Studies in I Thessalonians
Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru, has a very popular evangelism tool. It’s a gospel tract that begins, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
A popular slogan on graduation cards comes from Jeremiah and says, “I know the plans I have for you …"
An unending, popular quest among Christians is to discover God’s will or personalized plan for their life. Some pursue unbiblical methods to discover this plan.
Fellow believer in Christ, I know God’s plan for your life. Actually, it’s not a secret. God’s plan or will for your life and mine is holiness, especially in sexual matters.
At the heart of I Thess. 4:1-8 are these words: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification (holiness); that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality …” (v.3). Well, that’s plain enough.
“Holy” literally means uncommon, different or unique. We are called to be set apart for God’s special use and therefore like God who is absolutely unique and distinct.
Surrounding God’s will for our lives in v.3 are five proofs that this is in fact God’s plan for every believer.
Proof #1 Holiness is urged upon us by God’s messengers (vv.1, 2).
Paul asks and exhorts, instructs and encourages, pleads and commands by the authority of the Lord Jesus (v.2), all possible means to urge holiness in God’s children. As their spiritual leader, he will not settle for a life of compromise and sin nor be content with their current level of holiness. “Excel still more!”
God’s will is that believers are virgins on their wedding day, faithful within their marriage, one man for one woman until death parts you. Any deviation is sin and God hates it and condemns it.
This kind of urging is one way to know if the messenger is actually from God. If he deviates from this standard and upholds homosexual marriage or fornication/living together as ok and wise or any other diversion from God’s will, in that moment he speaks for Satan, not God. If this is the settled conviction of his soul, we should not believe he speaks for God or knows God.
Proof #2 Holiness is clearly described by God’s Word (vv. 3-6a).
Holiness in sexual matters is abstaining from sexual immorality (v.3b). The word here in Greek is porneia, a very broad and general word for sexual sins of all kinds.
In the culture of Paul’s readers, sexual immorality was looked at favorably, even encouraged. For example, in the 6th century B.C., prostitution was legalized in Athens, Greece with profits from the state run brothels used to build temples to the gods. A 4th century B.C. oration reveals the general attitude of the day: “we keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.”
The New Living Translation puts it simply: “God’s will for you is to be holy so stay away from all sexual sin.”
Proof #3 Holiness involves possessing your own body in honor (vv. 4, 5).
Here is a call to believers to exercise self-control of their eyes, brain, ears, hands and sexual organs. As believers, we are salt and light in a decaying and dark world awash in sin and lustful passions. The world is not our standard! Approval ratings, opinion polls, Supreme Court decisions … these are all meaningless and irrelevant to the child of God seeking to be pure. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Such honor!
Proof #4 Holiness involves not taking advantage of a brother or sister in sexual matters (v.6a).
The world’s sexual activity is not love but lust, not giving but taking, not caring about the other person but using him or her for your own pleasure. Not so for the follower of Christ, whose mandate is love. This is where love and holiness meet, as true love waits and true love gives and true love doesn’t take advantage.
To tempt, flatter, flirt, seduce or inflame someone to sexual sin is to sin against and defraud them, to exploit and outwit them for selfish ends. By the way, defraud is a word used to describe the work of false apostles and Satan! Not good company to say the least.
Defraud goes both ways and take many forms, from provocative, immodest clothing, to suggestive glances to overly friendly touch to inappropriate comments and flirting. It’s using a person’s weakness against him or her.
The world says, “a willing partner makes it right.” The Christian says, “but is God willing?”
One may call it love, but if you fornicate or commit adultery, you are actually putting that defrauded person in harm’s way “because the Lord (Jesus) is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you” (v.6b). An avenger is one who punishes or exacts penalty for wrong doing (see Romans 13:4 for the only other NT use).
Proof #5 If you reject this, you are rejecting God (v.8).
Strong words indeed. God gives His Holy Spirit to every believer to enable our repentance and faith. We fight and make progress in this war “not by might nor by power but by My Spirit” says the Lord.
If we possess the Holy Spirit, we can possess our bodies in holiness. If He controls us, we can control ourselves. We can learn to be sexually pure. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. It can be done!
To sum up, holiness is the will of God so it’s how we please God and strong evidence we know God for God has called us to holiness. To reject this call is to reject God who gives us His Holy Spirit.
A holy life then is why we have been saved! “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (v.7). We are saved to be sanctified and rescued to be repaired! We have been declared righteous to be made righteous. He calls us out to clean us up. When temptation knocks on your door or comes across your screen, say out loud, “NO! God has not called me to impurity.”
Jesus lived holy and died for our unholy and now through His appointed messengers, He calls us to be holy. May we confess our sins, turn from them and move forward in holiness.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight