1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

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;

this is the will of God (v.3) — Many Christians search for the will of God for their lives, but the search is unnecessary. God has clearly told us in Scripture what His will for us is. This verse is just one instance. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:18 for another instance.)

sanctification (v.3) = set apart as sacred, consecrate, dedicated — 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Both in our salvation and in our walk it has been God’s purpose, not merely to set us apart from the world, but to set us apart as sacred to Himself. It is by no means a negative imposition of “dos” and “don’ts,” but a positive one speaking of God’s love to us more than of ours to Him.

It is with this in mind that the apostle exhorts the believers at Thessalonica to keep morally pure. He does not say, “This is the will of God, that ye should abstain from fornication,” but “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should [for this reason] abstain from fornication.” The thought should be, “How can I so grieve the One who loved me enough to die for me, and desires me for His very own?” — Stam, page 54.

sexual immorality (v.3) = porneia, the root of the English word “pornography,” which is derived from perna?, “to sell off” — properly, a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity

know (v.4) = knowledge gained by observation

possess (v.4) = to acquire, as money, so “to acquire mastery over”

vessel (v.4) — a vessel or implement of any kind … It is used of the body in 1 Samuel 21:5 (Septuagint), and, with the addition of “earthen,” in 2 Corinthians 4:7; in 1 Peter 3:7 it is used of a wife.

If by “vessel” the body is understood, 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I buffet my body and bring it into bondage” may be compared, and “neither present your members unto sin as instruments” in Romans 6:13, since in such passages the body is looked upon as belonging to and as used by the man who dwells within it.

If, however, by “vessel” the wife is understood, then the meaning is that of 1 Corinthians 7:2. The apostle is commending an honorable entry upon the estate of holy matrimony, and he goes on, (v.5) to exhort to an honorable maintenance of that estate. — Vine, page 58.

It is my opinion that Paul is referring to the individual believer and his or her body in this instance. I see nothing in the context that would indicate that he has “wife” in view here. Stam takes this view:

Our bodies are containers, as it were, either of what is good or of what is bad, and each believer should learn to possess his vessel as one who is precious to God, one who will bring Him due honor. In 2 Timothy 2:21 the apostle states:

If a man therefor purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

It is important to bear in mind that we merely inhabit these bodies. We are merely tenants who should possess these vessels in sanctification and honor, for a bad tenant can soon ruin a man’s house. A good tenant, however, will care for it so that, while it naturally grows older, it will still be in good condition. — Stam, page 55.

honor (v.4) = to treat something as though it has value

passion of lust (v.5) — The word for passion was used by the Greeks in either a good or bad sense. In Scripture, it generally refers to “strong feelings which are not guided by God.” Lust has a very similar meaning but is generally used for “a desire for something forbidden.” I think Paul is referring to that sense in which one can become passionate for the feeling of lust, an unrestrained desire to indulge in illicit behavior.

know (v.5) = perceive — The word can also be translated “recognize,” or “appreciate.”

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