Paul’s Footsteps #95.2

Footsteps #95.2

The three opening chapters of 1Thess focused primarily on the past. In chapters 4&5 Paul turns to the future. There were things that were lacking in the faith of the Thessalonian believers Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.” NLT (1Thess 3:10), and he wants to help them remedy these deficits.  

Beginning with Chapt.4:1, Paul builds on the friendship he had affirmed in the first three chapters to offer practical advice for the Thessalonians’ everyday life. 

The main area of concern (but not the only one) deals with sexual misconduct. Paul speaks very clearly about the need to avoid sexual immorality. He’s very strong in his language here, saying that those who reject his instruction are, in fact, not rejecting him but the Lord.  

Chapter 4:3-8 forms a complete unit of thought. The will of God for each Thessalonian believer is “holiness”. What Paul means by holiness here is explained by two following clauses. Each believer is expected to “avoid sexual immorality” and to “control his own body” (4:3, 4, NLT). Paul concludes the unit of thought with three motivations to holy living (4:6-8): (1) God is an avenger in these matters, (2) He has called us to holiness, and (3) He gives us the Spirit to help us. 

A typical definition of holiness(sanctification) is “set apart for sacred use.” But Paul gives the term a more specific meaning in this letter. Holiness is the condition the Thessalonians will be in at the return of Jesus (3:13). But in chapter 4 Paul chooses a form of the concept that emphasizes process rather than the outcome. It is a noun of action: “sanctifying” more than “sanctification.” It is the will of God that we are engaged in this process (4:3). 

Paul clearly does not endorse a law-free gospel. There are behavioral requirements for those who are in Christ. In v7, the opposite of “holiness” is “impure lives” (NLT) or “impurity” (NASB). As Paul goes on to explain in v3: “stay away from all sexual sin” (NLT). The word for “sexual sin” is porneia in the Greek, which would today cover everything from pornography to prostitution, to any sexual activity outside of marriage.

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