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Holiness and sanctification do not refer to sinning or not sinning as many mistakenly believe. They actually refer to having a pure faith in Christ only and not mixing your faith with anything else. It also refers to behavior that flows out of either faith in Christ or unbelief in Christ. Someone who doesn’t have faith in Christ will seek to justify themselves by what they do. This behavior is unholy. A Christian who is acting unholy is someone who doesn’t fully rest in Christ’s finished work but seeks to add to it by their own self righteous performance. To offer sacrifices for your sins, once Christ the once for all sacrifice was offered, is a very unholy thing to do. To put hope in any other religious practice to earn spiritual points with God apart from faith in Christ is unholy! An unholy heart is not a heart that thinks about sinful things but a heart that doesn’t trust in Christ.
In this light, when Paul mentions fornication in verse 3 we must not miss the point that his emphasis is idolatry and not sexual immorality in general. Of course Christians shouldn’t carry on in sexual immorality, but the greater point Paul is making is about not going back to idolatry. The Thessalonians were known for paganism. One of the practices was fornicating with pagan temple prostitutes as a means of earning spiritual points. Well if you believe in that then you are adding to your faith and mixing Christ with idols.
In chapter 3 Paul’s shows great concern for the faith of the Thessalonians and reveals his desire to see them established firmly in their faith in Christ. The Thessalonians faced two major challenges to their faith. One was from the vigilant Jews who violently opposed them for their faith in Christ and consistently sought to bring them under the law (1 Thess 1:6), and secondly the pull back towards idolatry and its practice from which they had all come out of (1 Thess 1:9).
The way we walk to please God is to walk by faith and not to hope in paganistic practices or to rely on the law. All this is an offence to the cross and cannot please God. Only faith in Christ pleases God as Hebrews 10: 6 reveals.
The actual Greek word for fornication here figuratively means idolatry. In the Scriptures adultery, sexual immorality, fornication and harlotry are all usually referring to spiritual adultery which is mixing Christ with idols and being seduced away from your pure faith in Christ. We’re called to a purity of faith in Christ – that is the life of sanctification and holiness. Good behavior will flow from this place. But when you don’t believe this then you’ll engage in all kinds of bad behavior which is what the next verse is referring to…ccihk.com...