Lesson 10: To Abstain From Sexual Immorality Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on 1 Thess.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,

that each of you should learn to control your own body
This particular clause has been interpreted in several ways that I am aware of. The King James has “possess his vessel”; the Weymouth New Testament has “procure a wife”; Young's Literal Translation has “know his own vessel”; the Contemporary English Version has “respect and honor your wife; the Good News Translation has “know how to live with your wife"; and the NIV, our version, has “control your own body. In this case, I prefer to use the NIV.

Paul says that we are to live a life that commends the Gospel. The loose living that we find among some believers today brings the Gospel into disrepute. Such people are not living for God or serving God. You cannot serve God and live in sin. He doesn’t accept that.

Paul wrote, “Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,” not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. Scholars debate on whether the meaning is “learn to control his own body,” or “learn to live with his own wife,” or “learn to acquire a wife.” Translators struggle over the word “vessel” in the King James Version. I believe it refers to a wife rather than his body for two reasons. First, you acquire a wife; you don’t acquire a body—you already have one. Second, Peter speaks of husbands treating their wives with respect “as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7, KJV). Here is a sentence that sounds confusing at first, but it helps us see the issues clearly: the so-called weaker sex is the stronger sex because of the weakness of the stronger sex for the weaker sex. That makes sense to me. I hope it does to you.

The concern is “that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” The text is one of the many that call Christians to self-control (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and especially 2 Timothy 2:21-22, which also speaks of the body as a “vessel” used in “honor” and “sanctification” instead of being dominated by passions). A person is to keep control of his or her body in holiness before God and honor before the community (Romans 12:10) and God (Romans 2:7; 9:21; 1 Peter 1:7; 2:7). That is, the action taken as an alternative to sexual immorality must be behavior that is set apart to the Lord in its motivation and recognized by others as inherently worthy of respect (1 Corinthians 6:13-20).

Paul speaks of “passionate lust,” but it is not the same as “passionate love.” “In the passion of lust any woman will suit or the actual wife is treated as if she were any woman. In the passion of love only one woman is desired, the wife.” Lust runs wild, leaping over restraint, and forces its own desires until the person unconsciously becomes the passive slave of lust. That Greek heathen culture regarded women—wives included—as instruments for self-gratification. But Christians are to treat marriage partners as holy and honorable. The Bible teaches us to love people and use things; the ungodly use people and love things. A people’s morals are like the objects of their worship (Deuteronomy 7:26; Psalms 115:8; Romans 1:23, 24{3]).

God created sex to be an enjoyable and sacred union between husband and wife. His protection of sex within marriage is not to deny intimate pleasure or satisfying sex, but to give both great joy and lasting fulfillment in the Holy bond of marriage.

in a way that is holy and honorable,
Again, I prefer the KJV which has “sanctification and honour.”

There are all sorts of reasons given for the fact that there is so much unhappiness in marriage. The problem is that the marriage partners are not people who have been set apart for the use of God and who are faithful to each other in a love relationship. When a person saves his body for marriage and is faithful to his partner, he possesses his vessel “in sanctification and honor.” Such should be the practice of every child of God.
________
3} “and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” (Romans 1:23, 24)


5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;

Verse 5 closes with the statement, “like the pagans, who do not know God.” The God whom these degraded, ungodly Gentiles “knew not” is the true, all-powerful, living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10) whom the believers

at Thessalonica had received and to whom they turned from idols. They had come to know Him through the Gospel message delivered by Paul; they had surrendered themselves to Him, and through that surrender their bodies had been delivered from the vice, dishonor and lust they had formerly practiced. Their souls had been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus, and since they turned to God from idols and practices of idolatry, their souls had a clean house in which to live and their bodies were clean vessels suitable for the Masters use. Paul’s desire was that they remain thus.

Since it is through their ignorance of God that the heathen sink into such sins, there could be no greater inconsistency than for those who know God to follow the same shameful course of conduct. Here Paul put his finger on the key to overcoming sexual temptations. A Christian can overcome because he knows God; this makes all the difference! Paul did not say that the heathen do not know about God. The reason they behave as they do is because they do not know God personally, even though they may know about Him. This is why maintaining a vital relationship with God is essential to maintaining a clean walk before God.

6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.
“In this matter” shows that the same subject is continued. The phrase (euphemism) is prompted by Paul’s sensitivity to the feelings of others, but the flagrant violation of the neighbors rights which he condemns is clearly adultery (Exodus 20:14, 17). To each man God has assigned a wife, and has set bounds to nature, in order that there may be intercourse with only one; therefore, intercourse with another is transgression and robbery, and the taking of more than belongs to a person . . . It is more cruel than any robbery, for we do not grieve as much when our wealth is stolen, than when our marriage is assaulted. Do you call him “my brother” and then take from him his most precious possession?

In this verse Paul appealed on the basis of the other person involved in the immoral act. The “brother” here is most likely another human, not necessarily another Christian male. This seems clear from the fact that this person is a victim of illicit sex. Sexual immorality wrongs the partner in the forbidden act by involving him or her in behavior contrary to God’s will and therefore it comes under His judgment. Two or more people practicing sex out of God’s will are calling God’s wrath down on themselves―“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). The initiator of the act takes advantage of his partner in sin by fanning the fire of passion till self-control is lost.

The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.

Knowing the sexual temptations which surrounded them, Paul had warned{4
the Thessalonians from the beginning, of the fearful consequences of immorality, so that they could not now plead ignorance as an excuse. “In all these things”; in “everything that concerns the honor of the human person and the sacredness of wedded life fornicators and adulterers God will judge . . . There is no reason to suppose that “Lord” means anything other than “the Lord Jesus Christ,” through whom God judges the world at the Last Day (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Acts 17:31).

God demands sexual purity. The passage clearly says the Lord will punish those who disregard the call to purity: “The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.” Disobedience always produces terrible consequences. Though totally and completely forgiven by God, consequences remain that affect the physical, emotional, moral, and spiritual natures of those who indulge in sexual impurity.

The apostles remind the church that “the Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.” They were not ignorant of what God required, nor were they unaware of the consequences. This type of willful behavior calls down judgment upon the individual as surely as day follows night. That God always judges sin is a basic Christian truth which Paul had taught them and warned them about when he was in Thessalonica.

_________________________
[4} Paul gave a double warning.
First, sexual impurity by late as God’s call to a holy life; “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
Second, Paul says sexual purity rejects God: “Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit” (v. 8).


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