The phrase of the title of the blog today comes from 1 Thes. 4:3-8. This is a very complicated section in Greek because of some of the vocabulary used and also because it is one sentence! I do not want to try to dig into those complicated details here and rather would like to explore just one phrase that hit me. Verse 5 says, “not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”
The Thessalonians were young Christians who were excited about their faith, but the challenges of living out this faith in a morally bankrupt culture were looming. Barclay notes that “there never was an age in history when marriage vows were so disregarded and divorce so disastrously easy.”
These young converts needed to understand the calling of their new faith in regard to these issues. Paul tells the readers that because of who they were as a result of their faith in Christ, they were to walk in a manner that pleases God. One thing that they must understand in this journey of faith is that they should not follow their “passion of lust” like the Gentiles do. They must not act in a way that was common in their culture and pursue sexual fulfillment in any way unintended by God. They needed to be different and this is one way that was and is expected of a disciple.
Zodhiates helpfully explains the meaning and relationship of the words “passion” and “lust” when he says,
“Páthos (passion) is the soul’s diseased condition out of which the various lusts spring. Epithumía (lust) is the active lust or desire springing from the diseased soul.”
Paul is reminding the readers that the life of faith is a battle and a long journey. The excitement that they experienced at their conversion is, or would collide with the morals of their culture. They must remember that even though they were believers, they still have a diseased and corrupt nature. This corrupt nature would be active in its pursuits of selfish pleasure. One way this was seen is in the pursuit of sexual sin.
Paul’s frank reminder for the Thessalonians is something we must remember today as well. We are very blessed to live in this country and at this time. Technology has made sexual sin rampant in our culture and in the church. First, we would be wise to remember that we are vulnerable people because we have a diseased soul and our soul’s passion will naturally pursue selfish fulfillment. Second, we must be very careful to control our exposure to anything that will excite that diseased soul within, because my corrupt nature is stronger than my will to obey. Paul talks about this in Romans 7:14-25.
Third, this realization should also force us to turn to God for help. He has given us the Holy Spirit to be our helper and enabler and the one who can overcome our diseased soul and its passions. We must walk in moment-by-moment dependence upon his enabling.
Father, thank you for this frank reminder of my own weakness. The world system is organized to lead me astray. I cannot live a life of faithfulness on my own strength. I need your enabling to walk worthy of being one of your disciples. May you give me the grace to live out my faith in a holy manner in the midst of a corrupt culture.
Following Jesus with you,