First Thessalonians 014 – Flee Sexual Immorality (part 2)

First Thessalonians 014 – Flee Sexual Immorality (part 2)
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 5, 2023 • First Thessalonians


First Thessalonians 014 – Flee Sexual Immorality (part 2)

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 5, 2023


Good morning, everybody.  Happy first Sunday in February.  Let’s pray.  Father, we’re grateful for what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago.  We’re grateful for the final words that He spoke on the cross, “It is finished.”  Simply by receiving You as a free gift by way of faith, we can just bask in the freedom that You give us.  So help us to leave here with that understanding as we take a look this morning at First Thessalonians in Sunday School and the book of Genesis in the main service.  I do ask Lord that You would be with us during communion and the fellowship meal that follows.  We just ask for a sweet koinonia, fellowship, as we gather around You and what You’ve done for us.  So Lord, we come today with receiving hearts seeking to receive from you through the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit.  So in preparation for that, Lord, we’re going to just take a few moments of silence to not get saved again, because that’s impossible.  Once saved, always saved.  But sometimes we do things in our sinfulness as Christians that break our fellowship with You, and when that happens, we can’t really receive all that You have for us.  So we’re going to take a few moments privately to exercise 1 John 1:9, if need be, so that we can be ready to receive today from You.  Thank the Lord for the ordinances You’ve given to the church, the Word and the table.  Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate both this morning.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, God’s people said amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

Well, let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4.  First Thessalonians Chapter 4, we’re continuing our verse-by-verse teaching through the book of 1 Thessalonians.  We have completed, I think last week, the first major portion of the book, Chapters 1 through 3, where the apostle Paul is looking backward to his relationship to the Thessalonians.  And the reason Paul has to do that is when he was pushed out of Thessalonica, ultimately into Corinth, the detractors of Paul, the unbelieving Jews in this case, just stirred up a lot of false information about Paul.

So before Paul can correct his flock, he has to restore his credibility as a preacher, and more important than that, an apostle.  So he’s done that in Chapters 1 through 3.  There’s three specific charges, I think, that were brought against Paul.

He successfully defused those, deflated them, defeated them, and then in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, he says, “Finally then, brethren.” So he’s now transitioning into the second part of the letter, Chapters 4 and 5, where he’s looking forward.

He had sent Timothy back to Thessalonica.  Timothy, no doubt, brought a report from Thessalonica back to Paul in Corinth, telling about the things that were really good in the Thessalonian church, but there were some issues, so to speak, and so Paul has to deal with those issues in Chapters 4 and 5.

It’s hard to deal with those issues when you personally are not respected as a spiritual leader.  So now that Paul has regained his respect by exposing the accusations against him where nothing more than lies, he’s now in a position to correct.

And that’s what he does in Chapters 4 and 5, beginning with the subject of immorality, sexual immorality.  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, and then beginning in Chapter 4, Verses 9-12, he’ll get into the subject of the lazy brethren, laziness.

So you can sort of take those first 12 Verses of Chapter 4 and you can divide them up into three parts.  Paul has made a comment about general conduct as a Christian.  Chapter 4, Verses 1-2, now he’s going to make a negative command against sexual immorality, Verses 3-8.  Once he finishes that, then we’ll move into a positive command about brotherly love, Verses 9-12

But intermingled in that positive command will be some treatment about people who kind of just said, well, Jesus is coming back.  Why hold down a job?  Why be responsible?  Why save for retirement?  Why put my kids through college?  Why learn a vocation or a trade?  Because Jesus is coming back.  In other words, they were using the return of Jesus as an excuse to get out of daily life’s responsibilities.

Paul ultimately is going to explain that that’s unloving to do that.  So that subject is coming in Chapter 4, Verses 9-12.

Sexual Sin / Immorality

But today, what we’re dealing with is sexual sin.  Sexual immorality.  So this becomes the advantage of teaching the Bible verse by verse.  Because when you’re going verse by verse, you just deal with the next subject in front of you even though it might be uncomfortable to talk about.

I doubt a lot of the things that we teach here at Sugar Land Bible Church we would ever say unless we were going verse by verse.  Because my nature is sort of a people-pleasing nature.  I kind of like to make everybody happy at the end of the day.  Which is really not a pastor’s job anyway.  It’s not to make people happy.  It’s to help them to be holy.

So there’s a tendency in my nature to just avoid certain subjects, but you can’t do that when you go verse by verse.  And here it is, the negative command against sexual immorality.  And people say the Bible’s not relevant to today.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification

But notice if you will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;”

So you’ll notice here, it says in 4:3, “this is the will of God.”  And I think this is very interesting because that’s what most Christians pray for in their lives.  Lord, show me Your will.  The truth of the matter is the Bible, I think about five times if I’m not mistaken, comes out and says here is God’s will for you.

So everybody kind of wants a special, I don’t know, vision of some kind.  Should I live in city A or city B?  Should I take job A or should I take job B?  And so we’re all sort of waiting for the will of God to unfold in our lives, and we miss the very clear statements where God says, “Here is my will for you.”

The Bible says in Luke 16:10, ““He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”  In other words, why in the world would God trust you and me with some sort of blueprint for our lives when we can’t even be faithful to Him on the things that the Bible expressly comes out and talks about?

So if you’re in a season of your life where you’re wondering what God’s will is for a job, for a career, for marriage, for a location where you’re going to live, the very best advice I could give you is to be faithful to God with everything that you know.  If you’re faithful with God with what you do know, God can see that you’re going to be faithful in much and He can start to, I think in the course of timing, start to sort of unfold for you what His purposes are for your life in those areas that the Bible may not specifically address.

So this is a very simple statement.  Here is the will of God, which everybody wants.  But somehow, we don’t want this because it tells us to do something that’s contrary to our sin natures.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” So what is God’s will for you?  What is God’s will for me?  That we would be sanctified.

Now, we teach here the three tenses of salvation – justification, sanctification, glorification.  Justification is the past tense of salvation.  Freedom from sin’s penalty at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.  On the far right hand of the screen is the third phase of your salvation, which is glorification, where you’ll be freed from sin’s very presence.  But right there in the middle is the present tense of our salvation, which is found in passages like Philippians 2:12, if I remember correctly, “… work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” That’s not dealing with justification.  That’s dealing with sanctification, the middle tense of our salvation, which is a little bit different than justification and sanctification [glorification], which occur in an instant.

Your justification takes place in an instant when you trust Christ for salvation.  Your glorification takes place in an instant at the point of death or in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet.  The rapture takes place in an instant.  Sanctification, though, is a process.

Justification involves obeying a single command, believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  Glorification just takes death or the rapture, but sanctification is different because it involves many, many commands.

You have to be in an environment where you’re learning those commands and as a Christian, you’re appropriating them by faith moment by moment under God’s power.  So what is the will of God for the Christian?  I mean, it’s very clear that He’s talking to Christians here because back in Verse 1, He referred to them as brethren.

So what does God want out of my lifeWell, He wants me to be sanctified.  He wants me to be growing up in the middle tense of my salvation.  I don’t think it’s saying be sinless, but hopefully we’re on a trajectory where we’re sinning less, and we’re learning to be more Christ-like in terms of daily conduct and daily life.

I mean if you want to know what God’s specific word or will for your life is, it’s to grow up in the middle tense of our salvation.  Well, gee, Paul, how do I do that?  Can you give me some specific examples?  Notice Paul goes right for the juggler here.

That is here’s a way you know you’re growing in the middle tense of your salvation.  That is you abstain from sexual immorality?  Well, if there’s something called sexual immorality, there must be something called sexual morality.  Right?

You guys with me on that?  And these kind of teachings are becoming more and more pertinent because we’re living in a culture that wants to erase every sexual boundary imaginable.  Where they’re now talking about…  I forgot the exact acronym, but people who are sexually attracted to children.  Minor-attracted persons or something like that.  They’ve already conquered the homosexual issue by trying to treat that as a civil right.  They won that battle, and it will not stop.  It will keep right on marching.  The very next thing on the agenda is to normalize what I would call pedophilia.

And once they normalize pedophilia, it will move into what’s called zoophilia, which means exactly what the word implies, sex with animals, that the Bible would call bestiality.  So this is why our culture is under the judgment of God.

It’s why things in the United States are not really moving in the right direction.  It’s because of issues like this.  So we desperately need to go back to the Word of God and figure out what sexual morality even is from God’s standpoint.

Jesus in Matthew 19:3-6 was asked a question about divorce and remarriage.  So we’re sort of trying to drag him into a conversation about two rabbis who were disagreeing about what the book of Deuteronomy calls – I think it’s around Chapter 25, Deuteronomy,[1] if my memory serves.  The indecent thing.  Moses says you can get a divorce if the indecent thing occurs.  Well, what’s the indecent thing?

Well, one school of thought, Hillel, the School of Hillel, Rabbi Hillel basically said divorce is permissible for almost any reason.  Your wife doesn’t put enough salt on your food, you know, she’s out.  She’s committed the indecent thing.  The school of Shammai was much more restrictive in interpreting the indecent thing as actually the act of sexual immorality.

And it’s very interesting to me that Jesus doesn’t take the bait.  He doesn’t get into a discussion about what the different rabbis were saying.  What Jesus does in Matthew 19:3-6[2] is He quotes two passages.  And He quotes God’s blueprint for sexuality before the fall.  The first passage He quotes in Matthew 19:3-6 is Genesis 1:27.  Where He says, “… Have you never read that God created man in His own image?  In the image of God, He created him male and female.  He created them.” (Matt 19:4).   If I’m reading that correctly, I only see two genders there.

And then He quotes Genesis 2:24.  Which is in the next Chapter.  Pre-fall.  He says, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Matt 19:5)  So, what is sexual morality?  Sexual morality is one man for one woman for one life.  Heterosexual monogamy is God’s standard.

I’m completely aware of the fact that when you talk like this, there are many, many people in the sound of my voice that have broken that standard.  But the truth of the matter is, even though the grace of God is always available for people by way of forgiveness, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a standard.  And man did not create the standard.  God created the standard.

So, Jesus, by not talking about what Hillel says or what Shammai says, goes right back to Moses, who is the only author that we have of pre-fall history, where God established His standard of sexual morality, which is heterosexual monogamy.

This is why the book of Hebrews 13:4, echoing this standard says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all ….” It’s getting harder and harder to do that.

Because you have the situation in Colorado where Jack Phillips, who owns his own cake decorating service bakery, has now been threatened again with litigation.  He won his case before the Supreme Court in sort of a narrow ruling with the homosexual mob that came into his place of establishment and demanded that he produce a same-sex cake even though it would be against his biblical convictions to do so.

Now the same mob comes back into his establishment and now they want a trans cake, a transsexual cake.  And of course he’s refused to do so and now he’s wrapped up in litigation.  And so the punishment that they’re putting him through as I speak is the process.  Even if he ends up winning.  We’re going to come against this guy so frequently and so regularly that he’s going to have to spend all this money on litigation.  We’re going to apply wear and tear to him related to finances, emotional abuse, etc., to the point where the guy will eventually just capitulate, they think, or shut down his business entirely.

The reason these kind of cases are interesting to me is once they’re finished with the members of the creative industry – bakers, artists, and the like – where do you think they’re going next?  Going into the four walls of the church.  And they’re going to start demanding that pastors hold same-sex weddings, trans weddings, etc., and if a church won’t comply, we’re going to punish the church through the process and deplete the Lord’s resources on litigation instead of doing the Lord’s work.

So when Paul here says that “Marriage is to be held in honor of all …”, that’s actually Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all …”, what I’m saying is it’s getting harder and harder to do that.

I mean what they’re doing to Jack Phillips is the equivalent of going into a Jewish-owned bakery, basically saying we want a cake for you to produce for us for a rally that we’re holding for the Nazis, and we want a swastika on the cake.  And if you don’t provide it for us, we’re going to sue you under civil rights law.  And then the cake owner says, well, I can’t do that because I’ve got people in my family tree that are Holocaust survivors, and then we turn around and we say, we don’t care.

It’s what’s called coerced speech.  It’s a, where I stand, a blatant violation of the First Amendment.  But it’s okay to do this and target this against evangelical Christians.  So welcome to America 2023.

So “Marriage is to be held in honor among all …”, Hebrews 13:4, and it says, “… the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

So that’s a reiteration of God’s sexual standard.  Heterosexual monogamy within marriage.  And anything that violates that standard is sexual immorality.  We know what sexual morality is.

What I’m trying to describe here is what sexual immorality is.  It’s violating the divine standard.  In this case, the author of Hebrews uses fornication, which would be sex outside of marriage.  You’re not married and you’re having sex.

And then it also mentions adulterers.  That would be having sex with somebody else when you’re married to somebody else.  So God is against fornication.  God is against adultery.  God is against bestiality.  God is against homosexuality.

I’m not saying He doesn’t love these people, but He’s against the behavior.  And why is God against those behaviors?  Because they violate His standard.

Human beings are in no position to write the standard.  Because we didn’t come up with the standard.  This is God’s standard.  This is why a Christian who is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot sell out on this issue.

What’s really interesting to me is when they harass Jack Phillips in Colorado, they never go into a Muslim bakery and demand homosexual cakes and things like that.  I mean, you think the evangelical Bible standard against homosexuality is strong, I mean, try being a homosexual in a Muslim country.

It’ll get you thrown off a two- or three-story building.  So my point is they are intentionally targeting people like Jack Phillips that they know have a Bible-based belief, and they’re trying to make an example out of him.  And in so doing, they’re trying to completely erase the standard that God has set up.

So this is God’s will for you that you abstain from sexual immorality.  Why would Paul here focus on sexual immorality?  Well, to me, it’s sort of like the argument from the lesser to the greater.  Sex drive is so strong in human beings that if under God’s power, you can bring that under His control by channeling one’s sexual energies completely into the marriage bed.  If you can do that under God’s power, then the rest of the Christian life is pretty easy when you think about it.  Because that’s almost the most difficult thing there is to get under control.

And so that may be why Paul here, when he’s mentioning sanctification, this is God’s will for your life sanctification, he starts talking here about sexual immorality.

When I was a student at Dallas Seminary, I took a Christian education class and the presenter that particular day was a guest from off campus.  I can’t remember the name of the organization, but he put forth some statistics that youth that have followed abstinence, as you track them through their lives, they are actually very, very successful at whatever they put their hand to.  They’re industrious, they’re successful in their vocation.

And why is that?  Because if you have the self-control to master this issue of sexual morality, sexual immorality, you obviously have the self-control and the discipline necessary to be good at anything you decide to do.  This is a part of the discussion about sexual morality, immorality, that never comes up.

Because everybody’s trying to present it as if God is putting some kind of shackles on us.  Why should we listen to Him?  Is He the Creator or something?  And what people don’t understand is godliness is actually less expensive when you think about it.  If you can master this in the walk of sanctification, then you can master anything.

To draw a similar analogy, that’s kind of how I look at the book of James 3:7-8 when it talks about taming the tongue.  It says, “For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.  But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

Think of what the human race can do.  Right down to putting a man on the moon.  It’s incredible the technological sophistication that we possess.  And yet James is saying, here’s one thing that man can’t do.  He can’t keep his mouth shut.  He can’t control his speech.  So the implication from the lesser to the greater, in this case, from the greater to the lesser, is if one’s speech can come under control in the walk of sanctification as we rely upon God’s resources moment by moment, if the sex drive itself can come under discipline, under God’s resources as we walk with Him moment by moment in the walk of progressive sanctification.  I mean, if you can control speech and you can control sexuality, then everything else in the walk of sanctification is actually pretty easy.  So those are the two biggest areas for us to get control over.

So this, I think, is the explanation why Paul, in a generic comment about sanctification, goes right for the juggler and starts talking about sexual immorality.

You’ll notice what he says there in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, “that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,”

Notice the word “honor.” When we respect God’s sexual moralities, we’re honoring the Lord.  We’re progressing in the middle tense of our salvation, which is sanctification.

But what does it mean here when it says that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel?  There are basically two major views on this.  The first view people think it means is get married, or in this case, acquire a wife.  And they’re really pulling a lot of stuff that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 into the passage.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:5 when dealing with the subject of sexual immorality says to married couples, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

In other words, the sexual energy is to be satisfied in marriage, and if it’s not being satisfied in marriage, the human temptation is to get that need satisfied somewhere else.  So Paul places a very strong premium on marriage, the sexual relationship between man and woman in the marriage bed.  And if that’s not happening in one’s life, then the temptation is to move into sexual immorality.

So a lot of people with that whole discussion that Paul brings up in 1 Corinthians 7, drag it in here, and what they think it means is Paul is telling people to get married, acquire a wife.  Because then you’ll have somebody to have sex with.  If you have somebody to have sex with, then you’re not going to be looking elsewhere and have that need met.

It is true that “vessel”, you’ll notice the word “vessel” in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 is used of a wife.  In 1 Peter 3:7[3], it comes out clearer I think in the King James Version.  It says, “Husbands likewise dwell with them [your wife, in other words, with understanding, giving honor to your wife], “as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

Now, there’s a lot to talk about in that verse which we won’t have time to get into here.  But there it does mention that the wife can be referred to as a vessel.  So if you drag in 1 Corinthians 7 and you drag in 1 Peter 3, a lot of people interpret Verse 4 of 1 Thessalonians as “get married.”

But the basic problem with that view is Paul knows how to say “wife.” He’s really good at it.  I think it’s the Greek word γυναῖκες[4], if I remember right.  Ephesians 5.22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  So if this is somehow an encouragement to get married, it’s a very strange way for Paul to communicate it because he knows how to say “wife” clearly elsewhere, which he doesn’t say here.

So I think the better understanding of this verse is not to acquire a wife, but it is to actually learn how to possess one’s body so that it doesn’t go into sexual immorality.  This is a more natural way, I think, of understanding the passage.

The word “vessel” can be used of one’s own body.  You see it used that way in Romans 9:22-23.  It says, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,”

So their vessel is used of one’s own human body.  2 Corinthians 4:7, says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, …”, speaking of our bodies.

2 Timothy 2:21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, …” speaking of Timothy’s body.  And in 1 Samuel 21:5, it says, “David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, …”.  In context, vessel is used of the body.

So when Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 says, after making some general statements about sexual immorality, when he says in Verse 4 “that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,” I think what he’s simply saying is under God’s power, learn how to control your own body.  Learn how to control your mind.

Because private thoughts ultimately lead to public actions.  Which is a message we need to hear because there’s so much sexual innuendos coming at us constantly.  We can’t even watch the Super Bowl anymore, the halftime show, without being exposed to heavy sexual content.

Now we’re in an age with all of these cell phones, posts, tweets, texts, texting.  They even have a term for it called sexting.  Start to engage in sort of an immoral pattern with people or someone that you’re not married to.

So we desperately need this word from the Word, telling us how to bring this body with sexual energy and sexual drives into under divine discipline so we live the Christian life God’s way.  Not denying sexuality.  Sexuality is a gift.  But it is a tremendous force for good or evil.

It’s like dealing with fire.  I mean, fire is a wonderful thing.  You can build a campfire.  You can warm yourself with it.  But with fire, you can also cause a forest fire.  That’s what the sex drive is.  It’s a gift from God.  But if it’s not used the right way or channeled the right way under God’s parameters, then it becomes a force for great evil and destruction in our lives.

Five Reasons For Sexual Purity

So what he’s saying is learn to control your vessel, your body.  And then he moves on in 1 Thessalonians 4:5-8 and he gives, by my count, five reasons for sexual purity.

Reason No. 1 – Sexual Immorality Characterizes Paganism

Reason number one is sexual immorality characterizes paganism.  The notion of sexual immorality does not come from God.  It comes from pagans or people who do not know God.  Let’s read here 1 Thessalonians 4:5, “not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles [look at this] who do not know God;”

In other words, when you get involved in sexual immorality, you’re acting as a Christian like someone who doesn’t know God at all, because sexual immorality characterizes the lives of unbelievers.

Why would Paul bring this up?  I think it’s related to where Thessalonica was located.  You see the circle there at the top, Thessalonica.  It was located kind of a port city.  I’ve actually been to Thessalonica myself.  They pronounce it as Thessaloniki, which is always disappointing, learning you’ve been just pronouncing a word your whole life, an old dog new tricks, so I’m just going back to Thessalonica.

But you’ll notice it’s on the water.  So it’s a port city.  So it’s an area, just like Corinth, the bottom circle, where you have a lot of sailors and things like that overnight, people traveling through constantly.

And of course, if you’re living or moving through that kind of city, it’s sort of like, well, I might as well shack up with somebody.  I might as well hook up, I guess is the term that’s being used today, with a prostitute.  I don’t really have any reputation to protect because I’m only going to be here for 24 hours or 48 hours or whatever.

So prostitution flourished in those kind of cities.  In fact, in Corinth, the second circle down there, the actual word in the Greek language, korinthiazomai[5], which is a word for immorality.

So immorality itself, in Koine Greek, got its name from the city of Corinth, which was well known for its sexual immorality.  It’s kind of like how we use the word Vegas today.  What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of thing.  When you say that, everybody knows exactly what you’re talking about.  And that’s how Corinth was known for sexual immorality to the point where they actually had a word for it for immorality derived from the city of Corinth.

And what pagan religions did is they said, okay, everybody’s going to be sexually immoral, but we’re just going to call it religion.  It’s going to be committing sexual immorality with a temple prostitute or a priestess.  So you can imagine why a religion like that would be very popular, right?  And so this was the reality that Paul was dealing with in Thessalonica.  This was the reality that he was dealing with in Corinth, where he actually wrote this letter from.

And so when he says here, 1 Thessalonians 4:5, “not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;”, everybody knew exactly what he was talking about.

There are in the Bible several lists.  We call them the vice lists.  I’ll read a few to you.  But they all have something in common.  They all talk about sexual immorality.  And they talk about sexual immorality as coming from unbelievers.

Unfortunately, these vice lists have been turned into if you don’t live a certain way, then you’re not going to heaven.  Which, if you believe that, it destroys your assurance.  So because of a mishandling of the vice lists, thinking it’s turned on Christians, those that live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.  You have a generation of Christians now that have no assurance of their salvation.

And I’ve looked at these vice lists very carefully.  I’m here to assure you, although I don’t have time to get into it today, that these vice lists are not dealing with Christians.  They’re dealing with unbelievers.  Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And in these vice lists, he’ll switch from the third person, referring to paganism, to the second person, the second person plural pronoun “you.”  And he’s saying, why would you live like them when they’re not going to heaven?  Why would you live like them when you have a totally different destiny?  Why would you ever go back and imitate them?  They’re on a totally different trajectory than you’re on.

And when you just pay attention to the switch from second person to third person, third person to second person, he’s not threatening people with, oh, maybe you’re not a Christian.  That’s not what he’s doing.  He’s saying people that are living like this are non-Christians.  Your destiny and calling is totally different.  How would you ever live like the pagans?

So, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such [now there’s a switch] were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Why in the world would you live like an unbeliever?  Why would you be involved in sexual immorality that unbelievers are involved in?  They’re not going to the same place you’re going to in terms of their final destiny.

We have another vice list in Ephesians 5:5.  It says, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

Galatians 5:19-21, says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those [see the swith?  When from you the second person to third person] who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

We have another vice list in Revelation 21:8 where it says, ““But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.””  So again, it’s the immoral that are in the lake of fire because they’re unbelievers.

So why would I as a blood-bought Christian imitate that?  Imitating them is counter to who I am as a Christian.

There’s another vice list in Revelation 22:15.  It says, “Outside” Outside where?  Outside of the New Jerusalem.  The lake of fire, presumably.  “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”  So again, it’s unbelievers that are involved in sexual immorality.  Why would you ever want to imitate an unbeliever as a Christian when the unbeliever has a totally different destiny than you have?

That’s what Paul’s getting at in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 and he says, “not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;”

So when a Christian becomes sexually immoral, I mean, very sadly, they’re imitating someone that has no relationship with God at all.  You do that in pagan religiosity.  That’s not who you are any more.  You’re bought with a price.  Why would you involve yourself in that?

So the first reason to avoid sexual immorality is when we become sexually immoral, we’re acting just like unsaved people.  The source of sexual immorality is not God.  It’s paganism.

So when you watch TV, and I don’t recommend you do that too much, you see bed hopping and adultery and fornication, you name it, you have to understand that what is being showcased for you is a lifestyle from people that know absolutely nothing about Jesus Christ.  The Bible has no influence over their minds.  So why would you imitate that?

Paul’s Second Reason For Avoiding Or Fleeing Sexual Immorality

Paul’s second reason for avoiding or fleeing sexual immorality is when someone becomes sexually immoral, they invoke the judgment of God.  1 Thessalonians 4:6, “and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”

Notice this interesting line here, Verse 6, “defrauding his brother.”  Why does it say defrauding his brother?  Because if you’re a sister that has become sexually immoral with another Christian, your brother in Christ, and God is the avenger, just brought down the judgment of God on both parties.

If you commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife, you’re injuring your neighbor.  And he says here the Lord is the avenger.  God does not take kindly to people that violate His principles.

Back to the book of Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”  God is going to bring judgment against the sexually immoral.  The unbelievers will spend eternity in the lake of fire because they never trusted Christ for salvation and their lifestyles evidence that because they’re characterized by unbelief.

And I’m here to tell you folks that God will bring discipline on His own people if they do this.  I can’t tell you how many people I know that were once in ministry and are now not in ministry because something of a sexually immoral nature was exposed in their lives.  And how did it get exposed in their lives when the people committing the sexual immorality did their best to cover their trail?  It got exposed in their lives because of what Hebrews 13:4 says.  God is the avenger.  He will surely judge.

And so the things that we think we’re getting away with in secret, we’re really not getting away with at all.  And whom the Lord loves, the Lord what?  The Lord chastens.  He will unmask.  I’ve seen it happen many times.  It’s a fearful thing to watch.  Unmask people that you thought were on fire Christians only to discover that they were living lifestyles which were displeasing to the Lord.

So that becomes a powerful incentive to avoid sexual immorality.

His Third Reason Is, I Warned You About This Already

His third reason is, I warned you about this already.  Back to 1 Thessalonians 4:6, “and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”

So when Paul was with him in Thessalonica, and he wasn’t with them that long, probably somewhere from 6 months to a year, he talked about this.  I’ve already told you about this.

Why did he talk about it?  I think it’s related to where Thessalonica was located.  It, like Corinth, was sort of a hotbed of the pagan religious system that incorporated sexual immorality into religiosity.  It’s what we call the Greco-Roman mystery religions.  All of them involved opportunities for sexual immorality.  And that’s why Paul already talked about this.  In other words, what he’s saying here is a review.

He didn’t just say, “I warned you.” He says there at the end of Verse 6, I solemnly warned you.

A Fourth Reason Why We Should Avoid Sexual Immorality

A fourth reason why we should avoid sexual immorality, Sexual immorality frustrates the calling of God on the believer’s life.  You see that in 1 Thessalonians 4:7.  “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”

God wants us to grow up in the middle tense of our salvation.  This is why the Apostle Peter writing to his audience says in 1Peter 1:15-16, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, [now here he is quoting Leviticus 19:2] “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your

Now you’re already positionally holy because you have the transferred righteousness of Jesus Christ.  That happened at justification.  Now in sanctification, I need to grow up and start living according to my new identity.  My practice needs to catch up with my position.

I don’t think we’ll ever be sinless, but we should be sinning less under God’s power.  And if a Christian won’t do that, then they’ve missed God’s will for their life.  And they could have all kinds of prayer requests about where I’m going to live, what color house should it be, what kind of car should I drive.

But if you miss this, you miss the purpose for why you’re here, to live this sanctified lifestyle.  And when you become sexually immoral or  when you become a gossip, that doesn’t do anything but frustrate the calling that God has on your life to grow in the middle tense of our salvation.

The Final Reason To Avoid Sexual Immorality Is The Holy Spirit Will Empower The Believer Towards Purity

The final reason to avoid sexual immorality is the Holy Spirit will empower the believer towards purity.  You see that in 1 Thessalonians 4:8.  “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”

And notice the first part of this.  He who rejects this is not rejecting man but God.  See what Paul is doing here as an apostle?  He’s taking his own statements and his own writings and he’s putting them on equal level with any Scripture that’s preceded him.  Which you can do if you’re an apostle.

Because an apostle was a channel of revelation in the church age.  This is why the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-16 of Paul says, “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,…”  In other words, you better take Paul and what he’s saying, Peter says, and put it on equal level with anything I’ve said or written. You better put it on equal level with anything written in the Old Testament, because Paul, when he says this, is functioning as an apostle.

That’s why he’s saying here, “He who rejects this,” this teaching on sexual immorality, “is not rejecting man, but rejecting God Himself.”  Paul is saying these are not my private thoughts.  This is not my personal standard of ethics.  What I’m giving you is just as much a disclosure of God as is the Mosaic law given at Mount Sinai.  It’s just sort of repackaged information for the church age.

This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10 would say things like this, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, …”.  I’m going to tell you something.  This isn’t original with me.  It came from Jesus.  1 Corinthians 7:10

But then in 1 Corinthians 7:12, he says the opposite.  “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, …”.  In other words, I’m going to tell you something that Jesus never spoke of, but what I’m speaking of has the same authority as what Jesus Himself taught, because I’m speaking as an apostle.

There’s this mindset, and we made reference to it last week, of red-letter Christianity.  Only the things in red in our study Bibles are in red because that’s what Jesus said and that’s the most important thing, right?  We have even license plates.  What would Jesus do?  All this kind of stuff.

You know what’s interesting about Jesus, although He was the Son of God, He was the monogenes[6], one of a kind, the God-man.  There’s never been a God-man besides Him.  He’s the eternally existent second member of the Godhead who at the point of the virgin conception 100 percent humanity was added to deity.  There was no exchange or subtraction at the point of the virgin conception.  It was an addition.

It’s not like taking off one jacket and putting on another.  It’s something completely new that was added to what Jesus was already in eternal existence.  Humanity was added to Him.  He was the God-man.  That’s why He alone is the mediator between God and man, because He’s the only one who can do it because He’s the God-man.

So, we think that the highest statements in the Bible are things that Jesus Himself said.  I’m just focused on what Jesus says.  I don’t want to listen to Paul.  Everybody knows he was a homophobic, anti-woman bigot is the mindset.  Of course, none of those things.  That’s the way people think.  I’m just a red-letter Christian.  I’m just focused on Jesus.  If you kind of draw out the name “Jeeeesus” into Jesus, it makes you look a little bit more spiritual.  Red-letter Christianity.

You know what no one quotes in this whole red-letter Christianity mindset?  They never quote what Jesus Himself said in John 16:12-13 where He said, ““I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. …”.  Quoting Jack Nicholson, “you can’t handle the truth.”

I don’t recommend you watch that movie either.  Pastor, well how come you know it so well?  Well, I don’t know.  Pray for me, would you?  John 16:13, ““But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

Jesus says I’ve got a lot of things I want to say, but you can’t absorb them right now.  It’s going to take up the work of the Spirit of the apostles to disclose these truths to you.  And when the apostles start to write, you better take them very, very seriously because what they say is on equal par with the Old Testament and it’s on equal par, Jesus says, with even My own teachings.  That’s some verses that are never spoken of for whatever reason in this red-letter Christianity mindset.

Did you know that Jesus never wrote a single book?  Turn to the Jesus book.  There’s no authorship of Jesus in any book of the Bible.  So Jesus is saying when I leave, the apostles, as they’re being guided by the Spirit, are going to give you scriptural truth which is on the same level as anything that I disclose.  And this is why Paul says regarding this issue of sexual immorality, he who rejects this is not rejecting man, but God.  You reject Paul, you reject God.  Just like when you reject Jesus, God the Son, you’re automatically rejecting God the Father.

It goes on in 1 Thessalonians 4:8, and we’ll stop with this, “… who gives the Holy Spirit to you.” That’s how the sexually pure lifestyle becomes possible for the Christian because we have resident within us a source of power that’s greater than ourselves.  And if I dial into that power by faith, moment by moment, I find that even the poison that comes off of my tongue can be controlled.  And even the sex drive itself, as powerful as it is, can be brought under proper discipline and channeled the right way.

Galatians 5:16 says, Paul says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

Pastor, I’ve had a really rough week carrying out the desire of the flesh.  What should I do?  Well, obey the first part of the verse.  Are you walking by the Spirit?  Are you depending upon the Spirit moment by moment?  Paul says if you do that, you’ll not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Where is the Holy Spirit?  Jesus said in John 14:16-17, that He is not on us, but He is in us forever.

So some pretty strong teaching here on sexual immorality, a negative command, avoid sexual sin.  We gave five reasons for that.  And the next time when we’re together, we’ll look at more of a positive command about being loving.  And part of being loving is being industrious.  We’ll see how that connection works next time.

Let’s pray.  Father, we’re grateful for the parts of Your Word that are sometimes a little tougher to swallow, that are so counter-cultural.  But You’ve given us this book, which helps us with all matters of faith and practice and godliness, even this whole subject of sexuality.  We ask that You’ll be with our teaching by way of illumination in the main service that follows.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We’ll close these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said, amen.  Happy intermission.


Excursus 15: A Note on Monogenēs

The word monogenēs, translated “one and only” here in the NIV, is in some other translations rendered “only begotten.” That the word is correctly translated as “one and only” in the NIV is confirmed by an examination of its usage elsewhere in the NT, where it is found a total of nine times. It is found three times in the Gospel of Luke, once to describe the “only son” of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12), once to describe the “only daughter” of Jairus (Luke 8:42), and once to describe the “only child” of the man who sought Jesus’s help with his demon-possessed boy (Luke 9:38). It is found once in Hebrews where Isaac, whom Abraham was about to sacrifice, is described as his “one and only son” (Heb 11:17). In each of these cases the expression is used to add poignancy to a story by highlighting the fact that it was the person’s one and only child who was in dire need, threatened, or had died. The stress is not on the fact that the person was begotten of the father or mother concerned, but on the fact that the father or mother had only one child and that child was the one who was so sadly affected.

In the Fourth Gospel monogenēs is used four times, in each case in relation to Jesus as God’s Son. In John 1:14 we read that the Word (later identified as Jesus Christ) became flesh and “we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son [monogenous].” In John 1:18 we are told that “no one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son [monogenēs], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” And in John 3:16 we find, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only [monogenē] Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Finally, in John 3:18 we read, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only [monogenous] Son.” In each case monogenēs denotes, not that the Son was “begotten” of the Father, but rather his uniqueness as God’s “one and only” Son. Thus, in John 1:14, 18 the emphasis is on Jesus’s unique role as the bearer and revealer of the glory of God, and in John 3:16, 18 the emphasis falls on the sacrifice made by the Father in giving his only Son for the salvation of all who believe, and the seriousness of not believing in the “one and only” Son whom God gave.

The use of monogenēs in 1 John 4:9 fits into the same category as its use in John 3:16, for here in 4:9 the author also emphasizes the fact that the one whom God sent into the world was his “one and only” Son. Once again, the emphasis is not that Jesus was “begotten” of God but that God had only one Son, and it was this “one and only” Son that he sent into the world so that “we might live through him.”[7]

[1] ““Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.” (Deut 23:14)

[2] “Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”” (Matthew 19:3-6)

[3] 1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

[4] 10.54 γυνήb, αικός f: a woman who is married to a man—‘wife.’ ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, δότω αὐτῇ ἀποστάσιον ‘whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce’ Mt 5:31. The distinctions in meaning of γυνήa ‘woman’ (9.34) and γυνήb ‘wife’ parallel those involving ἀνήρc and ἄνθρωποςc (see 10.53). A number of languages, however, employ essentially the same usage as Greek in that a wife is simply called ‘his woman,’ ‘my woman,’ etc. The contexts normally indicate clearly which meaning of γυνή is involved. [Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. 1996. In Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible Societies.]

[5] Moreover, at the end of the fifth century, the playwright Aristophanes (450–385 b.c.) coined the verb korinthiazomai, “act like a Corinthian,” i.e., be a fornicator, harlot (Fragm. 354), and Plato (429–347 B.C.) used the phrase, korinthia korē, “a Corinthian maid,” to mean a harlot (Resp. 3.404d).  [Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 2008. First Corinthians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 32. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.]

[6] See APPENDIX A for definition of monogenes

[7] Colin G. Kruse, The Letters of John, ed. D. A. Carson, Second Edition., Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; London: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2020), 171–172.