Bob Yarbrough has authored two articles on what 1 Thess 4:3–8 teaches about sex:
1. Robert W. Yarbrough, “Excellence in Christian Living: Sex Ethics à la First Thessalonians 4:3–8,” Reformation and Revival 5:4 (1996): 67–76.
- A Modern Ancient Problem
- Paul’s Commitment to True Excellence
- God’s Will: Sex Ethics at Center Stage
- The Gravity of Sexual Misconduct
- Paul’s (God’s) Call to Excellence Today
- At the core of Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians is the working out of God’s will, or true excellence, in the area of sexual expression. . . . At a minimum they should avoid porneia, here a blanket term for the whole range of attitudes and actions which Scripture prohibits (1 Thess. 4:3). This is key to their Sanctification. (p. 71)
- [M]isconduct in this area implies that one has not really come to know God at all . . . . (p. 73)
- [I]nappropriate sexual conduct is a flat violation of the command to love one’s neighbor . . . . (p. 73)
- Notoriously, some modern formulations of ethics (even “Christian” ethics) have tended to go with the flow of today’s eroding sexual mores. Porneia has become permissible if it is sincere . . . or loving . . . or culturally acceptable . . . or convenient . . . or medically “safe” . . . or irresistibly enjoyable . . . or psychologically unavoidable (“I was abused as a child”) . . . or spiritually non-lethal via quick use of 1 John 1:9 (the pop-Christian equivalent of the “morning after” pill). The list could doubtless be extended. (p. 74)
- [T]he primary question for sex ethics, or any ethical question taking the Scriptures seriously, must not be simply, “What must/ought/should/may I do?” but rather “To whom am I accountable, and for what?” (p. 75)
2. Robert W. Yarbrough, “Sexual Gratification in 1 Thess 4:1–8,” Trinity Journal 20 (1999): 215–32.
- Weib or Leib?
- “Not in passionate lust”
- Sex Outside of Marriage
- Unnatural Sex
- Defrauding Others
- “ … in order to please God”
- The goal of this article is to see what light study of biblical language and backgrounds might shed on several perennial puzzles found in 1 Thess 4:1–8. (p. 215)
- Immorality, while not universal, was rampant by the first century. Marriage was anything but holy. (p. 223)
- Homosexuality, apparently somewhat common among the Greeks for centuries, infiltrated Roman culture on a larger scale by the second century BC. Thessalonica, with both Greek history and Roman presence, would have been no stranger to this practice in Paul’s time. (p. 224)
- [U]nder Roman law the husband had far-reaching discretion over his wife, who was his property, so much so, e.g., that Caligula is said to have paraded his wife Caesonia naked before his friends. It is unlikely that she consented to this, but it is certain that she had no say in the matter. After all, this same Caligula is said never to have kissed her or even a mistress without the words, “And this beautiful throat will be cut when I please.” Women were chattel, and to have sex with someone else’s wife was literally to defraud him, to devalue goods he owned. ¶ But Paul’s words more likely have quite another sense. He did not view either marriage or women in Greco-Roman fashion, as Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11 indicate; both marriage partners have total and exclusive claims on each other, and the Lord owns them both along with their very marriage, which is a microcosm and metaphor of God’s relationship with his people. . . . Paul does not want his readers to practice sex like the heathens do because he does not want to see the error of πορνεία (immorality) mushroom to the scandal of πλεονεκτεῖν (depriving others of God-given status and dignity), which is clearly transgression (ὑπερβαινεῖν). ¶ What, then, does “not in passionate lust” mean? Quite simply, heathen sexuality was often unrestrained, inappropriately expressed, or both. . . . This does not mean that it must not involve pleasure. It does imply that it is to be reserved for marriage and that it must be imbued with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and other spin-offs of Christ’s Spirit and the life regulated by it that may not always characterize sex acts in marriages, including Christian ones. (pp. 225–27)