Following Jesus should impact every area of our life. It changes the way we work and how we spend our money. It shapes the way we treat our neighbors and the way we address conflict in our own homes and marriages. But in this portion of Paul’s letter, he addresses a topic that may not always be talked about in the church: sexuality.
Here Paul speaks frankly and strongly against all forms of sexual immorality. He did so in part because sex played a large role in pagan religions in Thessalonica. But he also did so because sexual purity is an important part of holiness in general. As Paul did (1 Thess. 2:4), we should live to please God alone—and God is perfectly holy and righteous. The apostle had wanted to teach the Thessalonians more about the Christian life, and although he couldn’t do so in person, he could write this letter (vv. 1–2).
Human sexuality was a key area of temptation for the Thessalonians because sexual purity or faithfulness was not a prevailing moral standard in that culture. Unlike the pagans, Christian believers were to avoid all forms of sexual immorality (vv. 3–6). If they could not control their own bodies, they would be slaves to their “passionate lust” or desires. If they acted on these selfish and out-of-control desires, they would hurt others. That is to say, commit- ting sexual impurity might mean committing violence against a brother or sister in Christ.
God’s will for them, by contrast, was that they should be sanctified and live holy lives (vv. 3, 7). This included acting with self-control and honor in regard to their own bodies, and with holiness and love in regard to others. This aren’t merely human standards, but God’s commands (v. 8; see also 1 Cor. 6:18–20).
>> Sexuality can also be an area of challenge for today’s Christian. Compare today’s attitudes and problems with those facing the Thessalonians. How is it similar? What is different?
Much has changed since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, but we still live in a sex-saturated culture. Lord, help us live according to your holy standards, regardless of what our society permits or promotes.