Lewdness is a life dominated by sexual lust; “fornication” is illicit sexual indulgence. “Concupiscence” is passionate lust and implies a willful yielding to passions. “Vessel” is the believer’s body. To “defraud” is to take advantage of. “Sanctification” and “holiness” come from the same word and mean consecration.
In Paul’s day, living in the light of the second coming of Christ (I Thess. 3:13; 4:16-18) called for holy conduct. Pagan religion had made no moral demands on the young Christians at Thessalonica, but their new faith in Christ would. In many ancient nations, married women and their lovers were likely to be put to death by the husbands of the adulteresses. However, not much thought was given to the practice of adultery involving a married man and an unmarried woman. That attitude toward lewdness had to be stopped, so Paul encouraged them to “abound more and more” in moral purity.
What the Will of God Is (I Thess. 4:3-6)
Lewd living is contrary to the will of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14). Israel had a higher law than the nations around her. From the beginning, God’s plan for man ruled out adultery (Gen. 2:24). To commit adultery is to debase the union God made between a husband and his wife. Adultery does not respect the bond upon which the family is based, a relationship which is dearer than life to an honorable person.
God takes lewd living seriously (Lev. 20:10-21). People may joke about infidelity, but it is no joke to God. It is a sin; therefore, we should rebuke it and not water down God’s command concerning it. Christians are not altogether dependent upon the Law of Moses for instructions concerning sexual impurity, for Jesus elaborated upon the law (Matt. 5:27, 28). It is not only the married man who is guilty when an illicit act is committed; it is any man. It is sin when a married woman is involved, or when any other woman transgresses because the definition of adultery must involve a married person.
Jesus taught that the actual act of adultery need not be committed for guilt to be assessed. If a man only “looketh on a woman to lust after her” (Matt. 5:28) he has committed the sin in God’s sight.
Jesus taught that God did not make a provision for divorce in the beginning, but intended an inseparable bond (Matt. 19:3-9). What an indictment that is of easy divorce, or of divorce for no real reason at all!
Our Lord recognized a whole generation as being wicked and adulterous (Matt. 16:4). He taught that those who repent should turn from the sin of adultery (John 8:3-11). He also taught that sexual sins originate from an evil heart (Matt. 15:19).
What the Bible States (I Thess. 4:1-2)
Sinful living despises the admonitions of the Scriptures. Jesus’ admonition to pluck out the offending eye and cut off the offending hand sounds rather drastic, but those who would be willing to take such drastic action for the sake of living for Jesus will probably not find it necessary to do so. When they are that determined to live right, they will find strength from the Lord to do so. His instructions there are equivalent to Paul’s admonition to “mortify” (put to death) the sinful urges of the flesh which lead to sinful acts (Rom. 8:13).
Paul advised Timothy that he should flee “youthful lusts” and follow after “righteousness, faith, charity, peace” (II Tim. 2:22). He could not do that and at the same time seek out places of worldly amusements, especially those which feature sinful allurements. Christians will find enough of Satan’s traps in the ordinary pursuits of life without trespassing on his territory. Joseph had to flee from his master’s wife while occupied in a legitimate business. David should have fled from his housetop when he became tempted there to take another man’s wife. In particular, the Word says to “flee fornication” (I Cor. 6:18).
— Thanks to Glenn Fox and Dr. Chuck Swindoll for the excerpts.