1 Thessalonians 4:5
Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
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(5) Not in the lust of concupiscence, for such a method of using one’s faculties, such an attempt to acquire mastery of vital powers, is really to abandon them altogether to others. This notion is involved in the very word here translated “lust,” which is more often rendered “passion,” and implies something which befalls a man, something done to him: “Not in the helpless passivity of concupiscence” or uncontrolled desire.

The Gentiles which know not God.—Mind the punctuation. The readers of the letter were “Gentiles which knew God.” Their brother Thessalonians. are held up to them as melancholy examples of men who are trying in the wrong way to show their power over themselves. Remark that this is not one of the crimes which he alleges against Jews.

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.Not in the lust of concupiscence - In gross gratifications.

Even as the Gentiles - This was, and is, a common vice among the pagan; see the Acts 15:20 note; Romans 1:29 note; Ephesians 4:17-18 notes, and the reports of missionaries everywhere.

Which know not God - See the Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28 notes; Ephesians 2:12 note.

5. in the lust—Greek, "passion"; which implies that such a one is unconsciously the passive slave of lust.

which know not God—and so know no better. Ignorance of true religion is the parent of unchastity (Eph 4:18, 19). A people's morals are like the objects of their worship (De 7:26; Ps 115:8; Ro 1:23, 24).

Any violence of affection we call passion, whether of love, or anger, or desire, because the soul is passive, or suffers thereby. The Stoics said passions were not incident to a wise man; and: They that are Christ’s, saith the apostle, have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts, Galatians 5:24. And lust is usually taken for all inordinate affection, either with respect to the object or degree; though the Greek word doth signify only desire, and is sometimes taken in a good sense, as Philippians 1:23; for, there are good lustings as well as evil, as Galatians 5:17, the Spirit lusteth against the flesh; but here the word is taken in a bad sense, for the lust of uncleanness, which the apostle here calls

the lust of concupiscence. The philosophers distinguish of the affections or passions of the soul, some are irascible, some concupiscible. The former are conversant about evil, to repel it or fly from it; the latter about good, either real or imaginary, to pursue it or embrace it. And the lusts of concupiscence are either of the mind or of the flesh, Ephesians 2:3: here we understand the latter, that fleshly concupiscence that is conversant about women, which if by vessel in the former verse is understood man’s lawful wife, then he forbids all unchasteness even towards her; if the body, then he forbids all unchaste usage of the body in any kind, or towards any person whatsoever. And, to avoid fornication, he forbids lust that leads to it.

Even as the Gentiles which know not God; which the apostle useth as an argument to them: Though ye are Gentiles by nation as well as others, yet not in state, such as know not God. There is a natural knowledge of God, which the apostle speaks of, Romans 1:21, which the Gentiles had; and supernatural, which is by the Scriptures; to know the mind, will, nature, decrees, and counsels of God as they are there revealed: and the knowledge of God in Christ; this is meant in the text, and this the Gentiles had not, and therefore no wonder though they followed the lust of concupiscence, they wanted the rule of God’s word to direct them, and that effectual knowledge of God, and presence of his grace, that would have restrained them from such lust. But these Thessalonians now, since their conversion by the gospel, were come to this knowledge of God, which they had not before, and therefore were not to live as before they did. Knowledge ought to influence our hearts and lives, and to sin against knowledge is the great aggravation of sin, and will make men more inexcusable. But yet where knowledge is wanting what wickedness will not men practise! The Gentiles were alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in them, Ephesians 4:18. The Jews crucified Christ, and Saul persecuted the disciples, through ignorance, 1 Timothy 1:13. Much more are those Christians to be condemned, who, having more knowledge than the Gentiles, yet practise worse than they; as the apostle upbraids the Jews upon this account, Romans 2:27. Not in the lust of concupiscence,.... Or "passion of lust"; for the mere gratifying and indulging of that; for a man so to possess his vessel, is to cherish the sin of concupiscence, the first motions of sin in the heart, by which a man is drawn away, and enticed; to blow up the flame of lust, and to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof:

even as the Gentiles which know not God; for, though they knew him, or might know him with a natural knowledge, by the light and works of nature, yet they knew him not savingly and spiritually, as he is revealed in the word, of which they were destitute; or as the God of all grace, and the God and Father of Christ, or as he is in Christ: and though by the light of nature they might know there was a God, yet they knew not who that God was; nor did they act up to that light and knowledge they had; they did not glorify him as God, by ascribing to him what was his due; nor were they thankful for the mercies they received from him; nor did they fear, love, worship, and serve him; nor did they like to retain him in their knowledge, and therefore were given up to judicial blindness and hardness, to a reprobate mind, and to vile affections, and so did things very inconvenient, unnatural, and dishonourable. Wherefore, for a man to use either his wife or his body in any unchaste and dishonourable manner, for the gratifying of his lusts, is to act an Heathenish part; a like argument, dissuading from things unlawful, is used in Matthew 6:32.

{4} Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

(4) The third, because the saints are distinguished by honesty and purity from those who do not know God.

1 Thessalonians 4:5 brings forward the prescription ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ once more on account of its importance, but now in a negative form.

μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας] not in the passion of desire. Accordingly, Paul does not here forbid ἐπιθυμία, for this in itself, as a natural impulse, rests on the holy ordinance of God, but a πάθος ἐπιθυμίας, that is, a condition where sense has been converted into the ruling principle or into passion. Theodore Mopsuestius (ed. Fritzsche, p. 165): ὡσὰν τοῦτο ποιοῦντος οὐκέτι ταύτῃ ὡς γυναικὶ συνόντος ἀλλὰ διὰ μίξιν μόνην ἁπλῶς, ὅπερ πάθος ἐπιθυμίας ἐκάλεσεν.

καί] after καθάπερ is not added for the sake of elegance (Pelt), but is the usual καί after particles of comparison; see 1 Thessalonians 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Romans 4:6, etc.; Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 126.

τὰ μὴ εἰδότα τὸν Θεόν] of whom nothing better is to be expected. Comp. on the expression, Galatians 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8.5. not in the lust of concupiscence] Far better, not in the passion of lust (R. V.). The sense of the last verb (to possess) is carried on, with a modified application, into this clause: not (to have it: i.e. your body) in a state of lustful passion. (For the altered meaning of the verb, comp. 1 Corinthians 3:2 : “I gave you milk to drink, not meat”). This condition—the state of one immersed “in” wicked desire—is the opposite of “sanctification and honour.”

The word “passion” signifies not so much a violent feeling, as an overpowering feeling, one to which the man so yields himself that he is borne along by evil as if he were its passive instrument; he has lost the dignity of self-rule, and is the slave of his lower appetites. Comp. Romans 7:5, “the passions of sins which wrought in our members;” and Romans 7:20, “It is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

In such shameful bondage lived the Gentiles which know not God (an O. T. expression, Psalm 79:6, Isaiah 45:4-5; recurring in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, see note). For impurity, often in most abandoned and revolting forms, was a prevailing feature of Pagan life at this time. In Romans 1:24, &c., St Paul speaks of this as a punishment of the heathen world for its wilful ignorance of God: “He gave them up unto passions of dishonour.” Man first denies his Maker; then degrades himself.

The God Whom these degraded “Gentiles knew not,” is the “living and true God” of ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:9, to Whom Thessalonian believers had “turned from their idols.” Coming to know Him by His gospel, they had devoted themselves to Him; and so their bodies had been redeemed from vice and dishonour, and the soul had a clean house to live in, a clean vessel to use for holy service.1 Thessalonians 4:5. Μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας, not in the lust of concupiscence) As concupiscence gains the mastery, it at length waxes strong, so as to become a wretched passion and disease, 2 Samuel 13:4.—τὰ ἔθνη, the Gentiles) These are also denoted at 1 Thessalonians 4:12-13, by different periphrases [“them that are without,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 : ‘others,’ οἱ λοιποί, 1 Thessalonians 4:13].—τὰ μὴ εἰδότα, who know not) Ignorance is the origin of unchastity, Romans 1:24. [Look at the serenity of heaven, and thou wilt conceive a loathing of impurity.—V. g.]Verse 5. - Not in the lust of concupiscence - not in the passion of lust (R.V.) - even as the Gentiles which know not God; and therefore from whom nothing better was to be expected. The moral sense of the heathen was so perverted, and their natures so corrupt, that they looked upon fornication as a thing indifferent. Not in the lust of concupiscence (μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας)

Lit. in passion of desire. Not with avaricious greed. For ἐπιθυμία see on Mark 4:19. Its meaning is by no means limited to sensual lust; see, for instance, Luke 22:15. It is used as including all kinds of worldly desires, as Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24; 1 John 2:17. In Romans 7:7, especially of covetousness.

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