GOD CALLS US TO BE HOLY
1 Thess 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles, which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.
In closing the previous chapter of this letter, Paul admonishes the church of Christ in Thessalonica to abound in love one to another, and toward all men. When Christians obey this command of God, their souls become unblameable in holiness before God. Paul continues this thought as he opens this chapter by exhorting them to continue pleasing God, by keeping His commandments, and always walking in love so ye would abound more and more (Vss. 1-2). Indeed, Paul encourages all Christians to abound in those things that lead to a holy life here on earth. To be holy, is to be pure and untainted by the sinfulness and evils of the world around us. Our lives are to be dedicated to the cause of Christ and devoted to God's will.
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification. It is the will of God for all, after the obedient acts by which one becomes a Christian, that they remain faithful in all aspects of righteous living while here on earth. Christians are to become, and remain, holy - that is, sanctified in the sight of God, and consecrated, or devoted, to His will. Paul, in this letter to the Christians of Thessalonica, gave them much praise for their faithfulness. However, it is evident that they were still lacking complete knowledge and understanding of the conduct that God expects of His children. In this sense, they were not unlike most Christians of all ages, since all need to study and understand the will of God more thoroughly.
By inspiration, Paul now cautions these Christians of Thessalonica about one sinful condition in which they needed spiritual instruction. They must understand more fully the will of God - specifically that ye should abstain from fornication. History tells us of the prevalence of all kinds of sexual misconduct within the pagan societies of the Roman Empire. Therefore, it seems natural that these Thessalonians would need a true scriptural understanding of these sins. All sexual immorality is considered to be fornication. It includes adultery, which is limited, by definition, to sexual misconduct within a marriage. It could result from illicit sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband. The broad definition of fornication, not only includes adultery, but also sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage.
Those of Thessalonica, as well as all Christians today, need to understand the nature of, and abstain from the sin of fornication. To do so, Paul says that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor. Mankind has the god-given responsibility of controlling there own bodies, and all of its functions. Both men and women, within the age of accountability, have total control over their minds and bodies. They think and do all things at their own will. The body is here referred to as one's vessel, just as it is used in 2 Corinthians 4:7 and 1 Peter 3:7.
Notice what Paul told the church at Corinth about the sin of fornication and its relationship with one's body. He wrote, Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body. What - know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Cor. 6:18-20). Mankind, both men and women, are responsible for controlling every appetite and desire they have. God forbids fornication; men and women must, if they are to be pleasing in the sight of God, abstain from all forms of fornication. This they have the ability, given them by their Creator, by the possession, restraint, or control of their own bodies.
To fail in this commandment of God - to give in to illicit sexual desires of the flesh, is to live as the Gentiles, which know not God. Christians are not to live in the lust of concupiscence, that is, not to have an inordinate yearning for, to give in to, or be controlled by lustful, sexual desires outside the bond of marriage. Christians are not to conduct their lives as those that hear not, and disobey, the will of God. Rather they are to remain virtuous, chaste, and control their own bodies in sanctification and honor.
As pertaining to the fulfillment of sexual desires, God has placed boundaries that no man (or woman is to) go beyond. Committing fornication disregards, and goes beyond, this boundary. It brings condemnation upon one's self. But it does more than that. It deceives, cheats, and defrauds other men and women, by violating the sanctity of their individual and marriage rights, duties, and responsibilities. Rest assured that the sinful acts of fornication may be acceptable in some societies, may go undiscovered by others, and may not be condemned by civil authorities. However our Lord God will hold accountable, all that engage in such illicit sexual conduct. He, indeed, is the avenger of all that disobey His commandments. No doubt Paul had forewarned the Christians of Thessalonica regarding the sin of fornication, and this was just an additional reminder of the fate of those that disregard his Holy Spirit-inspired warning to them.
God says that no one, man or woman, is to commit fornication. Why? Because God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. This we know: God promises eternal salvation to His obedient children, and He is not slack concerning His promise, ...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3-9). This we also know: All are called with a heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), God calls us with an holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9), and to enjoy the hope of salvation, we must press toward (or strive to attain) the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).
For a Christian to heed God's call to salvation, we must be righteous and holy in His sight, and through the soul cleansing power of the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, our souls must become, and remain, pure and clean. Purity of life, and the sanctity of marriage, must be maintained in order for one to be accounted, by God, to be righteous, in order to enjoy the hope of eternal salvation that awaits His faithful, obedient children. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.
To despise God is to reject His will, and replace it with self-will; to do as is pleasing to our own selves. To disregard any of His commandments, is to despise God. In the lesson text, God gives us a specific command that we are not to disregard - that is to abstain from fornication. We must give spiritual consideration to the rights and welfare of others; we must not assail or invade the purity of an individual or the sanctity of a marriage. We defile ourselves and become "unclean" through the sin of fornication. God, the Creator of all beings, has not called us to lead an unclean, sinful life. God calls us to be holy!