Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
People pursue many things in life that are (to coin James’ phrase) here today and gone tomorrow (Jas. 4:14). Life on earth is temporary, but our existence does not end here. We are immortal beings, and our souls reach into the eternal realm (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we must pursue eternal things (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Peace and purity are among life’s highest pursuits. Peace with God and holiness (sanctification) of obtained in Christ (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:13-19). Christians are called by Him to press forward for peace with all (as much as it depends on us, Rom. 12:18), and to have amiable tranquility among ourselves (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 13:1). Commenting on this passage, brother Dan King observed, “The church is forever at war with the world, but ought never to be at war with itself” (Truth Commentaries: The Book of Hebrews, 427). Our reason for actively running after peace and purity is that we may see the Lord. Our desire to gaze upon the Lord calls us to strengthen the weak and straighten the paths of others rather than hinder them (Heb. 12:12-13). This desire also urges us to shun profane endeavors (Heb. 12:15-17). Make peace and holiness your daily pursuit, and your treasures will last eternally (Matt. 6:19-21).
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. 37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way. 38 Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You. (Psalm 119:36–38, NKJV)
God’s word is the treasure upon which we must set our hearts. Longing for things that can never satisfy our souls is futile. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by it many souls are destroyed (1 Timothy 6:10). The world sets many things before our eyes to entice us to devote our hearts to worthless things instead of fearing God with full devotion. For example, pornography is wreaking havoc upon our society. It is a monetary driver on the internet, and it is being normalized by the entertainment industry. Young people are watching it in droves, and their concepts of moral purity are being drastically distorted. We must turn our eyes away from such defiling things by embedding God’s word into our hearts. God’s word says do not look lustfully with our eyes (Job 31:1; Matthew 5:28; 1 John 2:16). We must devote ourselves to fearing God instead of indulging the flesh. Lord, “revive me in Your way” and lead me not into temptation.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8–9, NKJV)
After affirming the value of both marriage and celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul gives divine counsel to those who are not married and those who are (as well as to subgroups of each) in 1 Corinthians 7:8-16. To the “unmarried and to the widows” Paul rehearsed the benefit of remaining single while exercising self-control against fleshly temptations. (Recall the context of “present distress” that further explains his divine advice, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40). It seems plausible that they had asked Paul whether a person should marry at all (7:1). He answered that remaining without a spouse was a virtuous choice, while being careful not to deny the God-given right to marry, particularly in light of its benefit against the temptations of sexual immorality (7:2). Without a doubt, if the unmarried and widows were to marry it must be a God-approved marriage. You see, not every marriage has God’s approval (Mark 6:17-18; Romans 7:3; Matthew 5:32; 19:9). We cannot legitimize any marriage that God calls “unlawful” and “adultery” without incurring His displeasure and wrath (Ephesians 5:5-7). Whether or not we are married, we must make choices that enhance and protect our moral purity.
27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent. (Proverbs 6:27–29, NKJV)
Just as one cannot put a firebrand to his chest without getting scorched, or walk on hot coals without burning his feet, adultery will not leave the person who yields to its temptation untouched by its pain, sorrow, and regret. Then, there is the broken trust, the broken marriages, and the lives of spouses and children that are left is tatters. And for what? For a tantalizing, momentary thrill? To fulfill fleshly lust? To escape the monotony of marriage? To follow the deceptive lie that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? Adultery is a betrayal of vows made before God and of trust mutually shared. It dishonors the bodies of those involved, while shaming God who gave the body for holiness, not moral defilement (1 Corinthians 6:16-20). Guard yourself against this transgression against your own flesh (Genesis 2:23; Ephesians 5:28-31). God’s warning is clear: “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul,” and, “Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32, 33). God’s command against adultery is for your protection and purity (Romans 13:9). Honor your marriage by maintaining holy sexuality (Hebrews 13:4).
5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5–6, NKJV)
As an assayer tests the purity of silver and gold, God’s word stands the test of purity. It has been tried in the crucible of conflict, rebellion, rejection, and alienation by men. With the word of God, His people have weathered every storm of attack from faithless foes. His word continues to stand, while its adversaries lie in the ash heap of history. Undaunted, men and women of faith trust in the word of God, and are delivered. That is why they dare not add to it or take away from it. It does its work as it stands, undefiled and incorruptible. We shall never be persuaded that God’s word is out of date – far from it. It is living and active, powerful and pure. God’s word is able to save the lost and protect the saved. It is indeed “a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Respect it, believe it, obey it. To do less will bring God’s rebuke upon those who simply pretend to trust Him.
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1–2, NKJV)
The “present distress” of persecution facing the Corinthian Christians made it advisable for them not to marriage (1 Cor. 7:25-33). But, the temptation of sexual immorality was strong then, just as it is today. And so, God gave marriage as the holy fulfillment of human sexual desire. The apostle had just warned Christians to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). Now, he reminds them that God gave marriage as the one, moral means of their sexual desires. The bed is “undefiled” in marriage (Heb. 13:4). This one flesh uniting of husband and wife meets one of the Lord’s purposes for marriage; the avoidance of sexual sin. Thus, both husband and wife are obliged to serve their mate in this matter (see 1 Cor. 7:3-4). The marriage bed is not an exercise in selfish pleasure. Nor is it a bargaining chip to hold power over one’s spouse. Such selfish treatment of the marriage bed shows shameful disrespect for what God deems to be a holy safeguard against sin. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:16–18, NKJV)
These are not pleasant words, nevertheless, their warning is needful. The sexual appetite is strong, and when fed within God-approved marriage, it is undefiled (Heb. 13:4). Every sin we commit begins in the heart (thus, “outside the body”). But, sexual immorality (“fornication,” translated from the Greek word, porneia) is “against the body”, that is, it is opposed to the God-intended purpose of the body (v. 18). After all, your body does not belong to you, but to God (1 Cor. 6:20, 15). Therefore, “glorify God in your body” by fleeing fornication and maintaining sexual purity. Our society is saturated with sexual sins and their allurements. The gospel calls us to the purity of holiness, not to return to the shameful and destructive sins of the flesh (1 Pet. 1:15; 4:1-3). Stolen water is not sweet, and stolen bread feeds the flames of hell (Prov. 9:17-18). While the world indulges itself in this soul-destroying use of their bodies, let us flee fornication and pursue righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).
I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1, NKJV)
Sin begins in the heart. For example, Jesus said “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). We must guard and condition our hearts to refuse sin immediately. To do so, Job made an agreement with his eyes (himself) not to gaze intently upon a young woman. He pledged not to look lustfully upon a woman. Job’s protection against the lust of the eyes was to refuse to closely examination a woman’s form. We must fix our eyes on Jesus in order to be pure in heart (Heb. 12:2). We live in a provocative world that is intent on drawing our eyes away from Jesus. Make an agreement with your eyes not to indulge in lustful looking, for such is of the world and not of God (1 Jno. 2:16).
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:8–10, NKJV)
Faithful men of moral purity and holiness are to lead public prayer. Likewise, women are to clothe themselves modestly. The godly woman’s attire is dictated by her sense of shame that is rooted fast in her character. With decency she exercises sound judgment and self-control. She adorns herself consistently with her profession of faith. She retains her ability to blush, ashamed to uncover her nakedness. Her clothing is consistent with her profession of good works. She wears a full complement of clothing that avoids extravagant displays that emphasize the appeal of the flesh (1 Pet. 3:3-4). In an age when popular culture sexualizes the appearance of men and women, godly women (and godly men, for that matter) will continue to clothe themselves modestly, for honoring God is their first priority. To do less shamefully exposes not only a person’s body, but also a heart that is not ashamed of that which is shameful (Jer. 8:12).
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, NKJV)
God has always called His people to holiness: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Sanctification is a state of purity, set apart from defilement and dedicated to God and His service. This includes keeping our bodies from fornication (sexual immorality). To do that, the Lord calls on us to refuse the “passion of lust” that generates sexual sins (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 7:21). God expects us to “possess” (gain control over) our bodies by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2). By doing so we can use our bodies in holy ways that honor God. On the other hand, those who do not know God live to satisfy their fleshly lusts. By doing so, they dishonor themselves and God. But, Christians are called out of sin’s defilement to be holy and pure in mind and body.