In Sanctification and Honor

February 14, 2010 at 1:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, God's Will, Godly Living, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

(From 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Once upon a time I felt called to be an example of purity.  I use the terminology “felt called,” but what I really mean is that, as I studied scripture, I began to see the emphasis the Lord put on purity.  In the Old Testament, Yahweh bemoaned His apostate bride’s “adultery” as she sought other lovers—bringing foreign gods into her life and heart and worship system.  In the New Testament He proclaimed that our bodies are His temple and His spirit dwells within us.  When we transgress His commandments regarding fornication and adultery, we are sinning against our own bodies—His temple.  It’s adultery against Him.  It makes Him as sick as did Israel’s child sacrifices to Molech and the pagan orgies around the golden calf.  “Flee immorality,” Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers.  “Every sin that man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”  (1 Corithinthians 6:18-20)

At first I embraced my call to purity as a call to lifelong singleness.  I’ve always been a bit dramatic.  If the Lord wanted me to be an example of purity, what better way could there be than to never marry and demonstrate to the world a life spent in self-control and single-hearted devotion to the Lord?  But as I continued to study the word, I discovered that the most perfect picture of purity is Christ and His bride, the church.  Purity is so much more than abstinence or a vow of celibacy.  It’s a lifelong journey of sanctification and it can certainly include a God-glorifying marriage.  In fact, Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them that, while singleness was great for those whom God had supernaturally gifted in that manner, for those supernaturally gifted in another manner,  marriage was the wise safeguard against immorality.  (Check out 1 Corinthians 7).

When he gave instructions for the training of younger women, Paul made it clear that purity doesn’t end at marriage.  “Older women are to…train the younger women,” he wrote his disciple Titus, “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure workers at home, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”  (Titus 2:3-4)  Married or single, God’s call to purity extends to all of us and reaches into every corner of every relationship.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, reminding them of God’s will in the issue of purity:  “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.  For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.  Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

This is important, ladies.  Paul warned, he requested, he exhorted and he wound up with a reminder that the person who rejects God’s will in the issue of purity is rejecting God who gives the Spirit’s empowerment.  “Walk so as to please God,” Paul implores, “and excel still more!”  We can’t be too pure.  God’s desire is for His people to be sanctified—set apart and made holy and He has a plan for how to accomplish this.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

The Roman Empire in which Paul’s readers lived was a decadent match for our own modern age of “free love.”  Immorality was praised in the arts, just as it is today.  It was worshiped in the temples and proclaimed in the palaces.  The concept of choosing a lifestyle of purity was counter-cultural and difficult.  Many of Paul’s readers had walked out of this world-view, by God’s grace, and to them Paul extended God’s mercy.  “Many of you were once fornicators…adulterers…but you were washed clean.”  He wrote to the Romans reminding them, “just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”  (Romans 6:19)  Paul wanted his readers to know that they were washed clean from past sins, and also given empowerment, through the Holy Spirit, to resist future sins.  There’s a world of difference between slaves to impurity and lawlessness and slaves to righteousness—a world that far exceeds technical “virginity.”  God wants His people to be so far removed from impurity and immorality that they are controlled and driven by righteousness.

The statistics prove God’s wisdom—and the consequences of rejecting it.  When I taught abstinence in the schools as an outreach of a Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center, I was blown away by the seriousness of the facts—fornication doesn’t even lend itself to happily ever after, regardless of your personal convictions.  The sexual progression chart we shared was rather telling as well—it began with “hanging out” and showed that as soon as affectionate touch occurs, the battle becomes a war against your own body.  Paul commanded believers to flee immorality.  This is God’s will!  This is what pleases God!  A warning, a request, an exhortation: sexual sins are not something to be approached with caution.  We are to flee!  If we’re commanded to flee, then even the first step down an inevitable sexual progression is a step in the wrong direction.

Possess Your own Vessel

The context of this command suggests another angle of the purity issue.  Paul is dealing with purity and its effects on those around us.  The Greek word translated here “possess” actually suggests the concept of “acquiring” and the use of the term vessel perhaps refers, not to a man’s own body, but to that of his wife—who is the weaker vessel.  Paul’s command is to take a wife/acquire your own vessel in sanctification and honor—not in lustful passion like those who do not know God.  This fits with his teaching to the Corinthians, when he says, “Because of immorality let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”  (1 Corinthians 7:2)  The antidote to immorality is actually to pursue marriage—not as the pagans do, with selfish and lustful motives—but in set-apartness and honor, in purity, for God’s glory.  The answer to immorality is actually not whole-sale celibacy—monasteries and nunneries.  Paul condemns those who forbid marriage.  The answer to immorality is pure marriages that mirror Christ and His church—built on love for the Lord and sacrificial love for each other.  God created woman for the man’s sake—to be joined as one by God—and together to serve the Lord.

Do not Defraud

Paul adds one more element to the mixture: the issue of defrauding.  The basic meaning of the word is to “cheat”: to claim that which is another’s, to get too much, to be greedy.  His warning is sobering, “the Lord is the avenger in all these things.”  This whole section about purity and sanctification is wrapped within commands to love.  Paul wants his readers to be well-aware that the world has a skewed perception of love.  What the world may call “making love” God calls “sexual immorality” and what the world may hold up as “in love” God denounces as defrauding.  And He will avenge.  God holds up for us a different standard of love: a love that is self-sacrificing, that focuses on God and God’s glory and that seeks to point others in the same direction.  It is a love that gives, not seeks to snag whatever it can get.  “Love does not seek its own,” Paul writes in his famous “love chapter.”  We are to love our neighbor as our self.  We are to look out for the interests of others.  In all our relationships, we must keep in mind the interests of others, careful that we do not transgress and take what does not belong to us.  This is true whether we hope it may one day belong to us or not.  We are not to take what is not yet ours.  A wife’s body belongs to her husband and no one else is to ever ask her for any part of that.

Paul doesn’t lay down for us a pattern of romantic pursuit.  Scripture doesn’t seem to offer a step-by-step plan of how to seek a spouse.  But God has certainly made it clear what His goals are for a marriage that glorifies Him.  God’s will is for us to abstain from sexual immorality.  To flee youthful lusts.  To pursue righteousness.  God’s plan is to protect us.  God’s will is also for us to “acquire our own vessel” (this command is probably given to the men, but Paul wrote to the Corinthians for each woman to have her own husband) in sanctification and honor.  In our pursuit of marriage and in our marriage, we must carefully guard honor and holiness.  God’s plan is to protect our spouse.  Each of us is responsible for the protection of each other.  After marriage, Paul writes that the wife’s body belongs to her husband and the husband’s body, to his wife.  Before marriage, those “vessels” must be carefully guarded from everyone.  After marriage, they must be carefully guarded from all save one.  “Forsaking all others,” read the traditional marriage vows.  God’s will is also that we not cheat each other.  A wife’s body belongs to her husband, and until a marriage covenant is made, she has no husband.  God will avenge those who take what does not belong to them.  God’s plan is to protect our brothers and sisters—that we might not cheat them out of what is rightly theirs.

In every relationship, God’s will must guide our hearts and minds.  We are to seek to be set-apart, holy, pure.  We’re not to be like the pagans, full of lustful passions and selfish ambition.  Purity keeps us fleeing from sin, it guides us into godly marriage and it protects us from taking what is not ours to take.  And the goal always is to please God.  Married or single, God’s will is for us to be pure—to be set-apart.

Much of the commentary on the 1st Thessalonians passage has been shamelessly stolen from my father’s file-cabinet of Bible study materials and teachings on “Taking a Wife.”

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He Has Also Made Me Fast

November 19, 2009 at 1:27 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2
Ravi Zacharias joined us for the drive to church this morning, with a message from one of the minor prophets on worship—in Spirit and in truth. I listened, wrapped up in his quaint accent and the power of his message, as he shared how worship must be according to God’s truth: intimate, but still reverent. “You call me Father, but where is my honor?” He spoke of the Indian word for father, and pointed out how they never use it without adding a term of respect—like saying, “Papa, sir.” Our relationship with God is the same: He is our loving Father, but we must never forget that He is almighty Creator. Then he began to share a vignette from the life of Eric Liddell. “God has made me for a purpose, but He has also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.” We worship God by doing everything for His glory, whether it is running—or writing. He doesn’t seek to strip us of our identity and be worshiped by robots. He gives us a new identity in Christ and the power to seek to glorify Him in all that we do. He wants us to use the talents and gifts He has given to each of us to worship Him privately, and to proclaim His excellence to all creation.

Lord, Thou made me for a purpose
To be overwhelmed by worship.
And I see Thy perfect plan
Manifest in who I am.

Prayer and praise are just a start
For the worship of the heart.
Talents that Thou gives are holy
When my life is yielded wholly.

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His Perspective…On Respect

February 14, 2009 at 1:00 am (His Perspective) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

his-perspective-on-respect

Valentine’s Day conjures up thoughts of red foil, powdered candy hearts, oozing chocolate cakes and over-the-top sentimentalism all wrapped up in a hazy misunderstanding of the word “love.” To the world, love is a feeling, coming and going on the winds of time, age, business and beauty, pronounced in words that pass away and proudly displayed through things destined to perish with the using. The disciple Jesus loved gives those of us who would understand true love a great reminder: “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18 ) English teachers will insist that love is an abstract noun—an idea. Scripture tells us it’s a verb. Sisters, let’s stop just using empty words to express love. Let’s really get active about loving according to the truth of scripture!

Paul, the bond-slave of the Lord, never mentioned flowers or chocolate or candlelight dinners, but he did give some excellent advice for godly love and relationships. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…and let the woman see to it that she respect her husband.” (From Ephesians 5:22-33–we really recommend reading the whole passage). In the literal Greek the word for “husband” is really just “man”, plain and simple, and we believe that the respect factor applies to young women under the authority of their fathers, as well. After all, what better way is there to prepare for respecting a husband, some day? Could there be a better way to prove respect for the Lord than to respect the authorities He has placed in our lives?

Some of the men who are seeking to work out this Biblical pattern graciously agreed to help us in digging up some great insights on the issue of respect. We’ve included a few prime quotes below as a sort of appetizer and we’d encourage you to take a look at what they had to say and put your love into action, guided by the truth of God’s word! Just follow the link at the bottom to visit the “Respect” page and see the whole survey! Feel free to share what you find, and don’t be afraid to ask your own men the same questions to discover what honors them and proves to them your love and respect–for God’s glory.

Are candy hearts and red roses wrong? Not at all. They are thoughtful. They are romantic. They are even pleasant. Only to call those things “love” or even “expressions of love” which never even come close to scratching the surface of the love of God, who sacrificed His Son for sinners, is to cheapen a word which should be reserved for gifts of much greater worth. This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to give more. We challenge you to lavish your man with respect—all year long.


“Biblical respect is the humble, intelligent, joyful response of a wife to God’s placement of authority expressed by esteem for, encouragement of, and submission to her husband’s leadership.”

Shai Linne, Philadelphia, PA


“It is possible to have a surviving relationship without respect because I could choose to love them [wife/sister/daughter] even if they refused to respect me, but to have a really healthy flourishing relationship both must fill their biblical roles.”

–Moriah Day, Altamont, KS, age 16, eldest of 10


“Leaving me would be the highest rejection of my leadership and provision. But in absence of legal separation, complete emotional and relational separation would be basically equivalent.”


–Nathaniel, Tulsa, OK, married to Lauren for 1 year, 4 months and 4 weeks 😉

We hear much about men having a built in need for respect and similarly women having a built in need for love … as if men and women are designed by God with the frailties of tiny egos and frail emotions that need constant stroking by the other lest we suffer the consequences. This is nonsense. Respect and Love in the context of Marriage have everything to do with God given roles and authority structure. Respect and Love are what bring about God’s desire that we use our position selflessly for the benefit of our Spouse.”

–John Day, Altamont, KS married 18+ years, father of three daughters (so far)


“’Love is of God,’ I John 4:7 says. God’s love is not natural to man, as the Scripture continues: ‘everyone who loves has been born of God.’ So husbands are to love, not by human product, but by the love of God. Likewise are wives, according to Titus 2:4, to love their husbands, not by natural love, but God’s love.”

–Glenn Schreiber, Central Illinois, (very happily) married for 18.5 years, father of two daughters


It is the ‘picture’ of Christ and His bride. The relationship for the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Sacrificial love, a love worth respecting because it is wonderful and it knows the love is acting in the best interest for the wife. How do they differ? The love is the leading action which makes the respecting enjoyable.”


–Gabe Graham, Tulsa, OK, married 5+ years, father of three daughters


“The Bible says that Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. I think this word is a great way of summarizing how a wife is to respect her husband. She treats him as someone who is very important; as someone who she means to serve and obey, and who is worthy of her service. No other person trumps him; he is the #1 person she is meant to help, to love, and to give her time and affections to. What is important to him becomes important to her, simply because he values it. This all comes out of an ultimate desire to serve her Heavenly Lord, because this is His command to her; ultimately, she is serving Him through demonstrating a giving over of her desires to the desires of her husband, and treating him as the authority God has given her.”

John A. Moss, Morgantown, WV, married almost three years, a daughter due in April (!)


“God’s originally-stated purpose for creating mankind was to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:26). His special purpose for man was to cultivate and keep the garden (Gen. 1:26; 2:15) and for woman was for her to be a suitable helper of her husband (Genesis 2:18). It follows that she must learn to help her man. This is the major distinction between the husband and his wife’s roles–he is the leader and she is the helper. More descriptively, he is to be her loving leader and she is to be his reverent helper.”

–Lane, Rural AR, married 31 years, father of Abigail (and Lydia)


Trust and respect can be shattered by failure to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.”

Zach Welchman, Arkansas Tech University

We found the answers sometimes surprising, often enlightening, sometimes encouraging, often convicting.   We’d love for you to take a look at the comments and the survey (when you can) and tell us your thoughts!

His Perspective on Respect: The Survey

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