Holiness And Love
To You, Lord, I bring my praise. I anticipate the challenge Your Word will bring to me today.
Read 1 THESSALONIANS 4:1–12
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know 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. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…he chose us in him… that we should be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph. 1:3,4, ESV, italics added).
Dionysius (Bacchus) and Aphrodite were popular in Thessalonica. Dionysius promoted drunkenness and Aphrodite sexual pleasure. The male genital was an important sacred object in the city. Sexual immorality was therefore a particular issue for these new converts. It is no surprise then that Paul addresses sexual immorality directly.
Reminding them of earlier teaching, Paul urges the Thessalonians to renounce their old pagan ways and live to please God, to be holy, to abstain from sexual immorality, to control their bodies and not to sinagainst each other sexually. He warns of God’s vengeance for such acts; a strong warning of God’s judgment for the sexually immoral. Such teachings are consistent with Jewish ethics but not with Greco-Roman culture. Paul would not compromise the Gospel where sexual ethics are concerned.
Christian ethics are also increasingly out of touch with contemporary western society. Some Christians are drawn toward accommodating the biblical ethic to our “sexually liberated” culture. This passage urges us not to do so. That said, the final verses remind us that, while we are to stand strong with a Christian ethic that endorses sexual activity within a heterosexual marriage, believers are to do so with deep love for one another, including those who struggle sexually. Thus we have one of the great challenges of early and contemporary western Christianity—how do we hold firm to God’s sexual ethic, yet at the same time show agape love to all? This is a challenge the church must not avoid. The Gospel spread radically through the sexually immoral Roman world over three centuries. If we remain faithful to God, he will grow his church despite the shifting world around us. In the meantime, let us walk in holiness and love.
Take time for self-reflection. How are you doing in holiness? In love? What needs to change? Pray that the church can embrace holiness and love in a changing world.
Gracious, Loving Father, the pull of sexual temptation is so powerful. It is placarded before me every day. I need the protection of Your armor on a moment-by- moment basis, and I pray for victory in this arena of my life.