William Barclay wrote: “One thing Christianity did was to lay down a completely new code in regard to the relationship of men and women; it is the champion of purity.”
The word champion means “one that does battle for another’s rights or honor.'” It conjures up images of King Arthur’s Round Table-noble knights clad in shining armor, white horses draped with regalia, lances glinting in the sun as the knights charge off to use their might for right and to rescue damsels in distress. For the Christian, the damsel in distress is purity, and Christianity is the knight in shining armor. But lately, it seems, the armor has grown rusty, and the knight has grown a little flabby around the middle-a case of too much sitting on the horse and not enough swinging of the sword.
Moral Erosion: An Inescapable Fact — As we turn back the pages of history to the first century, we find a scene that is shockingly similar to the present day. In Rome for the first five hundred and twenty years of the Republic there had not been a single divorce; but now under the Empire, as it has been put, divorce was a matter of caprice. As Seneca said, “Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.”
In Rome the years were identified by the names of the consuls; but it was said that fashionable ladies identified the years by the names of their husbands. Juvenal quotes an instance of a woman who had eight husbands in five years. Morality was dead. In Greece immorality had always been quite blatant. Long ago Demosthenes had written: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep mistresses for the day-to-day needs of the body; we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.” So long as a man supported his wife and family there was no shame whatsoever in extra-marital relationships. (Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 199).
Moral Purity: An Attainable Goal — For the individual believer, living a pure life is a matter of the will. Paul’s message to the Thessalonian church was a call to champion the cause of purity, to pick up the sword and make a sharp break with the decadence of their culture. Read verses 1-3.
All of us struggle from time to time trying to understand God’s will for our life. But tucked away almost like a letter in a bureau drawer is the most explicit statement in Scripture on the will of God: abstain from sexual immorality.” The word immorality comes from the Greek word porneia. We get the term pornography from it. It means “fornication” and includes all forms of sexual sins.
Sanctification means “the state of being set apart to God.” A synonym would be the word distinction. Just as we make discriminating choices in the grocery store between a good tomato and a rotten one, so we need to make wise choices about what we feed ourselves spiritually.
Verses 4-5 show the two ways we can use our bodies-as vessels of honor or dishonor. The essential point to understand about purity is that it requires us to exert control over our bodies. We must become our body’s master, not its slave. As Christians, we have a tendency to focus on the spiritual rather than the physical side of our being. Scripture, however, is quite forthright in talking about our bodies.
Read verses 6-8. We are to be students of how physical stimuli affect our bodies. We need to know where we’re vulnerable and where the danger zones are. Rest assured, if we don’t know where our Achilles’ heel is, Satan does. And that’s just where he’ll aim his arrow of temptation.
Assignment: Let’s get very practical and offer encouragement and steps that will encourage us toward greater purity as Christians. What have you found works in your life or from counsel with others? Let’s prayerfully determine, with God’s help, to do better in this area!