not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;1 Thessalonians 4:5(NASB)
As he is drawing his letter to a close, Paul gives some practical instructions on life and living. The Thessalonians were new believers who needed encouragement to stand firm in the faith. Like all believers, they needed instruction in Christian virtue and godly morality. In this passage, Paul reminds all of us how to walk in a way that pleases the Lord, "not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God." Having been saved by grace through faith in Christ, we are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Having been born from above, we are to live in a way that pleases our Heavenly Father, rather than ourselves.
The believers in Thessalonica were growing in their faith, but Paul wanted them to abound in grace more and more with every passing day - and this should be our desire too. We never stop learning. We never stop growing in our Christian life. However much we mature in the faith, grow in holiness, walk in the spirit and live righteously before God, there are always more lessons to learn, greater heights to reach and a deeper knowledge of Scripture to discover.
In this passage, Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the will of God was for their sanctification. He wanted them to grow in grace, walk in spirit and truth, mature in the faith, love as Christ loved, live in unity with one another, and rejoice in the Lord always. Paul made particular reference to sexual immorality. "That you abstain from sexual immorality," is Paul's admonishment, "that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour. That you know how to conduct yourself - not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God."
Before their salvation, the Thessalonians indulged in worldly ways. Like every descendent of Adam, they had a God-given conscience and a free-will to make choices. Like all of fallen humanity, they were sinners, at enmity with God, knowing what was right without the ability to do what was good and knowing what was evil, without the capacity to avoid it.
Like all those who are born in trespasses and sin, our imputed sin nature with its fleshly lusts and our prideful attitudes battle against the born-again spirit of Christ within. However, once we are saved, we are to put away the things of the world and our fleshly appetites, and walk in spirit and truth. And so, Paul was urging these believers to put away any lustful passion. They were to remember who they were in Christ and the price He paid to secure their salvation. And we too are exhorted to live a life that honours His holy name, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Paul was their 'father-in-the-faith' who knew that God's will for each of His children is their sanctification. Paul knew the importance of teaching these young believers the need to be sexually pure, to curb any fleshly appetites and to abstain from all forms of evil. They were to keep their hearts clean, their bodies pure, and their minds on Christ. They were to know how to control their own bodies, and live in a holy and honourable manner - and so are we!
During those early days of the Church, there was rampant sexual immorality in every stratum of society, and little has changed in the days in which we live. The modern-day culture is riddled with all sorts of sexual immorality and acts that are an abomination to the Lord, and Paul wanted to stress how important it was for believers to be separate from such godless customs, and to keep from all forms of sexual immorality, lustful leanings, and the godlessness of the culture that surrounded them. And that same message remains God's desire for us all today.
The positive aspect of sanctification is setting ourselves apart unto God. It is to live a life that is consecrated to the Lord. It is a believer that presents their body to the Lord as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable unto Him. The one who is being sanctified is the one that learns to say, not my will but THINE be done. The other side of sanctification is to do with the things we abstain from, such as immorality, lustful passion, and attitudes that reflect the unsaved who do not know God.
As we keep the eyes of our heart upon Jesus, abide in the Lord moment by moment and align our mind to the mind of Christ, the less attractive and alluring the things of this world will become. "So may the God of peace Himself sanctify each of us entirely; and may our spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Heavenly Father, I praise and thank You for the many truths contained in the Scripture and the many lessons You want to teach me through the epistles of Paul and the other apostles of Christ. Give me ears that are willing to hear Your voice, eyes to see what You want me to see, and a teachable heart that is open to the challenges You give me. I confess, there have been times when I have left my first love and strayed back into the ways of the world. I pray that You would search my heart and cleanse me within, and keep me walking on the road of righteousness, for His name's sake, AMEN.