World English Bible translation
4:1Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, -- that you abound more and more. 4:2 For you know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 4:3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4:4 that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 4:5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don't know God; 4:6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 4:7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 4:8 Therefore he who rejects, doesn't reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.
The apostles wish to exhort the Thessalonians and remind them of something that was evidently important enough that they have already discussed when they were faced to face. The apostles want to remind the Thessalonians about their teaching on sexual immorality. Perhaps Timothy had brought news of problems that had already arisen. The last sentence in this passage tends to argue for just such an interpretation. Why should the apostles place an admonition that if someone rejects this particular teaching they are rejecting God and not man? Perhaps because Timothy had said that he had already tried to straighten out a problem concerning sexual immorality and had not been completely successful.
But, perhaps we do not even have to suppose that much to understand the priority of this particular message of the apostles. The social norms of the Greek community were very different from the Judeo-Christian beliefs in the area of sexual expression. What the God of the Jews called adultery and fornication were religious and socially acceptable practices in Greek culture. Some of the ancient Greek temples were nothing more than brothels. And beyond the connection between religion and sex in Greek culture, the social requirements of men and women were very different too.
Even some Greek philosophers of Paul's day spoke of the low morals of the time. Divorce was common. Most of the vices known to the modern world were not only tolerated they were encouraged. There were Greeks whose personal ethics were not very different from what Paul and Silas would have taught them. But, these people would have definitely been of the more conservative element of society.
Let's not just pass this off as a small problem in the early church. The differing attitudes about what is sexually acceptable were very divisive in the beginning. Between the Jewish believers and the newer Greek converts, there were two issues about which the Jews felt strongly about. From the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 15), the Jews wrote two admonitions to Gentile believers. They required them to abstain from food sacrificed to idols as well as food with blood in it … and … to abstain from sexual immorality. A man should be faithful to his wife and she to him. The unmarried should be chaste.
Each one should possess his body with honor, not defiling it with lust. And beyond even this there is a special admonition that no one should take advantage of a brother or sisters in Christ in this manner. This matter in particular leads me to believe Paul and Silas may have been talking about something very specific that Timothy had told them about. And Paul's final word is that Christ will judge and avenge sins done to His body. An offense against a brother or sister in Christ is an offense against Christ, himself.
"For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification." God did not call me so that I should live in sin. He called me so that He might make me holy. The ongoing sanctification (setting aside for holiness) of my life is His business. For this, God has "also given His Holy Spirit to you." The work of the Spirit of God is to draw me ever closer to the reality of our position in the body of Christ. When we are baptized into the body of Christ, we were made holy and blameless through His sacrifice. By faith, the Spirit of God works that inward reality outward in our lives.
Allow the Spirit of God to work in your life today so that the life of Christ can be seen in you. The Lord was willing to die that He might live again through you and I. Are we willing to let Him?