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It is obvious from the opening verses of this letter that the lives of these new believers had begun changing dramatically (1/8-10). When God enters a person's life, nothing can remain as it was. Every part of our lives feels the impact and a changing lifestyle is inevitable.

Paul now specifies a couple of areas that require attention - more so than some others. They obviously had grasped the importance of love and faith (see previous study notes). In that regard Paul says simply, "Keep on doing it more and more"! But now he addresses an issue that is as current as today's news reports - sexual purity.


"The Saviour who saves us is the King who commands us." It is important that we get that balance right. The word translated "instructions" in this passage is a military term referring to the commands of a superior officer to be obeyed. These commands do not originate with Paul. He is the one who passes them on to the troops, so to speak.

Question: "The Saviour who saves us is the King who commands us." If we lose the balance between these two perspectives, what will happen? If Jesus is only seen as a Saviour.....if Jesus is seen only as a King...???

[2] THE COMMAND TO BE HOLY  (vs.3-8)

The word "holy" (or its equivalent) is repeated numerous times in this letter and is certainly an emphasis in these verses. To be "holy" is for something or someone to be separated from sin and separated to God for His exclusive direction and use. For example, the OT temple was holy. It was  used exclusively for worship. You couldn't play tennis in the temple (!). There's nothing wrong or evil about tennis. However, the temple was for sacred use only. This was also true of the priests. It's also true of the Sabbath Day. It was treated as holy because it was treated as special. Everyday activities performed on the other six days were not permitted on the Sabbath Day because it was set apart for holy things.

Question: How would you define or describe "holy" to someone unfamiliar with the Church jargon? How would you respond if they used terms like "holier-than-thou" or "holy rollers"? Is the idea of holiness positive or negative in the circles of people where you move?

Holiness is not a settled, static state of being. True holiness is a dynamic, positive and progressive experience. We need to grow up into holiness; in this case, into sexual holiness.  A Christian historian once observed; "Of all the centuries, the 21st is most like the first". Given our sex-saturated society today, the cultural attitude to sexual purity/impurity is certainly an area in which that statement is true. 

Here are the simple, clear commands regarding sex and the Christian

a) God wants us to be holy (v.3). Sex is not "evil" or "dirty" but its misuse is almost always "unholy".

b) So we should keep clear of all sexual sin (v.3) There is a destructiveness about sexual sin that is quite unique. It is not that sexual sin is worse than all other sins. It is just that it is more destructive.

READ 1 CORINTHIANS 6/18-20 for Paul's understanding that sets sex in a category all of its own

Question: In what ways are we confronted by the sexual market  place in our contemporary culture?

c) That each of us should learn to control our own bodily desires (v.4).

Question: Note that this is a "learned" process. What avenues are open to us to engage in this learning process? Why is this subject so awkward to discuss - for Christians especially - and particularly men?

d) Live in holiness and honour, as opposed to the sexual tsunami in the world around you (v.5)

e) Sexual sin is never just a private matter; it has the potential to impact others. These verses are not easy to understand but they seem to be warning not to lust after the wife of a fellow believer (brother) but to have one's own wife with whom mutual sexual needs are met. READ 1CORINTHIANS 7/1-5 for a fuller explanation that Paul gave to the Corinthian Church.

f) There is judgment involved in disobeying these commands. Often it is what we call natural judgment; i.e. HIV aids when it is the result of sexual immorality (v.6)

g) The origin of these directives is clearly stated - they are not of human origin, they are from God. To ignore these directives is not flouting man's law but God's law (v.8)

One final thought in this section : if we wonder how we can possibly live holy lives in such an unholy culture where temptation to sexual sin is all around, the answer is found in v.8 "....who gives you His Holy Spirit".  The Spirit of God is, above all else, the HOLY Spirit. He is within us to be our enabler so that we can obey these instructions.


"Love" = phileo - reference to family love that is shared by children with one Father. The commendation of v.9 is amazing!! Paul sees no need to teach them about love because they have obviously been taught by God Himself. Read the following verses and note the reasons why love is so critical among the people of God. 

JOHN 13/34,35

JOHN 15/9-13

[4] THE COMMAND TO BE "AMBITIOUS"    (vs.11, 12)

This not ambition in the "ladder-climbing" sense to get to the top of the corporate ladder. Rather it is being passionate about things that have yet to be identified. But here are 3 of them.

  • Lead a quiet life - away from driveness, busyness and distraction of modern life. We are so distracted today that life becomes anything but quiet.
  • Mind your own business - avoid being a busy-body, intrusive and interfering.
  • Work with your hands - avoid unhealthy dependence and becoming a social parasite

Read 2 Thess. 3/6-13. It seems that there were those who, for whatever reasons, chose not to work but to live off the generosity of others. Given what follows in the remaining verses of chapter 4 (2nd Coming) it is possible that some thought that the Lord's return could happen anytime soon so why waste the remaining time on activities like working.

The issue of the 2nd Coming is the theme of our next session.

  Question: What is the key point that has caught your attention as you have worked your way through this study? Is there some specific action you need to take?

What fits into the following categories if you take the session seriously?

a) Information (knowing)

b) Participation (doing)

c) Transformation (changing)


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