1 Thessalonians 4:1–8 (NKJV)

1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 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. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

In this passage, Paul moves to instruction concerning a Christian way of life. While he had been addressing the heretical teachings of some who would harm the church in the previous sections of the book, he is now addressing things concerning how to live. He opens the passage with the admonition to walk in a way that pleases God. This general statement begins a series of instructions on how to do just that. The first thing he addresses is how to live a life of sexual purity. He opens up with a comment about sanctification, which is the spiritual condition of being holy. God sets His people apart from sin and the world in order to prepare and utilize them for a holy purpose. Therefore, the believer should abstain from sexual sin. This shows that the Christian is able to carry himself or herself in honor and holiness. When one chases their physical passions, lusting after others in sinful desire, he or she is not sanctified. Instead, that person is in the same state as unsaved Gentiles. While Paul is ministering to Gentiles, saved and not, he here is referring to the ungodly state of those with no sense of God or salvation.

Paul then gives a justification for this command to abstain from sexual sin. It comes in the form of a legal prohibition, characterizing sexual sin–whether fornication or adultery–as fraud. He basically is saying that having sex with someone who would be another’s wife or husband, or having sex with someone else’s current spouse, is taking something that should only belong to that person. Sexual activity is reserved for one’s spouse, so if someone is taking another person’s spouse sexually, they are defrauding them, stealing from them, conning or cheating them out of what is rightfully theirs. Paul warns that God will avenge those who are defrauded. He finally reminds the readers that God’s calling includes holiness and forbids uncleanness. He makes it clear that when someone rejects holiness, they not only reject man, but reject God and His instructions. The one who give us the Holy Spirit is worthy of obedience and holiness.

Too often, Christians become enamored with the world, and lose sight of the need for devotion to God and holy living. While grace is rich and free, it is not cheap. Jesus died for our sins and paid a high price for our salvation. Let us respond with lives of dedication and an awareness of His desire for us as Christians. Let us make Him known in our lives not only by our love for one another, but also by the cleanliness of our hearts and lives. In this, we will glorify Him and not glorify the works of the flesh.

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