Study 11 SANCTIFIED AND PRESERVED BLAMELESS
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-28
Salvation may be viewed in three tenses – past, present and future. The past tense is justification, and the moment anyone believes in Christ he is justified (Acts 13:38); the present tense is sanctification, and the moment anyone believes, God begins His sanctifying work in his life (Philippians 1:6); and the future tense is glorification (Romans 8:30). All who believe have been justified, are being sanctified, and will be glorified.
When God calls us we are already Justified, Sanctified and Glorified (look up Romans 8:29-30); compare Acts 20:32; Hebrews 10:10,14; Jude 1. Our justification is complete and settled, and it can never be added to or lost. Our sanctification is going on day by day and will only be complete at the coming of Christ. Our glorification will take place when the Lord comes.
Now what is the effect of these three tenses in the believer’s experience? Justification delivers from the penalty of sin; sanctification is to deliver from the power of sin; and glorification will deliver from the presence of sin.
Sanctification is God’s provision for victorious Christian living. He has settled our past and justified us, has guaranteed our future, and has provided for our present – please read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 very carefully.
1. THE MEANING OF SANCTIFICATION
What is meant by the words, “the God of peace sanctify you through and through…may your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless…”? There are two dangers that face us as we answer this question: (1) the danger of over-statement, of looking for an experience of holiness, of sanctification and of victory that is beyond what is promised to us and provided for us; and (2) the danger of under-statement, of seeking, expecting, experiencing and being satisfied with less than that which God has provided and made possible for us.
The root meaning of the word ‘sanctify’ is ‘to set apart’ (John 17:19 and Hebrews 9:13). When the word is used in the New Testament in relation to believers it means more than this. Sanctification for the Christian means the separation from sin and defilement and the dedication of the life to God, and also the progressive conforming of the life more and more, day by day, into the likeness of Christ – look up Romans 8:29 and compare 2 Corinthians 3:18. The process of sanctification is variously described in the following references: Romans 6:18; Colossians 3:9-10; 2 Peter 3:18. Three words sum up the meaning of sanctification: Separation, Dedication, Transformation.
But it is significant that Paul gives us a definition of what it means to be sanctified through and through: it means to have the “whole spirit, soul and body kept blameless”; that is, the whole man is set apart from sin and to God, being conformed into the likeness of Christ. Notice (1) The words “THROUGH and THROUGH” and “WHOLE” mean “entirely”, or “in every part”. (2) The word “KEPT” means just that, as in John 17:11-12 and Jude 24. (3) The word “BLAMELESS” means “without blame”.
To be sanctified through and through means to be kept each day in a condition of spirit, soul and body that is well-pleasing to the Lord – “blameless”. Is this sinless perfection? No! Is this the eradication of the old Adamic nature? No! Does this mean that we can be brought into a position from which we shall not be tempted? No! Look up Jude 24 and notice that God’s plan and provision for us is that we should be blameless now, and faultless then!
2. THE METHOD OF SANCTIFICATION
Notice that God must do this work (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). Only God can justify us, only God can glorify us, and only God can sanctify us. How? Through the operation of the Holy Spirit within us.
- (1) He does it as we unreservedly yield ourselves to Him. Romans 12:1 indicates the sphere of sanctification – “your bodies”; and Romans 6:13 speaks about offering the individual “parts” of the body to the Lord – heart, mind, will, eyes, ears, hands, feet, lips etc.
- (2) He does it as we deliberately cleanse ourselves from all sinful and doubtful things. The ground of all cleansing from sin is the Blood of Christ, but God calls upon us to act, as illustrated in the following five (sample) references. (1) 2 Chronicles 29:5,12,15-17; (2) 2 Corinthians 6:14,15,17 and 7:1; (3) Colossians 3:5-10; (4) 1 Thessalonians 5:22; (5) 2 Timothy 2:19-22.
- (3) He does it as we seek to live in obedience to and in subjection to His Word. Look up John 15:3; 17:17; and 1 Peter 1:22, and compare 2 Corinthians 3:18. As we read the Word and submit to it the Holy Spirit makes us more and more like the Lord Jesus.
- (4) He does it as we trust Him in all lifes varied disciplines. Look up Hebrews 12:10, and compare Job 23:10; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:7. In Romans 8:28-29 we read that “in all things God works…” to make us more and more like the Lord Jesus. What things? Sorrow, joy, loss, disappointment, adversity, prosperity.
- (5) He does it through the “means of grace”, as we pray, take Communion, and have fellowship with other Christians in worship and in service.
3. THE MOTIVE OF SANCTIFICATION
The word ‘motive’ means ‘that which moves or excites to action’. It is God’s work to sanctify us, but by the Holy Spirit He excites us to co-operate with Him and to submit in this matter of our sanctification; and there is one great motive that Paul mentions. It is contained in the words “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. When we realise that the Lord is coming and that He may come at any moment, surely this excites us to action! We feel at once constrained to live blamelessly so that “when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at His coming” (1 John 2:28) – look up 1 John 3:2-3.