Study 8 GOD’S CALL TO A HOLY LIFE
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-12
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, put into simple language, means this: God’s plan and purpose for His children is that they should live holy lives and He has given His Holy Spirit to make that possible. There is no more important truth for us to understand and experience than this biblical doctrine of holiness. Throughout Scripture we hear God calling His people to holiness, yet today this great doctrine has been almost lost sight of; consequently many of God’s people are living joyless, powerless and fruitless lives, and the Church’s witness in the world is weak and ineffective.
When Paul wrote to the young Christians at Thessalonica who had recently been engulfed in all the darkness of paganism, he longed that they should be holy. In verses 1 - 12 of this chapter we can see the meaning, the motive and the method of a holy life.
1. THE MEANING OF A HOLY LIFE
Let’s ask ourselves: What are the marks and characteristics of a holy life?
- (1) A life that is pleasing to God (verse 1). Do you desire to please Him? – then you must be holy and you must have a testimony like that of Enoch (Hebrews 11:5).
- (2) A life of going on with God. Verse 1 tells us that it is a life of increase and of progress. How many people are born again, have the assurance of sins forgiven, but they never seem to grow in grace! Are you going on with the Lord and growing? – look up 2 Peter 3:18.
- (3) A life of clear-cut separation from evil. In verse 3 we are exhorted to ”avoid sexual immorality”; verse 5 speaks of “passionate lust”; verse 6 warns us that a Christian should not “wrong his brother or take advantage of him”; and in verse 7 we are solemnly called to cut out every form of impurity. Because God calls us to a life of purity, we must do something about it - look up 2 Corinthians 7:1.
- (4) A life where the body is kept under control (verse 4). Have we presented our bodies to the Lord for Him to give us the mastery over them (Romans 12:1)? – compare Romans 6:13.
- (5) A life that is transformed (verse 5). God calls us to live an entirely new life, a holy life (Romans 6:4).
- (6) It is a love-filled life (verses 9 and 10). To be holy is to be healthy, and the secret of spiritual health is love (Romans 5:8).
- (7) It is a life of absolute honesty (verse 12). No-one can say that this is not practical - holiness in action! - becoming more and more like Christ.
2. THE MOTIVE OF A HOLY LIFE
What is it that compels us to be holy? There is a three-fold motive:-
- (1) God commands it. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Paul says, “We urge you …”; in verse 2 he speaks of this matter as “an instruction…of the Lord Jesus”; in verse 3 he says, ”It is God’s will…” ; in verse 7 he tells us that God has called us to live a holy life; and in verse 8 he says that if we reject this instruction we are not rejecting man, but God Himself.
- (2) We need to be holy. Having studied the seven characteristics of a holy life, can we say we have now made a clean cut with all that is unholy? Is our life really different? Are we filled with love? Are we absolutely honest?
- (3) The world expects us to live a holy life. The unbelievers around us expect great things of us. How true it is that we profess so much and possess so little!
But how is this life of holiness possible? How can we enter into the experience of holy living?
3. THE METHOD OF A HOLY LIFE
Can we by our own strength make ourselves holy? No! Verse 8 states that God gives us His Holy Spirit, and this holy life is not produced by our trying or our struggling, but by the empowering of the Holy Spirit; He is the secret of a holy life within us, to make us holy. Does that mean there is nothing for us to do? Surely there is, for there are three steps into this holy life, each related to the fact that the Holy Spirit lives in us:
- (1) We must Recognise His Presence. We may not feel His presence, but verse 8 makes it clear that He indwells us - and this is true of every real Christian.
- (2) We must Respect His Person - it is the Holy Spirit, the Holy One Himself, and this will call for adjustment of life and for a drastic dealing with all those things which would grieve Him. Everything unholy must be turned out of our life and we must give up every known sin, but only in the Holy Spirit’s strength are we able to do this.
- (3) We must Receive His Power. We must count on Him to make and keep us holy by drawing upon His infinite resources; and as we by faith receive His fullness we must trust Him to make us holy.
Finally, notice these two things: (1) We can begin to live a holy life now, but this requires a crisis - a definite act of surrender and of faith on our part, which takes place in a moment; but (2) we must go on to live a holy life - that is, as moment by moment we recognise His presence, respect His person and receive His power. How very wonderful it is that God who called us to live a holy life has given us His Holy Spirit to make such a life possible!