Together in Christ: 'Stay Far Away!' — 1 Thessalonians 4:2-6

Friday, February 16, 2024

For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor — not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:2-6 NLT

Key Thought

Paul used a nautical term to warn the new Thessalonian believers to avoid sexual sin. The Greek word Paul chose, ἀπέχεσθαι (ah-peck'-es-thai), is translated "stay far away from" all sexual sin. When a sailor shouted the word ἀπέχεσθαι, any nearby shipmaster could easily hear and respond appropriately! In Paul's time, shipmasters shouted this warning if another vessel passed too closely: "Stay far away! ἀπέχεσθαι!" This command was well known by those who lived in the important sea port of Thessalonica. So, Paul adapted this urgent, sharp, well-known term, and then used it to warn them to stay far away from any form of sexual immorality!

Commitment to holiness and staying away from sexual immorality was something Paul taught new believers when he first presented the truth of the Good News of Jesus. He emphasized that they needed to turn their lives away from sin and follow Jesus. [1] The word he chose for "all sexual sin" was a broad word, implying the full range of sexually immoral behaviors and impurity, as the translation indicates. [2] He also emphasized that he had "the authority of the Lord Jesus" in what he taught. Paul stressed both in today's verses and in other places that for me to "stay away from all sexual sin" involved four key commitments:

  1. Honoring God's will for me to be holy — dedicated and set apart for Him and His service. [3]
     
  2. Controlling my own body and living each day in holiness and honor — not feeding the lustful passions of my fallen nature. [4]
     
  3. Not acting in any way that would cheat fellow believers — by robbing them of their sexual rights, purity, and freedom in their own body or with their spouse. [5]
     
  4. Remembering that while they may not see immediate consequences and judgment on sexually immoral behavior, God will deal with these matters appropriately. [6]

Paul's challenging teaching to the Thessalonian believers, people who lived in an immoral seaport, reminds me of the consistency of Paul's teaching in the churches about living holy lives. He teaches me that I am to offer myself, my body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, to God as a place of worship. [7] I am to glorify God and love God by how I live, body, soul, mind, and spirit. [8] I don't know about you, but I want to live into God's call for me so that I can bring my Father joy and help others find Jesus! [9]

[1] See Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. These brief recountings of Paul's original visit to Thessalonica doesn't include what he preached, but it was no doubt similar to what he preached in Athens: "God overlooked people's ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him" (Acts 17:30).
[2] πορνείας (porneias) covers this broad range of sexual sin — 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:26-27.
[3] Romans 12:1-2.
[4] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24.
[5] Leviticus 20:10; Matthew 18:6; Romans 1:32; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 36-38; 8:9.
[6] Romans 1:24, 32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
[7] Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19.
[8] 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
[9] 1 Peter 2:9-10, 3:15-16.

Today's Prayer

Almighty Father, I recognize that you are Creator and God of all things. I want my life to bring You glory in what I think, do, and say. I want to bring You joy when you see the character of my life and the purity of my heart. While I know that I cannot accomplish these goals of holiness in my own power, I trust that Your Spirit is forming godliness within me as I commit my heart, soul, mind, and body to live for You and show my love for You. In Jesus' name, I live and pray to bring You glory. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 4:1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

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Illustration

Illustration of 1 Thessalonians 4:2-6 NLT — For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor — not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.

About This Devotional

Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.

'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.