It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NIV).
Buckle up, my friend. It’s gonna be bumpy for the next few days because Paul is saying, with the authority of Jesus, some uncomfortable things. He’s speaking in love, but he’s saying things that are unpopular, things we don’t want to hear. They’re convicting, and you might be convicted. Your first impulse might be offense, or even anger, so buckle up and stay on the ride because it’s worthwhile.
One of the dangers of “chunking down” Bible verses is taking them out of context. It’s a dangerous thing to randomly pick a verse, read it, and draw huge conclusions from it even though every verse in Scripture is God’s real word. So, here, it’s wise to remember that, in many of Paul’s letters, he reminds his friends to flee from sexual immorality. Run away when you’re tempted. Sexual purity is a theme in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (just to name a few), and anyone who has remotely heard of Genesis has heard of Sodom and Gomorrah: the ultimate lesson on sexual immorality.
Every ancient culture except Israel focused in one way or another on sex, including idolatry of sex, sexual activities, or fertility. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he wrote to people familiar with Eros, Aprhrodite, and the lascivious practices of Roman worship. He reminded them that Christ gave Himself as the bridegroom for His bride, the church. Is it surprising, then, that God asked His bride to be virginally pure for that Bridegroom?
How do you think that worked out for the Thessalonians?
They were people just like us. They thought about and focused on sex as much as we do. They had emotions and sexual needs. Paul cautioned them that they were to be sanctified, set apart and consecrated as holy. The first way to do that was by changing their behaviors on sex. Commit to monogamy; end adultery; save your sexual activity for your marriage; retrain your brain from thinking about sex and lust and the idolatry of it. Let Jesus do work His way in you. Paul’s command is to revere faith in Him and the gift of life He gave, and it’s awful hard to revere Christ when you’re (literally) screwing around with someone.
I’ve spent a lot of my life cherishing sex, even worshipping it. I’ve misused it and that caused problems for me and others. Paul is speaking to me here, cautioning me that Jesus beckons me to a better way. Thank God He did this because you and I need His help if we are going to master this emotional, biological and even spiritual drive in our lives in a world determined to misuse it.
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 7:2-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:3.
Lord, forgive me for the ways I’ve misused Your gift of sex. Help me to revere You through my sex life.