For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality… 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification, (4:3, 7).
Thessalonica, located in northern Greece, was the largest city in Macedonia and a busy seaport and trade center. These new believers, many who were recent converts from paganism, lived amidst a culture steeped in pagan deities, rampant immorality, and a horrifying fear of death. “In the first-century, moral standards were generally very low, and chastity was regarded as an unreasonable restriction… Inscriptions on tombs and references in literature show that first-century pagans viewed death with horror, as the end of everything,” NIV Study Bible.
And with such an ingrained attitude about death, it made sense, that some of the recent converts had mistakenly come to assume that all believers would live until Jesus returned. But where did that leave their loved ones, who had died and missed His return?
The Thessalonian church was being hit on every side. Pressures and persecution from without and perplexities and puzzlement from within.
Perhaps the tempter came with his questions. Wouldn’t it just be easier to fit in? And if you would just stop rocking the boat with your claims about Jesus and His resurrection, and if your lifestyle wasn’t so peculiar, so contrary to the cultural norms, wouldn’t your troubles cease? And what about your loved ones? Why are you even hanging on?
Questions are a part of life. But answers for life only come from One. And Paul desperately wanted these new believers to find their answers in the Truth. God has not called His children to fit in and to stop rocking the boat. He has called His children to be peculiar, to be separate from the world, to live in dedication to Him as His very own.
“38. ἁγιασμός hagiasmós; gen. hagiasmoú, masc. noun from hagiázō (37), to sanctify. Sanctification, translated “holiness”… Separation unto God,” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
“53.44 ἁγιάζωa; ἁγιασμός, οῦ m: to dedicate to the service of and to loyalty to deity—‘to consecrate, consecration, to dedicate to God, dedication.’ Though in certain contexts ἁγιάζωa and ἁγιασμός suggest resulting moral behavior, the emphasis is not upon a manner of life but upon religious activity and observances which reflect one’s dedication or consecration to God. Accordingly, in 1 Cor 1:2 one may translate ἁγιάζω as ‘who have given themselves to God’ or ‘who serve God with a whole heart.’” Louw- Nida Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament
As Paul begins to close out his letter written to embolden these new believers, he reminds them that because they belong to God, they are to be a peculiar people, a people who no longer live for themselves, but for God. This is His Will for every believer. His Will, Our Sanctification.
Consider His Will, Our Sanctification
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to obedience
- Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus, (4:1-2).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to maturity
- …that you excel still more… 10 for indeed you do practice it… But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more (4:1, 10).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to deny self
- For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (4:3).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to preserve purity
- that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor (4:4).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to faith
- not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (4:5).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to honor others
- and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. (4:6).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to love the brethren
- Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (4:9).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to proper behavior
- and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need, (4:11-12).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to hope
- But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. (4:13).
- His Will, Our Sanctification; set apart to the comfort of His return
- Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:18).
How do we respond to His Will, Our Sanctification?
Our Sanctification is His gift to us; but oh, it cost Jesus greatly. Rejected by His people and forsaken by His Father, He paid the price for our salvation with His shed blood to fulfill the Will of His Father, that we might be set apart and sanctified as His own.
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate, (Hebrews 13:12).
For this is the will of God, your sanctification… (4:3).
His Will, Our Sanctification. We can’t have one without the other.
For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you, (4:7-8).
Shouldn’t the thought of rejecting God’s Holy Spirit stop us in our tracks? When the desire comes to just fit in, to stop rocking the boat and just give in, let us stop first and consider this truth; fitting in with the world does not fit in with His Will, Our Sanctification. Giving in to lust is not merely accepting our weaknesses, it is rejecting His Will, Our Sanctification.
Instead, let’s choose to be peculiar. Because we are!
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9 KJV).
And let’s live like we are getting ready for the most important date of our life. Because we are!
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord, (4:14-17).
The day is coming when we will meet the Lord to be with Him forever. Until that day, let us ask the Lord to set us apart to obedience, maturity, self-denial, preservation of purity, faith, honoring others, loving the brethren, proper behavior, hope, and the comfort of His return.
Oh, that we would live to bring Him glory through our great gratitude for the gift of His marvelous salvation that has claimed us as His own peculiar people who live surrendered to His Will, Our Sanctification.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).