One of the best plot points is when the villain doesn’t just get what’s coming to him, but when he gets what he meant for someone else. His plans come back to bite him. There’s a Robin Hood movie where Maid Marian stabs the Sheriff with a bejeweled knife he gave her. Haman was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. He who digs a pit will fall into it, said the preacher in Ecclesiastes.
The rulers of the world, the spiritual authorities and the political ones—often in cahoots together—dug their own grave when they crucified the Lord of glory.
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7–8 ESV)
They struck down the King of glory only to make Him more glorious. They killed Him only to watch Him resurrect to a better name.
We share this table in the presence of our enemies, and every bread received and cup rejoiced in reminds them of their foolishness. They hate the results of their own hatred, their murderous intent only shows off more majesty of the King. They do not know His love or His mercy, they do not know fellowship or eternal life. When they hear “Who is the King of glory?” they cannot rejoice like us.
Marriage is God’s institution, and it is glorious. The marriage bed is God’s gift, and it is honorable. More marriage, more sex, more cute covenant couples (C3), more kids, is all more blessing. But the Lord who blesses those who fear Him avenges those who trespass on sexual property that isn’t theirs.
There are other sins, too. But sexual sins are specifically called out from others as “against (one’s) own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). They damage us, they have a unique set of consequences, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 they are judged by the Lord.
This will be the last exhortation in this mini-series on how trespassers will be prosecuted. God’s will is our sanctification, namely that we abstain from sexual immorality, that we do not transgress and defraud our brothers, and it’s not just because of personal or community issues. We ought to be concerned about 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. (verses 6b-8)
It really is the Avenger, the One who attends to what is right. The Lord takes action against those who have caused harm or injustice.
We’ve been called not to hook up, but to be holy. We’ve been called not to play around with sexual mud pies, but to enjoy the pleasures of purity. We’ve been called to submit our God-given physical and emotional and sexual desires and abilities to God Himself. He cares. Don’t disregard God.
With the season of Thanksgiving upon us, it’s instructive to remember Jesus’ thanks to His Father. He gave thanks before distributing the loaves and fishes to 5000, He gave thanks before calling Lazarus from the tomb, of course He gave thanks for bread and wine on the night He was betrayed, and He gave thanks for the Father’s gracious will that hides good things from the worldly wise and gives sight, and burden that is light, to His people.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25–30 ESV)
Christian, your eyes have been opened by the Lord of heaven and earth, by the God of hope Himself, so that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you (Ephesians 1:18). Give thanks because You know the Father and the Son, and that you have rest for your soul in all the labors and sacrifices. Give thanks to the Father, He has enabled you to believe in the Son, and so has given you the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
Around the Lord’s Table we give thanks as a communion of seers.
In this series of exhortations to confessions I think we need two more looks into the mirror of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, so one more after this one.
Here is the cornerstone of the Bible’s teaching on how Christians of different genders are to treat each other. This applies to older, married men and women, but especially in this paragraph about God’s will for the unmarried-but-looking. Paul’s premise for not trespassing or defrauding is that we are family.
that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter
There are at least two parts of this premise. The first part relates to the fact that we should have great affection for and respect toward each other in the family of God. We should watch against temptations to hurt or sin against our brothers, and especially in this context, against the future spouses of those we relate to now.
But the second part of this premise, which is perhaps not as obvious here in verse 6 alone, is that in this family, a young man should treat a young lady as his sister. Remember 1 Timothy 5:1-2: “the younger women as sisters in all purity!
Guys, she is your sister. “Oh, but that is just a metaphor.” So true. And what is that metaphor for? It is a metaphor to illustrate the purity, the protection, and the honor to be pursued in the relationship.
For sake of a narrative illustration, how would you react if I defended my sister against a bully who was attacking her? You would say that’s right, indeed, it was my duty. But what if you heard that I had taken advantage of my sister, or had molested her in any way? You would most certainly say that is gross. It would be wrong no matter who it was, but especially so for a brother.
What is helping us not be conformed to this world in our sexual morality? The stories that entertain us today work against God’s will for our sanctification as brothers and sisters in Christ. The dating system is designed to pair up people and excite romantic passion from the start. It’s goal is to move a couple out from under the watchful eye of parents and other authorities so that boys and girls can start acting like more than siblings…and to start acting like they are spouses. It doesn’t end up well very often. Don’t awaken that love before it’s time.
“A young man said to me, ‘What is the– ‘ and he was kind of starry-eyed, and I’m sure he expected some spiritual esoteric answer. He said, ‘What is the real key to great preaching?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s the ability to keep your rear end in the chair till you understand the text.'”
What was Christ doing when He took reproaches meant for His Father? What were the reproaches?
Some of the disapproval and denouncement belonged with who He associated Himself with. The opening of Romans 15 makes the case that the strong should help the weak, but that’s easy compared to Christ saving sinners. “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It’s a scandal that God in flesh died, and it’s even worse based on who He died for, not even for a good man (Romans 5:7).
Here’s how the author of Hebrews put it:
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers (Hebrews 2:10–11 ESV)
So, are there weak brothers in the church? Yeah, there are all kinds of people who need sanctifying. Don’t be surprised. From the beginning of the church, the Lord purposed to build up the church using guys like Peter, a reformed betrayer, and Paul, a reformed persecutor.
Is it so hard to imagine someone saying, “I can’t share communion with that guy. He denied Christ three times!” Or, “Let’s try to avoid fellowship with that guy. He murdered Christians with his political power.”
But that is the power of God’s Word, and the God of righteousness is a God of comfort, the God of sanctification is the God of giving parts to His saints so that they can sing together. God doesn’t just preach to the choir, He makes us His choir. He’s not ashamed to call us brothers.
Last week we considered Paul’s prohibition of trespassing and defrauding in 1 Thessalonians 4:6. The analogy relates to property. We asked what is the owned property? The answer is one’s body and passions, parts and heart. We should also ask, Who is the proper owner of the property? The owner of your passion? The owner of your date’s passion? A couple observations point out it’s not you.
If you were the owner of your passion:
You could give it away whenever you wanted
You could give it away to whoever you wanted
The implications of 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 are unmistakable. The proper owner of your passion is your spouse (or, for parents talking to their kids, the kid’s future spouse.) And the proper owner of your partner’s passion is THEIR FUTURE SPOUSE. Just because someone is willing to give you their heart doesn’t mean it’s theirs to give in the first place.
I suppose, if it were even possible, you could time travel into the future and find out who your date’s future spouse was going to be and you could ask for their permission. But what your question sound like? Would you ask the future spouse if they minded if you…held hands? Hugged? Kissed? Fondled? Would you ask them if they minded you just being best friends? Sharing the intimate thoughts of your hearts with each other?
This is what I mean when I talk about “giving your heart away.” When God brings a spouse to you in His timing, what will you need to tell them? How much will you have given away, to how many other people? Will you have regrets about where you directed your affections? Will you take memories with you that you didn’t need to?
So, the sexual passion and intimacy of your date, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, whatever, is NOT YOUR PROPERTY.
If you are committed to hating anything Dispensational, then it doesn’t really matter what a Dispy says. Alright. But if you are committed to trying to read the Bible and understand what it says, and want the Bible to tell you what “system” (if any) to believe rather than depending on the System to tell you what you can believe in the Bible, Dispensational Hermeneutics would edify you.
Vlach encourages me. He is clear, and he does not overstate his arguments, which is part of what enables him to avoid coming off as combative. I appreciated his start with the Bible’s storyline, including God’s purposes for “the salvation of nations/society and the restoration of creation” (Loc. 138). The guts of the book are his ten hermeneutical principes:
Consistent Use of Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics to All Scripture
Consistent Contextual Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecies
Passage Priority: The Meaning of Any Bible Passage Is Found in that Passage
Old Testament Prophecies not Repeated in the New Testament Remain Relevant
Old Testament Eschatology Expectations Are Reaffirmed in the New Testament
Progress of Revelation Does Not Cancel or Transform Unconditional Promises to the Original Audience
Fulfillments Occur with the Two Comings of Jesus
Partial Fulfillments of Old Testament Prophecies
Jesus as Means of Fulfillment of the Old Testament
Types, Yes! Typological Interpretation, No!
He argues against a “Christocentric” reading, but offers instead “a Christotelic approach (that) asserts that all Scripture is related to the person and work of Christ, even though Christ is not found in every passage. All Scripture is not Jesus, but all Scripture relates to Him” (Location 1132). That’s a helpful distinction.
One of the things I’ve seen going around recently is that the nation of Israel doesn’t matter to God at all any more because Jesus is the TRUE Israel and all the OT promises are fulfilled in Him. But Jesus can be the Seed and there can still be future fulfillment for the other parts of the covenants.
“The New Testament writers do not apply a mystical, metaphysical personalism hermeneutic concerning Jesus that makes details of Bible prophecies evaporate into Him.” (Location 1757)
The teaching (and hermeneutic) of the apostles did not transform or redefine, let alone cancel, previous revelation. Come on, people.
There are two reasons I’m giving this 4/5 instead of 5/5 stars.
First, I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I think calling it “Dispensational Hermeneutics” is the wrong name altogether. Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that people talked that way. Grammatical-Historial hermeneutics, YES! But the Dispensational nickname/label is a result of Bible reading not a way to get a certain “reading” of the Bible. Dispensational as an adjective should describe the person post-reading, not as an adjective for a pre-reading lens.
Consistent (and I know that’s not always easy to get) Grammatical-Historical reading of the text would reject extra-biblical covenants that are supposedly necessary to understand the story of the Bible. Consistent sola Scriptura bears the fruit of Dispensationalism, Dispensationalism is not the soil or seed. So I love the principles, and don’t love the adjective in the title.
Second, I’d love to see more “here and now” application which also comes from avoiding the “spiritualized” reading required by non-Dispy systems. Call it Kuyperian, call it non-gnostic/non-pietistic, you pick. Take this quote:
“The Christian worldview, though, affirms the goodness of both physical and spiritual realities. While they are distinct, physical and spiritual realities both are important in God’s purposes, and one does not supersede the other.” (Location 1433)
Yes and amen, but the book puts this worldview more in the future context, which is right, but misses some of the relevance for the present day. The physical blessings of God on His people will be unsurpassed in the Millennial Kingdom and into the eternal state, but many of those blessings won’t be unprecedented, as in, known for the first time only then. The blessings of salvation now include intangibles and many tangibles, even if only a taste during the current time.
This may be an issue of emphasis, not really disagreement, but so many Dispies I know are functional dualists, where only the spiritual things matter, and, ironically, that is bad Bible reading, which we claim to be better at.
Regardless, this is a great read, full of plain principles that encourage Bible readers to take God at His Word.
If I could get teenagers to wrestle well with one verse on how to think about their relationships with the opposite sex on their way toward pursuing a spouse, it would be 1 Thessalonians 4:6. Especially as parents think about the implications of just one verse, it would change a lot in what they allow/promote as “cute” and how they’d talk to and train their young people.
We’ve already seen that abstaining from sexual immorality is God’s will. It requires that we know how to control our bodies in holiness and honor and that we don’t live like unbelievers in the passion of lust. And then we get to verse 6.
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. (1 Thessalonians 4:6 ESV)
Paul prohibits two sins (though they overlap in meaning to some degree): 1) Trespassing and 2) Defrauding.
The first word transgress means “to go beyond, to trespass, to cross over a boundary onto property that is not your own.” With the negative it has the force “that there be no going beyond.” See the sign with big letters, “NO TRESPASSING!”
The second word wrong (“defraud” NAS; “exploit” NRSV) means “to gain more than one is due, to take advantage of, to embezzle, to cheat, to exploit.” The verb itself does not indicate the nature of the wrong being done, but the idea of selfish and self-seeking fraud is involved.
Trespassing is going somewhere that isn’t yours, defrauding is taking something that isn’t yours.
These two metaphors depend on the idea of property.
And I think that there are two questions that beg an answer:
What is the owned property?
Who is the proper owner of this property?
Let’s answer the first one for now.
The easiest and most obvious answer to what is the property is the “body.” This is a good answer (see in 1 Corinthians 7:4 where married people are told, the husband has authority over his wife’s body and the wife has authority over her husband’s body). Based on this, I think it is fair to say that the owned property in question includes a person’s body.
But if we stop there we’re stuck at externals. I wonder if a better answer for what the owned property would be a person’s sexual passion. God’s will is not just an issue of physical purity, but of emotional purity. It isn’t just guarding your parts, but guarding your heart.
If one of God’s purposes for male/female sexuality is intimacy (in addition to procreation and pleasure), and if intimacy comes through shared passion, then the parts are just a means to an end. And do we not think that God is interested in preserving the purity of an experience of your soul much more than an extremity of your body? Obviously, yes.
If that isn’t true, then you could experience whatever level of sexual passion you wanted so long as the parts didn’t come into contact. There are a lot of Christians who play around here and give very little concern to crossing lines of emotional intimacy before marriage. The owned property is sexual passion, both yours and your partners, and then expressed through the body. The will of God includes not trespassing on, or cheating feelings out of, what isn’t yours.