Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Will of God, Your Sanctification

I am reading Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians in the morning, and a sentence jumped out anew.  I think the punctuation in my ESV helped bring this to light.*

Paul wants to exhort the young church to continue on in Christ.  He has already remarked that their testimony is making amazing strides, so he supplies a warning to help them finish well.  First, he reminds them to remain steadfastly in what had been delivered through his instruction:
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  (1 Thess 4:1-2)
Paul was a model of consistency in his apostleship, varying only on how he would begin his proclamation of the gospel.  The message and practice for the foundling church never wavered.  Then he turns his attention to the sentence that stood out.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:
that you abstain from sexual immorality;
that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter,
because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  (1 Thess 4:3-6)
Paul wants to ensure that the believers understand that they have been sanctified (made holy, set apart) unto the Lord.  While a strict, narrow definition of holiness as used in the Bible does not contain a moral element, the application comes into play when applied to moral beings and how holiness is manifest among them.  That being so, Paul focuses on the topic of sexual immorality.

Thessalonica worship included the pantheon of Greek gods with its inherent lascivious worship and entertainment.  Paul gives a three-fold practical admonition in light of this: abstain from the illicit activity (testimony to unbelievers), exercise self-control (testimony before God), and do not cheat on a fellow believer (testimony to the church).  This warning helps to ward off what became a problem in Corinth (1 Cor 5:1-6).
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.  (1 Thess 4:7-8)
Paul reminds them that the Christian definition of holiness is the opposite of pagan holiness.  While the latter is marked by pleasing a deity through carnal passions, the former is marked by denying self and receiving the goodness found in fellowship with the deity.  This fellowship is marked by the very presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit given freely to us, so to behave immorally is to wrong both the person with whom you engaged in the activity and God who dwells in you.  Do not attempt the excuse that you are consenting adults, surrendering to the heat of passion, or following cultural norms.  God is still grieved.

Jesus bore that sin on the cross.  Live like it means something,.

*  In case you are wondering, I assume that the Holy Spirit is the chief instigator.

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