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
"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.