The Will of God

I Thess. 4:4. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.”

Important:  The will of God; sanctification, abstain, fornication.

This is not Paul’s opinion. It is the clear will of God that we stay away from all forms of sexual impurity. We live in a culture and a time in which sexual impurity has become nothing more than a relative term. I hear comments like, “You have to follow your heart; you have to do what’s right for YOU!”  almost every day that I work. The same philosophy is promoted by movies, TV, music, literature—an endless barrage of “do your own thing.” 

But the Bible says it is God’s will that we abstain from fornication.  How clear is that?  Let’s take a look at the words. 

God’s will: This is not merely God’s opinion, preference, or a choice He is giving us to make.  He wills it.  He demands it. It is a clear path He has pointed out for us to follow. 

Sanctification:  hagiasmos has the basic idea of being set apart for or dedicated to God because of the atoning work of Christ.  It is not the state of holiness, but the process of being made holy, becoming in character and conduct that which God desires us to be. He is holy. We are to be becoming holy, as He is. The next several verses clearly line out the practical aspect of growing in holiness of character. Specifically, we are told to abstain from fornication, to know how to posses one’s own vessel, and to avoid wronging a brother. 

Abstain: To hold one’s self off from, to keep away from. The word includes the idea of constantly keeping aloof from fornication. It indicates that we must choose to be mindful, aware, alert to temptation; we must choose to go the other way, to never let our guard down for a moment. 

Fornication: The word is used here to denote every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.  That concept, unlawful sexual intercourse, raises problems in our society because, really, nothing is unlawful any more. So we need to spend a little time figuring out how this applies to believers. 

In his book on I Thessalonians, William Alexander states that moral evils are always spiritual evils of the first magnitude. I never understood this idea as well as I do after spending several years in the counseling office.  People who have been victimized by sexual abuse are fundamentally changed in their hearts and souls.  It is so traumatizing that it can take years to recover, even for a believer.  Sometimes it is even harder for a believer because of the lingering sense of guilt suffered by the victim.  But that is a subject for another  post.  My point here is that all sexual sin is both a moral and a spiritual issue. 

We are not told that Timothy reported any specific instances of immorality in the Thessalonian church. This warning seems to be more of a preventive nature than of rebuke. However, sexual license existed in full measure then, as it does now. The warning was timely and important. 

There is nothing new under the sun. The lax moral climate in which we live is not new.  It has existed since before the Flood, and will continue to exist until God binds Satan forever.  The thing believers need to understand is that we cannot shape our own ideas of morality on the basis of what the unbelieving world says is okay. We must not adapt our own practices to the practice of contemporary society, not matter how we rationalize our desires. If God says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong. 

I Cor. 6:13-20 teaches  that our bodies belong to God; they are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  We are not our own; we are bought with the blood of Christ; we are to keep ourselves pure from sin. 

So let’s be specific.  What does the word fornication cover?  “All forms of illegal sexual intercourse” is pretty broad, unless we understand that God’s Word states clearly that sex is a holy and precious gift meant for a man and his wife; that it symbolizes the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom, and His bride, the Church.  It is not sinful in that context; indeed, it is to be celebrated, valued, enjoyed. 

Anything outside of that context is sin. 

We’re going to take a closer look at the word fornication tomorrow. 

2 thoughts on “The Will of God

  1. Mike

    The Will of God. What a topic. I have heard SO MANY sermons on this, but I have gained precious little, because usually, the speaker had a personal agenda…a desire to equate his own will for my life with God’s will for my life. So, over the past few years, I did a little research to see what God REALLY has to say.

    I found that, in many respects, God has little specific guidance regarding the stuff that these speakers liked to harp on: things like God’s will for whom I should marry (finding that one perfect person), things like God’s will for my career choices or my educational choices. I know many people were in a constant state of anxiety on these three issues, afraid of choosing the wrong thing and being smacked by the Whack-a-Mole Player In The Sky. What I DID find was more general guidance regarding our choices, followed by more specific guidance on how we should behave once we have made our choice.

    1. Marriage. God says that we shouldn’t be unequally yoked. We shouldn’t marry a close relative. Stuff like that. Not much guidance on Which Person we should marry. But once we are married, we get quite a bit of guidance on how to behave toward our spouse. This leads me to believe that God is less concerned with WHICH Christian I marry, and more concerned with how I behave AFTER marriage.

    2. School. I hear never-ending arguments among Christians regarding Christian schools, public schools, and home schooling. I was told, and am still frequently told, that it is critical that I follow God’s will, which has an uncanny parallel with the motivations of the one who is talking to me at the time. I find nary a Bible passage that convinces me that any of these arguments are absolutely right or absolutely wrong. But the Bible DOES tell me that I am responsible to educate my children…to make sure they know what God has to say to them. The Bible was written to a generally agricultural society, in which it was normal for fathers to work side by side with their sons. My sons would rather die a slow and painful death than work side by side with me at my office, even if it were possible for them to be here. So, I outsource their education to some extent, and check out what they are learning in order to correct any wrong stuff and to make sure they didn’t miss the right stuff.

    3. Work. I have been told repeatedly how important it was to find God’s calling for my life, but I can’t seem to find any Bible verses that tell me what that calling is. Perhaps these people were Neo-apostolic without knowing it…waiting around for new, direct revelation from God. Anyway, based on what I find in the Bible, I have become convinced that God isn’t as concerned with WHICH job I take, but is much more concerned with how I behave in the job that I finally DO take.

    Most of all, God’s will for me is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. This isn’t as much of a mystery as some people like to make it. If we would spend more time trying to follow the will of God that HAS been revealed to us, and less time worrying ourselves to death about the stuff that God didn’t consider important enough to talk about, we would probably have less stress and more effectiveness in our lives.

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    1. I’m going to use this as a post. Hope you don’t mind. . .if it bothers you, I can take it down. You’ve said it so well that I feel it needs to be read by more than just a few of us.

      Like

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