God’s Will for Our Sexual holiness 1 Thessalonians 4 : 3 – 8
Hello Dear Listeners; “What I do in my bedroom is my own business.” Is that true? Our society likes to think so. It prides itself in having liberated itself from the shackles of old fashioned morality. We are free to do what we want. Yes, consent is important and what we do should not hurt others, but for the rest, there are few restrictions. Our world thinks that is something to be celebrated. Little do they realize that they have become enslaved to a power and destructive idol, namely “self”. The believers in Thessalonica lived in a society that that was very tolerant when it came to sexuality and sexual morals. Now that they have been regenerated in Christ, they also have to deal with questions such as: What does my conversion mean for my private life? How does God’s grace determine what happens in a marriage? The Bible does not avoid these questions. God’s grace penetrates and permeates our whole life. Because sin has permeated every aspect of life, God grace renews every aspect of life. God’s will is that we live holy lives, pure and disciplined. It comes as no surprise that the apostles taught the new converts about proper sexual morality. 1 Thessalonians 4 is an example of this. In chapter 4:1 we have come to a turning point in the letter. The chapters 1 – 3 were about thankfulness for God’s work in Thessalonica. The beginning and the existence of the Church is in Christ. Chapter 3 ends with the prayer that the Lord may strengthen their hearts so that they will be blameless and holy in the presence 2 of our God and Father. Paul and his helpers have their eyes on the future, on the continued growth in the faith-lives of these believers. The next chapter aims to do this, applying the gospel to the daily lives of the believers in Thessalonica, urging them to live godly lives, also when it comes to sexuality. When Paul and his helpers were working in Thessalonica they had taught about this as well. “We instructed you how to live in order to please God.” And they are indeed doing it. “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”
The believers need that ongoing instruction. It is also clear right from the beginning that Paul is not presenting his own opinion. He wants them to live in a way that pleases God. And this instruction comes by the authority of the Lord Jesus. Verse 3 begins with saying: This is the will of God. God has a will, there are things he wants us to do. And what is his will? That the believers should be sanctified. You can also say: Holiness when it comes to sexuality. Of course this is not the only will of God. In chapter 5:18 we read: “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God’s will includes many things. He gave 10 commandments. We should not take one and make it the only one. Yet, why did Paul put it this way? To stress its importance: this is God’s will. Sexual holiness is important not because of what people think. It is not based on what people think is decent or acceptable. It is based on God’s will. He has a definite will for how we live sexually. This is not something new in the history of God’s people. Already in the Old Testament the LORD made very clear to his people that their sexual lives were under his rule as well. You will find this in Leviticus. No, God is not opposed to sexuality nor to husband and 3 wife enjoying this gift. Just think of the Song of Songs. He wants to teach his people to live holy lives, to use his gifts, for sexuality is his gift, in a way that is pleasing to him. That is what it says in verse 3: “you should be sanctified.” Sanctified means set apart for God, living according to his standards. In the OT this was based on God’s work of redemption, deliverance from Egypt. In the NT it is based on God’s work in Jesus Christ. God has called you into his kingdom and glory. Now that you are my people, live as my people, in all areas of life. As it says in vs. 3: this is God’s will for you, your holiness in sexuality. The Greek / Roman society was very tolerant when it comes to sexuality. Promiscuity was not frowned upon; a man could have a wife, concubines and mistress, Premarital sex was considered normal. Prostitution was not uncommon, homosexuality was accepted. Not much different from our day and age. The brothers and sisters in Thessalonica had grown up with this, were living in its midst. Except, now they were Christians. This means Christ’s redemption determines how we live, how we use our eyes, ears and hands. His grace governs our sexuality. Christ makes it possible to enjoy this gift again as it was intended by God. What does this mean?
The apostle explains it: you have to avoid sexual immorality and learn to control your own body. Avoid sexual immorality. Avoid the misuse of sexuality. Avoid it, that means stay away from it, flee it. And added to this is the instruction, learn how to control your own body. Self-control is required. The apostles could have written the same for us in our day and age. How important for us to hear this. For we live also in a world that caters to the sinful nature. 4 It is remarkable that Paul makes knowing God one of the reasons why this is required. He contrasts it to those who do not know God, they give in to what feels good. Why is this? If you believe in God then you know what his will is, and you know you have to give account to him. If you do not believe in God then you have no absolute Lawgiver anymore, and you become a law unto yourself. That means you do what you think is acceptable. Knowing God changes your life! Why is sexual immorality wrong? Not in the first place because it can be harmful, but rather because it is inconsistent with knowing God. Therefore if you want to teach sexual morality, you have to come to know first of all God in Jesus Christ, who through his Holy Spirit makes our bodies his temples. Paul continues teaching the Thessalonians about God’s will in regard to sexuality by pointing to the consequences of immorality, to what it does in relationships. He focusses on two relationships: the relationship with others and relationship with God. Vs 6 speaks of wronging others. Sexual immorality usually does not happen in isolation. It hurts others. Others are wronged. Adultery hurts others. The same goes for pornography. Sexual abuse destroys so much and leaves scars for life. The Bible is aware of the pain this misuse of sexuality can cause. We may lay this pain also before God in prayer and ask for his help to deal with it. But not only people but also God is involved. How it must grieve him. He did not call us to impurity, but to live holy lives.
He did not create us, renew us so that we can do this. Sexual immorality is an assault on his holiness. Vs. 8 says “Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God.” This is not said to look down on sexuality, but to show it in its proper light. It is a gift to be 5 used by the grace of God. The way we use and express it has to show the wonders of his grace. Christian sex has to reflect the fruit of the Spirit: love, patience, kindness, joy. And not selfishness, lust, pain and exploitation. One more element I want to highlight. How can we obey God’s will fort purity and holiness? Sexual sins can leave feelings of guilt. This is why the last words of our text are so wonderful: God who gives us his Holy Spirit. Here Paul connects his teaching to God’s work in Jesus Christ. For the Spirit is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. He lives in us; our bodies are his temple. This is why sexual immorality is so severe – the body is God’s temple. This is why sexual purity is so important: The Holy Spirit lives in us. But this is also how this is possible:The Holy Spirit. He works in us – by and in the Word. Be blameless and pure children of God in a crooked and depraved world, shining like stars as you hold on to and hold out the Word of Life. Amen and may God’s Spirit and Word rule your life. Thanks again for listening.