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TO CHEW ON: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Today we complete our reading of 1 Thessalonians. This read-through we've followed the theme of the return of Jesus. We have seen that:
- Our lives should show that we expect this event (A waiting lifestyle).
- The hope of someday meeting Jesus is a great motivator (Someday we'll meet Jesus).
- His return will complete the work of sanctification in us (The final transformation).
- The Bible gives us details about Christ's return and Christians being caught away with Him—often called the "Rapture" (Caught away).
- We need to be ready for His return at any time (The ready lifestyle).
Our focus verse today is Paul's affirmation / prayer that these Thessalonian Christians are and will be ready for this event. Paul speaks again about how God will complete their sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
But Paul has just listed a whole lot of dos and don'ts for living (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)!
So which is it? Is their sanctification an act of God? Or are they to work at it by living a certain way?
I love how Jerry Bridges tackles this question in his book The Pursuit of Holiness. Some of his helpful insights:
In Chapter 3 ("Holiness is not an Option"), he delves into 1 Corinthians 1:2, and focuses on the word "sanctified." "Sanctified" in 1 Corinthians 1:2 is the same Greek word hagiazo that is rendered "sanctify" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. He says of that word:
"The word 'sanctified' here means 'made holy.' That is, we are through Christ made holy in our standing before God, and called to be holy in our daily lives" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, Kindle Location 230 (emphasis added).
Then he goes on to explain the relationship between God's actions and ours:
"Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God and a holiness which we are to strive after. These two aspects of holiness complement one another, for our salvation is a salvation to holiness" - K.L. 230 (emphasis added).
"… we may say that no one can trust in Jesus Christ for true salvation unless he trusts Him for holiness. This does not mean the desire for holiness must be a conscious desire at the time a person comes to Christ, but rather it means that the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us the desire for holiness. He simply does not create one without the other" - K.L. 244 (emphasis added).
So according to Bridges' explanation, it's both. It's God and us and God in us, working on the project of our sanctification. And, Paul assures us, when Jesus returns, He will "sanctify you completely" or finish the work of making us holy—the project that began the day we got saved, the project that includes attending now to the practical attitudes and actions of holy living Paul lists in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, come soon! This study has whet my appetite for Your return. In the meantime, help me to be obedient to the Holy Spirit's training in holy living. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.