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Commentary on "Living Holy Lives (1 Thess. 4:1–12)"



Day 5: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - According to God’s Design (1 Thess. 4:6–8)



Today’s lesson discusses God’s design for sex: marriage. The author makes the following points: sexual restraint is a way of caring for other people; it “bears upon our relationship with God;” ignorance of God is what produces immorality; those who ignore biblical teaching on sex reject God’s call and God Himself; God’s design for sex reveals God’s love for humanity and the closeness He wants with His people. The lesson ends with these questions: what is a “holy life”? Is it more than sexual behavior? If so, what?



Today’s lesson camps on the subject of appropriate sexual expression and the dangers of abandoning biblical teaching about sex. The day’s text, however, suggests far more than the lesson addresses. 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8 says:

that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:6-8 ESV)

To be sure, Paul is writing in this chapter about sexual purity, and he does command his readers not to defraud their brothers (and sisters) in Jesus by sexual sin. The lesson states that sex is not only about how we treat others but about how we treat Christ in the person of others.

This idea is not the point of the text. The context of verse 6 is that sexual sin defrauds those against whom we sin. Both the one with whom one sins and the spouse or families of both parties are defrauded by someone’s sexual sins. Moreover, the Lord is the avenger when a person wrongs another through sexual sin. Ultimately God is the One who deals with the immoral one. He avenges the wrongs done to another.

Sexual sin is not symbolically sinning against Christ. On the contrary, this passage as well as others makes it clear that sexual sin is a direct, not a symbolic, sin against God who gives believers the Holy Spirit. This passage is not written to unbelievers or to quasi-believers. Those who have not been born again are not sinning against the Holy Spirit in as direct a way as is a believer who sins sexually.

Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20 ESV)

When a believer commits sexual sin, they are literally joining Christ’s members to their sexual partner. Because believers are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3-6) and sealed by Him as a guarantee of their eternal glorified future (Eph. 1:13-14), sex brings Christ into the sexual behaviors of that believer. Believers are therefore commanded to flee sexual immorality because to sin sexually is to transgress against God Himself and to defile one’s own body which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Immoral behavior is the natural consequence of being born dead in sin. An unbeliever cannot be sexually pure, even if he avoids overt immorality, because he has no power over his own desires. His heart is still dead in sin, and even his strongest willpower does not produce sexual purity. It can only produce mechanical abstinence.

God’s call on our lives is His effective, electing call. God calls us to be His children born of the spirit, and this call is a call to holiness. “Holiness” means set apart for God’s purposes. God’s call sets us apart for His purposes; His call never excuses nor leads to impurity. If we have been made alive through faith in the Lord Jesus and the indwelling of His Spirit, we will live lives of purity because God’s call equips us to be pure.

If we have been born again and indulge the drives of our flesh, we are not disregarding man but God Himself. We are disrespecting and sinning against God who is our Father and against the Spirit who indwells us and against the Lord Jesus who bought us with the price of His blood.

Within Adventism the talk about sexual purity is limited because Adventists do not understand the spiritual nature of the new birth. They do not understand that being born again literally results in being transferred by the Father out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13). Sexual purity is not simply a noble goal that we are obligated to achieve. Rather, sexual purity is only possible for those who have been born again, and sexual sin in a believer is a disregard for God.

Primarily sexual sin is a transgression against God while also being a defrauding of those involved in the sin. Living holy lives is far more than mere sexual conduct. It is being born of the Spirit through faith in the blood and finished work of Jesus. It is committing oneself to submitting to God all one’s drives and passions and to living lives of respect and honor toward our brothers and sisters and toward our Lord Jesus.



  1. Sexual sin defrauds those involved.
  2. The Lord avenges sexual sins.
  3. God’s electing call is a call to holiness, or to being set apart for His purposes.
  4. God’s electing call is never an excuse for or a draw toward unholiness or impurity.
  5. For a born again believer to sin sexually is to involve the Lord Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit in the sin, because He does not leave, and our bodies are His members.
  6. Sexual sin disregards not man but God who gives us the Holy Spirit.




Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Revised August 14, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email:

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