Series: Maintaining this hope
Paul to the Thessalonians… Live like you Know Him
“(1) Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God–as you are doing–do so even more.”
Notice first off, that Paul recognizes that they are already doing so, he is simply urging them on to greater and greater diligence in their obedience.
“(2) For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
(3) For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, (4) so that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, (5) not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.”
Nothing is new under the sun. Sex has always been sin’s best seller. Most people, if they are going to err, do so in their intimate relationships which nearly always involve or lead to sexual expression.
In today’s world it is very difficult to maintain sexual purity since everywhere you go, promiscuity is present, encouraged and even celebrated.
Here Paul starts off what is paramount, and that is holiness or sanctification and he connects it with the THEME of the whole bible and that is KNOWING GOD.
We are to be holy – not like those who DO NOT KNOW GOD.
In effect, this is to moral behavior what love is to the law. As you know holiness is “otherness” but that is not an easy concept to imagine. The word is Hagiasmos and Hagiasmós refers not only to the activity of the Holy Spirit in setting man apart unto salvation and transferring him into the ranks of the redeemed, but also to enabling him to be holy even as God is holy.
This is a call to respond to the Holy Spirit and limit ones activities to those He would inspire – especially in regard to sexuality.
We are told to possess our bodies in holiness and honor.
The word possess means to have under the control of your soul. Even as we read in 1Corinthians 7 is a bonafide reason for marriage is if one cannot show self-control in sexual matters. 2Peter tells us that the Divine nature we all partake of through the promises of God, includes self-control. Also, Galatians one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control.
As such, we are told that each should know how to do this. Though Paul does not specifically mention the Holy Spirit, no doubt he is referring to the inner work and influence of the Holy Spirit within the believer. That it is in fact the Holy Spirit Who influences our hearts with the desire to live holy, the power to live holy and the knowledge of how to live holy.
Thus…We should know!
The other word used in connection with this is HONOR. We possess our bodies in honor – which means respect, reverence and esteem. No doubt God is the intended object of our honor, esteem, respect and reverence. However, as we continue, we will see this honor is to extend to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Fornication in this place literally means any form of sexual sin.
- Passion of lust – is self explanatory enough but, it means to be subordinate to your passions and desires.
In many ways, sexual sins are treated differently than other sins. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that sexual sins are not only sins against God, but are also wrongs we commit against our own bodies. We are to hold our bodies in respect and honor towards the One Who designed them, made them and gave them to us as a stewardship. We possess our bodies FOR God.
Paul tells us that whatever we do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him. – Col. 3:17
To better understand the importance of this command let’s consult with 1 Cor. 6:9-20,
“(9) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, (10) thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
To explain the use of the words “passive homosexual partners” in distinction from, “practicing homosexuals”. This is simply an accurate translating of specific homosexual roles as defined by the Greek language which those in Rome spoke. There were at least two different words for homosexuals much like today we witness and recognize that in the majority of cases there are two different roles – one masculine and one feminine. In fact, some translations actually translate this word as “effeminate”, but that is misleading. It means the one who takes on the passive-feminine role in a homosexual relationship.
The fact that such a role even exists in the majority of cases and has for at least the last 2,000 years is very telling. It screams out that even in a relationship which is a perverse as homosexuality, it actually affirms the need for both the masculine and the feminine in any real relationship of intimacy – even if that relationship is warped, sinning, seeking to deny such needs and is therefore not true intimacy or love at all.
“(11) Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(12) “All things are lawful for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me” – but I will not be controlled by anything.”
Remember our passage in 1Thess. 4:5 tells us “not in the passion of Lust” which mean to be subordinate to our passions. Here, Paul simply says it another way “I will not be controlled by anything”
“(13) “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.”
The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
(14) Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by His power.
(15) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
(16) Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
(17) But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with Him.
(18) Flee sexual immorality!
“Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” – but the immoral person sins against his own body. (19) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
(20) For you were bought at a price.
Therefore glorify God with your body.”
Paul is saying in his letter to the Thessalonians that each believer should know how to do this!
Then he extends this to those we might lust after – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ by saying…
“(6) In this matter no one should violate the rights of his brother or take advantage of him, because the Lord is the avenger in all these cases, as we also told you earlier and warned you solemnly.
(7) For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.
(8) Consequently the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, Who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
Here we are told that our invitation to Jesus in salvation was also an invitation to holiness. To live a separated life-style which stands out as different and even peculiar to the world.
All of this is mostly directed at the acts of sexual sin, but we all know that to even entertain the thought is in itself sin.
The word “reject” is a strong word that means to deny, despise and condemn. We are invited to holiness and otherness from the world. If we despise this, we are much like the Israelites who longingly looked back to Egypt or Lot’s wife who longingly looked back to Sodom.
The one who takes advantage of his brother or sister in regard to this is not just denying, despising and condemning his brother or sister, they are also denying, despising and condemning God Who gave us His Holy Spirit.
This defrauding can take many forms. It begins with looks and thoughts, it often graduates into flirtations and suggestive behavior and eventuates in activity. One can take advantage of another, simply by playing on their weaknesses. Many a Christian woman have used their wiles to allure a man who is not her husband or who is the husband of another. Playing on his weakness and fondness of the feminine form. Many a Christian man have used their wiles to do the same, though usually through more relationally suggestive means such as stepping in as a strong shoulder to lean on during a time of emotional vulnerability. Attempting to be viewed by a woman as a man who truly gets her and understands her.
Parents, Uncles and Aunts, brothers and sisters have done this to each other either by temptation, manipulation, coercion or by force.
The warnings attached to this could hardly be a stronger! In the same way that to Love our brother is to love God, to despise, misuse and abuse our brother is to perpetrate the same crime against God.
This is a very serious issue which needs more teaching in the church than it gets.
When we are sexually immoral, we take advantage of and defraud others and we cheat them in greater ways than we can imagine.
The adulterer defrauds his mate and children.
The fornicator defrauds his future mate and children, and both defraud their illicit partner.
“Adultery is an obvious violation of the rights of another. But promiscuity before marriage represents the robbing of the other that virginity which ought to be brought to a marriage. The future partner of such a one has been defrauded.” (Morris)
Repeatedly in Leviticus 18 – a chapter where God instructed Israel on the matter of sexual morality – the idea is given that one may not uncover the nakedness of another, not their spouse.
The idea is that the nakedness of an individual belongs to their spouse and no one else, and it is a violation of God’s law to give that nakedness to anyone else, or for anyone else to take it.
So let me just place something on the table here and leave it for your consideration. Is it a violation of this law to dress in a provocative and revealing way before ANYONE other than your mate?
Where do we draw the line? I believe as Christians, our line should be at the absolute conservative with about 5 extra steps in that direction for good measure.
In particular Christian communities should have men who know how to teach and train young men in how they view and interact with women. In like manner, we need women who are skilled at training and exemplifying proper dress and behavior for young women…both of which the scriptures encourage and expect.
“(9) About brotherly love: you don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.
(10) In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more,
- (11) to seek to lead a quiet life,
- to mind your own business,
- and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
(12) so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.”
Life after death and the resurrection of our bodies
“(13) We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”
Well how is that? Well like they will never see them again. That death had the final word. That death is stronger than life. That their relationship with the one they lost means more to their emotional and mental well being that their living connection with God.
Does it mean we do not grieve? No, we do, but we do not grieve for years or a lifetime.
What is meant by grieve? Well synonyms for this word are to mourn, bewail, anguish, distress, inward pressure and even emotional tourture.
Well, given that definition, is it something Christians should do? Well again, yes…but limitedly.
Though I would be careful of being dogmatic, I would say that if someone grieves (I do not mean misses or even periodically longs for) but grieves the loss of a loved one in Christ, and it drags on for months, that person had and continues to have FAR TOO MUCH of that person’s heart.
You will see them again, in many ways they are still with you in Christ, and you are not left alone which is the greatest truth behind this. We are told in Hebrews to BE SATISFIED with such things as we have, BECAUSE Jesus promised us that HE would never leave us or forsake us.
So continued bereavement of soul, inner anguish and distress should not linger long in the heart of a believer.
Let me stress one more time. This does NOT mean you do not have times when you might miss them and even long to hear their voice or feel their touch…sometimes years into the future. But to live constantly on the edge of tears or with a chip on your shoulder that the slightest social interaction could knock off is not the condition of a soul which has Jesus as their hope, satisfaction and peace.
We ARE a living testimony to the world and perhaps in no other arena can this be better witnessed than in how we process and deal with grief as different than the world.
Finally, one last word regarding this. If we continue in grief, it is NOT for the one who we lost, but for ourselves that we grieve. Our thoughts are self-focues. This is ok, for a short time. Nothing about the gospel requires us to deny hurt, loss, pain or suffering. The gospel DOES however, require that we not live lives focused upon ourselves but others. So all such considerations should not be taken to extremes, for such would be an inherently selfish and indulgent behavior. It also works against the commands in scripture to rejoice and give thanks always and in all situations – which Paul admonishes at the salutation of this letter.
“(14) Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.
(15) For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord:
We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.
(16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
(17) Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.
(18) Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Notice the focus is hope and encouragement, not sorrow and despair. Can you see how REAL faith in Jesus and His promises inspire and elicit different thoughts and actions which are completely contrary to the world and even to what they might pass off as normal thinking?
“(1) About the times and the seasons: brothers, you do not need anything to be written to you.
(2) For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”
Here the Day of the Lord is the same Day, Paul just referenced – the Day Jesus returns for His bride. It is in fact, what we in the modern church call the Rapture of the Church.
“(3) When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
“(4) But you, brothers, are not in the dark, so that this day would overtake you like a thief. (5) For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We’re not of the night or of darkness.”
“(6) So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be sober. (7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. (8) But since we are of the day, we must be sober and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation.”
“(9) For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”
“(11) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”
“(12) Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, (13) and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
“Be at peace among yourselves.”
“(14) And we exhort you, brothers:
- warn those who are lazy,
- comfort the discouraged,
- help the weak,
- be patient with everyone.
- (15) See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
- (16) Rejoice always!
- (17) Pray constantly.
- (18) Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- (19) Don’t stifle the Spirit.
- (20) Don’t despise prophecies, (21) but test all things.
- Hold on to what is good.
- (22) Stay away from every form of evil.
(23) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(24) He Who calls you is Faithful, Who also will do it!
(25) Brothers and sisters, pray for us also.
(26) Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. (signs and proofs of enduring affection)
(27) I charge you by the Lord that this letter be read to all the brothers.
(28) May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!”
It is interesting that evidently in the early church, and especially following communion, for those in the congregation to receive and then pass on, in a circuit a kiss from one cheek to the next until all in the house have been so christened with devoted affection. In the Syrian churches this was done by taking each neighbor’s right hand and saying “peace”.