|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-8 To abide in the faith of the gospel is not enough, we must abound in the work of faith. The rule according to which all ought to walk and act, is the commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Sanctification, in the renewal of their souls under the influences of the Holy Spirit, and attention to appointed duties, constituted the will of God respecting them. In aspiring after this renewal of the soul unto holiness, strict restraint must be put upon the appetites and senses of the body, and on the thoughts and inclinations of the will, which lead to wrong uses of them. The Lord calls none into his family to live unholy lives, but that they may be taught and enabled to walk before him in holiness. Some make light of the precepts of holiness, because they hear them from men; but they are God's commands, and to break them is to despise God.
Verse 4. - That every one of you should know how to possess. The word here rendered "possess" rather signifies "acquire." The R.V. renders the clause, "that each one of you know how to possess himself of;" hence it admits of the translation, "to obtain the mastery over." His vessel. This word has given rise to a diversity of interpretation. Especially two meanings have been given to it. By some it is supposed to be a figurative expression for "wife," in which sense the word is used, though rarely, by Hebrew writers. Peter speaks of the wife "as the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). This is the meaning adopted by Augustine, Schott, Do Wette, Koch, Hofmann, Lünemann, Riggenbach; and, among English expositors, by Alford, Jowett, Ellicott, and Eadie. This meaning is, however, to be rejected as unusual and strange, and unsuitable to what follows in the next verse. The other meaning - "one's own body" - is more appropriate. Thus Paul says, "We have this treasure," namely, the gospel, "in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7; comp. also 1 Samuel 21:5). The body may well be compared to a vessel, as it contains the soul. This meaning is adopted by Chrysostom, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Meyer; and, among English expositors, by Macknight, Conybeare, Bishop Alexander, Wordsworth, and Yaughan. In sanctification and honor. What the apostle here requires is that every one should obtain the mastery over his own body, and that whereas, as Gentiles, they had yielded their members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, they should now, as Christians, yield their members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Romans 6:19).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel,.... By which may be meant, either a man's wife, or his body, and it is not very easy to determine which, for the Jews call both by this name. Sometimes they call (p) a woman which the gloss says is a "vessel" unfinished. It is reported (q), that when R. Eleazar died, Rabbenu Hakkadosh would have married his widow, and she would not, because she was , "a vessel of holiness", greater than he. Moreover, it is said (r), that
"he that forces (a young woman) must drink "in his own vessel" how drink in his own vessel? though she be lame, though she be blind, and though she is stricken with ulcers.''
The commentators (s) on the passage add,
"in the vessel which he has chosen; that is to say, whether he will or not, he must marry her;''
see Proverbs 5:15. And again, they sometimes call a man's wife his tent: hence that saving (t),
"wtva ala wlha Nya "there is no tent but his wife", as it is said, Deuteronomy 5:30, go, say to them, get you into your tents again.''
And certain it is, that the woman is called the "weaker vessel" in 1 Peter 3:7, between which passage and this there seems to be some agreement. The same metaphor of a "vessel" is made use of in both; and as there, honour to be given to the weaker vessel, so here, a man's vessel is to be possessed in honour; and as there, husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge so here, knowledge is required to a man's possessing his vessel aright. Now for a man to possess his vessel in this sense, is to enjoy his wife, and to use that power he has over her in a becoming manner; see 1 Corinthians 7:4, and which is here directed to "in sanctification and honour"; that is, in a chaste and honourable way; for marriage is honourable when the bed is kept undefiled; and which may be defiled, not only by taking another into it, and which is not possessing the wife in sanctification and honour, it is the reverse, for it is a breaking through the rules of chastity and honour; but it may even be defiled with a man's own wife, by using her in an unnatural way, or by any unlawful copulation with her; for so to do is to use her in an unholy, unchaste, wicked, and dishonourable manner; whereas possessing of her according to the order and course of nature, is by the Jews, in agreement with the apostle, called (u), , "a man's sanctifying himself", and is chaste, and honourable. And it may be observed, that the Jews use the same phrase concerning conjugal embraces as the apostle does here. One of their canons runs thus (w):
"though a man's wife is free for him at all times, it is fit and proper for a disciple of a wise man to use himself "in", or "to sanctification".''
When these thing's are observed, this sense of the words will not appear so despicable as it is thought by some. The body is indeed called a "vessel"; see 2 Corinthians 4:7, because in it the soul is contained, and the soul makes use of it, and its members, as instruments, for the performance of various actions; and, with Jewish writers, we read of , "the vessel of his body" (x); so then, for a man to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, is to keep under his body and bring it into subjection, and preserve it in purity and chastity; as the eyes from unchaste looks, the tongue from unchaste words, and the other members from unchaste actions; and to use it in an honourable way, not in fornication, adultery, and sodomy; for, by fornication, a man sins against his own body; and by adultery he gets a wound, and a dishonour, and a reproach that will not be wiped away; and by sodomy, and such like unnatural lusts, men dishonour their own bodies between themselves: particularly by "his vessel", as Gataker thinks, may be meant the "membrum virile", or the genital parts, which, by an euphemism, may he so called; see 1 Samuel 21:5
(p) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 22. 2.((q) Juchasin, fol. 48. 2. Shalsheleth Hakkabala, fol. 23. 1.((r) Misna Cetubot, c. 3. sect. 4, 5. (s) Jarchi & Bartenora in ib. (t) T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 7. 2. & 15. 2.((u) Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 4. (w) Maimon. Hilch Deyot, c. 5. sect. 4. (x) Caphtor, fol. 57. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. know—by moral self-control.
how to possess his vessel—rather as Greek, "how to acquire (get for himself) his own vessel," that is, that each should have his own wife so as to avoid fornication (1Th 4:3; 1Co 7:2). The emphatical position of "his own" in the Greek, and the use of "vessel" for wife, in 1Pe 3:7, and in common Jewish phraseology, and the correct translation "acquire," all justify this rendering.
in sanctification—(Ro 6:19; 1Co 6:15, 18). Thus, "his own" stands in opposition to dishonoring his brother by lusting after his wife (1Th 4:6).
honour—(Heb 13:4) contrasted with "dishonor their own bodies" (Ro 1:24).
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