“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NKJV)
One of the questions that I am often asked as a pastor is, “What is God’s will for my life?” It is a question that I always love to hear, for I believe that all true believers want to know what God wants. The question comes in many forms:
“Is this the person God wants me to marry?”
“Is this the house He would want us to buy?”
“Is this the job that I should take?”
“Is this the move that God wants me to make?”
However, at the end of the day, each of those questions centers around the idea that God has a will, a desire, or a preference for our lives individually. That is thrilling to think about. What does God specifically want for me?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul answers that question in an overarching sense. By that I mean, it answers the question of God’s will in an ultimate sense. It says, “For this is the will of God.” That is pretty clear, right? We are talking about what God wants. It is His will. It is what He desires. It is what the God of the Universe wants.
It goes on and says, “For this is the will of God, your [our] sanctification.” The word “sanctification” comes from the Greek word for “holiness” (Hagios) and it means to “be set apart unto God, reserved for God and His use.” It refers to our hearts (emotions), minds (thinking), and lives (actions) being set apartto God. This means that we have separated ourselves from the world, from sin, from the worship of self, and the worship of other false gods. Also, we are His. We have given Him our lives. We are His. We are reserved for Him, His will, and His use. This is God’s will for us as His people.
Now one of the most important areas that this applies to is what is mentioned next in the verse, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” “Sexual immorality” is a broad term that refers to any sexual activity or thought that is outside of the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. What we learn from this passage (now that we understand the word “sanctification”) is that when we are involved in anything sinfully sexual, we are giving ourselves to that thing. We are taking what is reserved for God and we are giving it to another “god” in worship. Scripture confirms this understanding continually.
Romans 6:16 (NKJV) is an example when it says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, Paul talks about how sexual immorality joins us to that thing. On and on we could go. The point we are making is this, sexual sin is more than just an act or a thought. It is the giving of ourselves, what is meant to be reserved for God, to the false “god” of sex and it will always bring death and destruction into our lives.
God’s will, as is made clear from His Word, is that we not only separate ourselves from all forms of sexual immorality but that we also actively give ourselves to the Lord. It is not an either/or, it is a both/and. We separate from other things and separate to the Lord.
Finally, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (NKJV) says, “Therefore Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” This is what God wants, and because it is, He will help us carry it out.