“Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:5-7).
In this study we will look at ways in which personal purity is actually played out in our everyday life. Paul here is describing the most common of sins in society, unhealthy passions and uncleanness, and how the Christian ought to have higher standards than the unsaved. Oscar Wilde, who gave up his wife to engage in homosexuality, wrote, “I took pleasure where it pleased me and pressed on … I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”
“The lust of concupiscence” or ‘inordinate affections’ refers to the driving force of what motivates people today. We can call this kind of desire “animal instinct” because those who are controlled by it have their minds in the gutter and filth of this world. The believer must actively and persistently deal with this sin, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). These kind of unhealthy passions only lead in one direction, that is, away from God and toward punishment, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (Romans 1:24). The only way to avoid being overcome by them is to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16) … “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
We should know better than to return to the old standards, for if we do we bring upon ourselves God’s wrath, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:3). It is our responsibility to control our human instincts rather than let our passions run wild, and thus destroy ourselves. Should we act like those who do not know Christ as Saviour?
Here Paul is referring to adultery or coveting someone else’s wife. Today marriage has become a joke, and adultery is almost acceptable. The unsaved “cheat” on each other and think it is funny to the point of vaunting it on some television chat show. They are not only hurting themselves but also those around them (spouse, children, family and friends). They unashamedly break the commandment which says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). Those who dishonour God in the first commandment, go on to dishonour their fellow man in the last.
God is going to judge all who are engaged in uncleanness, therefore the believer must keep free from it. We have been delivered from the cesspool of sin and evil, therefore it is important that we live the way God has intended. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
We are called to live holy rather than unclean lives. Holiness is the exact opposite to the values and standards of the secular world. We dishonour God when we dishonour the body He has given us. “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 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 6:15-20). The call of God on our lives is in direct contrast to the lust of the flesh, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).
Personal purity must be active in our everyday lives. It is no good just to say that we believe in Christ, we must live it too. It does not matter if the world thinks that it is old-fashioned to live pure and holy lives, our standards are higher. In the end, we must all stand before God, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12) … “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).