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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 24, 2013

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of 1 Thessalonians 4, followed by his notes on verses 1-8. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle encourages the Thessalonians to perseverance (1); he delivers a precept regarding the practice of purity, and the avoidance of adultery, and he adduces several motives to stimulate them to fidelity in this matter (3–8). He praises their charity, and encourages the poor to engage in some honest employment, so that by this means they would not abuse the liberality of the rich (9, 10, 11). Finally, he assuages their excessive grief for their departed friends, by propounding the doctrine of the general resurrection, the order and manner of which he describes (12–17).

This and the following chapters are employed in such subjects of morality, as the Thessalonians, according to the information furnished by Timothy, needed instruction in.

1Th 4:1  For the rest therefore, brethren, pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus that, as you have received from us, how you ought to walk and to please God, so also you would walk, that you may abound the more.
For the rest, therefore, brethren, we implore and exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that as you have received precepts from us, by word of mouth when amongst you, regarding the manner of living and of pleasing God, you would so live, as to observe these precepts, and by advancing in perfection, please him more and more.

For the rest”—a form of transition usual with the Apostle, particularly at the close of his Epistles. The Greek copies want the words “so also you would walk;” according to the Greek, the words, “that you may abound the more,” will signify, that, not contenting themselves with mere precepts, they ought to practise matters of counsel.

1Th 4:2  For you know what precepts I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.
I have said, as you have received from us. For, you know what precepts of a holy life we delivered to you, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

The Greek word παραγγελιας can be translated as mandates, charges, instructions, etc. It is used elsewhere is St Paul only in 1 Tim 1:5, 18.  Related words can be found in 1 Cor 7:10, 1 Cor 11:17; 1 Thess 4:11; 2 Thess 3:4, 6, 10, 12; 1 Tim 1:3, 1 Tim 4:11, 1 Tim 5:7, 1 Tim 6:13, 17.

“You know.” Knowledge is a common theme in this letter. It refers to both the knowledge of the missionaries regarding how the Thessalonians were chosen (1 Th 1:4), and to how the missionaries acted among them (1 Th 2:1, 5, 11). The knowledge the Thessalonians posses concerning how to conduct themselves was received from St Paul and his companions both by verbal instruction and example.

1Th 4:3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: That you should abstain from fornication:
Now, this is a summary of God’s precepts, or the expression of his will, that you should lead a life of sanctity, a life free from all sins, but particularly from sins of impurity, or unlawful sensual pleasures.
1Th 4:4  That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour,
So that every one of you should be able to master and keep under subjection his own body, in sanctification and honour.

“This is the will of God, your sanctification.” See Leviticus 11:44-45; 1 Pet 1:15-16. A major aspect of St Paul’s ministry (which he had by the will of God (1 Cor 1:1)  was to exhort and encourage people to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord who called them to the kingdom and its glory (see 1 Th 2:12).

“Sanctification.” Christians have been called to be holy (Rom 1:7), that is, set apart from all that is profane. They are holy (sanctified, set apart) by that very call, but they must live it out in their daily lives.

By “vessel” some persons understand, the wife of the married husband. However, as St. Paul refers to the sins of luxury, as well in the unmarried as in the married state, it is better to refer it to the body of each person; of course, not excluding those engaged in marriage; and this meaning of “vessel” is common in SS. Scripture (1 Kings, 16:5), and also with profane writers; because, the body is the receptacle of the soul, or the instrument through which the soul acts. “Possess” is frequently used to signify, holding the mastery over, and is here opposed to the dominion which lust, or his lustful body, exercises over the voluptuous man. “Honour” is opposed to those pollutions and defilements by which the Gentile philosophers (Romans, 1) are said to dishonour their bodies.

1Th 4:5  Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:
And not be the slave of the strong, impulsive motions of concupiscence, like the Gentiles that know not God.

He shows, by the contrary, what “honour” is. The body belongs to the Lord and should be used accordingly (see 1 Cor 6:18-20). The various passions (such as that relating to sex) are good in themselves, but prone to abuse and self-indulgence.

1Th 4:6  And that no man overreach nor circumvent his brother in business: because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before and have testified.
And let no one exceed the limits of justice or circumvent his brother in this matter, by indulging in unlawful pleasures in violation of the rights of the father or husband; for, the Lord is the avenger of all these crimes, as we foretold, and solemnly assured you, when present amongst you.

Some Commentators understand this of real property, and of injustice committed in business transactions. The article prefixed to the word “business” shows, however, that he is referring to the matter of chastity, or the exercise of marriage. Besides, “business” has this meaning frequently with profane writers. He assigns a reason why they should exercise justice in such matters, because God will avenge such crimes, “as we have told and testified.” This solemn assurance was required, because the Pagans made light of crimes against chastity.

1Th 4:7  For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification.
For in calling us to Christianity, the Lord has called us not to a state, or to the practice of impurity, but to a state, and to the practice of purity and sanctity.

The second motive by which he deters them from the commission of impurities, is the reason upon which the menace on the part of God is grounded, viz., that by calling them to Christianity, he called them to a state of purity and sanctity which they desert, and not to the state of impurity, which they indulge in against his will and ordinances.

1Th 4:8  Therefore, he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who also hath given his holy Spirit in us.
Wherefore, whosoever despises these precepts, despises not man who propounds them, but God himself, from whom they emanated, who has given us, Apostles, his holy spirit, authorizing us to announce such precepts.

The third motive is, because such sins of impurity are committed as acts of contempt against God himself. These words, “who also hath given his holy spirit in us,” may also mean, that these impurities committed against God’s precepts, besides the contempt against God, from whom these precepts emanated, also involve a special contempt of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in the bodies of the baptized, as in his temple.


One Response to “Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8”

  1. […] Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). […]

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