1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Handling sexuality

by | Mar 29, 2023 | 01 Podcasts, Thessalonians

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul addresses specific questions and issues in the Thessalonian church. First, Paul addresses how Christians should handle their sexuality. Then he tackles work.


The young Thessalonian church faced the same hostility that drove Paul out of town. Timothy went back to check on them. Paul wrote this letter in response to Timothy’s report. 

In the first chapters, Paul briefly reminded them:

  • As believers, their great hope is waiting for Jesus to return so that they might inherit a place in the kingdom of God.
  • In the meantime, their lives are to be marked by a pursuit of holiness now.

Paul now calls them to live their lives in accordance with their hope and faith.

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

1Finally 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. 2For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6and 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. 7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. – 1Thessalonians 4:1-8

  • Paul uses the term “walk” to describe the choices they make about how to live their lives.
  • Unlike the Corinthians (who rejected Paul’s authority), the Colossians (who were entangled in heresy), or the Galatians (who returned to legalism), the Thessalonians believed the gospel and lived like it.
  • However, Paul addresses two areas they need to change: their view of sexuality (4:1-8) and their work ethic (4:9-12).
  • The sanctified person has not ceased from sin. The sanctified person belongs to God. Believers are called to live lives that reflect the truth of God. Paul reminds them how they are to live differently than the Gentiles in these two areas of sexuality and work.
  • When Paul says “abstain from sexual immorality”, I think he has the biblical view of sexuality: God intended for a man and a woman to enjoy sex within a monogamous, committed marriage.
  • In a culture where most people married at an early age, remaining faithful to your spouse was a key issue.
  • The phrase “his own vessel” (4:4) is highly debated. Some think it refers to your own body. Others think it refers to your spouse. The context supports both interpretations.
  • Paul says choose handle your sexuality in a way that brings honor, not shame.
  • The Gentiles make sexual choices based on passion, without any consideration for honor or God’s design. By contrast, believers make choices based on following God.
  • We cannot claim to follow Jesus and reject God’s plan for sexuality.  Following God involves a willingness to accept God’s boundaries.
  • We all face a choice: pursue God and seek first His kingdom or pursue our sinful desires. How you choose reveals who you follow.

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Next: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 Handling work

Previous: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13 Investing in people

Series: 1&2 Thessalonians: Between Times

Study: 1 Thessalonians Resources

Scripture references are from the English Standard version.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Season 22, episode 5