A photo by Jakub Sejkora. unsplash.com/photos/utqJcneoFjo

Sex, Lies and Videotape (1Thess. 4:3-8)

Nov 30, 2021 By: David Meyer Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: 1 Thessalonians Scripture: 1 Thess. 4:3-8

As we move along in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we come to one of the clearest and most straight forward teachings on holiness and sexual purity in the New Testament. Both verse 2 and 4 of chapter 4 emphasize that this teaching was not new to the Thessalonians. The young church had heard this specific message before. In a similar way for us, this admonition of walking to please God in this area of holiness and sexual purity is not new. We know that God’s teaching on this subject is clear throughout the Bible, but like the Thessalonians, we need to hear it again. We need to be reminded that the follower of Jesus is called to a life that is set apart (holy) for God and His service.

       As God is renewing, restoring and reconciling all things to Himself (2 Cor 5:19), He is sanctifying (holifying) His people to become more and more like Jesus in their thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. Measuring our growth in holiness can sometimes be frustrating and daunting, but we should aim to monitor and evaluate progress in terms of “video” and not in “photo” mode. The “still shots” simply cannot capture the trajectory, reliance and flow of our improvement towards the goal (Christ-likeness). Our growth in pleasing God and holiness is a never-ending dependence on the Holy Spirit as we trust the promises of the Gospel which are available for us in Christ. The promises of God are many throughout His word and form a powerful arsenal as we “walk”, “run”, “fight” daily for personal holiness in community.

       This big picture reminder and encouragement is probably most helpful when applied to the area of sexual purity.  As we see in chapter 4, Paul moves from the general to the specific and highlights God’s standards and call to continuous improvement in this area of sexual purity. The Bible’s words stand in stark contrast to the “anything goes” and sexually destructive culture of the Thessalonians, which was not much different from the world we live in today. The world, our flesh and the devil bombard us daily with lies to forsake God’s best, and turn to the fleeting pleasures in the broken buckets of sin that cannot hold water. (Jer 2:13) The lies are many and they come at us from all sides. But the call is clear. Christians are called to avoid any sexual practices that are outside the boundaries of a committed marriage covenant relationship. The word used for sexual immorality comes from the Greek word, “porneia” (sound familiar?), and includes any and all sexual practices outside the “circle of blessing” that God has prescribed (one natural man with one natural woman for life).

       A timely and immensely practical text, we will be looking at the motivations and reasons given to avoid sexual immorality as well as some ways to walk in counter cultural self-control and holy distinction.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • The statistics on “Christian” licentiousness in this area (Barna, Gallup, etc) compared to the general population are not encouraging. Why do you think professed Christians find it so difficult to believe and trust that God knows what is best for us in this vital area of sexual purity?
  • Why do you think Paul felt it necessary to remind this young Christian community again about the “what and why” of sexual purity?
  • Based on 4:4, which members of the Thessalonian church were expected to obey these commands?
  • Looking at 4:3-8, can you list the reasons which Paul gives for why we should abstain from sexual immorality?
  • Why does Paul mention the Holy Spirit (4:8) in connection to these exhortations?
  • Single brothers/sisters: In what ways can you help each other in community to abstain from sexual immortality and “possess your own vessels” in holiness and honor?
  • Married brothers/sisters: In what ways have you imported false views of sexuality from the culture in your marriage bed? What does repentance look like in this area?
  • What does the Old Testament say about this area of sexual immorality? (Leviticus 18) Has it changed now that we are in the New Covenant?
  • Compare other key verses: Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:27-28, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Romans 1:24-27. In light of a theology of sex/marriage, why does God address the use/misuse of bodies with such gravity?