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Apr 03, 2022

Bodily Holiness, Part 1

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: holiness, sex, sanctification, sexuality, reasons, physical bodies, proper function


This first of a two-part message deals with the reasons God gives us for bodily holiness from His divine perspective. It tries to define what bodily holiness and give us the WHYs or motivation for pursuing it.


Bodily Holiness

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

April 3, 2022


This morning’s passage and message is about something our world is obsessed with, our media is saturated with and our own minds are bombarded with

It’s something that has both blessed and plagued mankind from the beginning of time. 

It’s something that has more power for good or evil in our world than the vast majority of things. 

It has been grossly misrepresented, frequently abused, terribly misunderstood and selfishly manipulated through every generation. 

It has brought some of life’s greatest happiness and pleasure to billions and much of life’s greatest sorrow and shame to billions.

It’s also something my wonderful, godly parents virtually never talked to me about as a kid or young man.  But it is something God never seems to shy away from in virtually every book of the Bible in one way or another. 

Care to guess what it is? 

Okay, you said it first!  SEX.

While sexuality is the issue Paul zeros in on, the issue of today’s text is actually much bigger than that.  It’s about the proper use of our bodies…every part of them… including our sexuality.

            When it comes to sex, God is not squeamish like some of us are talking about it.  From the beginning of Genesis where we’re introduced to male and female, husband and wife, procreation and the differences between the sexes to the last chapter of Revelation where the abuse of sex and those who unrepentantly engage in sexual sin is condemned by God, God has been extremely clear about the best and worst manifestations and uses of human sexuality.  Today’s text is one of the best examples in the N.T. of God giving us direction that can both protect us and enrich us about this extremely powerful area of our humanity—sexuality.  So, let’s see what God has to say about this issue that drives and often dominates so much of our lives.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

            Wow!  Here’s hoping I can begin to do this passage justice. 


Think of this paragraph as a bookshelf of truth about sexuality from God’s perspective.  Like most bookshelves, it has some bookends that keep everything in proper place.  In this case, the bookends are the WHYs for handling our sexuality as God is going to tell us we should. 

WHY” is one of the earliest questions little children love to ask to toy with their parents, right?  Very early on there is a God-given yearning to know WHY things work they way they do, why there are rules and requirements from parents and teachers, why a certain opinion is preferred over another. 

Just WHY is WHY so important?   Answer:  It can lead us to the reasons for one behavior over another, one route over another, one option over another that become powerful motivation to choose the best.

So, God provides us, at least here, with several WHYS of His commands about human sexuality.  He begins in vss. 1-2 with 3 positive reasons and ends in vss. 6 & 8 with 2 negative reasons why.  Let’s see these 5 reasons first and then jump into the HOW we are to do what God commands when it comes to our bodies and our sexuality next week.

Before we see what God gives as the major reason to cultivate ‘bodily holiness’, I want you to do a little brainstorming about it.  But first, let’s define WHAT ‘bodily holiness’ is.  Then let’s think of some of the reasons WHY that should be desirable to us. 

DEFINITION of ‘Bodily Holiness’: I doubt this is a term any of us have used in conversation in the past month, right? 

“Holiness”The Greek word translated "sanctification" (hagiasmos) in vs. 3 is the same Greek word we will encounter in vss. 4 & 7 that is translated "holiness."

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

Vs. 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,

Vs. 7--For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.


To sanctify, therefore, means "to make holy."   God calls Christ-followers to be holy — as holy as He is holy (Lev 11:44 ; Matt 5:48 ; 1 Peter 1:15-16 ). Another word for a holy person is "saint" (hagios), meaning a sanctified one.

But that still seems a bit nebulous.  Another way to look at sanctification is as a term applied to the proper use of something.  The generic meaning of sanctification is "the state of proper functioning." To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer.

  • A pen is "sanctified" when used to write…instead of to clean out the dirty corners of your kitchen drawer.
  • Eyeglasses are "sanctified" when I protect them from being scratched and use them to improve my ability to read.

ILL:  We’ve all failed to ‘sanctify’ certain items we have around the house by trying to use them for something they weren’t intended to be used for.

  • How many of us have a pair of scissors with a broken tip? Hmmm?  How did they get that way?  Did you buy them that way?
  • Bent/broken screwdriver? What, pray tell, might you have used them for other than trying to screw in a loose screw? 

The opposite of sanctified would be "profane" (Lev 10:10 ).  God doesn’t want us to be ‘profane’ or ‘profaned.’ He wants us ‘holy’ or ‘guarded for our intended purpose’ because, as our Creator, he knows what is the best use of our lives…and that includes our bodies.  [Found at https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sanctification/]

“Bodily”Here we are simply referring to the physical part of our nature that interacts with the world around us and is the means for us experiencing life in this world.  When we talk about our bodies, we need to avoid some ancient heresies that tried to separate the physical from the spiritual.  While they are different in significant ways, they are interconnected in many ways. 

            Depending on whether you think human nature is bi-part (dichotomous—material and non-material) or tri-part (trichotomous—making  distinction between body, soul and spirit), we all still recognize that one part (physical) impacts the other (soulish/spiritual) and visa versa. 

If my soul is troubled, anxious, grieving or downcast, my body will be impacted too.  It will change my immune system—I’ll get sick more often.  It may produce physical results with things like ulcers or heart problems.  It may bring changes in my brain chemistry

Conversely, if my physical body is suffering from some illness or disease, depending on the severity, my thoughts will be affected, my emotions will fluctuate, even my spiritual experience and walk with God will probably be affected.

SUMMARY:  So we could say that ‘bodily holiness’ is the proper God-designed use of our bodies in this life. 

            Now to the NEXT QUESTION: WHY is that important?  Why should we want to use our bodies for the things God designed them to be used for?  [BRAINSTORM with your neighbor all the reasons you can think of for WHY we should desire the proper God-designed use of our bodies.  Feel free to think specifically about the proper sexual use of our bodies.  Then we’ll compare our answers with God’s in this passage.  You’ve got 60 seconds!]

  • Avoid physical diseases and having children out of wedlock.
  • Save ourselves from unnecessary emotional/psychological pain and suffering.
  • Avoid confusion about sexuality.
  • Enjoy the best of life as God intended it—good relationships, family, mental health, physical health, sex.
  • Have better marriages.
  • Live longer.
  • Avoid sin, guilt & shame.
  • ???

Now let’s see how these answers compare with the reasons God gives us in 1 Thess. 4 for WHY we should pursue ‘bodily holiness’.


The WHYS of Bodily Holiness:

  • Produces A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE or “WALK” in life.  God likes to focus on the positive, not just what we avoid by practicing bodily holiness.  So, He begins by talking about our ‘life walk.’ 

Vs 1—Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk….

Walking is one of the greatest gifts most of us have in life.  It’s something we enjoy every day, hundreds of times a day.  It’s also something we do at about the same pace most of our day.  Paul uses it here as a metaphor for how life is lived.  Life just goes better when we’re not struggling with how to walk or in pain when we walk.

Some of you know what it is to either have your capacity to walk limited or to be in great pain in walking. 

ILL:  Over the years, I’ve been honored to journey with various friends through their struggles walking

  • One was a young, athletic man in our college ministry in Portland years ago who suffered a bike accident, was in a coma for weeks and had to learn all over how to speak, eat and walk. He walks with a cane to this day. 
  • The other was a language helper God led me to when we were learning Spanish in Costa Rica. He was wheelchair bound due to an auto accident.  Eventually, through the help of friends here at Sacred Heart, we got him to Spokane for further intensive therapy.  But he was never able to stop using his wheelchair.  Just walking is a great blessing every moment of every day.

The first reason God gives us commands about the appropriate use of our bodies is that He wants us to enjoy our walk through life in every conceivable wayphysically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, relationally and every other way that matters.  Part of being able to do that is to avoid use of our bodies in ways that God knows will lead (eventually) to unnecessary pain.  (How many discovered later in life that the high school or college sports you did as a young person…or the physically taxing job you may have pounded out earlier.. have resulted in physical challenges as you age?) 

God wants our lives to be, on the one hand, as filled with blessing as possible and on the other as pain-free as possible.  That is precisely WHY God has given us specific direction about the use of our bodies.  He wants our bodies to be as healthy as possible.  He wants our minds, our souls, our emotions to be as positive and pain-free as possible.  And He knows that the wrong use of our bodies and specifically our sexuality will inevitably inflict pain on us just as surely as jumping off a 2 story building will bring pain when we land. 

  • Physically: bodily holiness sexually avoids STIs; unintended pregnancies
  • Psychologically: protects our minds and heart. As we will see next week, God designed us hormonally and chemically for single-partner sex, not multiple-partner sexual interactions. 
  • Financially: cost of sustaining multiple families/children.

So, in answer to WHY should we pursue bodily holiness, what’s the 1st reason? [Enjoying a healthy life/walk.]


The second reason ‘bodily holiness’ matters is that it makes possible…


Vs. 1 continues, “…as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God….”

If you are someone who is a follower of Jesus Christ, pleasing God is one of the things you want most in your life.  The more you bond with God as He truly is, the more you will want to please Him, right?  This is the way life was designed to work with the people who mean the most to us.  We want to make people we care about happy, pleasant, pleased.


  • Lovers: it’s spring!  People are ‘falling in love.’  What kinds of things do you want to do when you feel a growing interest or romance towards someone?  (Spend time together, do activities together, make them laugh or smile, treat them to a meal, an outing, a movie, etc.)
  • Friends: How many of us love people who love to do things that irritate us?  Real friends want to see us happy and enjoying
  • Children who have a healthy bonding with their parents and are mature enough to recognize the value of happy parents usually want to be pleasing, not irritating, to their parents. WHY?   “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, right?  Life is just a lot more enjoyable around people who are enjoying us. 

So is our walk with God. 

ILL:  My dad when he would come home from a day’s work.  If I was practicing my cello in the living room, he’d usually go in, kiss my Mom in the kitchen and eventually find his way out to the easy chair in the living room.  He’d just sit there, either watching me play or close his eyes and listen to the music.  Often when I’d finish, he just remark, “That’s beautiful.”  And I’d know he was ‘delighting in me.’ 

How did that make me feel?  What did that do to our relationship?  Yah, pretty great!

In Deut. 30, God talks about how He will “delight” over His chosen people, Israel, whenever they return to Him…even after he has disciplined them for their spiritual waywardness and adultery.  Listen to what God did for a whole nation (Israel) when He delighted over them and picture Him doing this over US whenever we turn from our sin and seek Him.

And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the Lord your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 

The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. 

For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Listen to how Jeremiah told us what causes God to delight over us: Jeremiah 9: 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 

24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  Obviously, when we delight in what God delights in, everyone is happy, right?

Confession:  Apart from my relationship with Sandy, my greatest human delight in life has been having children and now experiencing grandchildren.  “Delight” is truly an appropriate word.  I ‘delighted’ over my children (most of the time) and almost all the time I get with my grandkids now is a ‘delight’ (because I can leave them with their parents when they aren’t!) 

Kids, learning to do the things that delight your parents only brings you blessing.  But fighting against them no matter how right it may seem to you is not to your benefit.  Try to do what pleases them…and you will find far more pleasure in life than doing what pains or hurts them. 

Brothers and sisters, the same is true with God.  When God is pleased with us, life tends to be pleasing.  When He’s not happy with how we’re using this tremendous gift of our bodies, we won’t be happy either.  Let us use our bodies in a way that “pleases God.”  That’s a WIN-WIN.

REVIEW:  God wants us to experience bodily holiness because 1.) it leads to a more enjoyable life on earth, and 2.) it leads to a wonderful, delight-filled relationship with God both now and forever. 


But it doesn’t stop there.  The 3rd reason to pursue ‘bodily holiness’ is that…

  • Bodily holiness leads to an INCREASING FULLNESS/ ABUNDANCE of LIFE. 1-2: “… just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”  This is really a continuation of the first reason but in greater measure.  Our God is a god who is abundant and overflowing in every way good and possible.  We’ll never exhaust his goodness.  That’s why He wants us to keep growing in that goodness, increasing in our capacity to experience life to the full as He designed it. 

So, there are the 3 positive reasons for why God calls us into bodily holiness:

  • A more enjoyable life/walk in life.
  • A wonderful, approving, affirming relationship with God.
  • An ever-increasing fullness of life.

Now to the other end of the bookshelf…the other ‘bookend’ of reasons WHY to practice bodily holiness.  These will be stated negatively because they are things to avoid.

4.) Bodily holiness AVOIDS GOD’S VENGANCE. 

Vs. 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

This word “avenger” is only found 2 times in the N.T.—here and in Romans 13.  In Romans 13:4 it speaks of government bearing the sword as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (13:4).  The Greek term is ek-di-kos.  It means “to exact a penalty from” or “punish.” 

      Is that the end of the divine stick you want to be on?  NO!  I want the end that is full of blessing and joy and delight and pleasure.  But for whatever reason, when we misuse our bodies sexually, God takes on… with His own children…the role of avenger/punisher.  Like any good parent, I’m sure that God doesn’t like or enjoy punishing His children.  But like Andrew said last week, He loves us too much to let us keep sinning against Him, against other people and against ourselves to just let it slide.  He knows that loving discipline eventually produces much happier children.  So rather than “spare the rod and spoil the child,” God disciplines and punishes us when we “transgress and wrong [our] brother/[sister] in this [sexual] matter….”  (Vs. 6)

Please don’t misunderstand:  God always forgives the repentant sinner.  BUT He does not always remove the natural, moral or relational consequences for our sin. 

I would point you to the life of KING DAVID for an example of this.  David sinned sexually, first by engaging in voyeurism of his neighbor’s wife, Bathsheba, as she was bathing next door…which led him into adultery with her.  That led to an “unplanned pregnancy”… which led to an “unplanned murder”—in this case not the abortion of the child but the murder of Bathsheba’s husband and his faithful, courageous and honorable soldier, Uriah.  Very quickly David began to experience all kids of disaster from his life decisions.  (BTW, I think he had already strayed from God in this season of his life as he wasn’t doing what the king was supposed to be doing, i.e. leading his army into battle.  So something else was “off the rails” before he picked up the binoculars and peered over his neighbors fence.)

If you chart David’s life from this point on, it is never the same.  Yes, he repents (after Nathan the prophet confronts him).  Yes, God forgive him.  But God also “avenges” him for both murder and adultery.  He takes his baby boy by Bathsheba in death.  He allows rape and incest to happen in the palace between David’s own children (Amnon & Tamar).  (BTW, why David didn’t deal with that sexual sin as the father, we can only guess.  But I’m guessing it was because of how his own sexual sin had undermined his role as father to both lead and protect his daughters…and sons.) That is followed by one of his children (Absalom) murdering his rapist half-brother (Amnon).  David’s relationship with Absalom deteriorates terribly.  Eventually, Absalom initiates a coup for the throne from his father, David.  David has to flee Jerusalem.  In a reverse play of sexual immorality and conquest, Absalom takes David’s household concubines and defiles them publicly. David is exiles and shamed before all and his treacherous son, Absalom, is eventually run-through 3 times (3 spears) by David’s own General Joab…against David’s orders. 

Had David been shown the disaster that one-night stand with Bathsheba would result in, I’m guessing he would have gladly risked his life in battle where he should have been rather than hung around in Jerusalem using his body for sin he shouldn’t have. 

I have yet to talk with any child of God for whom sexual sin is something they don’t regret.  Why do we think we will be the exception???

NOTE:  God’s vengeance doesn’t mean the end of the road.  It just means a more difficult road.  But it can still be a road where a.) we find more of Christ, and b.) we grow more in Christ. 

            David returned to be “a man after God’s own heart” because he repented (Ps. 51) and kept pressing into God.  There is always mercy and grace for those who cling to God.


5.) Lack of ‘bodily holiness’ GRIEVES THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

How many reasons can you think of for why the Holy Spirit has been given to us?  (Comfort, build up, walk with us, encourage, counsel, direct, convict, give the fruit of the Spirit, protect, be grieved when we get off track, etc.)  When we are in right relationship with God through obedience, all those things are what the Holy Spirit loves to bring to us.  But when we’re doing things with our bodies that grieve God, we lose that blessed closeness and ongoing friendship, don’t we?

ILL:  Ever been incited to do something with friends that really violated your conscience?  How did it feel?  Horrible, right?  It didn’t exactly produce a great long-term friendship with those people, did it?  ILL: throwing chestnuts at passing cars one fall day…when our neighbor’s blue, convertible Jaguar sports car came up the street!  Thankfully I was a really bad aim!  Not so with one of my friends, however.  At least he came out of hiding and was man enough to go apologize and make restitution.

If you have the Spirit of God, you know what it is like to come under conviction for doing the wrong thing.  When the Holy Spirit is grieved, our souls feel it.  And we keep feeling it until we repent and make it right, right?  That’s because the Holy Spirit will never leave us no matter what we do as God’s children.  But He will be grieved and that will impact our friendship until we reconcile.  The tragedy is that too many of us get used to distance with the Holy Spirit.  The longer it goes on, the more accustomed we become to it.

But it goes farther than that.  Here’s a disturbing thought:  When we are involved in any sexual immorality or compromise, we are subjecting the Holy Spirit to that activity.  It’s not something He chose, but it is something He must witness at close range.  It is something He is grieved by in the moment.  It is something that changes His relationship with us immediately.  He doesn’t leave us when we sin, sexually or otherwise; but He does turn His face away from us and withdraw His fellowship and blessing until we repent and make it right. 

“When the Holy Spirit ain’t happy, ain’t no Christian happy!” 

Five good reasons why we should pursue bodily holiness—3 positive and two negative. 

  1. It produces a healthy lifestyle and ‘walk’ through life.
  2. It makes possible a good, pleasant and pleasing lifestyle with God himself.
  3. It leads to an increasing abundance of life.
  4. It avoids God’s wrath against sin.
  5. Lack of it grieves the Holy Spirit…and thus our spirit.



  1. What to do if we haven’t been practicing ‘bodily holiness’:
    1. Surrender to Christ first…and afresh.
    2. Confession/agree with God
    3. Repentance—change of direction
    4. Cling to God anew and accept the consequences as an opportunity for Him to mature you and connect with you more deeply
    5. Ask God and close Chr. brothers/sisters what you might do to develop fresh and new ‘bodily holiness.’
  2. If you have been practicing it, be thankful for the blessings it has brought.
  3. Where is our greatest temptation to compromise our bodily holiness today?


Next week:  We’ll talk about HOW to cultivate bodily holiness specifically in our sexuality. 


[Go over “Follow-Up Questions”]






















Follow-Up Questions for April 3rd’s Sermon “Bodily Holiness”

  1. What part of you seems to be leading how you are doing in life right now? Your body?  Your mind/psyche?  Your soul/spirit? Would you like that to change in any way?  If so, how?  In what ways could you facilitate that change?
  2. Looking back on your life, in what ways have you guarded and maintained the proper use of your body? In what ways have you misused or abused the God-given use of your body?
  3. Of the various reasons given in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 & 6-8 for WHY we should desire ‘bodily holiness,’ which ones have been most important/motivational to you? Which ones do you want to grow in?  How might you do that? 
  4. According to Genesis 1-3, what were some of the proper uses for which God created humans with bodies? What were some of the earliest wrong, sinful uses of the body?
  5. We’re approaching Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection which is the promise of our coming resurrection. Why do you think our bodies matter so much to God that he has promised us a resurrection (1 15)? What does the resurrection have to do with ‘bodily holiness’?