In Sanctification and Honour

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. 



4 thoughts on “In Sanctification and Honour

  1. Hey, I’m lazy! It does not bother me in the least if you share what the originial word intention is believed to be! But, hey, I trust you. I can say, after studying once again,the origin of the request for the KJV, I sure am thankful for Tyndale and others, particularly Erasmus, who brought out of the Greek an English translation. He gave his all, literaly so that we can easily have at our grasp of hands and heart the Word of God. And, we have the complete freedom to continue to pick it apart, thanks to Strong’s exhausive.


  2. kregerm

    If Galatians 5:1 isn’t referring to the bondage of legalism, why does Galatians 5:2 (which seems to be expanding upon verse 1) refer immediately to circumcision, and to a requirement to keep the whole Law which has now been superseded by the law of Grace? I thought that the references to Hagar v. Sarah in Chapter 4 indicated that the bondage in question was positional (as relates to the covenants, which included laws which had to be obeyed), and that the Galatians were being led astray by those (including Peter, for a time) who wanted to require all new Christians to adhere to the Jewish Law.


    1. It is true that the book of Galatians is a treatise for salvation by grace, and not by works of the law. But God never intended for the Law to become a form of bondage; that happened when man made his own sets of rules and regulations based on God’s requirements for His people during the centuries before Jesus became the fulfillment of the law. AFTER Christ died, adhering to man’s elaborations of God’s law became bondage; indeed, even adhering only to what God Himself had said became bondage to the Law. Not going to argue that. And yes, today we are fully capable of setting up lists of rules and regs to which we love holding other people accountable. I hate that stuff. It’s important to understand that what Paul is saying here is that adherence to every jot and tittle of the law is man’s idea, not God’s, in this Age of Grace; and by association, even Satan can use what seems to be God’s law to keep us in bondage to sin. The sin here is in rejecting the grace of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to continue to place the Law as the vehicle of atonement and salvation even though Christ has fulfilled the Law.

      I have a study Bible that makes some really good observations on this verse. One of the things it says is, “Observing any or all the Mosaic laws, commandments, rituals, or any jot or tittle of the law is considered a yoke of bondage (v. 1; 4:24; Acts 15:10). If one goes back to keeping the law he is under obligation to keep the whole contract (Gal. 3:10-12; 5:3; Jas. 2:10). If one want to know whether he is allowed to steal, murder, commit adultery, or keep any sabbath, then let him go to the new contract.”

      It’s a fascinating study–someday I’m going to follow it out completely. In any case, my point here is that Galatians 5:1 does NOT free us from standards of moral, ethical and godly behavior. We are NOT free to live any way we choose, expecting God to put His stamp of approval on whatever we feel free to do simply because we want to. Liberty from the Law is not license to disregard the holiness of God. When we sin, when we rebel against God’s standards of moral purity (and that’s what this passage in Thessalonians is about) we will surely become entangled in the habit of sin and all of the natural consequences that follow.


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