real change taking place, is if that person to whom you’re reaching out has been genuinely born-again. If that person is a brother or sister in Christ.

That’s whom Paul is addressing here, after all. He’s not instructing the lost community in Thessalonica. He’s addressing the believers - at least all who profess themselves to believe in Jesus and to have been truly saved through faith in his sacrifice for their sins.

And here’s what Paul was doing to those believers

we beseech you … and exhort you

we beseech you, … and exhort you

ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν

You can sense that there’s seriousness and urgency about this. Beseeching and exhorting are directional activities. They’re intended to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others.

If the Thessalonians were to reject what Paul and Silas and Timothy were communicating to them in this section, you can imagine that Paul and his group wouldn’t be happy. In fact, they’d likely feel the need to follow-up and offer further corrections and even rebuke where necessary.

And the importance of what Paul is about to say is ratcheted-up as we consider that the content we’re about to receive isn’t just human words. These words have the authority of our Lord Jesus…

by the Lord Jesus

by the Lord Jesus,

ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ,

This beseeching and exhortation then - and the content of what we’re going to be hearing - they’re not the actions or words of just a man - or even a group of people. These words are in accordance with the heart of Jesus Christ - our Savior and our Lord and our God.

Well, what is it that Paul and his company - and Jesus himself - want the Thessalonians to do? Jump to the end of this verse…

so ye would abound more and more

so ye would abound more and more.

ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον. 

Paul and Jesus himself want the Thessalonians - and us - to abound more and more.

The question then is - in what way or ways are these believers - and you and I by extension - to abound more and more? …

how ye ought to walk and to please God

how ye ought to walk and to please God,

τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ,

These Thessalonians already knew how to live in a manner that was pleasing to God.

Did you know that it’s possible and indeed necessary to please God in your Christian life?

Now, does your obedience save you? No, it’s doesn’t.

But does your obedience - once you’re saved - please God? Some would dispute this. But Paul is clear. Yes, it does. Your obedience and growth in grace pleases God once you’re saved.

How did these Thessalonians know how to live in such a way that pleased God? …

that as ye have received of us

that as ye have received of us

ἵνα καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν

The way that the Thessalonian believers knew how to live lives that pleased God is that someone came along and told them.

We remember from Acts 1:1-9 that Paul and Silas gave the folks the gospel. Some Jews believed and a number of Greeks did, too. And as the Lord was saving them, Paul and Silas would come alongside them and instruct them on what the Lord wanted for them concerning their new life in Christ. That’s discipleship - and it’s something every Christian needs.

Now, the Thessalonians could have rejected what Paul and Silas were telling them with Jesus’s authority. But they didn’t. They received those instructions from Paul and Silas. This indicates that the Thessalonians themselves had already bought-into most of what they had been instructed.

In fact, there are numerous ancient Greek copies of the New Testament that include the phrase “just as you are indeed walking” right here - indicating that Paul and Silas are generally pleased with the level of obedience of these newer believers.

And whether that particular phrase was actually in the original text or not, the result is the same. These Thessalonian believers had heard instruction on how to live their lives in such a way as pleases God - and they accepted it. They received it. And they - by-and-large - obeyed it.

But sanctification is never complete in the life of a believer. And so, that’s why Paul needs to exhort and beseech them - with the authority of Jesus - to abound more and more in living lives that are pleasing to God.

And because of this past instruction that they welcomingly received, the Thessalonians couldn’t claim ignorance on these matters. Paul says, …

1 Thessalonians 4 2

1 Thessalonians 4:2 AV 1873

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For ye know what commandments we gave you

For ye know what commandments we gave you

οἴδατε γὰρ τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν

Once again, this is not some new thing that Paul is instructing the Thessalonians. Those believers themselves could call to mind and recollect the commands that Paul gave to them.

And these commands - or instructions or orders or charges - these were vital to the Thessalonians living in such a way as pleased God - to connect this back to verse 1.

This reality of following commands in order to live lives that please God might seem foreign to you. And it should be - if you’re talking about salvation. We are not saved by keeping commands. We are saved by trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s clear from Scripture.

But equally clear should be in our minds that there are certain instructions and charges and orders from Scripture that we must keep - after the Lord saves us - if we are to live lives that God can look at with a smile.

But we’re not to obey just any old commandments that someone can think up. Once again, these commandments that are good and right and necessary for you to obey have as their source-of-authority the one who bled on a tree and who had your vile sins placed on himself - so that he could save you from sin both now and forever. We obey commandments given by this one…

by the Lord Jesus

by the Lord Jesus.

διὰ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. 

But what commandments are you supposed to obey - because they came from your Savior - and from those who are clearly following him in giving you his commandments?

That’s what our Bibles - and especially our New Testaments - are filled with. But in this context, these commandments are what the rest of the letter of 1 Thessalonians is going to tell you about.

Verses 3-6 contain the first section of these commandments that were given ultimately by the Lord Jesus through his faithful servants. So, let’s look at verse 3 to start in to these commandments…

1 Thessalonians 4 3

1 Thessalonians 4:3 AV 1873

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

For this is the will of God

For this is the will of God,

τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,

So, the commandments that - if we follow them - cause us to live lives that are pleasing to God - these are described as the will of God. In other words, God is not ambivalent as to whether or not you obey them.

He has a will for your life. And if you resist that will - which is expressed to you largely in the form of commandments - you’re not going to be pleasing God with your life - the life he purchased with the blood of his own Son.

So, what is God’s overarching will for your life as a believer in Jesus Christ?…

even your sanctification

even your sanctification,

ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν,

For something to be sanctified, it needs to be set apart from other things. When you use only particular plates and cups and silverware for special occasions, you have sanctified those objects for a special use.

And that’s what God is doing for you. He has set you apart for himself. He has saved you out of the world in which you used to be quite comfortable as you were satisfying your lusts and living for yourself and your pleasures. And he’s actively working to keep you apart from the world and to be more and more set apart for him - in every area of your life.

The area which Paul needs to address with these Thessalonian believers is the area of their sexual purity…

that ye should abstain from fornication

that ye should abstain from fornication:

ἀπέχεσθαι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας, 

This is God’s will for you. There’s no question about it. To abstain from fornication is God’s will for every believer.

Fornication (πορνεια) is a fairly broad word that can describe any sort of sexual activity outside of God’s prescribed boundaries.

Is sexual activity and expression outside the limits that God places on humans a problem in our day? It absolutely is.

In fact, in our current culture you get the idea that this matter of deviant sexual activity and expression is practically the single characteristic that defines most people.

To listen to the media and the great influencers of our world, you’d think this is nearly the only issue that anyone is thinking about these days.

Think of the practices that our culture is trying to make us all believe are normal:

•           Casual sexual encounters

•           Intimacy before marriage

•           Homosexuality

•           Transgenderism

•           In New York you have a parent trying to marry his or her adult child and the courts need to decide on whether they can do that or not.

•           There was even a woman recently trying to marry her chandelier. No joke. It’s absurd.

But this is what happens when there are no boundaries. And by-and-large - in our day - there are no absolute boundaries for anyone when it comes to sexual activity and expression.

But there are boundaries in God’s mind. And therefore, there are boundaries for you. The God who saved your helpless soul is demanding of you that you abstain from sexual immortality. These practices of the lost world around you are not to characterize your life.

Well, the concepts of sanctification and of immorality are sort of broad and perhaps nebulous. And so, Paul continues in verse 4 by narrowing-in on what he and the Lord himself are commanding these believers. …

1 Thessalonians 4 4

1 Thessalonians 4:4 AV 1873

4 that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

that every one of you should know

that every one of you should know

εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν

To know this reality described in this verse, then, is the will of God for you.

And each one of you ought to - needs to - know this.

What is it that you need to know in order to fulfill God’s will for you in this life? …

how to possess his vessel

how to possess his vessel

τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι

This is by far the most difficult aspect of this passage to understand.

We have the matter of what this “vessel” happens to be. And we also have the issue of how does one “possess” whatever this vessel is.

In regard to the vessel, the two more popular ways of interpreting this word are:

1.         That the vessel is speaking of one’s wife. Peter in 1 Peter 3:7 refers to the wife as the “weaker vessel”.

2.         The other option is that the vessel here is referring your body or physical person.

•           Paul in Romans 9:21-23 speaks of people as vessels created by a metaphorical potter which symbolizes God. Some of those vessels - or people / their bodies - are fitted for destruction, while others are characterized as receiving Gods mercy. But the people and their bodies are in view.

•           Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we have the treasure of knowing the gospel in our “earthen vessels” - in ourselves - our bodies.

•           Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 that if he or anyone else purifies himself from false teaching and ungodly living that he will be a vessel fit to be used by the master.

So, the vessel in this passage is either going to be one’s wife or one’s own body. Let’s reserve judgement until we figure out what it is to posses this vessel - whatever it is.

To posses something in the New Testament usage of that word could refer to three different realities:

1.         To the act of acquiring something.

•           Jesus told his disciples whom he sent out to not acquire gold or silver for their journey while he was with them (Matthew 10:9).

•           Judas acquired a field with the money he was paid to betray Jesus (Acts 1:18).

•           Simon the Sorcerer wanted to acquire the gift of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:20).

•           Some Romans actually acquired their Roman citizenship with a great deal of money (Acts 22:28).

2.         The state of owning something that you already acquired.

•           The self-righteous pharisee let God know in his prayer that he was so good that he gave tithes - or 10% - of all that he owned (Luke 18:12).

3.         And the last way this word can be used in the New Testament is the aspect of preserving or protecting something.

•           Jesus says of those Jewish believers alive during the Great Tribulation before he returns that by their patience they will possess their souls (Luke 21:19). That is, as they endure all of the hardships and trials and persecutions presented to them, they will guard or protect or preserve their life, spiritually-speaking.

So, when the New Testament speaks of “possessing” something, it’s referring to acquiring something, already owning something, or protecting something. Which is it in 1 Thessalonians 4:4?

Well, if the vessel in mind here is a wife, then the idea of acquiring her would make some sense. But is Paul really speaking of finding a mate in this passage?

Is Paul telling these believers in effect: “You all know what we commanded you by Jesus’ authority. This is God’s will for you - that you be holy and stay away from immorality and that you acquire or own your own wife in a holy way.”?

Or is he saying something like this: “You all know what we commanded you by Jesus’ authority. This is God’s will for you - that you be holy and stay away from immorality and that you learn how to guard and protect your own person - your own body in a holy way.”?

Well, do you think that there’s a sense in which both of these are truly God’s will?

•           Does God want you to marry the right one?

•           Does God want you to deal with the one you marry in a holy way?

•           Does God want you to control your own body with all of its passions that so easily tend toward immorality?

I think that the answer is yes to all of those questions. But if you were to choose one of those options that would include the others, I think that the broader picture in view here is to guard and protect your own body.

This then applies to both women and men. Paul is broadly speaking of abstaining from immorality - and he’s urging you to do so by learning something. This has to be learned. You have to learn how to guard and protect your body - and not just your body, but your whole person. You have to treat yourself carefully. God demands of you that in regard to the temptation to slide into immorality, that you guard yourself…

in sanctification and honour

in sanctification and honour;

ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ, 

Your treatment of yourself - both the you that others can see, as well as the internal you of your heart and mind - that it be done in holiness and honor.

•           This holiness is God’s will for you as we heard in verse 3 (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

•           It’s what God has called you to according to verse 7 (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

•           And Paul will go on and tell these believers in his second letter to them (2 Thessalonians 2:13) that this sanctification was actually part of their salvation. God chose you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth.

So, there’s a real sense in which you are already made totally holy in God’s sight when you trusted Christ. And because of that, God is expecting you to act that out. You need to cooperate with what God has already in fact done for you. He has made you holy in reality. So, be holy - in reality!

Just like God has already sanctified you in reality and you need to work out that sanctification in your present life,… so too you have been called to honor by God. Therefore, live honorably!

We already touched on this, but God compares you to a vessel for honor in Romans 9. God has plans to honor you throughout eternity. In the presence of your almighty Creator and your all-loving Savior - you will be shown honor for ages of eternal ages with absolutely no end.

… And you’re going to use this body - your eyes, your hands, your heart, your mind - you’re going to use those members of your vessel … for dishonorable purposes?

•           You’re going to clothe yourself in such a way that others look and lust and dishonor both you and themselves?

•           You’re going to keep watching that video on that website even though you know that it’s not honorable in God’s sight?

God has called you to greater things, brothers and sisters. He’s called you to manage your body - every part and aspect of it - in a holy and honorable way. This is his will for you. This is what Jesus Christ your loving merciful Savior commands you to do.

And the alternative to living this way is not what would characterize true believers in Jesus Christ. Actually, this is the way you were before Jesus saved you. So, Paul commands you negatively in verse 5 to possess your vessel…

1 Thessalonians 4 5

1 Thessalonians 4:5 AV 1873

5 not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

not in the lust of concupiscence

not in the lust of concupiscence,

μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας

This is not the will of God for you. God doesn’t want his people managing their bodies in this manner - in the lust of concupiscence.

Both of these words are found in Colossians 3:5 surrounded by other words that have reference to sexual sin - like fornication (πορνεια) and uncleanness. These are matters to be put to death in the life of a believer. And this guidance is given in light of the fact that Jesus is coming again and when he does you will be with him in glory. “Therefore, … ” - Paul says there - put these evil practices to death in your body.

This word “lust” is describing the experiencing of a strong desire - and in this case, it’s an evil desire. It’s what Paul in Romans says comes upon people and societies who have rejected God. They reject God, so God rejects them by giving them up to “vile affections” or “dishonorable lusts” (Romans 1:26). The dishonorable lusts that Paul mentions there focuses on homosexuality, which he says is against nature.

In our text, this word “lust” is qualified with this other word “concupiscence”. This is a desire for something forbidden or just inordinate.

•           It’s like how Paul recalled in Romans 7:7 that he would not have even have known that coveting (our word) was wrong except the law of God told him, “You shall not covet”.

•           This is what draws you away into sin - this lust or concupiscence (James 1:14).

•           But we praise the Lord - because, as Peter tells us, we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4). The world is corrupt on account of or because of this concupiscence or lust. But believers have escape that through God’s divine power and everything he’s given us that pertains to life and godliness - through knowing him - through the exceeding precious promises he’s given to us.

So, this is not the will of God for you. This is not apostolic instruction for you - that you would manage your body according to these inclinations of lust and concupiscence.

Why not? Because this way of living characterizes lost people - not believers. …

even as the Gentiles

even as the Gentiles

καθάπερ καὶ τὰ ἔθνη

This kind of immoral behavior is expected of Gentiles - that is, everyone in this world who is not a Jew.

Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 4:3 that you have had plenty of time in your old life before Christ to live out the lusts of the Gentiles.

What kind of lusts characterize Gentiles? He names debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and all sorts of idolatry. That’s how Gentiles are characterized as living.

Now, what’s so wonderful to note is that Paul here in 1 Thessalonians is writing  - not to a mainly Jewish audience. You’ll remember that a few Jews in Thessalonica were saved back in Acts 17. But the predominant group of individuals who were saved was composed of Gentiles.

But it’s like Paul here is separating them out of that category. They were Gentiles. They weren’t Jews and they still aren’t Jews. But now they’re not really Gentiles anymore, either. Paul’s saying, “Don’t be like the Gentiles!” But he’s not telling them to be Jews.

So, we get this concept from passages like this that in this world there are now three groups into which God categorizes all peoples. It used to be two - Jew and Gentile. And there still is a tiny minority of Jews in this world and there will be until Jesus returns. Then there’s a majority of earth’s population who are Gentiles. And then there’s now this third group of humanity in God’s sight - the Church.

And that’s you!

When we came back from pandemic lockdowns last year, we were singing this song called “We Are Your Church”.

https://digitalsongsandhymns.com/songs/7051

And at the end of the refrain we affirmed this - “We are your people. We are your church.” We - the Church - are God’s people. We know God.

But there was a time in your life when you didn’t. And the sad reality is that all of those Gentiles - out of whom you came - are still in that predicament. …

which know not God

which know not God:

τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν, 

So, this managing of one’s body in a way that isn’t characterized by sanctification and honor - but is rather characterized by lust and concupiscence - it’s expected of people who don’t know God.

This is how your neighbors live. This is how you used to live before Christ to one extent or another.

Paul says in Galatians 4:8 that before you knew God personally you served other gods which really aren’t gods at all. But now you do know God - and yet your temptation is to turn back to those weak and beggarly elements - those idols from your former life. And in the case of the churches in Galatia, numerous of them were voluntarily and willingly back in slavery to those old things. And the apostle Paul’s concern for people like that who claim to be Christians and yet have turned back to their old idols is that maybe his labor for them was in vain. Maybe they are not the Church. Maybe they’re lost. Because that’s how they’re acting.

You - on the other hand - know better. You know God’s will for you to be sanctified and to live a holy life. You know how that relates to the area of sexual activities and expressions in handling your body. This is God’s will for you.

Furthermore, Paul goes on in verse 6 to give one more aspect of God’s will for you concerning these matters. …

1 Thessalonians 4 6

1 Thessalonians 4:6 AV 1873

6 that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter

that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter:

τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ,

It’s God’s will not to go beyond and defraud.

The defrauding here is speaking of taking advantage of someone else (2 Corinthians 12:17-18). And in this way you can “go beyond” the bounds and limits of God’ will for you.

And you’re not to do this “in any matter”. That phrase is literally “in the matter”. In what matter? In the matter of proper sexual activities and expressions.

And the one who’s the potential victim of going beyond and taking advantage is your brother - a fellow believer.

So, is it possible to be unholy in how you behave toward other believers in such a way as you go beyond God’s will in the matter and take advantage of him or her?

•           Have we not seen in recent years numerous cases of sexual abuse in the church? This is a possibility for God’s people.

•           And even if it’s not physical sexual abuse as we know it, there are other ways of taking unlawful advantage over other believers in this realm of life. Flirting with your words or with your clothing even will lead to this kind of violation of God’s will for your life.

You can imagine in the close quarters of the house church situation in Thessalonica that there were opportunities for close contact which could have led to immorality in various forms. And Paul wants those Thessalonians - and we ourselves - to be careful and blameless in this area of conduct.

Because it’s not as if God is ambivalent toward your sexual conduct. He leaves you no ambiguity as to how he feels about the potential of your taking advantage of others sexually…

because that the Lord is the avenger of all such

because that the Lord is the avenger of all such,

διότι ἔκδικος κύριος περὶ πάντων τούτων,

Paul says in Romans 13:4 that God has set up the government to avenge wrongs done in the civil sphere with a sword and with wrath.

But in the Church, God is the avenger. He notes as his professing people take unloving advantage of one another and he’s promising in this verse to take appropriate action.

This is what we see in the church in Corinth as Paul’s admonishing them concerning the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11). The ones who were kind of in the “in crowd” were taking advantage of those who were not - not sexually, but by excluding them in various ways. And God says because of that abuse, several of those professing believers were sick. And some slept - as in, they had died because of their misbehavior towards one another.

Behold both the kindness and severity of God. He is love itself. And yet, you don’t want to cross him. This is the fear of the Lord - to view God as your loving kind gracious heavenly Father. But to also treat him with great honor and respect because of who he is.

And none of this was news to the Thessalonians. Paul and Silas and probably even Timothy had already let them know that this is how God functions with his people…

as we also have forewarned you and testified

as we also have forewarned you and testified.

καθὼς καὶ προείπαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ διεμαρτυράμεθα. 

So, this matter of God avenging his people who are being taken advantage of by others among his professing people - this is something that Paul and Silas had told these believers before.

And the word testified adds an aspect of this being something that Paul and Silas were very adamant and sober about. This matter of instructing believers concerning sexual purity and appropriateness can be a rather heavy thing.

But the weight of the instruction - and even the way that it needs to be delivered - matches the weight of importance that God places on this issue in your life.

Because from the beginning of you and God - when he called you through the Gospel of his son, Jesus - he has called you to this very thing - to a holy life…

1 Thessalonians 4 7

1 Thessalonians 4:7 AV 1873

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness

7       For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

7 οὐ γὰρ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ ἀλλʼ ἐν ἁγιασμῷ. 

The purpose for which God saved you is that you would live a holy life.

And of course, there are numerous other aspects in your life that need to be made holy. Sexual purity is not the only area.

And yet, this matter is receiving a significant amount of treatment by the apostle and it’s the first thing that he wants to talk about with these relatively new believers after being separated from them for a few months.

Paul is so black-and-white here as he contrasts how God could have called to salvation with how he really called you. He could have called you to uncleanness. There were religious groups in ancient Greece where part of the worship itself was engaging in sexual activities with prostitutes.

But that’s not what God has called you to as he’s saved you. His purpose in your life is holiness - sanctification - being set apart from all that is evil and common and being set apart for his use. This is exactly why he saved you. It’s exactly what he had in mind when he reached down and turned you from your sins to himself. And toward the top of the list of those sins from which he turned you is this matter of sexual immorality.

Now, I trust that there’s isn’t anyone who’s hearing this and thinking - Well, that’s just this brother’s opinion. He must be one of those “legalists” The God that I worship doesn’t really care what I do with my body. He just wants my heart.

Well, though I might not have anyone here thinking that way, the apostle Paul was anticipating that some would harbor those kinds of thoughts. And he addresses them in the last verse of this section…

1 Thessalonians 4 8

1 Thessalonians 4:8 AV 1873

8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God

He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God,

τοιγαροῦν ὁ ἀθετῶν οὐκ ἄνθρωπον ἀθετεῖ ἀλλὰ τὸν θεὸν

If anyone is inclined to reject or ignore this kind of teaching on God’s desire for sexual purity in his people, from their vantage point, they’re probably doing that with the mindset that this teaching is just based on the opinions of the preacher or whomever else is conveying this message.

But Paul is very clear that this teaching is straight from God. And so, to reject or despise or ignore God’s will for you in this arena of life is to despise the God who loves you and who saved you from your sins.

And when God saved you from your sins, he gave you his Spirit who himself is holy - just like he wants you to be…

who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit

who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

τὸν καὶ διδόντα τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς.

God didn’t give us an unclean spirit so that now he wants us to live in ways that are unclean and unholy and godless.

He gave us his Spirit who is holy.

And that’s just one more indication in this passage that God wants your life to reflect his own holiness.

And he wants your life to reflect his holiness particularly in this area of your sexual activities and expressions.

[S] God’s Will: Your (Bodily) Holiness

His will for his people all the way back to the Old Testament was this - be holy, because I am holy.

Does that characterize your life - especially in this matter of how you behave toward other believers with your body?

May the Lord help us to abound more and more in holiness in this area and every area of our lives - for his sake.

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