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A.  A Walk that Pleases God (Part I): A Life of Purity, 4:1-8

(4:1-8) Introduction: this begins a major new discussion in First Thessalonians—the model walk or life of the believer. The model believer walks to please God. What does this mean? It means that he lives as God tells him to live, that he keeps God's commandments. Six commandments in particular are covered, one in this passage and five in the next passage. But note where the emphasis is: it is on this passage, the passage where moral purity is discussed. Why is more emphasis given to the commandment on morality than to the others? The answer is obvious. Immorality is the rampaging monster that destroys more lives, families, and nations than any other single evil. What God has to say is strong, and it must be heeded by all.

1.  The earnest but tender exhortation (v.1-2).

2.  The commandment: God's will is your sanctification (v.3-5).

3.  The reasons for purity (v.6-8).

1. (4:1-2) Believer's Walk: the earnest but tender exhortation—walk to please God, and do so more and more. The Christian life is often described as a walk. Walking is a picture of moving forward and progressing step by step and day by day. It pictures the utter necessity of pleasing God every step of the day as we walk throughout life. God is interested in every step we take. And He is going to judge us on the basis of how we live and walk. Therefore, the primary concern of our lives must be to please God.

⇒  If we please God, we will be accepted by God.

⇒  If we do not please God, we will not be accepted by God.

This alone shows the utter necessity of pleasing God. We must please Him if we wish to be accepted by Him. A person is foolish not to want to be accepted by God, for to be rejected by God leads to the worst consequences that can be imagined: rejection by God Himself. Note how tender, yet strong this exhortation is.

1.  The tenderness is seen in the words "beseech" and "brothers." By calling believers "brothers," Paul was expressing deep affection and care for them. The word "beseech" (erōtōmen PWS: 356) means to ask or request. But note: it always has a sense of urgency about it. Paul was tenderly requesting his dear brothers to continue to please God in their daily walk, but it was an urgent request. Their walking to please God was an absolute necessity, a necessity that carried with it great blessings for obedience and terrible judgment for disobedience (the displeasure of God).

2.  The strength of the exhortation is seen in the following facts.

a.  The believers had been taught how they must walk and please God. They had sat under the teachers and preachers of the Word; therefore, they were without excuse, for they knew exactly how to live and to please God. The word "ought" (dei) means must; it is an imperative, a necessity. Once the believers had heard and been taught how they should live and please God, they were responsible to live that way. Pleasing God was not an option; it was a duty.

b.  The exhortation was based upon the Lord Jesus. It was what the Lord Himself had taught. There is no greater authority than the Lord. He is the supreme majestic Being of the universe; therefore, the exhortation to live and walk to please God is of the highest authority.

c.  The exhortation involves the actual commandments of the Lord Jesus. This is a repeat of 1 Thes. 4:1: keeping the commandments of the Lord Jesus is not an option. A commandment is a commandment, a law that is to be obeyed. In addition, it has been given by the Lord Himself. Therefore, it must be kept—regardless. We must walk and please God, and we must grow in our Christian walk day by day more and more.


2. (4:3-5) Immorality— Sanctification— Fornication: the major commandment is sanctification, that is, moral purity. It can be stated no clearer: "This is the will of God." There is no higher will than the will of God. When the will of God is known, then the will of God must be done. Sanctification—moral purity—is the will of God. The word sanctification means to be set apart and separated. We are to be set apart to God and His will, and His will is moral purity. Therefore, we are to be set apart to live pure lives before God. This means three things.

1.  Sanctification means abstaining from fornication. The word "fornication" (porneias) means all kinds of immoral sexual acts: adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and all forms of sexual deviation.

The believer is not to give his body to an immoral person, not to an harlot or to an immoral neighbor. The believer's body belongs to Christ, which means that we are to honor Christ with our bodies. We are to take the sexual drive and energy of our bodies and use them as He has instructed:

⇒  either we dedicate our bodies solely to Him as eunuchs;

⇒  or we marry and build a family with the dynamic virtues of love and care, trust and loyalty.

2.  Sanctification means that a person knows how to control his body and his spouse. Leon Morris points out that the word "vessel" (skeuos PWS: 4216) can refer either to a person's own body or to a person's spouse (The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians. "Tyndale New Testament Commentaries," p.75). Both hold great meaning for the Christian believer. A believer is to know how to control his own body and how to control his spouse. A person can neglect, ignore, and abuse his body and a person can neglect, ignore, and abuse his or her spouse. In discussing a person's spouse it is important to note 1 Cor. 7:4-5. Neglecting, ignoring, or abusing one's spouse can bring about temptation and can contribute significantly to the spouse becoming unfaithful and impure.

Note that the believer is to know, to possess his or her body and spouse in sanctification and honor (the word "how" is not in the Greek text). There is no excuse for ignorance in this matter nor for disobedience. The believer is to know...

•  beyond a shadow of a doubt

•  without equivocation

•  without question

...that it is his duty to keep his body and spouse pure.

The point is strong: it is unthinkable that a believer would engage in fornication, that he would bring dishonor to his Lord and to his spouse, family, and himself. The believing husband and wife are to know that they must keep themselves and each other in sanctification and honor. They must not set themselves apart to dishonorable and immoral neighbors nor to harlots.

"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Romans 6:19).

"Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).

3.  Sanctification means resisting the passion of lust. We must resist the passion of lust. Note the double emphasis, that is, the wording, "the lust of concupiscence." It means the passion of lust, the enslaving power of lust. When a person begins to lust, he can soon become enslaved to lust; he can be held by the grip of lust to such a degree that it is almost impossible to break the bondage. This is true with the...

•  passion for sex.

•  passion for pornographic films and literature.

•  passion for manipulation.

•  passion for exposure.

•  passion for sexual conquest.

•  passion for looking.

•  passion for touching.

•  passion for romantic and immoral reading

The passion of lust is the way of the world. It is not the way of God. It is the life-style of those who do not know God. This does not mean that they do not know that sexual immorality is wrong. It means that they have rejected God and His commandments; they have chosen to live in the passion of their lusts. The believer is commanded to please God and to keep the commandments of the Lord Jesus. And the major commandment is our sanctification, that is, moral purity. Therefore, we are to abstain from fornication—from all forms of immoral sex (cp. Romans 1:18-32).

"For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries" (1 Peter 4:3).

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15).

"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet [fitting]" (Romans 1:27).

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [homosexuals], nor abusers of themselves with mankind" (1 Cor. 6:9).

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. 6:18).

"And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed" (2 Cor. 12:21).

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness....[but] they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19, 21).

"Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephes. 4:19).

"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Ephes. 5:3).

"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication" (1 Thes. 4:3).

"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ....Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 4, 7).


3. (4:6-8) Immorality— Fornication— Adultery: there are four reasons why we are to live pure lives, and the reasons stand as a severe warning to us.

1.  Immorality defrauds and cheats a brother. Fornication steals from a person. It either takes a wife from her husband or else it takes the husband from his wife. It is that simple—that tragic—that terrible. It steals one of the two major partners of a family, steals...

•  their heart

•  their affection

•  their thoughts

•  their purity

•  their body

•  their innocence

•  their trust and trustworthiness

And the terrible tragedy is that none of these can ever be recovered—not completely, not fully. Once the heart, affection, thoughts, purity, body, innocence, and trust have been lost, they are lost and affected forever thereafter. The marriage and its bond of trust are gone forever. The pain and hurt always linger to some degree and the commitment and ability to totally surrender to the spouse always suffers to some degree. This is the reason God allows divorce after fornicaiton has been committed within marriage. (Note: God allows divorce; He does not command it. All parties involved in fornication—no matter the situation—should stay together if the injured spouse can bear the pain long enough to recover and build strength.)

Note this: the same effects take place upon the unmarried when they commit fornication. The person who seduces the unmarried steals from the person seduced and from the future spouse—steals the person's heart, affection, thoughts, purity, body, innocence, and trust.

"Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:9-10).

"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:1-2).

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:14).

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's" (Exodus 20:17).


2.  Immorality shall be revenged by God. This point needs to be heeded, especially in a promiscuous society like ours where immorality is not only accepted, but is encouraged. How can we dare say that immorality is accepted and encouraged in our society? Compare the emphasis and appeal of...

•  dress in public and on the beach

•  television and films

•  books and magazines

•  advertisements and promotions

•  conversations and jokes

•  suggestive words and actions that are acceptable today

The list could go on and on, but the point is this: God is going to judge immoral behavior no matter how much society accepts it. Society does not make the rules for man's behavior; God makes the rules. He has given the intimacy and preciousness of sex for marriage and only for marriage. And He has made it perfectly clear that any sex outside of marriage will not only be judged, but He will personally avenge the guilty party. Why? Because the guilty party...

•  stole the life of a person.

•  broke the person's trust and innocence for the rest of his or her life.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).

"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thes. 1:8).

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:26-31).

"Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

"For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste" (Deut. 32:32-35).

"O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself" (Psalm 94:1).

"And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them" (Ezekiel 25:17).

"And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard" (Micah 5:15).

3.  Immorality is not God's call; holiness is. When God calls us to salvation, He does not call us to live unclean lives, giving us the license to go from person to person. Such immorality...

•  destroys genuine love for self and for others.

•  destroys trust and trustworthiness of self and of others.

•  destroys discipline and control of self and of others.

•  destroys true care and concern for self and for others.

•  destroys ego and esteem of self and of others.

•  destroys confidence and assurance in self and in others.

•  destroys loyalty and commitment within self and within others.

•  destroys freedom and will within self and within others.

•  destroys justice and fair treatment of others.

•  destroys family and nation.

God would never call a person to do such terrible things. God calls us to holiness—to live lives that are set apart to Him and to purity, to our spouses and families. God calls us to build strong character and communities, strong families and nations. God calls us to holiness so that we can be strong enough to reach out to a world that reels under the awful weight of suffering and death. There is hope; there is salvation from evil and suffering and from death and judgment. But we must be sanctified and holy, totally set apart to building the strongest characters and families, communities and societies possible in order to reach the world.

Again, God does not call us to uncleanness and disintegration of character and society. God calls us to holiness.

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).

"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephes. 4:24).

"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" (Ephes. 5:3).

"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5).

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

"Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).

4.  Immorality is a sin against God. The word "despiseth" means to reject. Most persons reject this commandment of God as being old fashioned and unacceptable in an intellectual and enlightened society. But note what Scripture says: the person who rejects this commandment is rejecting God, not some man. The idea is that the preacher or teacher may be able to do little to us if we disregard the commandment. But God can take vengeance, and He will. Every human being who ever breaks the commandment shall receive the vengeance of God—unless he has repented and sought the forgiveness of God.

"Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray" (2 Peter 2:14-15).

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2:19).

"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh" (Proverbs 1:24-26).

Note this also: God has given believers the Holy Spirit. The very presence of God in all His majesty dwells within our bodies. We must not, therefore, dirty our bodies with a harlot or some immoral and destructive neighbor. The majesty of God Himself must not be defiled. The Holy Spirit—He who is holy—is within us. We must, therefore, keep our bodies holy.