Exhortations to Holiness; Caution against Impurity. A. D.
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. 2 For ye know what commandments
we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your
sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one
of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not
God: 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. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto
holiness. 8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who
hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
Here we have,
I. An exhortation to abound in holiness, to abound more and more
in that which is good, v. 1, 2. We may observe,
1. The manner in which the exhortation is given--very affectionately.
The apostle entreats them as brethren; he calls them so, and loved them
as such. Because his love to them was very great, he exhorts them very
earnestly: We beseech and exhort you. The apostle was unwilling to take
any denial, and therefore repeats his exhortation again and again.
2. The matter of his exhortation--that they would abound more and more
in holy walking, or excel in those things that are good, in good works.
Their faith was justly famed abroad, and they were already examples to
other churches: yet the apostle would have them yet further to excel others,
and to make further progress in holiness. Note,
(1.) Those who most excel
others fall short of perfection. The very best of us should forget those
things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before.
(2.) It is not enough that we abide in the faith of the gospel, but we
must abound in the work of faith. We must not only persevere to the end,
but we should grow better, and walk more evenly and closely with God.
3. The arguments with which the apostle enforces his exhortation.
They had been informed of their duty. They knew their Master's will, and
could not plead ignorance as an excuse. Now as faith, so knowledge, is
dead without practice. They had received of those who had converted them
to Christianity, or been taught of them, how they ought to walk. Observe,
The design of the gospel is to teach men not only what they should believe,
but also how they ought to live; not so much to fill men's minds with notions
as to regulate their temper and behaviour. The apostle taught them how
to walk, not how to talk. To talk well without living well will never bring
us to heaven: for the character of those who are in Christ Jesus is this:
They walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
(2.) Another argument
is that the apostle taught and exhorted them in the name, or by the authority,
of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was Christ's minister and ambassador, declaring
to them what was the will and command of the Lord Jesus.
(3.) Another argument
is this. Herein they would please God. Holy walking is most pleasing to
the holy God, who is glorious in holiness. This ought to be the aim and
ambition of every Christian, to please God and to be accepted of him. We
should not be men-pleasers, nor flesh-pleasers, but should walk so as to
(4.) The rule according to which they ought to walk and act--the
commandments they had given them by the Lord Jesus Christ, which were the
commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, because given by authority
and direction from him and such as were agreeable to his will. The apostles
of our Lord Jesus Christ were only commissioned by him to teach men to
observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them, Matt. xxviii. 20.
Though they had great authority from Christ, yet that was to teach men
what Christ had commanded, not to give forth commandments of their own.
They did not act as lords over God's heritage (1 Pet. v. 3), nor should
any do so that pretend to be their successors. The apostle could appeal
to the Thessalonians, who knew what commandments he gave them, that they
were no other than what he had received from the Lord Jesus.
II. A caution against uncleanness, this being a sin directly
contrary to sanctification, or that holy walking to which he so earnestly
exhorts them. This caution is expressed, and also enforced by many arguments,
1. It is expressed in these words: That you should abstain from fornication
(v. 3), by which we are to understand all uncleanness whatsoever, either
in a married or unmarried state. Adultery is of course included, though
fornication is particularly mentioned. And other sorts of uncleanness are
also forbidden, of which it is a shame even to speak, though they are done
by too many in secret. All that is contrary to chastity in heart, speech,
and behaviour, is contrary to the command of God in the decalogue, and
contrary to that holiness which the gospel requires.
2. There are several arguments to enforce this caution. As,
branch of sanctification in particular is the will of God, v. 3. It is
the will of God in general that we should be holy, because he that called
us is holy, and because we are chosen unto salvation through the sanctification
of the Spirit; and not only does God require holiness in the heart, but
also purity in our bodies, and that we should cleanse ourselves from all
filthiness both of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 1. Whenever the body is,
as it ought to be, devoted to God, and dedicated and set apart for him,
it should be kept clean and pure for his service; and, as chastity is one
branch of our sanctification, so this is one thing which God commands in
his law, and what his grace effects in all true believers.
(2.) This will
be greatly for our honour: so much is plainly implied, v. 4. Whereas the
contrary will be a great dishonour. And his reproach shall not be wiped
away, Prov. vi. 33. The body is here called the vessel of the soul, which
dwells therein (so 1 Sam. xxi. 5), and it must be kept pure from defiling
lusts. Every one should be careful in this matter, as he values his own
honour and will not be contemptible on this account, that his inferior
appetites and passions gain not the ascendant, tyrannizing over his reason
and conscience, and enslaving the superior faculties of his soul. What
can be more dishonourable than for a rational soul to be enslaved by bodily
affections and brutal appetites?
(3.) To indulge the lust of concupiscence
is to live and act like heathens? Even as the Gentiles who know not God,
v. 5. The Gentiles, and especially the Grecians, were commonly guilty of
some sins of uncleanness which were not so evidently forbidden by the light
of nature. But they did not know God, nor his mind and will, so well as
Christians know, and should know, this his will, namely our sanctification
in this branch of it. It is not so much to be wondered at, therefore, if
the Gentiles indulge their fleshly appetites and lusts; but Christians
should not walk as unconverted Gentiles, in lasciviousness, lusts, excess
of wine, revellings, banquetings, &c. (1 Pet. iv. 3), because those
who are in Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.
(4.) The sin of uncleanness, especially adultery, is a great piece of injustice
that God will be the avenger of; so we may understand those words, That
no man go beyond or defraud his brother (v. 6), in any matter--en to pragmati,
in this matter of which the apostle is speaking in the preceding and following
verses, namely, the sin of uncleanness. Some understand these words as
a further warning and caution against injustice and oppression, all fraud
and deceit in our dealings with men, which are certainly criminal, and
contrary to the gospel. And Christians should not impose upon the ignorance
and necessity of those they deal with, and so go beyond them, nor should
they by equivocations or lying arts defraud them; and although this may
be practised by some and lie long undiscovered, and so go unpunished among
men, yet the righteous God will render a recompence. But the meaning may
rather be to show the injustice and wrong that in many cases are done by
the sin of uncleanness. Not only are fornication and other acts of uncleanness
sins against his own body who commits them (1 Cor. vi. 18), not only are
they very injurious to the sinner himself both in soul and body, but sometimes
they are very injurious, and no less than defrauding, acts of injustice
to others, particularly to those who are joined together in the marriage
covenant and to their posterity. And, as this sin is of such a heinous
nature, so it follows that God will be the avenger of it. Whoremongers
and adulterers God will judge, Heb. xiii. 4. This the apostle had forewarned
and testified by his gospel, which, as it contained exceedingly great and
precious promises, so also it revealed from heaven the wrath of God against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness among men, Rom. i. 18.
(5.) The sin
of uncleanness is contrary to the nature and design of our Christian calling:
For God hath called us not unto uncleanness, but unto holiness, v. 7. The
law of God forbids all impurity, and the gospel requires the greatest purity;
it calls us from uncleanness unto holiness.
(6.) The contempt therefore
of God's law and gospel is the contempt of God himself: He that despises
despises God, not man only. Some might possibly make light of the precepts
of purity and holiness, because they heard them from men like themselves;
but the apostle lets them know that they were God's commands, and to violate
them was no less than to despise God. He adds, God hath given Christians
his Spirit, intimating that all sorts of uncleanness do in an especial
manner grieve the Holy Spirit, and will provoke him to withdraw from us;
and also the Holy Spirit is given unto us to arm us against these sins,
and to help us to mortify these deeds of the body, that we may live, Rom.