1 Thessalonians 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 Thessalonians 4)

Verse 1

[1] Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

More and more — It is not enough to have faith, even so as to please God, unless we abound more and more therein.

Verse 3

[3] For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

Sanctification — Entire holiness of heart and life: particular branches of it are subjoined.

That ye abstain from fornication — A beautiful transition from sanctification to a single branch of the contrary; and this shows that nothing is so seemingly distant, or below our thoughts, but we have need to guard against it.

Verse 4

[4] That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

That every one know — For this requires knowledge, as well as chastity.

To possess his vessel — His wife.

In sanctification and honour — So as neither to dishonour God or himself, nor to obstruct, but further, holiness; remembering, marriage is not designed to inflame, but to conquer, natural desires.

Verse 5

[5] Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

Not in passionate desire — Which had no place in man when in a state of innocence.

Who know not God — And so may naturally seek happiness in a creature. What seemingly accidental words slide in; and yet how fine, and how vastly important!

Verse 6

[6] That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

In this matter — By violating his bed. The things forbidden, here are three: fornication, 1 Thessalonians 4:3; the passion of desire, or inordinate affection in the married state, 1 Thessalonians 4:5; and the breach of the marriage contract.

Verse 8

[8] He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

He that despiseth — The commandments we gave.

Despiseth God — Himself.

Who hath also given you his Holy Spirit — To convince you of the truth, and enable you to be holy. What naked majesty of words! How oratorical, and yet with what great simplicity!-a simplicity that does not impair, but improve, the understanding to the utmost; that, like the rays of heat through a glass, collects all the powers of reason into one orderly point, from being scattered abroad in utter confusion.

Verse 9

[9] But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.

We need not write — Largely.

For ye are taught of God — By his Spirit.

Verse 11

[11] And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

That ye study — Literally, that ye be ambitious: an ambition worthy a Christian.

To work with your hands — Not a needless caution; for temporal concerns are often a cross to them who are newly filled with the love of God.

Verse 12

[12] That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

Decently — That they may have no pretence to say, (but they will say it still,) "This religion makes men idle, and brings them to beggary." And may want nothing - Needful for life and godliness. What Christian desires more?

Verse 13

[13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

Now — Herein the efficacy of Christianity greatly appears, - that it neither takes away nor embitters, but sweetly tempers, that most refined of all affections, our desire of or love to the dead.

Verse 14

[14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

So — As God raised him.

With him — With their living head.

Verse 15

[15] For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

By the word of the Lord — By a particular revelation.

We who are left — This intimates the fewness of those who will be then alive, compared to the multitude of the dead. Believers of all ages and nations make up, as it were, one body; in consideration of which, the believers of that age might put themselves in the place, and speak in the person, of them who were to live till the coming of the Lord. Not that St. Paul hereby asserted (though some seem to have imagined so) that the day of the Lord was at hand.

Verse 16

[16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

With a shout — Properly, a proclamation made to a great multitude. Above this is, the voice of the archangel; above both, the trumpet of God; the voice of God, somewhat analogous to the sound of a trumpet.

Verse 17

[17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Together — In the same moment.

In the air — The wicked will remain beneath, while the righteous, being absolved, shall be assessors with their Lord in the judgment.

With the Lord — In heaven.