15 PRINCIPLES REINFORCING SANCTIFIED SEX – PART ONE
The Apostle Paul directs his thoughts particularly to men here – but all can listen in and benefit from the principles. It is significant that he chooses this topic of appropriate sexual relations as the first practical area to address after his opening section defending his pastoral commitment to the believers at Thessalonica. God has a lot to say on this topic – not surprising since He is the Creator who designed our bodies and understands how we are wired; men and women are wired very differently.
First we must understand the immoral conditions that were pervasive back in the culture at that time. We tend to think that our current state of morality is at an all-time low . . . but a case could be made that things were actually far worse back in Thessalonica:
– a port city with all of the transient problems associated with business and commerce
– no background of Judeo-Christian ethics and restraint
– temple prostitutes associated with false worship of the day
– rampant immorality of all types including blatant homosexuality
[One major difference today is the graphical content so readily available via different media sources like the TV and the Internet.]
Homer Heater: When the impact of the Gospel was first made on the pagan culture of the Greeks and Romans, immorality was rampant. Faithfulness in marriage was rare, divorce was common, aberrant sexual practice was widespread, and unwanted children were aborted or killed subsequent to birth.
Secondly, we must understand what our culture is saying to us about sex:
MacArthur: Several obvious tenets constitute the world’s immoral, unscriptural outlook regarding sex. [MacArthur lists 6 tenets held to by most secular humanists:]
– First, people are basically good and all but the most heinous activities should be tolerated. Therefore, virtually any kind of consensual sexual activity is good (except for child molestation), especially if one views sex as merely a way to personal gratification.
[The argument is that these are personal behavior choices made in the privacy of one’s bedroom where no harm results to the participating individuals or to society = very naïve
1 Cor. 6:18 “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Proverbs speaks of the irreversible finality of devastation that results 2:18-19 “For her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead. None who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life.”]
– Second, since sexual activity is only a biological function, it is normal and necessary to engage in it without placing on it any moral restrictions. [Views man as no different than any other animal – might be interesting for them to study how even some species of animals are monogamous — cf. 1 Cor. 6:13 – “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”]
– Third, since “casual” sex is just another form of fun and pleasure, it is permissible to enjoy sexual activity recreationally, any time with any consenting partner. [In God’s eyes, no such thing as casual sex – very serious matter – directly tied to the commitment of the sacred marriage covenant with responsibilities pledged by both parties and a bond that should be lifelong.]
– Fourth, fulfilling one’s sexual desire is a major goal in life, more important than developing meaningful personal relationships.
– Fifth, instant gratification is more important than delayed satisfaction. Therefore, having premarital sex is legitimate and preferable to waiting until marriage to have sex.
– Sixth, enjoyable sexual intercourse is the most important factor in establishing a good marital relationship. Therefore, the early stage of every romantic relationship should include sex. The couple should live together to determine sexual compatibility and fulfillment before they marry.
[Doesn’t it make sense that you test drive one another to see if you are compatible before taking the next step of entering into marriage?]
(:1-2) GENERAL PRINCIPLES: APPLY TO ANY AREA OF HOLINESS –
OUR PRESENT LEVEL OF OBEDIENCE SHOULD BE THE FOUNDATION FOR STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE IN PLEASING GOD
(rather than the excuse for settling for mediocrity)
“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus,”
Major transition in the epistle; moving from Paul’s defense of his pastoral ministry to his exhortations and instruction regarding specific topics; he first gives four general principles and then takes up the specific topics where truth needs to be reinforced. His tone is not browbeating them into submission but coming alongside of them and exhorting and imploring them to take seriously this call to sanctification.
1. (:1a) Follow the Directions
“that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk”
– God has provided specific instruction through apostolic instruction that comes to us via the inspired Scriptures
– These instructions are sufficient to guide how we live [walk] in this particular area
– We continue to have access to those same instructions
the one who says he abides in Him (Christ) ought (present tense = is continually indebted) himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (present tense = as Jesus habitually walked) (1John 2:6)
Ray Stedman illustrates the Christian’s walk noting that walking… merely consists of two simple steps, repeated over and over again. It is not a complicated thing. In the same way, the Christian life is a matter of taking two steps, one step after another. Then you are beginning to walk. Those two steps (are seen in Colossians 3). Paul describes them as, “Put off the old man” (see Colossians 3:5-10) and “put on the new.” (see specific attitudes and actions in Colossians 3:12-Colossians 4:6) Then repeat them. That is all. Keep walking through every day like that. That is how Scripture exhorts us to live.”
Probably no area where we see so clearly the distinction between the saved and the unsaved than in our views regarding the Sanctity of Sex; we are concerned with Purity … with Holiness
Always an adventure when someone inadvertently fails to follow the recipe … leads to a cooking disaster of one type or another; Far worse to intentionally ignore what we know are divinely inspired directions; you have questions about the propriety of some action?? First check the directions. This is not an area where God is silent and lets every person make up their own rules.
2. (:1b) Goal = Please God
“and please God”
A second general principle – applies to every area of our conduct … but in our context for today — Not the gratification of our own personal sexual desires [this speaks directly against certain sexual practices]; or even merely the gratification of those desires of our sexual partner; All things must be done to please and glorify God. God has revealed that only marriage provides the proper context for sexual relations between a husband and wife – only that pleases God – and even within that context one must be acting in a loving and unselfish way (1Cor.6:20)
. . . concepts of sexual morality founded upon anything other than God’s holiness always pervert God’s standards of sexual moral purity.
How do we know that proper sexual conduct within the boundary of marriage pleases God?
– Institution of Marriage before the Fall – leave and cleave commands (Gen. 2:24-25 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Marriage and sexual relations are all part of what God initially created as good and innocent (without evil); tainted by the Fall like everything else so that even within marriage we must pursue sanctified sex; but still marriage is pleasing to God (cf. Is. 62:5)
– Heb. 13:4 “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
– 1 Cor. 7:38 “So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.” [ Don’t disparage the single state]
God has much to say about the proper roles of a husband and wife; angels are apparently watching the relationship to see how things play out (1 Cor. 11:8-10 “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” Apparently angels are very concerned that God’s created order function as He intended it to with men and women fulfilling their proper roles)
If you are considering some type of sexual activity – just ask the simple question: Will this please God? You cannot justify your actions on some type of selfish basis … I need this … this will draw us closer together . . .
Not some type of legalistic lifestyle – we have been freed from bondage to sin and from the weight of the law to obey the law of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit
3. (:1c) Goal = Pursue Excellence
“(just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.”
We are not called to mediocrity; we cannot afford the danger of playing too close to the line of sinful behavior. Some people approach the topic of sex from the standpoint of how close can I get to that line of prohibited behavior … that is the wrong orientation … leads inevitably to crossing the line; We should want to be an exemplary husband in this area
What does excellence involve in this area? The specific principles will develop this
Apparently the newlywed couple on their honeymoon still has room to grow and excel in this area of pleasing God as they mature in every other area.
PreceptAustin: Excel (perisseuo from perissós = abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above, more than sufficient from peri = in sense of beyond) means to exceed a fixed number or measure and so to exist in superfluity, to cause to superabound, to be superfluous, to be in excess, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance. The implication is that there is considerably more than what would be expected. The idea is to overflow like a river out of its banks!
Richeson: The words “more and more” point to spiritual growth. It is not enough to exist as a Christian, we must move toward excellence. It is one thing to park ourselves in the Christian life but it is another thing to prevail in it. God wants us to move beyond the status quo. We should ask ourselves whether we are making any progress in the Christian life. We do not tell our spouses that we love them the day we get married and that is supposed to last them for the rest of their lives! Neither do we live the Christian life with one fell swoop. Each day with the Lord should be sweeter than the day before but it will take work. Status quo in the Christian life always means stagnation, deterioration and decay in holiness. Doctrine precedes duty and precept precedes practice. The Christian life is not a set of rules but a set of principles. The design of the Christian life is to teach us God’s viewpoint on life by forming that viewpoint into principles. When we apply those principles by faith God transforms our lives. Principles are lifeless without application.
Keathley: It seems that far too often some Christians just want to hear new truth. Certainly, God wants us to grow in the knowledge of His Word, but we also need the exhortation to excel still more in the truth we know; our goal should be to press on to greater and greater appropriation of the truths which we already know and are already practicing, but to only a limited degree.
4. (:2) Ignorance is Not an Option
(familiar expression: Ignorance is no excuse – here it is not even possible)
“For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.”
What planet are you living on? You know what is right and wrong in this area of sexual relations. Paul is not presenting anything new or surprising … just reinforcing previously delivered commands.
Note that these are divine commandments … not suggestions or alternative lifestyle options or whatever floats your boat or different strokes for different folks; these are backed by the authority of the Lord Jesus Himself
These apply universally … not culturally differentiated … just as true for our culture today as back in the first century church at Thessalonica
Those first 4 general principles can be applied to any area of morality – to all of the areas that Paul deals with in this chapter – love for the brethren; responsible work ethic
– Follow the Directions
– Please God
– Pursue Excellence
– Ignorance is Not an Option
You can do the math – 15-4 = 11 … so that is how many specific principles remain — #5 thru #15
Note the connection to Paul’s earlier emphasis on Faith, Love and Hope:
– You need to walk by faith in the area of sanctified sex – not feelings or experience
– You need to pursue love rather than lust
– You need to have an eternal perspective in view rather than short term gratification
Stott: From his general exhortation to please God, Paul moves on to some specific ways in which we should do so, especially in the areas of sexual self-control (3-8), daily work (9-12) and bereavement (13-18). It was J. E. Frame who made the attractive suggestion that these were the topics which Paul had in mind when he issued his threefold exhortation in 5:14 to “warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak.” For these seem to have been the three groups in the Thessalonian church who needed special help. So Paul urged “the idlers”, who were neglecting their daily work, that if they loved each other they would earn their own living. He reminded “the timid” or “the faint-hearted” (RSV, REB), who were anxious in their bereavement about their friends and relatives who had died, of the Christian hope of Christ’s return. And to “the weak”, who lacked the strength to resist sexual temptation, he spoke of God’s call to purity and honour.
Sex, work and death continue to be three major human preoccupations, so that Paul’s teaching on these subjects has about it a ring of relevance.
(:3-8) SPECIFIC PRINCIPLES: APPLY TO THE TARGET AREA OF SANCTIFIED SEX (SEXUAL PURITY)
5. (:3a) God’s Will for You = Sexual Purity — a specific aspect of sanctification
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification”
“will of God” – not His determinative will but His desire for you
Note that Satan has a will for your life that he is lobbying for as well
Progressive aspect of sanctification is what is in view here
Stedman: What do we mean when we say a thing is holy? Look at your Bible and it says, “Holy Bible.” What makes it holy? The land of Israel is called, “the Holy land,” and the city of Jerusalem is called, “the Holy City.” Why? There is a quality about all three which they share in common. They all belong to God. The Bible is God’s book, Israel is God’s land; Jerusalem is God’s city—they are God’s property! That is why they are holy, they belong to God. Perhaps one of the most helpful ways of expressing the will of God is to put it in that very practical way. The will of God is simply that you may become God’s property. “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that you become God’s property.”
Sanctification has to do with our what we set our mind on! Be careful where you allow your thoughts to wander. Every believer potentially has God’s power to control their thought life or at least to take ungodly thoughts captive (see 2 Cor 10:3-5).
6. (:3b) [Negative Perspective] Abstinence is the Only Approach to Sexual Immorality
“that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality”
Note, Paul does not say: completely abstain from sex – 1 Tim. 4:3 Paul speaks against “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
Some helpful insights here into Sanctified Sex
– the standards of God’s Word and all of its principles must be applied
– Prayer is key – 1 Peter 3:7 (look at next week) “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker (weaker vessel), since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Sexual immorality is a very broad term – applies to all types of deviant sexual behavior as well as premarital sex and adultery; The command is to ABSTAIN – very clear; no confusion here; the culture is not abstaining; participating fully; glorifying immorality; mocking those who abstain
Look at the humanistic arguments in the academic world regarding the role of teaching abstinence to unmarried teenagers – they scoff at this approach – they have already given up the battle; they are willing to live defeated lives – their only objective is how to minimize the collateral damage – concerned with unwanted pregnancies but not with the harmful effects of immorality – focus on advocating the use of contraceptives – let’s promote “Safe Sex” —
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Look at the loaded language in just one recent article —
Editorial: Teenagers and Pregnancy – New York Times, June 17, 2009 (this past Wed)
Between 1991 and 2003, increased contraceptive use among sexually active [Do you want to be labeled inactive? Why not use the word immoral?] teenagers played an important role in driving down teenage pregnancy rates. Since then, according to a new report from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, contraceptive use by teens has declined while their sexual activity has remained unchanged [Would it have increased apart from the abstinence only instruction??]. This is a worrisome shift — and it has bearing on the coming budget battle in Congress.
The report’s authors, Dr. John Santelli, Mark Orr, Laura Lindberg and Daniela Diaz, said they found a decrease of about 10 percent in contraception use that is consistent with recent gains in the teenage birth rate.
They suggest, not unreasonably, a link between the shift in use of contraception and one of former President George W. Bush’s great social-policy follies: highly restrictive abstinence-only sex education programs that deny young people information about sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives and pregnancy. [To the extent these programs even mention [contraceptive approaches], typically it is to disparage their effectiveness.]
Responding to mounting evidence of the program’s danger as a public health strategy, many states now decline to participate, forgoing federal money.
To President Obama’s credit, his budget plan would direct current funds now devoted to the abstinence-only programs, along with some additional money, to a new teenage pregnancy prevention initiative, with an emphasis on comprehensive sex education.
This science-based effort to protect the health of young people and reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies should win support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — and both sides of the abortion divide.
A second article: “Like teenagers, computers are built to hook up” (June 16, 2009)
Demanding that users abstain from net will never work when they need it for their jobs. Better to practice safe hex
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In one sense the world has a point … Can a leopard change its spots??
Jer. 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil” – had a great time at the beach – you learn very quickly certain things about your skin – if you have a fair complexion and you don’t apply enough sunscreen, you quickly burn – You might long for a deep, rich tan … but you cannot change the laws of nature and how your skin responds to intense sunlight; Human depravity is a spiritual law; you cannot overcome it with will power; the world does not have the power to abstain from sexual immorality. They can change the standard to just an external one so that the Pharisees can claim to never have committed adultery; but Christ quickly exposes their self righteousness with the insight regarding the internal dimension of lust (Matt. 5:28 “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” – the famous President Jimmy Carter verse) – this has been called every man’s battle – it is always with us because our sin nature is ever present
(Job 31:1; Phil. 4:8; James 1:14-15).
But let’s not redefine what constitutes sin and where the problem really lies – it is not just with the unwanted consequences of premarital sexual activity … it is with the immoral nature of that activity itself.
God commands us to Abstain from sexual immorality – and remember he is primarily addressing men here as we will pick up with and continue next week …
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Cf. ministries like True Love Waits
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Al Mohler comments on Bristol Palin remark that abstinence for teenagers is not realistic:
Is sexual abstinence realistic for teenagers and young adults? Well, abstinence is certainly not realistic when teenagers put themselves or are put into a situation where sexual activity is likely. At some point, sexual abstinence becomes very unrealistic indeed.
The real issue for Christian teenagers and their parents is not to debate whether sexual abstinence before marriage is realistic or not. The larger and more important issue is that sexual abstinence until marriage is the biblical expectation and command. Once this is realized, the responsibility of all concerned is to ensure that expectations and structures are in place so that abstinence is realistic.
The debate over whether abstinence is realistic or not misses the more important issue — abstinence must be made realistic.
Parents and teenagers must make certain that adequate protections and expectations are in place so that sexual abstinence is very realistic indeed. Far too many Christian parents allow their teenagers to be part of the “hooking up” scene of teenage culture. In that highly sexualized context, sexual abstinence would appear unrealistic in the extreme.
Premature pair dating and unsupervised liaisons, set within the supercharged culture of teenage sexuality, can put teenagers into very vulnerable situations. Asking whether sexual abstinence in those contexts is realistic can appear almost irrational.
Those who reject the norm of sexual abstinence for teenagers will leap on Bristol Palin’s statement as evidence for their cause. But the real issue here is our responsibility to ensure that abstinence is made realistic and stays realistic. Anything short of this is truly “not realistic at all.”
CONCLUSION (to Part 1):
How is Sanctified Sex even possible then for believers??
1 Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Must guard against opportunity for sexual immorality; don’t place ourselves in contexts that would feed our sinful lusts
Must recognize that temptation will come .. but how we react is key (James 1)
The battle is first won in the arena of our thought life
Follow the Directions God has provided; remember: Ignorance is not an option
Must have the positive orientation to want to please God and pursue excellence in this important area
God’s will for you is sexual purity … Abstain from sexual immorality in any shape or form
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“It began very innocently,” Mark Sanford the Gov of SC explained in his news conference this week after he returned from spending six secretive days in Argentina with his mistress – a euphemism for committing adultery. From some email chats to deeper emotional involvement and then a full blown affair – such is the stuff of unfaithfulness in marriages. The governor voted to impeach President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky affair – saying: “He lied under a different oath, and that’s the oath to his wife, So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.” It is interesting that he is resisting the pressure to resign, even though he applied that standard of discipline to Bill Clinton: “it would be much better for the country and him personally (to resign). I come from the business side. If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he’d be gone.” Quotes like that are coming back to bite him as his own sins are exposed. Certainly the sin of lying and deceit is closely attached to that of marital infidelity.
Republican National Chairman Michael Steele responded with some degree of moral outrage, explaining that elected officials are “held to a different standard” and that they need to “behave themselves.” What is this “different standard” business — Like critics are being severe in calling this a serious character and judgment issue that merits removal from office. We just wish that all men were held to the same standard of taking sin seriously and viewing it as God views it.
These type of lurid soap opera intrigues seem to be exposed every week – if it is not politics (cf. Nevada Senator John Ensign — On June 16, he announced that he had conducted an extra-marital affair with a campaign staffer, who is the wife of one of his full-time Senate staff members.) it is in the world of entertainment – with Jon and Kate + 8 apparently being exposed as + others as well. Those are just the affairs hitting the media. What about all of the immoral sexual relationships in the Christian community that are flying under the radar every week? We can’t get all judgmental and smug and boast that such things could never happen in our marriages. We are in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation with danger and temptation all around us. Look at the outlook of the Greek culture quoted by Desmosthenes in his oration Against Neaera: “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.” Is our culture far behind in its corruption??
Bruce: A man might have a mistress (hetaira) who could provide him also with intellectual companionship; the institution of slavery made it easy for him to have a concubine (pallake), while casual gratification was readily available from a harlot (porne). The function of his wife was to manage his household and to be the mother of his legitimate children and heirs.
That is why it is so important to get a grip on these 15 principles reinforcing sanctified sex that Paul lays out in this passage. It only takes obeying one of them and you can make the right decision when faced with temptation. But we have 15 to guide us.
4 General Principles:
– Follow the Directions
– Please God
– Pursue Excellence
– Ignorance is Not an Option
2 Specific Principles:
– God’s Will for You = Sexual Purity
– Abstinence is the Only Approach to Sexual Immorality
As we explore Principle #7, we are starting off with a phrase that has been much debated
[spend most of the time here – the other principles are easy to understand]
“that each of you know how to possess his own vessel” – [NAS, NAB] — two main possibilities:
– Look at the different English translations
1) control your own body – vessel would then be the male sexual organ
Remember, Paul is addressing the men specifically here
NRS: that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor,
NIV that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable
2) acquire a wife for yourself and enjoy sexual relations with her alone (the preferred view)
Acquire or gain control of someone external to self = a wife
RSV: that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor,
GNT: Each of you men should know how to live with his wife in a holy and honourable way
– Need to study the verb ktaomai that is used here – “acquire, procure, possess”
(used 7 times in NT)
Homer Heater: “to gain possession of something external to oneself” – that alone would decide the case [only translated “to possess” in the Perfect tense]
Bruce: George Milligan suggests from the papyri that ktaomai was beginning to be used in popular language for to “possess” or “take possession” in the sense of to “use properly” or “control”, but the evidence is slender.
Study NT usage
Matt. 10:9 instructed not to acquire money to take with them on the trip
Luke 18:12 – give tithes on all that you newly acquire; otherwise you would continually be paying tithes on the same money you own
Acts 1:18 – “now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity”
Emphasis is not on controlling what he already has, but on obtaining something
Acts 8:20 – “that the gift of God may be purchased with money”
Acts 22:28 – “With a great sum obtained I this freedom”
Luke 21:19 = only difficult passage – “In your patience possess ye your souls”
NIV = “By standing firm you will save yourselves” = gain deliverance for the soul
Study the usage in the LXX – for Hebrew qanah = get, acquire
Gen. 4:1 I have gotten a man-child through the help of the Lord
Gen. 25:10 Abraham purchased a field to bury Sarah
Gen. 39:1 Potiphar bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites
Gen. 47:23 Joseph acquired the Egyptian people and the land
Ex. 15:16 speaking of God having redeemed the people of Israel
Ruth 4:10 Boaz acquired Ruth the Moabitess to be his wife = strong support
2 Sam. 12:3 purchasing a lamb
Prov 8:12 speaking of wisdom
Eccles 2:7 I bought male and female slaves
Is. 43:24 You have bought me no sweet cane with money
Jer 13:1 a linen waistband
Jer 19:1 buy a potter’s earthenware jar
Lev 25:14 speaking of buying in general
2 Kings 12:12 timber and hewed stone
Is. 11:11 speaking of repossessing rather than initially acquiring – the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people
Amos 8:6 the poor
Theological Wordbook of the OT – a commercial financial acquisition of movable goods; the usual word for buying something
[payment of some type of dowry behind the expression??]
– Need to study the noun for “vessel” – 23 NT usages – metaphor for wife or body?
Used of material possessions – Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 17:31
Used of some type of container or jar – Luke 8:16; John 19:29; Rev. 2:21
Used of some other object
Acts 10:11 – a sheet being held by four corners and holding all kinds of animals
Used of people as a whole – would certainly include the body
Acts 9:15 he is a chosen vessel unto me
Rom. 9:21 to make one vessel unto honor
Rom. 9:22-23 vessels of wrath . . . vessels of mercy
2 Cor. 4:7 have this treasure in earthen vessels
2 Tim. 2:21 a vessel unto honor
[Extra-biblical usage – a cognate early Akkadian word (lahanattu) combines the meanings of “vessel” and “harlot, darling”]
– Need to study the context – Support for vessel = wife:
– the presence of the emphatic possessive pronoun “his own” – it would be redundant to modify one’s own body with this emphatic pronoun
– But what about 1 Cor. 6:18 “He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body”; also 1 Cor. 7:4 – Hiebert to idion – diff. expression
– context is all about fidelity of sexual relationships within the marriage context
– context shows that Paul is focusing on the responsibility of the men – “defraud” …
– parallel passages of 1 Cor 7:1 and 1 Peter 3:7
– qualification of “in sanctification and honor” fits better how you treat your wife
Stott: Again, the contrast in Paul’s phrase “in holiness and honour, not in passionate lust” can readily be understood as presenting alternative views of marriage; they can hardly be seen as alternative styles of self-control.
Bruce: The difficulty with the translation “take a wife” lies in the noun. For skeuos means a vessel, utensil, instrument or container, which appears to express a very derogatory concept of woman in general and of marriage in particular. Reference to woman as a “container” seems in later Judaism to have been an established (and demeaning) euphemism for sexual intercourse.
[Hiebert: One other possibility – Frame (and others) propose to place a comma after the word vessel, interpreted as “wife,” and divide the verse into two parts. “that each one of you [who is already married] respect [know the value of, treat with respect] his own wife; that each of you [who are not yet married] get his own wife in the spirit of consecration and honor.”]
Now that we know what the phrase means, we can derive our seventh principle:
7. (:4a) [Positive Perspective] Focus Your Sexual Attention on Your Own Wife —
Remain Faithful — Fidelity in Marriage is God’s Provision for Sexual Fulfillment and Avoidance of Immorality
Each – no one gets a pass
Paul recognizes the power of man’s sexual drive; he understands how hormones work; he understands the temptations men face …
Double standard back in Paul’s day; culture looked with much more tolerance on men indulging their sexual lusts than on women being adulterous or unfaithful; Paul particularly focusing on the men in this passage
Piper: The specific application of love in view here in our text is abstaining from sexual immorality. Abounding in love for all men is incompatible with sexual promiscuity.
Verses 4-5 apply the principle even more specifically: Paul addresses the men and admonishes “that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God.”
The parallel between verse 4 and 1 Corinthians 7:2 is so close that I am persuaded the RSV is more correct here than the NIV, which says, “Each of you should learn to control his own body,” instead of “Each one of you should know how to take a wife for himself.” 1 Corinthians 7:2 says “Because of temptation to immorality (the same word as verse 3 in our text), each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” I think the words “each man should have his own wife” in 1 Corinthians 7:2 mean basically the same as the words “each of you should know how to take his own vessel” in verse 4 of our text.
(Other reasons are that the normal meaning of ktaomai is acquire not possess or control; the context is similar to 1 Peter 3:7 where vessel means the wife not the man’s body; the emphatic “his own” seems to contrast with someone else’s, but if it refers to ruling his own body that would be an odd contrast.)
So it seems to me that the meaning of verse 4 is that men should stop trying to satisfy their lusts by sexual immorality, using prostitutes or seducing other men’s fiancés or wives. Instead they should take their own wives.
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What about the Single State – just not being addressed here – must look at 1 Cor 7 passage;
Requires special grace from God to be content in this state; but then there are definite advantages when it comes to undistracted Christian service
Stott: We [singles] too must accept this apostolic teaching, however hard it may seem, as God’s good purpose both for us and for society. We shall not become a bundle of frustrations and inhibitions if we embrace God’s standard, but only if we rebel against it. Christ’s yoke is easy, provided that we submit to it. . . Alongside a natural loneliness, accompanied sometimes by acute pain, we can find joyful self-fulfillment in the self-giving service of God and other people.
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Kenneth O. Peterman: Remain Faithful to your Spouse in a Soap Opera Society
In light of all the soap opera immorality on TV … Christians must be especially careful not to get comfortable with the world’s standards and value system.
– Remember the one flesh relationship that God has established
– Remember that God hates immorality and divorce
– The unique union of husband and wife illustrates a similar union between Christ and the church
– Pursue forgiveness and reconciliation – not divorce – “hardness of heart” is the common denominator of every divorce (Matt. 19:8); Involves or is associated with:
– stubbornness (Acts 19:9)
– disobedience (Heb. 3:8)
– selfishness (Matt. 25:24)
If devotion and honor must be demonstrated between members of the body of Christ – how much more should we honor our spouse? Rom. 12:10 “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love”
Unfaithfulness reveals the presence of a toleration for lying (Jer. 23:14) – “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies”
– lying to self, spouse and God
1 Cor. 7:2 – This admonition does not demonstrate a low view of marriage (as some suggest), but it does evidence a respect for the power of our sexual needs and desires.
Both partners have sexual rights and expectations that need to be honored.
8. (:4b) [Positively:] Honor Your Wife — The Wife is Worthy of Sanctified Sex and Special Honor
“in sanctification and honor” = pursue sexual relations in the context of marriage rather than fornication or adultery (those would not be consistent with sanctification and honor) … and even there (in marriage) in the proper attitude of treating your wife with honor and respect
Don’t take advantage of your wife; includes the concept of self control and tenderness since it is set in contrast to lustful passion; certainly don’t pressure your wife or treat her in any way that would be offensive
This caveat answers the objection that Paul was portraying a very demeaning view of marriage
Should we just let out feelings govern our actions??
Hiebert: Christians must not allow their desires to dominate them and make them the slaves of passion.
Stott: The fact that marriage is the only God-given context for sexual intercourse does not mean that within marriage there is no need for restraint.
Honor is associated with a recognition of worth
Peterman: We do this by acknowledging good personality characteristics or effective temperament traits, by recognizing positive contributions and by depreciating negative ones.
Honor is also associated with speech. We can’t abuse them with the “silent treatment” or try to shout them down.
Must think of positive ways that we can show honor to our wives and treat them with respect –
Colorado Statement on Biblical Sexual Morality
Sex in marriage should be an act of love and grace that transcends the petty sins of human selfishness, and should be set aside only when both partners agree to do so, and then only for a limited time of concentrated prayer (1 Cor. 7:3-5). Thus we affirm that sex in marriage should be enjoyed without selfishness. We do not believe that sex should be withheld as a way of controlling, punishing, or manipulating the behavior of a spouse. We reject the morality of any sexual act, even in marriage, that does not express love seasoned by grace. We believe no sexual act can be moral if it is driven by selfishness or ambition for power.
9. (:5) [Negatively:] Deny Lust — Lustful Passion Has No Place in the Life of a Believer
“not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God”
Knowing God should make a difference in our morality – quite an indictment to be characterized as the heathen or the pagans who have no knowledge of the one true God
1 Peter 1:14-16
Understand and avoid what feeds your lust
Other verses: Rom. 1:24-25 – makes the connection between lust, immorality and a wrong view of God
Also: Gal. 5:16; Eph. 2:3; 4:22; Col. 3:5
Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age”
Description of unsaved = those who do not know God: 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Thess. 1:8; Ps. 79:6; Jer. 10:25 – Mayhue
Piper: Sexual desire in itself is good. God made it in the beginning. It has its proper place. But it was made to be governed or regulated or guided by two concerns: honor toward the other person and holiness toward God. Lust is what that sexual desire becomes when that honor and that holiness are missing from it.. .
In summary then, lust is a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God. It’s the corruption of a good thing by the absence of honorable commitment and by the absence of a supreme regard for God. If your sexual desire is not guided by respect for the honor of others and regard for the holiness of God, it is lust. …
Why should we ever live like the Gentiles???
Keathley: We should note that Paul did not say the heathen do not know about God. The reason, they behave as they do is because they do not know God personally, even though they may know about Him. When a person comes to know God by faith in Jesus Christ, not only should his attitudes toward sex and marriage drastically change, as he gains a knowledge of the Word, but he also discovers that God gives him the ability to handle sexual temptation as he couldn’t before. Knowing God intimately is fundamental to living a life in sanctification and honor. This is why both having relationship with God (through faith in Christ) and maintaining a close walk with Him (through daily intimate fellowship) is vital to having and keeping a pure walk before God.
Colorado Statement on Biblical Sexual Morality
But while sex is designed to be pleasing, not all sexual pleasure is ethical. Feelings are extremely unreliable as guides to the morality of sex. As a matter of fact, it is possible for sinful men and women to experience a form of physical enjoyment and degrees of emotional, psychological, and spiritual fulfillment even in sexual conduct that God considers abhorrent. For this reason, the Bible gives many solemn warnings against appealing to human passion or lust as the basis for our definition of moral sex (Rom. 1:24, 26; 13:13-14; 1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Tim. 2:22; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 John 2:15-17; Jude 18). Our sex lives are moral only when conducted according to God’s standards. When engaged in according to these guidelines, sexual activity is enriching, fulfilling, and eminently blessed.
10. (:6a) Don’t Violate God’s Standards
“and that no man transgress”
Sin is transgression of God’s righteous standards; crossing the line and rebelling
Bruce: Only used here in NT; force is of crossing a boundary – here of crossing a forbidden boundary, and hence trespassing (sexually) on territory which is not one’s own. – Jerome: to transgress the permitted bounds of marriage
Some men should wear one of those dog collars associated with the invisible fence – so when they go outside of their boundaries, they would get that unpleasant shocking sensation to force them back to reality; our conscience is intended to act in that fashion … but we can sear our conscience so that we lose the value of its checks and balances … we need to be sensitive to our conscience about what is holy and unholy; the culture works hard at desensitizing us
11. (:6b) Don’t be a Cheater
“and defraud his brother in the matter”
Context still talking about sexual issues – not business dealings or legal dealings
Unmarried woman = The father of the woman has rights; the daughter should be able to enter into marriage with her virginity intact
Married woman = the husband of the woman has rights; he is your brother in the Lord (or even in the general sense of humanity this would still be cheating – but especially repugnant given your family connection – shocking that Paul views this type of behavior happening within the Christian community = within the same church)
Here you can see that Paul is more directly addressing the men than the women
Certainly adultery involves cheating on your wife – other terrible sins often associated – look at David and Bathsheba – ended up killing Uriah;
What an awful testimony when believers end up cheating and defrauding one another instead of living in love and purity
12. (:6c) Fear the Lord = the Enforcer and Judge of God’s Standards
“because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you”
We are never to be spiritual vigilantes = taking judgment and vengeance into our own hands; yet the Lord is a just and powerful Judge and Avenger
Rom. 12:19; Deut 32:35; Ps 94:1; Heb. 10:30
John 5:22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son”
2 Thess 1:7-9 when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
Interesting emphasis on the Triunity of God again in this passage – here we have Jesus referenced – followed immediately by identifying the work of the Father and that of the Holy Spirit
13. (:7) Fulfill Your Moral Calling
“For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
The Election to the Standard (Who set the standard and wants us to keep it?)
This is a killer verse for those who take an easy believism approach – as if you can embrace Jesus as your Savior and your get-out-of-hell-free card and avoid any commitment to a changed life. God has not brought us into His family to remain in a state of impurity. Conversion turns us around and starts down that path of progressive sanctification.
Bruce: The mention of impurity confirms that the subject of v 6 is sexual rather than commercial behavior.
Hiebert: God took the initiative in bringing us into union with Christ. That call, mediated through the preaching of the gospel at Thessalonica, took the readers out of paganism and placed them into God’s blessed kingdom. That call carries moral implications, both negative and positive.
14. (:8a) Submit to God’s Authority
“Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God
Mayhue: The word translated reject is a strong word that indicates “rejection with finality”. This seems to be the picture of one who claims to be a Christian, but demonstrates a pattern of behavior which indicates that the profession of faith was counterfeit (cf. Matt 13:20-22; Heb 6:4-8). The outcome is that the fornicator rejects God, not man.
Believers who are truly repentant and seeking God’s forgiveness will recognize the seriousness of rejecting God by violating His standards –
Cf. David Ps 51:4 “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge”
15. (:8b) Submit to the Control of the Holy Spirit
“who gives the Holy Spirit to you.”
Holy Spirit was given to us as a valued gift and for a lofty purpose;
Holy Spirit … not Unholy Spirit;
We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit or resist His control in any way;
Implies the power to obey the standard in those who have the Holy Spirit
Key passage: 1 Cor. 6:12 – 7:1
CONCLUSION (to Part 2):
All it takes is to follow one of these 15 principles and you will stay on the right track;
Paul provides 15:
4 General Principles:
#1 Follow the Directions
#2 Please God
#3 Pursue Excellence
#4 Ignorance is Not an Option
11 Specific Principles:
#5 God’s Will for You = Sexual Purity
#6 Abstinence is the Only Approach to Sexual Immorality
#7 Focus Your Sexual Attention on Your Own Wife
#8 Honor Your Wife
#9 Deny Lust
#10 Don’t Violate God’s Standards
#11 Don’t be a Cheater
#12 Fear the Lord
#13 Fulfill Your Moral Calling
#14 Submit to God’s Authority
#15 Submit to the Control of the Holy Spirit
shows how important this topic is and what the dangers are to believers; must take sexual sin seriously; We need to love others who have fallen in this area and encourage them that God is faithful and just to forgive and restore them if they repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not want the knowledge of these principles to puff us up and make us self righteous. We must each strive by the grace of God to remain faithful to our own wife in the midst of a corrupt culture.