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From Calvin's Commentaries  

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians (Volume XXI)


1 Thessalonians 4:1-5 
1. Furthermore then, we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.  
1. Ergo quod reliquum est, fratres, rogamus vos et obsecramus in Domino Iesu, quemadmodum accepistis a nobis, quomodo oporteat vos ambulare et placere Deo, ut abundetis magis: 
2. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.  
2. Nostis enim quae praecepta dederimus vobis per Dominum Iesum. 
3. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:  
3. Haec enim est voluntas Dei, sanctificatio vestra: ut vos abstineatis ab omni scortatione. 
4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;  
4. Et sciat unusquisque vestrum suum vas possidere in sanctificatione et honore: 
5. Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.  
5. Non in affectu concupiscentiae, quemadmodum et Gentes, quae non noverunt Deum. 

1. Furthermore. This chapter contains various injunctions, by which he trains up the Thessalonians to a holy life, or confirms them in the exercise of it. They had previously learned what was the rule and method of a pious life: he calls this to their remembrance. As, says he, ye have been taught. Lest, however, he should seem to take away from them what he had previously assigned them, he does not simply exhort them to walk in such a manner, but to abound more and more. When, therefore, he urges them to make progress, he intimates that they are already in the way. The sum is this, that they should be more especially careful to make progress in the doctrine which they had received, and this Paul places in contrast with frivolous and vain pursuits, in which we see that a good part of the world very generally busy themselves, so that profitable and holy meditation as to the due regulation of life scarcely obtains a place, even the most inferior. Paul, accordingly, reminds them in what manner they had been instructed, and bids them aim at this with their whole might. Now, there is a law that is here enjoined upon us—that, forgetting the things that are behind, we always aim at farther progress, (Philippians 3:13) and pastors ought also to make this their endeavor. Now, as to his beseeching, when he might rightfully enjoin—it is a token of humanity and modesty which pastors ought to imitate, that they may, if possible, allure people to kindness, rather than violently compel them. 

3. For this is the will of God. This is doctrine of a general nature, from which, as from a fountain, he immediately deduces special admonitions. When he says that this is the will of God, he means that we have been called by God with this design. “For this end ye are Christians—this the gospel aims at—that ye may sanctify yourselves to God.” The meaning of the term sanctification we have already explained elsewhere in repeated instances—that renouncing the world, and clearing ourselves from the pollutions of the flesh, we offer ourselves to God as if in sacrifice, for nothing can with propriety be offered to Him, but what is pure and holy. 

That ye abstain. This is one injunction, which he derives from the fountain of which he had immediately before made mention; for nothing is more opposed to holiness than the defilement of fornication, which pollutes the whole man. On this account he assigns the lust of concupiscence to the Gentiles, who know not God. “Where the knowledge of God reigns, lusts must be subdued.” 

By the lust of concupiscence, he means all base lusts of the flesh, but, at the same time, by this manner of expression, he brands with dishonor all desires that allure us to pleasure and carnal delights, as in Romans 13:14, he bids us have no care for the flesh in respect of the lust thereof. For when men give indulgence to their appetites, there are no bounds to lasciviousness. Hence the only means of maintaining temperance is to bridle all lusts. 

As for the expression, that every one of you may know to possess his vessel, some explain it as referring to a wife, as though it had been said, “Let husbands dwell with their wives in all chastity.” As, however, he addresses husbands and wives indiscriminately, there can be no doubt that he employs the term vessel to mean body. For every one has his body as a house, as it were, in which he dwells. He would, therefore, have us keep our body pure from all uncleanness. 

And honor, that is, honorably, for the man that prostitutes his body to fornication, covers it with infamy and disgrace. 

1 Thessalonians 4:6-8 
6. That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you, and testified.  
6. Ne quis opprimat vel circumveniat in negotio fratrem suum: quia vindex erit Dominus omnium istorum, quemadmodum et praediximus vobis, et obtestati sumus. 
7. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.  
7. Non enim vocavit vos Deus ad immunditiam, sed ad sanctificationem. 
8. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.  
8. Itaque qui hoc repudiat, non hominem repudiat, sed Deum, qui etiam dedit Spiritum suum sanctum in nos. 

6. Let no man oppress. Here we have another exhortation, which flows, like a stream, from the doctrine of sanctification. “God,” says he, “has it in view to sanctify us, that no man may do injury to his brother.” For as to Chrysostom’s connecting this statement with the preceding one, and explaining uJperbai>nein kai< pleonektei~n to mean—neighing after the wives of others, (Jeremiah 5:8) and eagerly desiring them, is too forced an exposition. Paul, accordingly, having adduced one instance of unchastity in respect of lasciviousness and lust, teaches that this also is a department of holiness—that we conduct ourselves righteously and harmlessly towards our neighbors. The former verb refers to violent oppressions—where the man that has more power emboldens himself to inflict injury. The latter includes in it all immoderate and unrighteous desires. As, however, mankind, for the most part, indulge themselves in lust and avarice, he reminds them of what he had formerly taught—that God would be the avenger of all such things. We must observe, however, what he says—we have solemnly testified ; for such is the sluggishness of mankind, that, unless they are wounded to the quick, they are touched with no apprehension of God’s judgment. 

7. For God hath not called us. This appears to be the same sentiment with the preceding one—that the will of God is our sanctification. There is, however, a little difference between them. For after having discoursed as to the correcting of the vices of the flesh, he proves, from the end of our calling, that God desires this. For he sets us apart to himself as his peculiar possession. Again, that God calls us to holiness, he proves by contraries, because he rescues us, and calls us back, from unchastity. From this he concludes, that all that reject this doctrine reject not men, but God, the Author of this calling, which altogether falls to the ground so soon as this principle as to newness of life is overthrown. Now, the reason why he rouses himself so vehemently is, because there are always wanton persons who, while they fearlessly despise God, treat with ridicule all threatenings of his judgment, and at the same time hold in derision all injunctions as to a holy and pious life. Such persons must not be taught, but must be beaten with severe reproofs as with the stroke of a hammer.