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 A Sermon of St John Chrysostom on the Epistle 

(a portion of Homily V in Vol XIII, NPNF (1st))
1 Thessalonians iv. 1-3.-"Finally then, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye abound more and more. For ye know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." 

When he has met what was pressing, and what was upon his hands, and is about henceforth to enter upon things that are perpetual, and which they ought continually to hear, he adds this expression, "finally," that is, always and forever. "We beseech and exhort you in the Lord." Strange! He does not even speak of himself as of sufficient credit to exhort. And yet who was so worthy of credit? But he takes Christ along with him. We exhort you, he says, by God. Which also he said to the Corinthians, "God entreats (exhorts) you through us." (2 Cor. v. 20) "That as ye received of us." This "received" is not of words only, but of actions also, viz. "how ye ought to walk," and he means thereby the whole conduct of life. "And to please God, that ye abound more and more. That is, that by more abounding ye do not stop at the limit of the commandments, but that you even go beyond them. For this it is, that "ye abound more and more." In what preceded he accepts the marvel of their firm faith, but here he regulates their life. For this is proficiency, even to go beyond the commandments and the statutes. For no longer from the constraint of a teacher, but from their own voluntary choice, is all this performed. For as the earth ought not to bear only what is thrown upon it, so too ought the soul not to stop at those things which have been inculcated, but to go beyond them. Do you see that he has properly said "to go beyond"? For virtue is divided into these two things, to decline from evil, and to do good. For the withdrawal from evil is not sufficient for the arrival at virtue, but it is a kind of path, and a beginning leading thereto; still we have need of great alacrity. The things therefore to be avoided he tells them in the order of commandment. And justly. For these things indeed being done bring punishment, but not being done, yet bring no praise. The acts of virtue however, such as to give away our goods, and such like, are not of the order of commandment, he says. But what? "He that is able to receive, let him receive." (Matt. xix. 12) It is profitable, therefore, that as he with much fear and trembling had given these commandments to them, he also by these letters reminds them of that his care. Wherefore he does not repeat them, but reminds them of them. 

"For ye know," he says, "what charge we gave you through our Lord Jesus Christ. For this is the will Of God, even your sanctification." And observe How he nowhere so vehemently glances at any other thing, as at this. As elsewhere also he writes to this effect; "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. xii. 14) And why dost thou wonder, if he everywhere writes to his disciples upon this subject, when even in his Epistle to Timothy he has said, "Keep thyself pure." (1 Tim. v. 22) Also in his second Epistle to the Corinthians he has said, "In much patience, in fastings, by pureness." (2 Cor. vi. 5, 6) And one may find this in many places, both in this Epistle to the Romans, and everywhere, and in all his Epistles. For in truth this is an evil pernicious to all. And as a swine full charged with mire, wherever he enters, fills all places with his ill odor, and chokes the senses with dung, so too does fornication; it is an evil not easy to be washed away. But when some even who have wives practice this, how excessive is the outrage! "For this," he says, "is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from all fornication." For there are many forms of disorderly conduct. The pleasures of wantonness are of many kinds and various, it were not tolerable to mention them. But having said "from all fornication," he leaves it to those who know them. 

Ver. 4, 5. "That each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not God." 

He says, "That each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel." It is, then, a matter to be learnt, and that diligently, not to be wanton. But we possess our vessel, when it is pure; when it is impure, sin possesses it. And reasonably. For it does not do the things which we wish, but what sin commands. "Not in the passion of lust," he says. Here he shows also the manner, according to which one ought to be temperate; that we should cut off the passions of lust. For luxury, and wealth, and idleness, and sloth, and ease, and all such things, lead us on to irregular lust. "Even as the Gentiles," he says, "which know not God." For such are they who do not expect that they shall suffer punishment. 

Ver. 6. "That no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter." 

He has well said, "that no man transgress." To each man God has assigned a wife, he has set bounds to nature, that intercourse with one only: therefore intercourse with another is transgression, and the taking of more than belongs to one, and robbery; or rather it is more cruel than any robbery; for we grieve not so much, when our riches are carried off, as when marriage is invaded. Dost thou call him brother, and wrongest him, and that in things which are unlawful? Here he speaks concerning adultery, but above also concerning "all fornication." For since he was about to say, "That no man transgress and wrong his brother," Do not think, he says, that I say this only in the case of brethren; you must not have the wives of others at all, nor even women that have no husbands, and that are common. You must abstain from "all fornication"; "Because," he says, "the Lord is an avenger in all these things." He exhorted them first, he shamed them, saying, "even as the Gentiles." Then from reasonings he showed the impropriety of defrauding a brother. Afterwards he adds the principal thing; "Because," he says, "the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified." For we do not these things without being punished, neither do we enjoy so much pleasure, as we undergo punishment. 

Ver. 7. "For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification." 

Because he had said "his brother," and had also added, that God is the avenger, showing that even if an unbeliever has suffered this, he who has done it shall suffer punishment, he says, it is not as avenging him that He punishes thee, but because thou hast insulted Himself. He Himself called thee, thou hast insulted Him who called thee.