Summary: An expostion of 1 Thess 5:24-25--the call to holy living.
Sanctified-Through and Through
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: For several months we have closed our evening services with the benediction that ends 1 Thessalonians. Tonight I want to use that passage as the text for our overview of this next book in our on-going journey through the New Testament. Recite it with me . . .
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Note how those three verses break down into three sentences, each with a slightly different emphasis. They are all part of the same prayer. Each is related to the other two. But each brings a unique and important perspective to the whole.
These three little verses perform a similar function for the whole book of 1 Thessalonians. I think it is no accident that the little letter closes with this prayer. The themes of this prayer provide the handles with which to grasp the message of the entire book.
Verse 23 highlights God’s plan for every believer—complete sanctification. The middle verse emphasizes the purpose of our sanctification—to stand blameless when Christ returns. The final verse points to the promise that makes this possible—the faithfulness of God. Let’s use this closing prayer as our roadmap for the book of 1 Thessalonians.
The first verse of the pray highlights God’s plan for every believer. What is God’s plan for your life and mine? Ask that question to a dozen different people and you will probably get a dozen different answers. Rarely will anyone put the emphasis where this text does. Some might say God wants you to get saved. He wants to forgive your sins. Others might say God’s plan is for you to be baptized. Or go to church. Or to be obey the Ten Commandments. Others might say God wants you to go to heaven—that’s his plan for you!
All of these answers might be partly right. Some might be very good in the proper context. But each is limited. Few go where this text goes—God’s plan is that you be sanctified through and through. That concept requires some definition. But before we go there, let’s note that the call for sanctification is not limited to this text.
On the night before the cross, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:17-19). To the elders of Ephesus, Paul said, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). First Corinthians begins, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours..” (1 Cor 1:1:2). Later 1 Corinthians adds, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). Note what 1 Thessalonians says earlier, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified …” (4:3).
The term sanctified is a verb form. The noun form is usually translated as holiness. When applied to people the term is “saint,” people who have been set apart for God and only God. Listen to these passages.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
“I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom. 6:19-22).
”Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
“…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).