1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It is the invariable result of union with Christ (John 15:5). He whom the Blood cleanses walks in the light. He who has a lively hope in Christ purifies himself, as He is pure (1 John 1:7; 1 John 3:3).
2. It is the outcome and invariable consequence of regeneration. The new creature lives a new life (1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:9-14; 1 John 5:4-18).
3. It is the only certain evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is essential to salvation (Romans 8:9). The Spirit never lies idle in the soul, but makes His presence known by His fruits (Galatians 5:22). It, is nonsense to suppose that we have the Spirit if we do not walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25; Romans 8:14).
4. It is the only sure mark of God's election. There is much that is mysterious about this subject; but nothing is plainer than that the elect are known by their holy lives (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
5. It is a thing that will always be seen. It cannot be hid.
6. It is a thing for which every believer is responsible. Every man has power to lose his own soul; but believers are under special obligation to live holy lives.
7. It is a thing which admits of growth and progress.
8. It depends largely on a diligent use of Scriptural means — Bible reading, private prayer, attendance on public worship, regular communion. There are no spiritual gains without pains.
9. It does not prevent a man having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:1).
10. It cannot justify a man, but it pleases God (Romans 3:20-28; Hebrews 13:16; Colossians 3:20; 1 John 3:22). Just as a parent is pleased with the efforts of his little child to please him, though it be only by picking a daisy, so our heavenly Father is pleased with the poor performances of His believing children. But they must first be believing — i.e., justified children; for "without faith it is impossible to please God."
11. It will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the day of judgment, it will then be utterly useless to plead our faith if it has not been evidenced by our works.
12. It is necessary to train us for heaven. Then hope to get there; but the only way is "the way of holiness." We must be saints before we die if we are to be saints in glory. When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, a fish happy on dry land, then will an unsanctified man be happy in heaven.
II. ITS VISIBLE EVIDENCE.
1. It does not consist in —
(1) Talk about religion (1 John 3:18).
(2) Temporary religious feelings (Matthew 13:20).
(3) Outward formalism and external devoutness.
(4) Retirement from our place in life (John 17:15).
(5) The occasional performance of right actions (Mark 6:20).
2. It will show itself in —
(1) Habitual respect to God's law, and the habitual effort to live in obedience to it as the rule of life (1 Timothy 1:8; Romans 7:22).
(2) An habitual endeavour to do Christ's will (John 15:14).
(3) An habitual desire to live up to the standard which Paul sets before the Churches in the closing chapters of nearly all his Epistles.
(4) Habitual attention to the active graces which our Lord exemplified, and especially the grace of charity (John 13:34, 35; Colossians 3:10).
(5) Habitual attention to the passive graces of Christianity, which are especially shown in submission to God and forbearance towards man (1 Peter 2:21-23; Galatians 5:22, 23).
III. THE RELATION OF SANCTIFICATION TO JUSTIFICATION.
1. In what are they alike?
(1) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God.
(2) Both are part of the great work of salvation which Christ. has undertaken on behalf of His people.
(3) Both are found in the same persons.
(4) Both begin at the same time.
(5) Both are alike necessary to salvation.
2. In what they differ.
(1) Justification is the reckoning a man to be righteous for the sake of Christ; sanctification is making a man righteous.
(2) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but Christ's; that which we have by sanctification is our own, imparted by the Holy Ghost.
(3) In justification our works have no place at all, simple faith in Christ being the one thing needful; in sanctification our works are of vast importance, and are commanded by God.
(4) Justification admits of no growth; sanctification is essentially progressive.
(5) Justification has special reference to our persons; sanctification to our natures.
(6) Justification gives us our title; sanctification our meetness for heaven.
(7) Justification is the act of God about us; sanctification the work of God within us.
1. Let us awake to a sense of the perilous state of many professing Christians (Hebrews 12:14).
2. Let us make sure work of our own condition.
3. We must begin with Christ. We must first live and then work.
4. We must continually go on as we began (Ephesians 4:16).
5. Let us not expect too much from our hearts here below. The more light we have the more we shall see our own imperfection. Absolute perfection is yet to come.
6. Let us never be ashamed of making much of sanctification.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: