GOD’S CALL TO PURITY AND HOLINESS!
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Most of us get really excited when we think about the 2ndcoming of our Lord Jesus Christ and take great encouragement in verses 13-18. Of course, that is as it should be because we are commanded to “watch and pray.”
However; it is interesting to note that there are several things mentioned which must happen before He ever returns.
And these things cause us to ask several questions:
- Will He find us faithful at His coming?
- Will He find us loyal at His coming?
- Will He find us holy at His coming?
This lesson will begin one of the most exciting and rewarding studies we have ever undertaken in the Word of God. As we study the practical application of this chapter we will see that Paul is exhorting the Thessalonians to make progress in their Christian walk. He exhorts them to practice the commandments that He gave them when He was with them. He also reminds them that they must be careful to obstain from all impurity and uncleanness as this was prevalent in their former lives as Gentiles.
Here is what God is saying, “if we are going to be unblamable in holiness then we must strive to live a holy life.”
This chapter gives us two parts:
- Some practical exhortations, verses 1-12
- Some suggestions designed to comfort those who had suffered loss in verses 13-18.
The first part gives the following topics:
- An exhortation to increase and abound in the Christian qualities they had already manifested, verses 1-2.
- An exhortation on the subject of sanctification, verses 3-8. Two points are specified: fornication and fraud.
- An exhortation to brotherly love, verses 9-10.
- An exhortation to be busy in their own business, and to honesty in their dealings, especially with Christians, verses 11- 12.
Verse 1. “Furthermore then.”That is, all that remains is to offer these exhortations.
“We beseech you.” The Greek is, “we ask you” It is not as strong a word as what follows. “And exhort you,” or beseech.
This is the word which is commonly used for more earnest exhortation. The use of these words here implies that Paul regarded the subject as of great importance. He could have commanded them, but he has learned that kindness in exhortation usually accomplishes more than a cruel command.
“By the Lord Jesus.”In his name, and by his authority. “That as ye have received of us.” You were taught by us. Paul had given them repeated instructions as to their duty as Christians. “How ye ought to walk.”
How ye ought to live. Life is often represented as a journey, Romans 6:4; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 4:1. We are commanded to “walk to please God.”In other word’s our walk will determine whether we are pleasing God or not. “So ye would abound more and more.”That is, learn to follow these directions more and more.
He acknowledges their walking and that their conduct was sanctified; but he also exhorts them to abound more and more. Paul points out the importance of living in harmony in the will of God.
Here is an important principle: he points out that it is the duty of a man of God to point out and enforce moral duties as well as teaching major Bible doctrine. In other words, we can please God by our holy walk, because He will always be pleased with what we do by faith.
Verse 2. “For ye know what commandments.” Paul was with them only a short time and they could not help but remember the rules of living which he had laid down. “By the Lord Jesus.”By the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 3. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.”It is the will or command of God that you should be holy. This does not refer to the purpose or decree of God, and does not mean that He intended to make them holy; but it means that it was the command that they should be holy.
This text should not be taken as a proof that God is trying to make us holy, or that we are sanctified. It is proof only that He requires holiness. It means here purity of life, and mainly abstinence from those sins that degrade the soul. Because sanctification consists in two things,
- In “ceasing to do evil.”
- In “learning to do well.”
In other words, the first work of sanctification is in overcoming the tendency to evil in our nature, and restrain the unholy habits we had formed before we were saved. “Learning to do well”consists of cultivating the positive principles of holiness in the soul. “That ye should abstain from fornication.”This sin was a real problem among the heathen to which they had been exposed.
Verse 4, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel.” The word vessel probably refers to the body, because the body is frail like an earthen vessel, easily broken 2 Corinthians 4:7. The word body probably means the whole church, both male and female. It was the duty of women; and of the unmarried men, as well as of married men, to obey this command. The command is that we should preserve the body in purity. “In sanctification and honour.”Should not pollute it; that is, that we should honour it as a righteous work of God for pure purposes.
Verse 7. “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness.” When he called us to be his followers, it was not that we should lead lives of impurity, but of holiness and fulfil the purposes for which we were called into his kingdom.
The word uncleanness means: impurity, filth; and then, in a moral sense polluted, the opposite of purity, Romans 1:24; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; 5:3; Colossians 3:5.
Verse 12. “That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without.” It does not refer to honesty only in business, but to their general treatment of those who were not professing Christians (those outside the church).
They were to conduct themselves towards them in a Christ like manner; to be honest with them; to be faithful to their actions; to be kind and courteous in their relationships; to show respect where it was due; and to endeavour to do them good.
There are few precepts of our faith more important than those which we as Christians have toward others. That is proper treatment of those who are not connected with the church. We need to learn that it is the duty of a Christian to live as not to be dependent on others, unless we is made so by the Providence of God which we cannot foresee or control.
No man should be dependent on others as the result of lazy habits; of reckless spending and carelessness; of the neglect of his own responsibilities, and of meddling with that of others. If by reason of old age, sickness, we are made dependent, we cannot be blamed, and we should not fret at our lot in life.
One of the ways in which a Christian can always do good in society, and honour his faith, is by faithful and patient service, and by showing that Christianity offers the fulfillment that people in the world are looking for.
Let me say that God is pleased with what a Christian does in faith because, “The Lord taketh pleasure in His people.”
Also, it is required of a Christian to increase in godliness, “So ye would abound yet more and more.”Paul recognizes that they have already begun their walk and admonishes them of the necessity of making further increase in holy walking.
Next, we will learn FOUR WAYS IN WHICH TO WALK HOLY.\
I. HE EXHORTS (ASKS) THEM TO HAVE A DESIRE TO
He constantly reminded them of his intense love, thankfulness and prayer for them; but now he beseeches them to persevere.
2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
He recognized their difficulty in trying to keep a good testimony for the Lord in this sinful world. He also understands that many of the problems in their lives will depend on how much they persevere, so he uses all the means possible to persuade them to persevere.
II. HE EXHORTS (URGES) THEM TO PURSUE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
He now urges (a little stronger word) them to pursue Christ. They needed all kinds of encouragement, comfort and exhortation; much as Christians do even today.
III. HE EXHORTS (REMINDS) THEM OF THEIR PAST.
What Paul is doing now is really interesting. He first ASKS, URGES and now REMINDS them of his former teaching. In other words, he appeals to their recollection. They already knew many of these things but he reminds them that knowledge involves responsibility.
In the Gospels Jesus Himself tells us of the condemnation that hangs over the servant who knows His will but does not do it. And that is the reason Paul uses the words, “Ye know.”
Let me say that if knowledge brings obedience than knowledge is good, if disobedience than that know is vain and can be a curse. It is for that reason that we must use the knowledge according to the Will of God and to hear the wonderful words, “well done, good and faithful servant,”rather than the terrible words, “Thou wicked and slothful servant.”
IV. HE THEN URGES THEM TO MAKE CONTINUED PROGRESSS.
Now that he has taught them how to walk to please God and to walk in the Spirit. He exhorts them to go even further and continue to make progress. That is the key to the Christian life today – continue to make progress, no matter where you are in your Christian walk.
Our attitude ought always to be, “speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”What I am saying is that pleasing God ought to be our highest purpose because it brings joy and blessings. Walking always implies that progress is being made, while standing still can be very risky. We must go from strength to strength in our walk with God.
Paul has reminded them and us that we must “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
Here is a wonderful thought, the grace of God will always abound without limit, because He “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not”James 1:5.
So that simply means that we must abound more and more in our daily walk and progress with God.
THREE PRACTICAL LESSONS:
- Do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Remember that along with knowledge also comes responsibility.
- Strive to make progress in all Christian virtues: faith, hope,love, humility,
Again, knowledge is great, but without practical Bible application it is vain.
Next, we will learn about:
Joshua 7:13, “Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”
The first duty expressed here is SANCTIFICATION:
Sanctify means to make holy, or to set apart for God, Genesis 2:3; Exodus 19:23. In the Old Testament, sanctification often represented the ceremonial or ritual consecration of any person or thing to God: so the Hebrews as a people were “holy unto the Lord,” Exodus 31:13; and the tabernacle, the altar and the priests, were set apart for the God’s service, Leviticus 8:10-12.
In the similar sense, men, “sanctified themselves” who made special preparation for the presence and worship of God, Exodus 19:10, 11; Numbers 11:18. For example:
- A day was sanctified when set apart for fasting and prayer, Joel 1:14“Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD.”
- The Sabbath was sanctified when observed and treated as “holy unto the Lord,” Deuteronomy 5:12, “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.”
- All these sanctifications were a tribute to the holiness of God, and suggest men’s need of sanctification, or the devotion of purified and obedient men to his love and service.
In a doctrinal sense, sanctification is to make perfectly holy what was before corrupted and sinful. It is growth of God’s grace upon the Christian justified by the love of Christ. We are gradually cleansed from the corruption of our nature, and then we are presented to God, “unspotted before the throne of God.”
We must realize that it is the Holy Spirit that performs this work along with the providence and Word of God, John 14:26; 17:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 and this ought to move every Christian not to resist Him but seek to be holy even as He is holy.
Sanctification involves more than a just reformation of our old nature or our character, brought about by the power of the truth of God’s Word, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new principles implanted in the soul. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Romans 6:13; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
It is the special work of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption to carry on this work (1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Faith is instrumental in sanctification, because:
- It secures our crucifixion with Christ Galatians 2:20.
- It brings us into contact with the truth, whereby we are led to yield our
obedience to Him.
Let me say that perfect sanctification is not attainable in this life (1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).
- One need only look at Paul’s account of himself in Romans 7:14-25; Philippians 3:12-14; 1 Timothy 1:15.
- David Psalm 19:12, 13; 51:1-19.
- Moses Psalm 90:8.
- Job 42:5, 6.
- Daniel 9:3-20.
Look at this statement: ‘The more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing, self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ. The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, which he laments and strives to overcome. Believers find that their life is a constant warfare, and they need to take the kingdom of heaven by storm, and watch while they pray. They are always subject to the constant chastisement of their Father’s loving hand, which can only be designed to correct their imperfections and to confirm their graces. And it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians have been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves.” Hodge’s Outlines Easton’s Dictionary.
I. THE MOTIVE OF SANCTIFICATION.
- It ought to be within every member of the church to seek to live a sanctified life. That means a surrender of body, mind and spirit for the purpose of serving and glorifying God.
- It also means for a personal purity in heart as well as life. Meaning we are to“cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”2 Corinthians 7:1.
II. THE MEANING OF SANCTIFICATION.
- It is of God as well as the will of God. That ought to move any of us to pray, “teach me to do Thy will, for thou are my God.”
- Christ’s death is the means. His death was by God’s plan: “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify Himself peculiar people, zealous of good works” Titus 2:14.
III. THE MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION.
- It is by God’s truth.
- It is by His providence.
There is such a fine line between the providence of God and election. Let me first of all say that God does not elect anyone to go to hell.
I like the way Evangelist Paul Mershon put it: “Election is no more than God revealing the ‘means and method’ of salvation. The means is faith and grace. That is God has given us enough faith to believe the simple gospel of Christ, and it is by the method of grace that He saved us.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
- It is by His ordinances.
- It is by His Holy Spirit for Holiness.
PURITY OF HEART!
Please read Isaiah 1:16-20
Isaiah means: The salvation of Jehovah. His name is repeated many times. Isaiah was from a good family background which is evident by his access to the kings. He was married and had two sons 7:3; 8:1-3.
His ministry began at the close of Uzziah who reigned for 52 years. The sad thing is that Uzziah was basically a good king for all of those years. Except that he overstepped his bounds when he interfered in the ministry of the man of God. His punishment was Leprosy for the rest of his natural life. Isaiah is divided into two parts:
- The first thirty-nine chapters take place before the Babylonian captivity.
- Chapters forty through sixty-six took place after the captivity.
The first thirty-nine chapters have more to do with Isaiah’s experiences and the last chapters on prophecy. Let’s look at some of the lessons of this text before we move on:
In verses 10-15 Judea was desolate, and their cities burned. This awakened them to bring sacrifices and offerings, as if they would deceive God to remove the punishment, and give them liberty to go on in their sin. Many, who will readily part with their sacrifices, will not be persuaded to part with their sins. They relied on the mere form as a service deserving a reward. The most-costly devotions of wicked people, without thorough reformation of heart and life, cannot be acceptable to God. He not only did not accept them, but he despised them. All this shows that sin is very hateful to God.
If we allow ourselves to go on in secret sin, or if we reject the salvation of Christ, even our very prayers will become an abomination to Him.
In verses 16-20 is an important lesson: not only feel sorrow for the sin committed, but break off the practice. It is plain that the sacrifices of the law could not atone for sin, even for outward national sins. But, blessed be God, there is a Fountain opened, in which sinners of every age and position may be cleansed. Watch!
God gave them a call to repentance and reformation:
A.They must cease to do evil.
In other words, do no more wrong, and shed no more innocent blood.“Our business is to wash ourselves from it by repenting of it and turning from it. We must put away not only that evil of our doings which is before the eye of the world, by refraining from the gross acts of sin, but that which is before God’s eyes, the roots and habits of sin, that are in our hearts; these must be crushed and mortified. Matthew Henry.
B. They must learn to do good.
I think we all understand that it is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well.
- We must be doing, not cease to do evil and then stand idle.
- We must be doing good, the good which the Lord our God
- We must do it well, in a right manner and for a right end.
So, God is saying, life and death, good and evil are set before you. “Come now, and let us reason together.”
What is your objection against the fairness of this, or against complying with God’s terms?’
Certainly all would agree that one of the laws of the scripture is purity of heart for the Christian. God will not use a dirty vessel. So we have one of two choices:
- Clean up our own life.
- Continue to live in rebellion against God.
God has given us a remedy for cleansing:
Isaiah 1:16,Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Jeremiah 4:14,“O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?”
Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
2 Timothy 2:21,“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
James 4:8,“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
1John 3:3, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
God, in His grace has given us so many promises for cleansing that we are literally “without excuse.”
Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Ezek. 36: 25,“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
Ephesians. 5:25,“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,”
So, how can I be pure?
I. REALIZE THE WILL OF GOD IS THE STRUGGLE.
To please God ought always to be our main desire and we can only please God by faith and obedience to His Word.
The Lord does not take pleasure in “outward”obedience as He does in “obeying the voice of the Lord,” and our prayer ought to be “Thy will be done.”
This can be very difficult to attain but the Christian must yield himself/herself to the Lord’s will.
II. REALIZE THE WILL OF GOD IS OUR SANCTIFICATION.
Remember that sanctification is the separation from all evil and requires consecration of the whole man to the service of the Lord, and gradual conforming to the will of God. We come to God by faith and He in fact is our righteousness. It is then and only then that the work of sanctification begins, because Jesus Christ is our sanctification. It is a progressive walk sometimes very slow but consistent.
Remember also the more we grow in the knowledge of the Lord the more He magnifies Himself through us. Then the result is that we will yearn after holiness with a strong and intense desire to please Him by living a sanctified life.
Because He abides in our heart by the power of the Holy Spirit He literally lives our life for us. This is the will of God and is God’s plan for each of us.
Let me say that He is the God of truth; His promises are always “ye”and “nay.”His standard is always the same and not impossible for each of us to attain.
NEXT, (and last) ‘PURITY OF LIFE.’
Back to 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. We must remember that Paul is writing these new converts that had only a short time before lived a pagan life.
It became necessary for him to speak as one with authority, because what was a great sin in the sight of God was indifference to them.
But also remember that the will of God is our sanctification and this involves purity of life. Without purity of life it is very difficult for us to see the Lord. But the Bible says that, the pure in heart will see the Lord. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
So, after weeks of study on “GOD’S CALL TO PURITYAND HOLINESS” how can we live a pure life?
I. ALL UNCLEANESS MUST BE FORSAKEN.
I am not just talking about dirty Television programs, but most of television is not fit for human consumption. Even the ads have gotten worse and worse. The television and computer is a poor substitute for human relationships, etc.
II. ALL UNCONFESSED SIN MUST BE CONFESSED.
It is my firm belief that if the outside is not right it is impossible for the inside to be right with God. Our inner purity covers our entire spiritual life. We cannot walk in darkness with our videos, television, music and expect to walk with God when it comes time to go to church.
Purity of life implies freedom from all that is selfish, worldly, false and hypocritical because it is the whole character of God.