1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:…
The notion of the word sanctification signifies to consecrate and set apart to an holy use. Sanctification hath a privative and a positive part.
1. A privative part, mortification, which lies in the purging out of sin. Though it takes not away the life, yet it takes away the love of sin.
2. A positive part, vivification, which is the spiritual refining of the soul, which in Scripture is called a "renewing of your mind" and a "partaking of the Divine nature." The priests in the law not only were washed in the great laver, but adorned with glorious apparel; so sanctification not only washes from sin, but adorns with purity.
I. WHAT IS SANCTIFICATION?
1. Sanctification is a supernatural thing: it is Divinely infused. Weeds grow of themselves. Flowers are planted. Sanctification is a flower of the Spirit's planting; therefore it is called "the sanctification of the Spirit."
2. Sanctification is an intrinsical thing: "it lies chiefly in the heart." It is called the adorning "the hidden man of the heart." The dew wets the leaf, the sap is hid in the root.
3. Sanctification is an extensive thing: it spreads into the whole man. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." He is not a sanctified person who is good only in some part, but who is all over sanctified; therefore in Scripture grace is called a "new man"; not a new eye or a new tongue, but a "new man." A good Christian, though he be sanctified but in part, yet in every part.
4. Sanctification is an intense ardent thing: "fervent in spirit." Sanctification is not a dead form, but it is inflamed into zeal.
5. Sanctification is a beautiful thing; it makes God and angels fall in love with us, "the beauties of holiness."
6. Sanctification is an abiding thing: "His seed remaineth in him."
7. Sanctification is a progressive thing.
II. WHAT ARE THE COUNTERFEITS OF SANCTIFICATION? There is something looks like sanctification which is not.
1. The first counterfeit of sanctification is moral virtue.
2. The second counterfeit of sanctification is superstitious devotion.
3. The third counterfeit of sanctification is hypocrisy; when men make a pretence of that holiness which they have not. A pretence of sanctification is not to be rested in. Many ships that have had the name of the Hope, the Safeguard, the Triumph, yet have been cast away upon the rocks; so many who have had the name of saintship have been cast into hell.
4. The fourth counterfeit of sanctification is restraining grace. When men forbear vice, though they do not hate it, this may be the sinner's motto, "Fain I would, but I dare not." Here is no change of heart. Sin is curbed, but not cured; a lion may be in chains, but is a lion still.
5. The fifth counterfeit of sanctification is common grace, which is a slight, transient work of the Spirit, but doth not amount to conversion.
III. WHEREIN APPEARS THE NECESSITY OF SANCTIFICATION?
1. God hath called us to it: "God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness."
2. The necessity appears in this: without sanctification there is no evidencing our justification; justification and sanctification go together: "but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified."
3. Without sanctification we have no title to the new covenant. If a man make a wilt, and settle his estate upon such persons as he names in the will, none else but they can lay claim to the will; so God makes a will and testament, but it is restrained and limited to such as are sanctified; and it is high presumption for any else to lay claim to the will.
4. There is no going to heaven without sanctification: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
5. Without sanctification all our holy things are defiled: "Unto them that are defiled is nothing pure."
IV. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF SANCTIFICATION?
1. Such as are sanctified can remember a time when they were unsanctified.
2. The second sign of sanctification is the indwelling of the Spirit: "The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us."
3. The third sign of sanctification is an antipathy against sin.
4. The fourth sign of sanctification is the spiritual performance of duties, viz., with the heart, and from a principle of love. The sanctified soul prays out of a love to prayer; he "calls the Sabbath a delight."
5. The fifth sign, a well-ordered life. "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation." Where the heart is sanctified, the life will be so too: the Temple had gold without as well as within.
6. The sixth sign, steadfast resolution.
V. WHAT ARE THE CHIEF INDUCEMENTS TO SANCTIFICATION?
1. It is the will of God that we should be holy. In the text, "This is the will of God, your sanctification." As God's Word must be the rule, so His will the reason of our actions: this is the will of God, our sanctification. Perhaps it is not the will of God we should be rich, but it is His will that we should be holy. God's will is our warrant.
2. Jesus Christ hath died for our sanctification. Christ shed His blood to wash off our impurity.
3. Sanctification makes us resemble God.
4. Sanctification is that which God bears a great love to. A king delights to see his image upon a piece of coin: where God sees His likeness, there He gives His love.
5. Sanctification is the only thing doth difference us from the wicked.
6. It is as great a shame to have the name of a Christian, yet want sanctity, as to have the name of steward, and yet want fidelity; the name of a virgin, yet want chastity.
7. Sanctification fits for heaven: "Who hath called us to glory and virtue." Glory is the throne, and sanctification is the step by which we ascend to it.
VI. HOW MAY SANCTIFICATION BE ATTAINED TO?
1. Be conversant in the Word of God: "Sanctify them through Thy truth." The Word is both a glass to show us the spots of our soul, and a laver to wash them away.
2. Get faith in Christ's blood; "purifying their hearts by faith."
3. Breathe after the Spirit; it is called "the sanctification of the Spirit."
4. Associate with sanctified persons. Association begets assimilation.
5. Pray for sanctification.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: