1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.
Sanctification. I cross referenced a bunch of definitions and I think Webster’s sums it up in this one: the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion. I think the key component here is growing in divine grace, it indicates a process of continuing down a path of righteousness. It’s choosing to follow God’s will instead of our own. Remember, this part of Paul’s letter is a reminder of the things he taught them when he was there.
In regards to sexual immorality, it seems Greece was plagued with it (Thessalonica was in Greece). Many letters that Paul wrote were to towns in Greece and he spoke against sexual immorality a lot. There are historical records of religious sects/cults in that area that served gods in a sexual manner. We see in the letters to the Corinthians that this was a huge issue there. The temples housed prostitutes that parishioners would pay and have sex with in order to worship their god.
My study bible notes that “vessel” could mean our own bodies or marriage. Being a God of grand things I’d like to think the inference here is in relation to keeping marriage holy and between husband and wife only. Either definition fits; I’m just sharing the viewpoint I am taking. I also suppose that being married myself makes that situation more fitting.
The Greek word used here in the original text for immorality translates into “all kinds of illicit or unnatural sexual indulgence.” How’s that for an ambiguous term? Certainly then, we can see the argument turning into what is illicit or unnatural? If we look at the natural sexual relationship, it is to be monogamous and sacred, as seen in the first display in the Garden of Eden.
This spills over into verse 6 where Paul addresses that this type of behavior not only dishonors God, but other human beings. This does not just mean, for instance, transgressing a man by sleeping with his wife, but also the wife, causing that person to “stumble” per se, as is warned against elsewhere in the scriptures: 1 Corinthians 10:32 says, “32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” If for any reason, we should at least take heed in Paul’s final statement of it, “because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.” He will “make it right” in the end and we will be stuck holding the bag, accountable for our actions.
We must remember after going through all this, what Paul was telling us in the beginning of this passage, that avoiding this type of behavior, not falling to the lusts and behaviors of this world (or even that which we once knew), is the process of our sanctification. Lest we forget that all things are possible with God, as we mentioned before.
What kind of lusts are you giving into that is impeding your walk with Christ?