1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, “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 honour”
It seems like every area of Biblical wisdom God has given to us through His precious Word flow drastically against the tide of our modern day culture. The wisdom of purity in the sexual relationship must certainly be at the apex of that wave. It’s increasingly evident and has been for a very long time that the casual approach to sex outside the bonds of marriage is very much the accepted norm of today’s society. Unmarried cohabitation is and has been for some time viewed as marriage equity. Pornographic web sites are the frequent guest of the day, not to mention the agenda of the gay and lesbian community of their assault in changing the concept of marriage as we have known it since the dawn of creation when God, our Creator, instituted it. Still, against this massive flow of cultural descent, the warnings of Scripture resonate at full volume with cautions of damage caused by a persons’ sexual misconduct.
Sexual purity isn’t an option for each person who has been saved by the blood of Christ, it’s a requirement. God’s will is centered on our character and moral purity much more than on our circumstances, such as job, housing and schooling. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sexual purity begins in the mind and not the body. Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. You will inevitably adopt the morality of the programs, movies, books, magazines, music, Internet sites, and conversations that you partake of. GIGO … Garbage in, garbage out; Godliness in, Godliness out. Simply put, you become what you choose to feed your mind. Thus, simply put if you:
(1) Sow a thought, you reap an action.
(2) Sow an action, you reap a habit.
(3) Sow a habit, you reap a character.
(4) Sow a character, you reap a destiny.
Your future can be accurately predicted by what you allow your mind to dwell on. Sinful actions don’t come out of nowhere! They are the cumulative product of little moral compromises made over time, which ultimately culminate in ungodly behavior. There’s nothing new about sexual temptation … what’s new is how it has invaded our homes. In first century Corinth, there were prostitutes on every street, but when you entered your home, you had a sanctuary from the temptation. My friend, we live in a technological Corinth, where immorality can come into the privacy of our home through airwaves (television and radio) and modems (the Internet). Thus, many of us are only a few pushbuttons away from sexual immorality of the mind.
God’s mandate for sexual purity
His mandate for sexual purity is the same today as when Solomon wrote the Proverbs. Our culture thrives on immorality. Safe sex has become the norm of the hour. Abstinence is a controversial concept among political and civic leaders. Role models brag about their sexual exploits; however, the way of immorality leads to death, and God’s way of sexual purity leads to an abundant life. The Bible makes a strong case for sexual purity and its benefits. For example the book of Proverbs gives concise and clear directions on moral purity.
Solomon devoted the first nine chapters of Proverbs to wisdom and sexual purity. Solomon’s instruction about sexual purity is welcome and worthy. God hasn’t changed His mind about sexual purity, even for those who live in a sexually saturated culture as we do today. Proverbs 5:1, “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding.” However, you may question why we should consult him on sexual issues, after all his father committed adultery with his mother, and later, Solomon himself suffered political decline because he succumbed to impurity. As he multiplied wives and concubines, his love for God cooled. Solomon left a legacy of wisdom, but he failed to heed his own counsel. If we were to base our premise for moral purity on Solomon’s words, we might feel betrayed by Solomon’s behavior; however, the discussion of purity isn’t only limited to the book of Proverbs.
Genesis 2:24, 25, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife; and they were not ashamed. Thus, God blessed Adam and Eve’s union and clearly stated that it was not shameful. Jesus reaffirmed God the Father’s original intention for marriage in Matthew 19:4, 5, “And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh”.
Other Scriptures affirm the goodness of sexual expression in marriage. The apostle Paul taught that marriage illustrates Christ’s relationship to the church, citing the plan God stated in Genesis and using it as a picture of a New Testament Principle: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. God’s words to Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ’s words to the Pharisees, and Paul’s comparison of the bride and the church lead us to conclude that marriage is good and blessed by God.
Price of Sexual Impurity
Satan and his host work hard to draw men and women into sexual impurity and perversions because it is a direct attack on the only institution God established before the fall. I’m talking about marriage. God created mankind in his own image (Genesis 1:27). After he had created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden, “The Lord said it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” Genesis 2:18. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
Today, there are certain groups and individuals who are trying to redefine marriage by marrying man to man and woman to woman. Many individuals see no harm in having extra-marital relationships. They justify their actions by saying that it helps the marriage. Moreover, marriage, as God has ordained, is the foundation of a family and families are the foundation of society. When marriages are destroyed, families are hurt severely and society eventually is affected in an adverse way. This is all part of Satan’s plan to divide and conquer, and may I add he is doing a great job of it. Wouldn’t you agree?
Many Christians shy away from discussing sexual sin. They may feel it is unwise to talk frankly and openly about such sin. Granted, the topic needs to be handled with discretion and sensitivity. However, the Bible, especially the book of Proverbs does address this subject matter. God wants us to know and heed His wisdom on sexual purity. The days we live in demand that we know the wisdom of sexual purity. In Proverbs 5, Solomon challenged his son to view marriage correctly and to avoid sexual compromise. Solomon’s son and all people, including us, can be tempted to ignore God’s wisdom and to run our own lives. We lose sight of the terrible consequences of sin.
Solomon reminded his son of sin’s consequences so that he might avoid the temptation to follow his father’s path. Solomon explicitly explained, “(Proverbs 5:3-5) “For the lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil; the lips of a strange woman. This could be rendered, one that is not thy own. Drop as a honeycomb – She uses the most deceitful, flattering, and alluring speeches: as the droppings of the honey out of the comb are the sweetest of all; but afterward she is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. But, the effect of that to which she entices men, is destruction. “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. The word feet are essentially … her manner of life.
Sexual sin may seem to be fun and glamorous, but it leads to shame, dissipation, judgment, and even death. The price of sexual sin is manifest in our world today. People claim that God’s guidelines are oppressive and restrictive. However, those who “sleep around” reap terrible and debilitating consequences … AIDS, even death. Solomon’s warnings about the “adulteress” hold firm. Sexual promiscuity ultimately leads to death. Sexual impurity is a distortion of what God created to be beautiful, wholesome, and life-giving. Sexual purity, God’s plan, leads to life: “Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye” (Proverbs 7:2). Therefore, God’s wisdom on sexual purity could be defined as follows: Sex, within the bounds of God’s beautiful design for marriage, is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Sexual purity is God’s will for all people at all times.
Like all good gifts from God, sex can be misused and perverted. By way of illustration, water is a gift of God, without which we couldn’t survive. But floods and tidal waves are water out of control, and the effects are devastating. Fire is an energy-producing gift of God that gives warmth and allows us to cook. But a forest fire or a house burning to the ground or a person engulfed in flames is fire out of control and is horrible and frightening. Water and fire are good things; however, when they occur outside their God-intended boundaries, they become terrible. Likewise, God designed sex to exist within certain boundaries. When exercised in line with God’s intended purpose, it is beautiful and constructive.
When out of control, violating God’s intended purpose, it becomes ugly and destructive. Sex is a good thing; however, when it occurs outside of its God-designed boundaries, it becomes bad. The problem isn’t sex—the problem is us. We’re sinners who can pervert, abuse, and rip away from their proper place the good things God created for us. The greater the gift from God, the more power it has both for good and bad. Inside marriage, sex has great power for good. Outside marriage it has equally great power for bad.
God’s Parameters for Sexual Purity
God intends sex to be good and to glorify Him as exemplified in His commandments to Israel. God gave specific instructions regarding moral purity in the Ten Commandments. He spoke through Moses to Israel while the Israelities camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. He addressed His Chosen People saying, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The wider implications of that command appear in other places in Exodus and Leviticus. Immoral heterosexual relationships, all homosexual relationships, and all sexual liaisons with male or female prostitutes are strictly forbidden. (Leviticus 18 and 20). God commanded Israel to be morally pure because He wanted the nation to be distinct from cultures that practiced promiscuity. God intended that Israel glorify Him by keeping sexually pure. Today, God also expects Christians to use their bodies to glorify Him. Paul explained, “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 Corinthians 6:19-20). We can glorify God by keeping ourselves sexually pure.
Please note that the works of the sin nature are listed in (Galatians 5:19-21). The first several works are related to sexual sins. “Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness; idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkennesses, reveling, and things like these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. 1 Corinthians 7, the “marriage chapter,” exhorts husbands and wives regarding their need to sacrifice themselves for the blessing and benefit of each other.
Sin, however, has so twisted and distorted the marital relationship that “getting” (selfishness) has become a higher priority than “giving” (sacrifice). The sexual obsessions of our culture have led away from moral purity. All reveal a selfish emphasis on personal pleasure. Today’s moral climate also produces an atmosphere of indulgence rather than responsibility. The arrogant statements of leading figures regarding their personal exploits illustrate this well. Practicing “safe sex” is equivalent to acting “responsibly.” Avoiding an unwanted pregnancy supposedly fulfills one’s responsibility. One is considered responsible if he or she takes measures to prevent contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
People succumb to sexual immorality because their involvement stems from a lack of devotion to God. In fact, this lack of devotion is the source of all sin. Romans 1:18-32 fleshes out this concept. Indicting the heathen, verses 21 and 28 explain: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” Although God reveals Himself in natural creation, the unsaved individual refuses to retain God in his or her thoughts. That person trades an appropriate devotion to the Creator for an inappropriate devotion to the creation.
All types of sins flow out of this inappropriate devotion, including homosexuality and other sexual perversions. Aberrant sexual behavior is the ultimate expression of the lack of devotion. The other reason people succumb to sexual immorality evidenced in a lack of self-discipline. Solomon rehearsed the tragic end of an undisciplined life in Proverbs 5:11-14, “And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.”
How to Cultivate Sexual Purity
We can combat falling into immorality by cultivating a pure mind. In both the Old and New Testaments, purity of mind is always a precursor to a pure lifestyle. Solomon began (Proverbs 5:1-2), “My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: that thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge”. Jesus also exhorted us to have a pure mind. He stated, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” Matthew 5:27-28). A commitment to moral purity requires one to be willing to heed positive instruction and to avoid harboring impure thoughts.
In (1 Peter 1:13-17), Peter explained that a pure mind-set precedes clean living. Paul similarly enjoined mental purity as an integral part of moral purity (1 Timothy 4:12; 5:2). We also have to cultivate a pure body. The Gnostics of the second and third centuries taught that the body is unimportant and that the mind is the most important aspect of one’s being. For them, purity of the body was insignificant. However, the Bible teaches that God instructs us to maintain physical purity. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).
Paul also wrote to the Corinthian believers, who lived in a culture plagued by idolatry and immorality (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). He challenged them to abstain from immorality, explaining that their bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians returns us to the original objective: that the believer knows and heeds the Bible’s instructions for moral and sexual purity.
It doesn’t matter how smart you think you are. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Ph.D. in physics, if you step off the tenth story of a building you will fall to your death. Gravity is law and there’s no way of getting around it. Likewise, God has set up spiritual laws that govern the universe, including laws concerning our sexual behavior. If we break His commandments, ultimately we get broken. Thus, the Scriptures warn us that those who continue a life-style of sexual impurity will not inherit God’s Kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21).
It’s my firm belief that the biblical standards of morality are universal and timeless. They are applicable to all generations, to all societies, and to all subcultures. They apply to New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, and your community just as much as they applied to biblical Corinth and Rome. My friend, it takes more than the best efforts of natural humanity to maintain sexual purity. It takes the redeeming and sanctifying work of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, in our lives.
God created us as sexual beings, and our sexual drive is a good and powerful part of us. However, when those desires surpass our desire for God, or when we seek to fulfill them apart from God’s prescribed means recorded in His Word they will become our demise.
It is easier to resist the first evil desire than to satisfy all the ones that follow.