I Thess. 4:4. “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.”
Before politically correct grammar clouded the issue, the masculine pronoun was understood to include all people. As some wise sage put it, “The masculine embraces the feminine.” So two pronouns in this verse are important: Each (every one) and his.
Each makes it clear that Paul is addressing every member of the congregation, not just the men. It is important that men and women abstain from fornication; and it is important that men and women know how to “possess his vessel.”
“His” is inclusive of both genders. All of us are vulnerable to sexual temptation. Such temptation is not exclusive to men.
God wants us to know and understand how to behave in the matter of sex. That Paul is addressing the issue makes it clear that God considers it a matter that requires instruction and self-discipline. Purity is a matter of knowledge and habit.
There is some question among biblical scholars about the words possess and vessel. Two distinct meanings are advocated for each word. Without going into a lot of detail about verb tense and usage, which fascinates me but probably seems tedious to anyone but another lexophile, I’m going to tell you what I believe and leave it up to you to do the research if you are interested.
The most sensible meaning here seems to be that “to possess” is a gradual process of mastery and control over one’s own vessel, one’s body. We know that the Christian walk is not mastered in a day, or a year; indeed, mastery requires a lifetime. Temptation is never completely absent for a believer, and sexual temptation is one of Satan’s favorite tools. My reading and clinical experience tells me that there is an epidemic, even among pastors, of addiction to pornography. It is estimated that one in every four people in any church congregation is involved in some sort of use of pornography; and that estimate is based only on those who admit it!
Back to words. The word vessel is also interpreted differently by some. It could refer to a wife. This position is based on the use of the word in Ruth 4:10 (in the Septuagint) and also in I Peter 3:7 where the wife is referred to as “the weaker vessel.” But if the wife is a weaker vessel, then the husband is the stronger vessel. Both are considered vessels. It makes more sense to me that each of us is responsible for maintaining the purity of our own vessels, our bodies. More could be said on this point, but I don’t want to belabor it. You can do your own word search if you are interested.
In sanctification and honour: Mastery of one’s fleshly desires is to be done as a matter of personal consecration, realizing that the body must be sanctified, set apart, for the service of God. Such sanctification excludes impurity, because impurity dishonors the body that was created in the image and likeness of God.
Please don’t misunderstand what Paul is teaching here. He is NOT advocating that we abstain from married sexual pleasure. God, after all, is the One Who created it and made it pleasurable. What Paul is teaching is that we are to gain mastery over those illicit sexual thoughts, desires, and behaviors that dishonor God, dishonor our mates, and dishonor our own bodies.
Many years ago, my pastor said that sin always takes you farther than you ever intended to go. It’s like a whirlpool, moving in a wide and slow circle at the surface but spiraling downward ever faster as it narrows down and disappears down the drain.
Galatians 5:1. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The yoke of bondage in this verse is not referring to legalistic rules and regulations; it refers to the chains of sin that wrap us up and keep us bound to harmful habits. True Christian liberty is to be free from the bondage of sin.