Words of Faith 3-21-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><
1 Thessalonians 4
 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;  that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,  not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;  and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
One of the most significant culture clashes in the ancient world had to do with sexuality. Greek and Roman practice allowed for unrestricted intercourse with prostitutes and slaves. Unmarried Greek men below the age of thirty commonly indulged in sex with prostitutes, slaves, and other males. Greek religion and culture did not have any prohibition for such practices. In fact, temple prostitution was common in big cities such as Corinth. Sexual morality was an area of significant change for the new believers.
This was all radically different from Judeo-Christian teaching. Judaism had always clearly reserved sex for marriage. The Hebrew (Old Testament) scriptures teach that that premarital sex with someone other than one's future spouse is adultery against one's future spouse and thus is as sinful as other adultery (Deut. 22:13-29). Because one could never know for sure whom on would marry, virginity was to be preserved until after the wedding. It was customary to provide "proof" of this from the marital bed. The marriage bed was to be kept pure and undefiled (Hebrews 13:4). Even though betrothal was as binding as marriage and required a writ of divorce, a man was not even alone with his bride until after the actual marriage covenant was completed. Teaching to the contrary is an attempt to twist ancient practice to make it fit modern practice.
Paul, speaking out of the heart of the Gospel, declared that it is the will of God that believers be sanctified or "set apart" from such sin. The call of Christ is for the believer to be different from the ungodly culture and available for the purpose of God. To be sanctified is to become more and more like the Lord Jesus through the work of the Spirit within us. Therefore, believers should avoid-- abstain from or hold oneself off from-- sexual immorality.
Christians are to avoid and abstain from any and every form of sexual practice that lies outside God's revealed will that sex be enjoyed between one woman and one man within the covenant bond of marriage. "Sexual immorality" includes adultery, premarital and extramarital intercourse, homosexuality, and other perversions. The word porneia, translated "sexual immorality," is a broad one and includes all these practices.
The word porneia is also the word from which we get the word pornography, the graphic representations of immoral sexual practices which become idolatrous to the mind and heart. Pornography is not a form of "safe sex." It is the kindling wood that leads to fires that rage out of control. It is also a demeaning industry which uses and crushes people before throwing them away.
Paul goes further to say that believers should learn to control their own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. In this matter, no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. Pornography hurts other people, enslaving the weak, taking advantage of the poor and stealing the gift of sexuality from the plan of God. God's wonderful plan is that sexual expression is enjoyed and celebrated within the covenant of marriage.
Paul had already warned the new believers at Thessalonica that the Lord will punish people for all such sins. This was not a matter of minor concern. There is no indication that salvation is lost or that forgiveness is not available for such transgressions, but there is an assurance that God will judge and punish such sins.
The calling of God is not to an impure life but to a holy life. Rejecting this portion of God's teaching is not a viable option. One who denies this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. Willful participation in sexual immorality is a rejection and quenching of the Holy Spirit. Repeated refusal and quenching of the Holy Spirit is a dangerous practice that sears the conscience and places us far from the voice of God (1 Timothy 4:2). With a seared conscience, one cannot hear God's guidance or direction.
One avoids sexual immorality by learning how to control his own body with its passions (4:4). Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit that is manifest in various situations including in response to one's sexual desires. Paul taught that this character quality must be learned. Christians are not victims of circumstances or their fleshly passions. Sexual desire can be controlled by the Christian through God's power.
Paul taught the Corinthians believers that there is "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
A person who does not know God, cannot overcome passionate lust. A Christian can overcome because they know God personally and have the power of the Spirit. Knowing God is different from knowing about God.
When we come to know God by faith in Jesus Christ, our attitudes toward sex and other people change. People are no longer objects to be used. We discover that God gives us the ability to resist sexual temptation as we could not before. Knowing God is essential to living a holy life. This is why maintaining a vital relationship with God is essential to maintaining a healthy walk before God.
Dear Lord, keep my eyes upon You. May I be set apart for Your holy intention in my life. Give me the fruit of Your Spirit. Especially give me self-control. Keep me close to Your heart and keep my heart close to You. In Jesus' name.