Sunday, January 15, 2006

Notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

4:1 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 excel still more.
4:2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

As Paul heads toward the close of his letter, he urges the Thessalonians to "excel still more" in pleasing God.

Pleasing God is the relational context within which Paul wants the Thess. to view what he is about to say. I.e., here is further information about how to excel in pleasing God.

4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;

God want us to be "sanctified" -- Paul further defines this sanctification in terms of separation from sexual immorality.

The one word definition of 'sanctification' is separation. To be sanctified or holy is to be separated from immoral behavior to moral behavior, from the impure to the pure, from the unclean to the clean.

The term translated sexual immorality (porneia) denotes any type of sexual behavior forbidden by God. This is not merely premarital immorality.

To be separated unto God involves having nothing to do with sexual sin.

Young people often want to know "how far can I go" when I'm dating. Let's notice a few things about this question.
1. Notice that the question itself assumes that one is going "somewhere." That somewhere is sexual intimacy.
2. The question is asking in essence, how close can I come to sexual intimacy and still be within the bounds of the "ok."
3. In Matt. 5:28 Jesus tells us that merely looking upon a woman (or a man) to lust after them is, in God's eyes, an act of adultery. In other words, you can't even "go there" (sexual intimacy) in your mind.

Sanctification in the area of sexuality is not simply a matter what one does not do with the body. It is also a matter of what one does with the mind.

Rom. 14:13 tells us to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Notice it does not say, "Avoid fulfilling the lusts of the flesh." Nor does it say you should not have fleshly desires. It says you must not do anything that sets up an opportunity for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.
The issue is not just avoiding sin. The issue is also avoiding the actions, thoughts, and places that make it possible for sin to take place.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10)

I was sharing a section of Barclay’s treatment of the key NT words for love with my Greek I students yesterday. The section dealt with philostorgos in Romans 12:10, which the NASB translates, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” As Barclay explains it, the word translated “be devoted” (philostorgoi) connotes the devotion a parent has for a child or a child for a parent. A verse from 4 Maccabees supports Barclay’s statement: “O sacred nature and affection of parental love, yearning of parents toward offspring, nurture and indomitable suffering by mothers!” (15:13). Similar usage may be found in Josephus (e.g., Ant. 7.252) and Philo.

The “yearning toward [their] offspring” which parents experience is the sort of devotion that the Spirit through Paul is exhorting us to have toward one another. Interestingly Paul qualifies this with the word philadelphia, brotherly love. Because we are siblings in Christ, our devotion should be brotherly.

Frankly, the significance of this passage didn’t really strike me until I started to pray the opening prayer. Can I honestly say that I am “devoted to my fellow believers [including students] in brotherly love?” I’m afraid not. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even given a thought to being “devoted” to the members of my family in Christ in a manner that approximates natural family devotion. So I had to confess my failure to consider the meaning of this passage, let alone make strides to apply it. Following confession should always be supplication for grace to grow and walk in the light. By God’s grace, I intend to be growing in being devoted toward fellow believers with brotherly love.