August 10, 2014
Ken’s mother was preparing a salad for the family as Ken walked in. He was going to ask his Mom a question which he already knew the answer to, but he decided to ask it anyway and that was to go see a rated R movie that contained sexual scenes. Now the rule in the family house was that he would never see a movie over the rating of PG, but he decided to press his luck anyway. So he asked his Mom if he could go. His Mom didn’t say a word. She continued to prepare the salad. She walked over to the pantry. She opened the pantry door and she began to take pieces of garbage from the trash can and throw them into the salad without saying a word. Ken began to protest. He said, “Mom, what are you doing? We are about to eat that salad and you are taking trash and putting it into the salad.” She said, “Oh, Ken, I thought you wouldn’t mind having a little trash mixed with your food. It is only a small amount.” And without saying a word, she spoke volumes to Ken. He didn’t go see the R rated movie after that. He understood her point.
You know, many of us would never do that with our own food. We would never take trash and mix it with our food, but unfortunately we do that with our spiritual lives, right? Many of us have forgotten that God has called us as individuals to live a holy and pleasing life to Him. And sadly, we live in a world where so many so-called born-again believers try to walk the tightrope to see just how close they can get to sin without sinning.
My challenge to you would be, lets see how close we can get to God and be holy. My goal today for this message is simply this, to show you that the greatest example, whether you are married or single, of your sanctification is your walk with the Lord in sexual purity. What Paul is about to do to the Thessalonians church is pinpoint one issue in their life that they are failing in and it is the issue of sexual immorality. And it always comes down to the same two questions: Am I going to follow God’s Word or am I going to be influenced by man’s opinion or even worse, my opinion.
If you have your Bibles and I hope you do, turn with me to I Thessalonians. I Thessalonians Chapter 4 and we will consider Verses 1-8. When you get to Chapter 4, say “word.” The Word of the Lord.
“Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God -- as you are doing -- do so even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all these offenses, as we have also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification. Therefore, the person who rejects this does to reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit.”
Father, we need Your help this morning, so we pray that You would soften our hearts, bend our wills, turn our affections toward Your Word and to You. We love You and we ask it in Jesus’ name. And everyone said, “Amen.”
So we begin this book, particularly in the area of Thessalonica, we are confronted with a cultural system that is very similar to ours here in America. And I believe that is why Paul begins by saying the commands of Scripture are protective for you. The commands of Scripture are protective for you. You can write it down.
We talked last week about how the Christian life is a walk. And every one of us in here are walking in a particular direction. And what Paul does here is, he puts perimeters as to where we are heading. Now the way you view the Scripture, particularly the precepts or commands of God, will determine your view of God. You have to understand, the hearers back then would have looked at the commands of God, not as restrictions of their happiness but expressions of God’s love. These were expressions of God’s love for them. God loved them. He wanted to protect them. If He saw them heading in a particular direction that would hurt them or harm them, He was trying to make a course correction in their lives.
And Paul decides to tell them, I want you to think through this here. I am about to put my finger on the pulse of the issue in the church and I want to show you that the overarching theme for your Christian life should be to excel in pleasing God. And I believe if I would poll you today, every born-again believer in this place would say the same thing to me. You would say, Robby, my desire is to please God. Wouldn’t you say that? I believe we all would. True born-again believers. I want to please God.
But then you may follow that up with this, how do I please God? And the answer is, through obedience. Obedience to the commands of God. When Paul uses that word, “commands of God,” in Verse 2, he basically has in mind this military term of a command from a Commander in Chief to his audience or his troops. Now you have to understand, the commands were not options, they were obligations. When the Commander spoke something to you, you had to obey, which is why Paul said in II Timothy Chapter 2 Verse 4, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits because his aim is the please the one who (what?) who enlisted him.”
You see, when you came to the Lord Jesus Christ, the option to follow Him or to do what He said was thrown out the window. So Robby, what are we supposed to do as born-again believers? We are supposed to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. And of all the areas Paul pinpoints in obedience, he says this, “This is God’s will for your life.”
Now this is the second time in the book of Thessalonians, he says, this is God’s will for your life. Young people, if you want to know God’s will for your life, here it is. “Abstain,” here it is, “from (what?) sexual immorality.” Do you see it in the text? Adrian Rogers says, think about this, “God is not trying to keep you from something, God is trying to save you from something.” It is a different perspective to look at the Scriptures.
Now let me bring you back into this paganistic culture in which these Thessalonians lived. They were influenced by Hellenism. We talked about this last week. If you missed last week’s sermon, you need to go back and understand the world view in which these believers lived in. This paganistic culture consisted of cults. The cult of Aphrodite or the cult of Dionysius or the cult of Isis. It was foreign to them to be confronted with an idea of abstaining from someone who was not your husband or your boyfriend or your girlfriend. The pagan cults actually promoted raunchy sexual acts. It was promoted for young people to participate in all kinds of lewd sexual acts.
William Barkley, the commentator, writes about the culture of that time. He said, “In Rome, for the first 500 years of the republic, there was not a single divorce. But now, under the Empire, as it has been put, divorce was a matter of caprice. Assenica said women were married to be divorced and they were divorced to be married again. In Rome, the years were identified not by the names of the counsels but it was said that the ladies identified the years by the names of their husbands. There was one case I found that one lady divorced and remarried eight times in five years.
This was common place. You have to understand the system there. This pagan system of immorality promoted sleeping with all kinds of different people. So when Paul comes to the Thessalonians and says, you need to abstain from sexual immorality, the only relationship that God has allowed for sex to take place is a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. This was counter-cultural to them, just like it is counter-cultural to us today. You see, a lot of people say, man, times are just so bad today. They have never been this bad. No, they are not. They have always been bad! They have always been bad! The only reason they are worse today is because we have media to propagate and to promote them to the world. We just know about them more than we did back then. But they have always been bad.
And when Paul says you need to abstain, what he is saying is, abstain from immorality. Now that word “immorality” is the Greek word “pornea.” It is where we get the English word (what?) pornography. Pornography, as I will talk about next week without taking some of that message, I will just tell you simply, the word can mean any sexual act that is outside of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman. That could be bestiality. It could be homosexuality. It could be rape, masturbation, fornication, adultery and pre-marital sex and anything that I missed that is not in the one marriage covenant between a man and a woman.
So what Paul says is, you have to understand, when God says abstain from sexual immorality, this is a command of protection, not prevention of your happiness. But then, this is where I want to camp out, he goes on secondly and I think this is the thrust of the passage, to show that the way that you live or your conduct of salvation is a picture to a lost world. Your conduct, my conduct of salvation is a picture to a lost world.
Look at Verse 4, “Abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires like the Gentiles who don’t know God.” Now that is the key. You can circle that section. This means one must not transgress against and against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all these offenses.”
The goal of abstinence from sexual immorality is sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we are separated from the world and we are joined to Christ in order to be like Christ. This was God’s plan for our life.
Now, sanctification includes more than immorality and sexuality, but Paul says this is a proving point for your spirituality. So your abstinence from sexually immoral acts proves your sanctification in your life. Now, in order to understand this, we have to go back to the Roman times once again and I have to explain to you’re the marriage system.
Rome had no formal marriage laws. Marriage looked nothing like it does today. A lot of people didn’t get married in formal ceremonies like we do today. In fact, there were three different kinds of connections outside the minimal marriage ceremony that took place with the noble and the elite.
The first thing you have to understand is most of the Roman Empire was slaves. Many of the audience members who would have heard this letter to the Thessalonians were slaves who had been converted to Christ and they were still enslaved. Slaves had no right. In fact, they would arrange relationships for their slaves. They would bring one slave into the house and immediately that slave could be sent out to another place and the relationship would be severed.
John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Church, explains the situation this way. “Marriage in the strict and legal sense did not exist for slaves. In fact, that type of relationship could be called contobarianim or literally in English tent companionship.” Just a side note. They lived under tents. This is probably where we get the English idea of shacking up. I don’t know, but thought I would go there. This was entered by the slaves without a ceremony and could be ended at any moment if the master chose to end it. And at any point, he could sell one of the slaves and that would virtually end it anyway. It is like today’s live-in sex partners.
Since many of the believers who would have heard this message were slaves, they were probably in such unions or they had been in such unions in the past. Rome also had a custom that was common for the people that if a woman lived with a man for one year or longer, she was considered by the Roman Empire to be his wife. Now we have the same idea in America. We call it “common law marriage.” It is a little longer, but you have to understand, we are repackaging old idea from the past.
Now the third relationship that they had was the relationship called coemtio en manna, or marriage for sale. If a farmer or a business owner got low on funds and the debts began to increase, he was low on cash, and so he could sell some of his property, particularly his daughters. And if you were to come to him at that moment and offer him the right price, he could sell his daughter if the price was right, in essence, and this would form these relationships. Only a small group of the population could afford a formal ceremony. Only a small group of the people engaged in a marriage ceremony like we think of today. Now they did have this for the noble and the elite, where you would gather together in a service. You would hold hands. You would exchange vows. You would put rings on fingers. You would have flowers throughout the place. You would pray prayers to Juno and Jupiter and then you would even cut the cake. That is a Roman idea that the Catholic Church has taken on and we do it even today.
This ceremony was reserved for a select few people. The rest of the people engaged in sexually immoral acts at will. Since morality was low, divorce was high and people back then, you have to understand, exchanged wives and husbands or boyfriends and girlfriends like we change clothes at times. When Paul says, I want you to abstain from sexual immorality, this would have flown in the face of everything they had been taught as a culture. And he basically gave them a choice. Are you going to listen to the culture of your day or are you going to bend secular society or are you going to follow God’s Word? It is the same question we have to answer ourselves, right? Are we going to do it God’s way or are we going to do it the way of the world?
I know what you are saying, Robby, what in the world does this have to co with cohabitation? Well, I am glad you asked. Cohabitation, living together before marriage, is an attack on the marriage covenant. And to attack the marriage covenant is to attack the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. You have to understand, every one of these topics that I am going to talk about is an attack on the marriage and the family. And if the enemy can take out the marriage covenant and the family, he wins. Why? Because it is an attack on the gospel.
You see, the gospel, or the marriage is a picture of the gospel. The husband is a picture of Christ. The wife is a picture of the church. And when they come together, it is a picture of the gospel for the world. When you divorce, it is saying that the church does not love Christ or that Christ abandons His church. As we know, that never happens. And I think the problem that young people have bought into today is to think that marriage is to make them happy, which in God’s mind, marriage was always to make you holy. Now that is the difference.
You see, your marriage is not to make you happy. Happiness is a byproduct of marriage and I am happy I am married. But your marriage is to make you holy. And it is a picture to a lost world. And when people live together before marriage, what you are saying is that your way is better than God’s way to a lost world who is watching you.
Now cohabitation is the order of the day. In fact, it is a picture to a lost world that your way is better. And cohabitation doesn’t just happen for young people. We always think, well, this is just a problem for young people. It is an equal problem for senior adults today who are living in an assisted living areas who decide that we are not going to forfeit our benefits from Social Security. Why do we have to get married? We can just live together. And if you don’t believe me, just go frequent some of these places. So it is a problem equally for older adults as it is for younger adults.
You have to understand, believers get married; unbelievers shack up. Okay? I mean, that is simply what we are saying here. Now, before I make a Biblical case against cohabitation, let me give you some secular research. Keep in mind all of these statistics are from secular researchers.
The Census Bureau reported that since 1970, cohabitation has increased 700%. 700%! They say that a woman from the age of 25-39 right now, 25% of those women are currently living with their boyfriend. And for those who are not living with their boyfriend now, an additional 25% said that they have lived with a boyfriend in the past.
I had to go back and research this one to make sure, but here is a staggering statistic: 50% of all marriages today started with the couple living together before marriage. 50%! Fifty years ago, that was non-existent. You may think cohabitation prepares you for marriage. I heard one guy say as I was talking to him about this, he said, “Robby, when I buy a car, I like to test drive the car first. I use that philosophy with women.” That is what he told me. That is the idea here. I want to try it before I buy it, right? But see, that problem is bad on so many levels. Nancy Wardick in her article, “The Cohabitation Trap,” when just living together sabotages love for one another, said, “Couples who move into together before marriage have up to two times the odds of divorce as compared to couples who marry before living together. Moreover, married couples who live together before exchanging vows tend to have poorer quality marriages than couples who moved in after the marriage. Those who cohabitated together first reported less satisfaction, more arguing, poorer communication and low levels of commitment. Researchers at UCLA came to the same conclusion. Cohabiters experienced significantly more difficulty in subsequent marriages with issues of adultery, alcohol, drugs, independence than others who did not cohabitate. The University of Wisconsin Madison concluded that cohabiters were more likely to divorce than couples who had not lived together before marriage and longer cohabitation, get this, was associated with a higher likelihood of divorce. They found out that people who cohabitated for two years were more likely …two times more likely to have a divorce than those who only cohabitated for six months.
So here is the deal, the longer you live together before you get married, the double the chance you have of being divorced after you get married. Marriages preceded by living together were 50-100% more likely to break up than those not preceded by cohabitation. According to the Journal of Marriage and Family, it doesn’t just affect the couple, it affects the kids. Emotionally and intellectually, academically, the children of cohabiters just don’t do well on average in school as those with married parents.
Terry Mattingly sums it up in the Denver News in an article he wrote that was very controversial, but he said this: Data provides a painful bottom-line. Couples that cohabit before marriage increase their odds of divorce by 50%. Researchers found that only 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples were married after a decade. Let me say that again, 15 out of a hundred after a decade of living together were married. They were more than 60% more likely to assaulted and their children are endangered as well.
Here is the bottom line. If you want to expedientially increase your chances of divorce, live with your boyfriend or girlfriend before you get married. If you want to drastically solidify your chances of being miserable, less fulfilled, more susceptible to abuse and likely to experience alcohol and drug abuse, not to mention raising your children in a less desirable environment, then live together before being married.
But I know what you are thinking. Did Jesus speak on cohabitation? Because, Robby, if Jesus spoke on it, then I will listen. And a lot of people will say, no, He didn’t, but actually, He did. Jesus took His disciples through forbidden territory, Samaria, John Chapter 4, and He meets a woman by the well. This woman comes out, He sends His disciple into town and He asks the woman a simple question. He says, “Go call your husband and come back and meet me.” She said, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You are right, for you have five husbands and the man you are currently living with now is not your husband.”
Do you know what Jesus is saying to the audience without having to say a word? They would have understood clearly exactly what Jesus was saying, that He is condemning this woman living together with a man outside of the marriage covenant. You see, what Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.
Now the thrust of Paul’s argument, to get back to the Thessalonian church, the thrust of his argument is not based on research, it is based on a charge from the Bible. What Paul says is, don’t cohabitate or engage in any kind of sexual immorality, he would say, because it gives the appearance of evil. He says, you have been born again. Don’t live like the Gentiles live who don’t know God. Do you know what he would say? Remove any appearance of evil in your life.
But, Robby, I don’t care about what lost people think of me! I have heard that before. I don’t care. I am living my life for God. I don’t care what people think about me. Listen to me closely. When you came to Christ, when I came to Christ, we lost the right not to care what people think about us. You have lost the right. Why? Because you have been bought with a price. Your body is not your own. Glorify God with your body. Listen, your relationship with God is always private…your relationship with God may be private, but it is always public. Always. And every single person that is listening today, whether you are here or you are joining us via the internet or around the country, listen to me. Everything you do either turns someone to Christ or leads them away from Christ. Everything you and I do. And I know that don’t mean a lot now and that is not a big deal for you now, but it will be one day when you cross from this life to the next life and you stand face to face before the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have to give an account for everything you did on this earth. Don’t miss this. Come in real close. It will matter then! It will matter then!
Why do you not cohabitate together? Because it gives the appearance of evil. It is a shot against the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an attack against the family and the system that God has said will be prosperous and fulfilling and satisfying. And so, friends, based upon how you look at the commands of Christ will determine how you respond to God. If you see God’s commands as restrictions of your happiness, then you are going to say, I don’t want to do that. But if you see God’s commands as expressions of His love, you are going to say, God is looking out for me. God loves me and wants the best for me.
Now there is a consequence when we don’t obey God. And that is what Paul finishes with. He says you can do it your way or you can do it God’s way. But if you do it your way, there is a consequence.
Notice the final aspect of this text. Write it down. God’s consequences of sin are painful. God’s consequences of sin are painful. “This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we have previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification. Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit.”
The offense in question is the defrauding of another individual. That word “defraud” there is the word used in a business relationship of a man coming to a table with the intention of taking advantage of another person. In this context, it is a little different because it is the idea of someone coming to a relationship, a sexual relationship with the sole purpose of leading them to think that he or she loves them in order to fulfill a sexual desire that they have. And what God says is, you don’t need to go after the person that has this on their mind because I will. Paul says, don’t avenge the Lord. God is the first superhero, He is the avenger, right?
This word is used two times in the New Testament and every time, it is the idea of making wrong right. It is the idea of noticing who is taking advantage of another person, bringing judgment and condemnation for their actions. Didn’t Abraham question God, don’t you see the immorality in this world? And God says, Abraham, be quiet. Will not the God of all the earth do right? There is coming a day of reckoning. You don’t need to worry about that because I will.
So when he gives this challenge, it comes with a consequence for those who won’t heed to the warning. Paul would say to you, if you are a believer in a sinful situation, get out now. Don’t expect God to bless a sinful relationship. I don’t care if he tells you he loves you. I don’t care if she tells you that she loves you. If he is continually engaging in sexual immorality prior to marriage, he doesn’t love you and she doesn’t love you the way God expects him or her to love you. Because what he says is, the goal for your life is sanctification, not impurity. And the problem in the Christian life is that we want to see how close we can get to sin without sinning, when we should be fervently, passionately trying to see how close we can get to God to be holy not how close we can get to sin.
Now you have an option. You can heed the words which I am saying, which are not really my words, they are God’s word, or you can reject them. And some people may reject them. And I believe Paul understood that when this letter was read to a congregation of converted Gentiles from this paganistic lifestyle, he knew that people would reject them. And I believe that is why he finishes with this solemn charge. “Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives His Holy Spirit.”
Now let me offer a word of encouragement to you because it sounds pretty discouraging at this point. Robby, I am trying to change things and move things. I think that is why Paul ends this way because what he says is this, there is hope for you in the Lord Jesus Christ because the gospel has set you free from sin and condemnation and the Holy Spirit is empowering you. He is strengthening you to do the right thing at the right time for the glory of God. So if you are in a sinful situation, I know it is tough, but the Spirit of God will guide you. That is why Paul doesn’t say “spirit,” he says Holy Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there should be holiness. You can’t expect the Holy Spirit of God to indwell us if we remain in a sinful situation.
Now for the single people in the room, let me offer a word of encouragement for you, because I know being single whether for the first time or divorced and now single, I know it is challenging at times. You may want God to bring you that spouse that you have always dreamed about. You want companionship and I understand that. But let me offer you a word of encouragement because I see that people misapply a scripture that is being used for years. I think it means something different than maybe you have heard. What happens is, single folks hear this scripture…God says in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” You have heard that before. Just delight yourself in God. Listen, your desire is to be single…I mean, your desire is to be married. God wants you to be married if that is the desire of your heart, and He will give you that desire one day. And He may do that. But upon careful observation of that text, you realize that the text is based on a conditional promise. Here is the promise, when you delight yourself in the Lord, then He will give you the desire of your heart.
Now here is the flip side. When you really delight yourself in the Lord, guess what your desire becomes? For God. He becomes your desire. It is not Jesus plus something. It is not Jesus in addition to something. It is Jesus alone. Jesus becomes your treasure, so we delight ourselves in Him.
Robby, what is the one thing more satisfying than sex? Here it is. Pleasing and serving God. You see, when you are satisfied in God, you have all things. And that is why Paul has said, listen, focus on your sanctification, your walk with God because when your vertical relationship is intact or your vertical relationship with God is correct, the horizontal will follow. So, if you are having problems, come in real close, with people who are horizontally around you, then I would go back and check your vertical relationship with God. Because when the vertical is right, the horizontal will follow. And the more you know about God, the more you will obey Him. And the more you obey God, you want to know Him. And the more you know Him, you want to spend time with Him. And the more you spend time with Him, the more He manifests Himself to you.
This message is near and dear to my heart because a few years ago we had a man in our church who approached me about growing closer to the Lord. He wanted to start meeting with me. He had a desire to grow closer to the Lord. And unbeknownst to me at the time, he was currently living with his girlfriend who was the mother of his child which they had out of wedlock. They weren’t planning on getting married but they were living together. And I didn’t know this at the time.
And as we started to meet, I learned early on that this was happening and so I told him, I said, Do you have a desire to serve the Lord? Yes. Do you have a desire to be intimate with God? Yes. Do you want more from the Christian life? Do you want to know God intimately? Yes. If I would share something with you which I believe could be hindering your walk with God, would you be open to hearing it? He said, sure. I said, I want to suggest to you that you need to move out from living with your girlfriend and move back either into your parents house or get married because it is the appearance of evil. I just want to submit that to you.
This man came back to me without batting an eye and he said, I am not sleeping with my girlfriend. We are in the same room, but I am not sleeping with her. I said, Brother, I may have been just born but I wasn’t born yesterday and you don’t exactly have the best track record because you have already proven that something has taken place to have your daughter. So we know something went on. You don’t have the best track record. So I am going to challenge you because it looks evil. And has the appearance of immorality. Move out, and listen, if she is the one, get married. If not, just move out and go back and forth from your parents’ house. Well, he rejected that. He said, I don’t believe a word you are saying. And sadly, he left the church and traveled around Chattanooga to find a pastor which I believe to affirm his actions. And sadly, I heard that he went to the North Shore and he found a pastor who basically said to him in a round about way, Robby doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. You can live together before you are married. In fact, that is the right thing to do, that is the thing I did before I was the pastor of this church. And he never came back. He eventually got married to this girl about a year later. I heard the bachelor party was pretty wild. And sadly, this past week as I was preparing for this message, I found out that he has since moved on from her in less than a year, he is dating a new girl and he is filing for divorce.
Now I don’t tell you that to discourage you. I tell you that to encourage you. Because God says, here is the deal. You have two choices in how you live. You can live according to My plan which is satisfying and fulfilling and happiness. That is the offer I have for you. Or, you can do it your way just like the world. And friends, I want you to know, sex always comes before marriage in God’s eyes. Why? Because we go back to Genesis. You may say, I don’t want to get married because marriage just doesn’t work. The problem is not with marriage, the problem is with sinful men and women from the fall. And when God set up the system in Genesis 1 and 2, He said, Adam and Eve, you two will come as two individuals and be joined as one flesh and then be fruitful and multiply, which is the first command in Genesis.
He doesn’t say to Adam, here is a woman, have fun and if you think you are compatible after a while, then I will join you two as one flesh. He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, Adam, just try it out and see if you guys like each other and if she is the one, after trying it out for a season, then you guys can be one. No, it doesn’t say that. The text says that God takes the two and brings them as one flesh and then He says, be fruitful land multiply.
So, Robby, what do I do? Because I need help here. I am in one of these situations. Let me offer you four walking points, real world walking points to help you where you are. Here is the first one. Robby, what if I am dating an unbeliever right now? What if I am dating an unbeliever right now? II Corinthians 6:14. Let me offer this to you. Paul says, “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness or what fellowship does the light have with darkness or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever, or what agreement does God’s sanctuary have with idols?”
Now, Paul is not talking about the marriage covenant so to speak explicitly here. He is talking about a contractual business relationship. And what he is saying is, if you are a believer in business, you shouldn’t align yourself with someone who is an unbeliever. That is what he is saying. But you and both know, if that is Paul’s charge to believers for business terms, how much more does he expect us not to be married to an unbeliever for eternity!
Now there is a big idea here that is happening in our younger people, you may have heard of it, it is called missionary dating. Have you heard of this? It is the idea that I know he is a unbeliever, I know she is an unbeliever, but I am going to win him to God through our relationship, right? It is the idea that I am going to flirt to convert, right?
Let me just say something to you, that is a bad idea. That is a bad idea. Why? Because it is whole lot easier to pull someone off the stage as it is to pull someone on the stage with you. And in your mind, if you think you are going to flirt to convert, you are thinking wrong. So if you are in a relationship with an unbeliever, my challenge to you is, get out. Now, if you are married to an unbeliever, that is a totally different scenario. We will talk about that in two weeks. Stay with them. But if you are dating an unbeliever, get out.
Here is the second real world walking point. What if I am single today, Pastor. If you are single today, listen to me. Do not settle for God’s best. It is better for you to be single and sanctified than to be married and miserable. It is better for you to be single and sanctified than married and miserable.
Third real world walking point. If you are having sex and you are not married, stop it. Now here is the hardest part. What if we are engaged to be married. This is my fiancé, we are about to get married. Listen to me, stop it. You are not married yet. Repent of your sin, turn to God for forgiveness and live a holy and sanctified life before God until you get married. Why? Because God will bless that. Don’t expect God to bless your relationship, even if the sin you are engaged in seems in your eyes insignificant, it is significant to God. It was so significant to Paul that Paul chooses thousands of options to put his finger on as to the point of God’s will for their life. And he says, Abstain from sexual immorality. That is the only one he recognizes.
Finally, here is the hardest one of all. Pastor Robby, I am living together with a person who is not my husband or wife, what do I do? This is the hardest one. You are so interconnected. You share the bills, you share the bed, you share finances. You have one of three choices.
The first one is, you move out. Now that is tough, but you move out. The second option you have is to get married. If he or she is the right one, then you get married. The third option you have is to break up. They may be an unbeliever anyway and maybe this is a time in your life where you examine this person and you say, wow, this is not who God has for me and so you break up. The fourth option is you just remain together with the person, but as Paul said, there are consequences for the sin.
Here is the old adage, if in doubt, get out. And you can use that for a lot of things in the Christian life. If in doubt, get out. Friends, God wants the best for your life. And if you are like me and if you are a believer, you are saying, I want the best from God. And so I want to pray for you as we close and I want to encourage you. The Spirit of God will lead you to do the right thing. And sometimes, doing the right thing is hard, particularly in an environment, in a culture of people who are saying do things differently, but we are no different than the First Century believers who had heard this for the first time, trying to make the right choice at the right time for the glory of God.