The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan on 1 Thess 4:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 17, 2011

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s very brief summary of the last part of the letter (4:1-5:24), followed by a short summary of of 4:1-11. His notes on verses 1-11 then follow


A Summary of 1 Thess 4:1-5:24~In this second main part of his letter St, Paul first exhorts his readers to flee different kinds of sin and to cultivate various virtues (1 Thess 4:1-11). He next treats of the final appearance of Christ (1 Thess 4:12-5:11). Finally, he makes certain recommendations, and utters a prayer for the Thessalonians ( 1 Thess 55:12-24). See Introduction to this letter, No. VI, C.


A Summary of 1 Thess 4:1-11~In his prayer for the Thessalonians at the close of the preceding Chapter St. Paul had prayed that his converts might abound in charity and lead a blameless life (1 Thess 3:12-13). Now, after calling attention to teachings he gave when founding their Church, he comes to particulars, first admonishing them to avoid impurity in all its forms (ver. 1-8), and then urging them to brotherly conduct, to industry, and to the need of giving good example to non-Christians (ver. 9-11).

1. For the rest therefore, brethren, we pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus that, as you have received from us how you ought to walk to please God, as indeed you do walk, that you may abound the more.

For the rest is a formula of transition often used by St. Paul, directing attention to something else that is to follow.

We pray and beseech you, etc. The Apostle exhorts his readers to continue to live according to the teachings he gave them when he first evangelized them, and to strive for ever greater progress.

The Vulgate, sic et ambuletis, should read sicut et ambulatis, to agree with the best Greek ; in the ordinary Greek the phrase is omitted.

2. For you know what precepts I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that the norms of life and conduct which he gave them had as their ultimate authority and sanction the “Lord Jesus,” the divine Master of us all.

In verses 3-8 the Apostle exhorts the converts to chastity of life.

3. For this is the will of God, your sanctification ; that you should abstain from fornication;

This is the will of God, i.e., this is what God wants in you, namely, that you sanctify yourselves. The Greek for “will” is without an article, and so means the will of God in particular, not in general.

Fornication was extremely common in the pagan world, and it was regarded generally with indifference by all classes. Hence the necessity of admonishing the new converts that God wished them to abstain from this vice, to which doubtless many of them had been addicted in their pre-Christian lives.

4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor:

This verse states the positive side of what was stated negatively in the preceding verse. The Christians must know how to control themselves, so as not to degrade their own bodies by impurity. It is uncertain whether “vessel” here means one’s own body or one’s wife. The former meaning is held by Tertullian, St. John Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, and many other ancients, and by Milligan, Findlay, the Westminster Version of Sacred Scripture and
other moderns ; while the second meaning is given by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Estius, Le Camus, Knabenbauer, Voste, and others.

The first opinion would seem to agree better with what is said in the preceding and in the following verse; but in favor of the second view it is maintained that σκευος usually means wife, that so it was used by St. Peter ( 1 Pet 2:7), and that the verb that follows it here (κτασθαι) means to acquire, to procure and not to possess. In 2 Cor 4:7, however, σκευος is used for body. At any rate, St. Paul’s exhortation is general, and has to do with every sort of personal purity, whether in or out of the married state. See on 1 Cor 7:2 in vol. 1 of this work.

5. Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:

Here St. Paul says the Christian must not be carried away by the unregulated impulses of his lower nature, like the Gentiles, whose ignorance of God led them into all manner of sexual excesses (Rom 1:19 ff., 2:14 ff.). Whether the Apostle is speaking in this verse of conduct in the married or in the unmarried state, depends on the meaning given “vessel” in the preceding verse.

6a. And that no man overreach, nor circumvent his brother in business.

6a. Overreach. Better, “transgress,” which in the original may be taken either as intransitive (in the sense of going beyond lawful bounds, and therefore of sinning) or as transitive (as governing “brother,” and so of neglecting his rights). The context favors the first meaning in the sense of going beyond the limits of lawful matrimony, of invading the rights of another Christian’s home by the commission of adultery.

Brother means Christian, for whom St. Paul is chiefly concerned, though his teaching does not exclude others.

In business. Better, “in the matter,” i.e., the Christian Is not to offend against his brother “in the matter” of purity, as the context shows. Great authorities, however, ancient and modern, are pretty equally divided in explaining in negotio of the Vulgate as referring to commercial matters—to business—and to matters of purity. The context favors the latter meaning.

6b.  because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before, and have testified
7. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification.
8. Therefore, he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who also hath given his Holy Spirit unto you.

In these verses the Apostle gives three reasons on the part of God why Christians should avoid sins of impurity, namely, because God is the avenger of them, because He has called us to sanctification, and because He has given us the Holy Ghost, who is offended and outraged by impurity and injustice of every kind: “Know you not that you are the temple of God, etc.” (1 Cor  3:16).

Despiseth these things, i.e., rejects or defies the call of God to “sanctification.”

In nobis (ver. 8) of the Vulgate should be in vos, according to the best Greek MSS., thus referring to all Christians in general, rather than to the Apostles only, as the recipients of the Holy Spirit.

9. But as touching the charity of brotherhood, we have no need to write to you, for yourselves have learned of God to love one another.
10a. For indeed you do it towards all the brethren in all Macedonia,

9-10a.  St. Paul lauds the charity of the Thessalonians who, being taught in this matter by God’s grace, need not his instruction. Indeed, their love for one another has been manifested by deeds of charity throughout all Macedonia.

10b. But we entreat you, brethren, that you abound more,
11. And that you use your endeavor to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you; and that you walk honestly towards them that are without ; and that you want nothing of any man’s.

10b-11. After praising the worthy for their charity, the Apostle turns to another group who were abusing the hospitality of others, living on alms in idleness, in expectation of the imminent coming of the Messiah, going about disturbing others, and giving bad example to outsiders (2 Thess 2:1, 3:11).

Do your own business, etc. This shows that many of the converts were of the working classes.

As we commanded you. When Paul was instructing the Thessalonians, he had said that, if anyone would not work, the same should not eat (2 Thess 3:10).

That you walk honestly, etc., i.e., that you conduct yourselves in an honorable manner before those who are not Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles.

In Greek a new verse begins at “and that you walk honestly, etc.,” thus making 18 verses in this Chapter, instead of 17, as in the Vulgate. So it happens that verse 11 in the Vulgate equals verses 11 and 12 in the Greek.


5 Responses to “Father Callan on 1 Thess 4:1-11”

  1. […] UPDATE: Father Callan on 1 Thess 4:1-7 for the Second Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary From). […]

  2. […] UPDATE: Father Callan on 1 Thess 4:1-7. […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (1 Thess 4:1-8). Actually, this post includes commentary on verses 1-11. […]

  4. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (1 Thess 4:1-8). Actually, this post includes commentary on verses 1-11. […]

  5. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). On 1-11, thus incorporating tomorrow’s first reading as well. […]

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