For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 4:3-8)
Sexual standards were very low in the Roman Empire, and in many societies today they are not any higher. The temptation to engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage relationship has always been powerful. Giving in to the temptation can have disastrous results. Sexual sins always hurt someone; individuals, families, businesses, churches. Besides the physical consequences, there are also spiritual consequences (1 Cor. 6:18). Sexual desires and activities must be placed under Christ’s control. God created sex for procreation and pleasure, and as an expression of love between a husband and wife. Sexual experience must be limited to the marriage relationship to avoid hurting ourselves, our relationship to God, and our relationships with others.
In 1 Thess. 4:3, being sanctified or made holy is the process of living the Christian life. The Holy Spirit works in us, conforming us into the image of Christ (Romans 3:29).
Word Focus – sanctification (Gk. hagiasmos) (1 Thess. 4:3, 4, 7; Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 12:14) G38: The Greek term for sanctify means to “set apart” for God’s special use, to make distinct from what is common—hence, to be made like God who is distinct from all else and therefore holy. The Greek word for sanctify refers to a process which is perfect in principle though not yet attained. Though we are not yet completely holy, we stand in relation to God as though we were. This is indicated in Heb. 10:10, where the verb sanctified is in a tense that indicates the present result of a past action. Thus Christ sanctified by His one sacrifice, and that sanctification has the lasting result that it continues to work in us, making us holy. Sanctification has been done once for all, but its effect still continues as stated in Heb. 10:14, in “those who are being sanctified.”
A major problem for the early church was maintaining sexual purity (1 Cor. 5:1, 9–11). Pagan religions often condoned sexual immorality as part of their rites, and ancient Roman culture had few sexual boundaries. In contrast, Paul strongly urged the Thessalonians not to participate in any sexual activity outside of marriage. He reminded them that the human body is God’s temple and should be kept holy (1 Cor. 6:18–20). The body should be honored as created by God and should be sanctified in keeping with its holy purpose. Believers should have a personal passion for sexual purity that surpasses the passion that the world has for sexual experiences. Sexual involvement outside of marriage dishonors God, one’s marriage partner or future spouse, and even one’s own body.
Even though the Thessalonians were living in a sexually charged culture, the apostle Paul urged them to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3). According to the Bible, what exactly is sexual immorality? The Greek word used by Paul is the term from which we get the English word pornography (1 Thess. 4:3). It is a broad term, encompassing any illicit sexual activity. What specific sexual activities does Scripture prohibit?
Lust may be a strong desire for anything. But in sexual contexts, lust is defined as “the sinful desire for illicit sex.” Lust is forbidden by Scripture because it gives birth to sin, which leads to death (1 Thess. 4:5; Matt. 5:28; Rom. 13:13; James 1:14, 15; 1 Pet. 4:3).
Adultery is extramarital sex. It is strictly condemned in the Scripture. The seriousness of this sin is demonstrated by its inclusion in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:14) and by its warranting the death penalty under Old Testament law (Lev. 20:10). Proverbs states that it “destroys” the guilty party’s soul (Prov. 6:32).
Incest, sex with a close relative other than one’s spouse, is prohibited and said to be worthy of the sentence of death (Lev. 18:6-18; 20:11, 12, 17; Deut. 27:20, 22, 23).
Homosexuality, sex with a person of one’s own gender, is condemned in no uncertain terms in several Old and New Testament passages (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).
Bestiality is sex with an animal. This sexually deviant behavior is outlawed in the Bible. It was punished with death in ancient Israel (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15, 16; Deut. 27:21).
Does the Bible take a prudish view of sex? No. Sex within marriage is viewed as a good gift from God to be enjoyed and celebrated by both husband and wife (Prov. 5:15–20; Heb. 13:4).
How can believers stay pure in an impure world? By living carefully according to God’s Word (Ps. 119:9), and hiding it in our hearts (Ps 119:11). By making the conscious choice not to lust (Job 31:1). By walking under the control of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25). And, by fleeing sexual temptation and pursuing righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).
When we reject holiness we are rejecting God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit within us. When we condone or allow sexual immorality in our lives we are not doing the will of God (1 Thess. 4:3).
Father God, it is my prayer today that you search my heart for any unholy thoughts that may surface into actions that will cause me to stumble. Lord I surrender all of me to you...my mind, body and soul. Thank you Lord for your love for me and the promise that you will never leave me nor forsaken me. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), and the Nelson Study Bible. Worship God in Spirit and Truth