Advent 2020: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Friday, 4 December 2020 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12


The Text

Chapter Four

1. Therefore, brothers and sisters, finally, we ask and encourage you in the Lord that it is necessary for you to walk just as you received from us, and that you walk to please God more and more. 

2. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

3. For this is the sanctifying will of God, that you abstain from fornication. 

4. Each of you know how to control his own vessel in holiness and honor,

5. not in passionate desire as the Gentiles, who have not known God.

6. Not to transgress in the affairs of or defraud a brother or sister, for the Lord is a punisher of those who do these things. Just as we forewarned and solemnly swore to you. 

7. For God called you not to impurity but holiness. 

8. Consequently, the one who disregards this does not disregard man, but God, the one who gave his Holy Spirit to us. 

9. But about love for brothers and sisters, you have no need to write about. You are taught by God to love one another. 

10. For you do – all the brothers and sisters in the whole region of Macedonia – and we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more. 

11. Make it a core value to be tranquil, to mind your own business, and work with your hands just as we commanded you

12. so as to walk properly with those on the outside and that you might not have any need.


Commentary

The verb in verse 1 is “walk”, and I have translated it that way but that is a metaphor. It would be just as appropriate to translate it ‘live’ for that is what it means. I like, though, the idea of my life is as walk. That is religious jargon, I admit, but it is meaningful jargon for this GenXer who views life as a journey — a walk along a path that leads me closer to the Lord. If I choose improperly, I can walk away from him and travel the wrong path. Paul encourages to walk along the proper way.

“Vessel” is a provocative word in verse 4. The word could be translated ‘pot’ as in a clay pot. Some may render it as body, which is fine but I decided to leave the double-entendre, because Paul may well be referring to the sex organ itself. Controlling that bit of our life — our passionate urges — is clearly what he has in mind. It gets more pointed when he tells us we must be careful to not ‘defraud’ a brother or sister. This could literally be a command to not sexually abuse or sexually harass someone else. Purity and holiness is as much about how we view and treat the bodies of others as how we treat our own. There is surely a powerful lesson here about objectification culture, as well as a solidarity emotive with the #metoo movement. Violating others is never okay, and it is a sin against God, and he is a punisher of those who engage in it.

The transition from verse 8 to 9 is stark. Sexual abuse and self gratification is the farthest thing from real love that can be imagined. One is about self while the other is about others.

Before this section concludes, The Apostle reminds us again about the importance of hard work. By working hard, earning an honest living, we pave the way for us to live in tranquility, minding our own business. How much better would the world be if we all made our goal to be quiet and mind our own business? Infinitely better.


Questions For Application

  1. What instructions has Jesus given (v. 2) us?
  2. Sanctification is not a popular topic these days. What is it, and more specifically, how do you make certain you are engaged in it?
  3. We are not called to impurity. It is easy to name sins of intimacy here, but there is more to purity than fornication. What impurities have you tolerated?
  4. Would you describe your life as tranquil?