Sanctification and Sexual Purity: Honoring the Process of Sanctification in our Lives

1 Thessalonians 4:1-5 SCC 5/18/14



The priority of excelling still more 4:1:  ‘Finally then brethren we request and exhort…’

1. The priority in the Christian life is to excel still more spiritually. Obviously the Spirit of God is not content with mediocrity. He's not content with minimal spiritual progress. He's not content with status quo, he wants them to excel still more. They have excelled. They need to do it more.

2. This section is introduced by the concept “Finally,”. Paul urged his readers to continue walking (behaving day by day) as they had been instructed. They needed to “excel still more.” The highest motive is to “please God” by a life of obedience to His “commandments.” These express His will and chart a safe course for the Christian by leading him or her safely to the goal of spiritual maturity.

3. “To walk and please God,” means “to conduct your life so as to please God”. Here’s what I want to tell you he says. This is the priority message. "We request and exhort you to excel still more." So his attitude is gentle and gracious and kind while at the same time being urgent establishing his priority of excelling still more. The priority is spiritual progress, spiritual growth, which is compelled and driven by a longing to conduct their lives so, God is pleased! The vertical look


The progress of excelling still more 4:1: ‘just as you actually do walk—that you may excel still more.’

1. You started down the right path, keep going. Sometimes you fall, sometimes you stumble, and sometimes you walk unwisely even though you were told to walk with insight. Sometimes you walk in the flesh and you have to be told to walk in the Spirit. But keep taking those steps of spiritual progress. Keep going in that same direction. Keep pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God and Christ Jesus. Keep excelling more.  That introduces content of the request: the instruction of apostle.

(a). That the Thessalonians received this instruction. Apparently they never balked at what they were taught but embraced it.

(b). That instruction was deliberate and not negotiable. It related to how they ought to conduct their lives with attendant expectations for such.
(c). That instruction was bound up in living life that gives God pleasure. Essentially, it was eternal in perspective and vertical in direction.

(d). That instruction was already making an impact in their lives with measured success that was demonstrable to all who knew them.     

2. Still more: an intensive use of the word. Sanctification is progressive and ongoing. It is a process that is never completed in this life, but one in which we are to continue to grow, no matter how much we have already achieved. Twice in our text, Paul uses the expression “more and more” v 1, 10.


The principles for excelling still more 4:2: ‘For you know what commandments we gave you…’

1. The principles are laid down in the Word of God. Commandments: order or instruction in plural form points to special precepts or rules for living. The apostles teaching and writing is the source of authority for the church today just as it was for the Thessalonians. There are two authors of the Bible—human and divine. The human author wrote to a particular historical situation and location, which has meaning for that context. The HS also authored the scripture so that what was written in its historical context has application for all time for the entire body of Christ. It’s that record that God uses today in our lives.

2. Now not all of you are going to grow at the same rate. And failure doesn't mean the end of your growth, it just means get up and go again. And your spiritual progress may not always be visible outwardly. And circumstances of life and success or failure in life don’t necessarily reflect God's commendation of your progress. But keep excelling. Stay in the Word of God.


The power for excelling still more 4:2: ‘commandments we gave you in the Lord Jesus’

1. Lord Jesus: gives the medium thru whom alone these are carried into effect. We're speaking to those of you who are in the Lord Jesus. It is you we are requesting and exhorting to excel.

2. And here is the reason: because you are the only ones who have the power to excel in our instructions. By virtue of being in the Lord Jesus, that wonderful concept of having your life hid with Christ in God, being united in solidarity with Christ, in Christ, by virtue of that union with Him is the resource and the power to excel.



The will of God is our sanctification 4:3: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification…’

1. The will of God for the Christian is clear. Positively it is sanctification, namely, a life set apart from sin unto God. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. Sanctification is not a peripheral, non-essential matter. Paul says here that sanctification is the purpose for which we were saved (verse 7).

2. The command 4:3: ‘that you abstain from sexual immorality’

Negatively it involves abstinence (self-denial) from all kinds of sexual behavior that is outside the prescribed will of God including adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, etc. Rather than participating in these acts the believer should learn how to control his or her body and its passions in sanctification and with honor. And what is he asking for? Total abstinence. Stay far enough away to do the will of God, far enough away to be sanctified, set apart, pure and holy, untainted and unstained. Stay away from sin, so far away that you are unstained.

3. Sanctification involves every area of our lives, including sexual. Just as total depravity impacts every dimension of our life, so sanctification must not exclude any part of our life from the transformation that begins at conversion through faith in Jesus.


The will of God is to control our bodies’ 4:4: ‘that each of you know how to possess his/her vessel…’

1. Don't let your body control you. Every individual Christian is to know how to gain mastery over his own, something very personal, vessel. We live in a society where the body is in control. You're to live your life not asking how far can I go and not go over the line, but how far can I stay away and be utterly set apart from sin and bringing honor to my body which is God's which should be used for the glory of Jesus Christ.

The word possess means to possess someone or just possess. Paul encourages every believer to control their own body as it pertains to sex as well as and other matters. Again we do so for our sanctification, the process of becoming holy. In addition he adds the word ‘honor’. The idea being that our bodies have worth and value since God has given them to us. Sexual immorality is a form of abuse. Don’t do that to yourself.


2. Don't act like the godless pagans 4:5: ‘not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who know not God…’

(a). Don't act like the godless pagans, the rampant uncontrolled desire and passion for sexual gratification that is typical of unregenerate people is not to be characteristic of Christians. We should not behave lustfully like Gentiles who do not have special revelation of God and His will.

(b). Sanctification requires that the Christian’s thinking, attitudes, and actions related to sex must differ radically with those of the unbelieving world. The words ‘lustful passion’ refers to allowing your sexual instincts to become a ruling principle in your life. They are not to be fed. This Gentile lustful passion’ seeks self-gratification as the primary goal, and thus the other party is “used.” One should easily see how this could be abusive.

(c). Gentiles: So here's a characterization of the unregenerate. They don't know God. Consequently they are driven by lustful out of control cravings, compelling urges, overpowering desires of the body. That's it. Christians can't live like that, that's how the godless people live.


So What?

1. Overcoming our fleshly tendencies requires a vertical view of life. Horizontal focus will feed the fleshly status quo. Meditate on Gods Word. Bask in the character of God. Humble yourself.

2. Battling these tendencies are required because the world makes them a priority. So we cannot just escape them. Since your sanctification is Gods will, then it must be pursued in spite of the battle.