What does 1 Thessalonians 4:3 mean?
ESV: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
NIV: It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
NASB: For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
CSB: For this is God's will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality,
NLT: God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.
KJV: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
NKJV: For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
Verse Commentary:
After celebrating the faith of the Thessalonian Christians, Paul has transitioned to encouragement and teaching. He has motivated them to continue doing good and even to increase their efforts (1 Thessalonians 4:1–2).

Here, Paul declares that God wants believers to be holy and separated unto Him. He commanded His people Israel, "Consecrate yourselves . . . and be holy, for I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 20:7). The Lord has also summoned Christians to be holy. Peter writes, "As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15).

One means of remaining holy is to avoid sexual sin. The Greek word porneia, translated "sexual immorality," is a general term that includes extramarital sex, homosexuality, and premarital sex. The Thessalonian believers lived in a pagan culture in which sex outside marriage was often considered an act of worship, one that honored Greek gods. For example, in Corinth a temple dedicated to the goddess of love was served by more than a thousand prostitutes.

Paul's readers had turned to the true God and away from false gods (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Now Paul reminds them to keep away from every form of sexual sin, no matter how acceptable it might be to their culture (1 Thessalonians 4:5).
Verse Context:
First Thessalonians 4:1–8 urges the believers at Thessalonica to recall what Paul said when he was with them. He had taught them how to behave in such a way that they would please God. They were following these instructions well, but Paul challenges them to increasingly become more holy, for this was God's will for them. Each believer was obligated to avoid sexual immorality by controlling his own body, knowing the Lord avenges those who practice sin. Paul insists that to ignore this teaching about sexual immorality is tantamount to rejecting God.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 4 starts with an encouragement for the Thessalonian believers to continue their spiritual growth. Their conduct is exemplary, but they need to seek to do even more. Paul especially emphasizes the importance of sexual purity, as well as the need for believers to live peaceful, polite, and productive lives. Paul then begins to discuss the subject of Christ's return. This begins with a reassurance that believers who have died prior to the return of Christ will be the first ones raised when He comes back for His people. Next will be those still living, all of whom will meet Jesus ''in the air.'' Knowledge of our eternal destiny should be encouraging!
Chapter Context:
Chapters 1—3 had a lot to say about the good reputation of the Thessalonian church. Chapter 4 begins to address points Paul wants to clarify. First of these is the need to grow in good works, and to avoid immoral living. Paul then begins to explain ''the rapture'': the moment when Christ will retrieve believers from this earth. Paul's explanation seems to be intended to dispel rumors. In the final chapter, Paul will further explain the nature of the ''day of the Lord,'' correcting what might have been said by false teachers.
Book Summary:
The apostle Paul's second missionary journey included a visit to the prominent Greek city of Thessalonica. This stood alongside a major land route and boasted a busy seaport. A number of individuals believed Paul's message (Acts 17:1–4), but an angry mob forced Paul to leave the city after his brief stay. Later, while in Athens, Paul received a glowing report: the believers at Thessalonica were growing spiritually and serving God fervently. However, they had questions about the Lord's return, including what happens to a believer who dies before that day. And, as all churches do, they had some areas in which they were falling short. In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, written about AD 51, he addresses these developments. Paul expresses gratitude for the Thessalonian believers' spiritual progress, and frequently makes references to Christ's impending return.
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