that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,1 Thessalonians 4:4(NASB)
Paul was given a unique place in the Church because he was the one who was called and chosen by God to have a special ministry to the Gentiles.
Paul had been halted in his anti-Christian rampage on the road to Damascus. His objective had been to exterminate every Christian man, woman, and child from the face of the earth. But he was arrested in his heart by Jesus of Nazareth and his zealous hatred was turned into a passionate desire to intimately know his Lord and Saviour.
Paul's eagerness to share the good news of the gospel of God can be seen in each epistle he wrote to the churches - where his great desire and prayer is to bring believers into the same mature, unshakable, God-honouring faith that he had.
It was during his second missionary journey that Paul penned this letter to the Thessalonian Christians... reminding them of certain things he had taught them. He longed to visit these believers and prayed for them ceaselessly. But he was also much encouraged by a report, from Timothy, of their continuing faith and love, and their hope in the soon return of Christ for His Church.
Paul had given much instruction on Christian living to these believers, but he wanted to ensure that they continued to mature in the faith and that they also controlled their bodily passions. He did not want these Christians to be stunted in their spiritual growth nor to backslide into the carnal ways of the world.
Having been justified by faith in Christ, he was keen to ensure that these believers progressed towards spiritual maturity - through the lifelong process of sanctification by faith - and in the power of the Spirit.
He longed that they were strengthened in their hearts and blameless in their living... and so we read that Paul prayed earnestly for them, night and day: "That every one of them should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour (not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles.. who do not know God)."
Paul knew that the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes can cause the most pious person to stumble and fall if they seek to control their own fleshly passions in their own strength. He knew the weakness of human flesh and that each one of us is responsible to keep our body and behaviour pure before the Lord. And so Paul encouraged each one to "possess his vessel in sanctification," so that their outward behaviour reflected a life that was being progressively sanctified and becoming increasingly Christlike.
He encouraged them to make sure that outward actions and behaviour did not dishonour the Lord. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and our behaviour should be a reflection of Christ's beautiful life. We should not participate in lustful passions - like the unsaved Gentiles who do not know the Lord... for we have this Treasure in earthen vessels - we have the indwelling Spirit of Christ living within our hearts and are to live our lives accordingly.
But he also knew that we have a sin nature and cannot control our fleshly passions in our own strength... for the power needed to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil is gained from above... and is freely given. When a life is under the control of the Spirit of God and maintaining fellowship with our Heavenly Father, we are enabled to possess his vessel in sanctification and to the honour of the God of our salvation.
Heavenly Father, thank You that I have everything I need for life and godliness. Keep me pure in thought, word, and deed, and give me the strength to live in this earthly vessel in a manner that pleases You and honours Your name. Thank You that I have the indwelling Holy Spirit and that my body is a temple of God. May I grow in grace, abide in Christ, and possess this bodily vessel in sanctification. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.