The Apostle Paul gives further clarification on the doctrine of lust:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
-1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NKJV)
Once again, we see that lust is the precursor to plundering what rightfully belongs to your brother (his wife.)
“His own vessel” is most likely a reference to a man’s wife. This is consistent with the Proverbs imagery of the man being a “fountain” and “streams of water” and the woman being a “well” (i.e. a deep hollow container used to hold water.)
Paul’s concern here is that a man does not use another man’s wife for his own sexual pleasure. In a lawless Gentile society, a strong man (i.e. alpha) can use the wife of a weaker man (i.e. beta.) Or a crafty man can seduce (or be seduced by) a woman with an absent husband. But this is a cruel thing to do to a brother.
Instead, Paul wants each man to know how to possess his own “vessel.”
This teaching is nothing new. It’s exactly what King Solomon taught in Proverbs 5:
Drink water from your own cistern
And fresh water from your own well.
Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be yours alone
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.
For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress
And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?
It is probable that Paul used this very Scripture to instruct the Thessalonians. His letter is merely reminding them to continue in what they were taught.
In sum, Paul’s teaching on sexuality has three points:
- Don’t use prostitutes (or other forms of “casual sex”)
- Don’t use other men’s wives
- Learn to take possession of your own wife
Furthermore, there is evidence that Paul was likely married at an earlier point in his life… and thus no stranger to both the challenges and the bliss of married sexuality.