(:23-24) BENEDICTION — ANTICIPATE COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION AT THE LORD’S RETURN BECAUSE OF GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IN PRESERVING HIS SAINTS
Emphasis last week was on our responsibility to be discerning – in doctrinal areas and in moral areas so that we would be sanctified as we “hold fast to that which is good” and “abstain from every form of evil.” It could be overwhelming as we think back through the epistle and consider all that we have been charged to do. [Review the epistle]
Today we are looking at God’s role in our sanctification. That is where the encouragement and the enablement comes into play. Our sanctification depends ultimately on the gracious work of God in our life. He both initiates our salvation and consummates our sanctification. It is all a work of God’s grace through faith. This passage is meant to be a tremendous encouragement to all of us who are truly trusting in the work of God.
Theme of the epistle:
CHURCH PLANTERS ENCOURAGE GROWING DISCIPLES TO ENDURE PERSECUTION AND WALK WORTHY OF THEIR CALLING IN ANTICIPATION OF THE LORD’S RETURN
Prayer at the end of chap. 3:13 “so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
We have talked many times about the precious doctrines of God’s amazing grace – sometimes labeled the five points of Calvinism or the fundamentals of the Reformed faith – but better known as Scriptural truths supporting Sovereign Grace
T = Total Depravity – Inability of man to save or sanctify himself; Impact of the Fall and Original Sin; every person is enslaved to sin and incapable on his own of responding to God in repentance and faith
U = Unconditional Election – God chose specific ones for salvation; all of His initiative God’s choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God’s mercy alone.
L = Limited Atonement – Particular Redemption
Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power (in other words, God could have elected everyone and used it to atone for them all), but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all. Hence, Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect.
I = Irresistable Grace – Efficacious grace; those whom God has elected to save and intends to save, He actually saves – doesn’t lose any of them
P = Perseverance of the Saints / Preservation of the Saints – Eternal Security —
Those who are genuinely saved (not just those professing faith in Christ) will endure to the end and enjoy eternal security. No one can ever pluck them out of God’s hand. He does the work of sanctifying and preserving His elect.
Other NT verses supporting this doctrine of Preservation of the Saints:
l Peter 1:5 “By God’s power we are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Jude 24,25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Yet we are charged with the responsibility to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (2:12)
l Corinthians 1:8-9 “Jesus Christ will sustain you to the end; guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
2 Thess 2:14 “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
* * * * *
We are charged in Hebrews with the responsibility to “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (12:14)
How much sanctification do we need? We know that we are not saved by our own good works or by our own level of holiness …
It is the righteousness of God that has been imputed to our account … but then God does the work of sanctifying us and eventually making us completely righteous – but we still must pursue this sanctification as well
1 Cor 1:30 “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,”
Sanctification has 3 different phases:
– Past phase = a settled reality at the moment of Justification
Heb. 10:10,14 “We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all times those who are sanctified”
– Present phase = Here the focus for us is on the ongoing process of daily being conformed more to the image of Christ and His holiness of character and conduct; that process will be brought to completion in our lives at the moment that Christ returns; until that point God is working in us to progressively sanctify us; we are looking at that process that will issue in our ultimate completed sanctification
– Future phase = the anticipation is of the consummated sanctification at that moment of the return of Christ when we will all be completely glorified
Tough to separate these final two phases – the present and the future — in our text for today … because the present process issues in the future consummation – God is the one who keeps us on the road to sanctification, enables us to make progress and gets us to our final destination
I. (:23) ENCOURAGEMENT IN ANTICIPATING COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION
[II. (:24) ASSURANCE OF COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION]
A. Encouragement as we consider the Agent — God Himself = “the God of Peace”
Emphasis on “Himself” – the one with all of the resources to help us – He is the Agent of our Sanctification
God has not delegated the important function of assuring our salvation to some underling who has limited powers; the emphasis here in the Greek is that God Himself is the Agent preserving His saints and assuring our sanctification
This is the God of Peace – who has already won the final victory and will usher us into that perfect peace where we are delivered even from the presence of sin
Sin wages war against God; the unbeliever has no peace with God and no internal peace where he knows it is well with his soul
The believer sometimes finds himself in the type of conflict against sin that Paul described in Rom. 7 – very disturbing – How can we continue to struggle with sin when we have been delivered and indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
“Like a river glorious is God’s Perfect Peace”
The New Covenant is described as a covenant of Peace (Ezek. 37:26)
Barton: cf. how Paul closes other letters with reference to God of peace – Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:16 . . . Unlike worldly peace, which is usually defined as the absence of conflict, this peace is confident assurance in any circumstance; with Christ’s peace, no believer needs to fear the present or the future
Be on guard against sin in your life –
– affects your peace with God – the enjoyment of that relationship
– affects your internal peace with yourself – all types of conflicts within – Fears, worries, anxieties, bitterness, depression
– affects your peace in your relationships with others
If you are not at peace – ask God to search your heart and expose your sin – your lack of trusting Him completely – He is the God of Peace
B. Encouragement as we consider the Scope
Big theological debate over whether man has been designed by God to have 3 basic parts [Trichotomy] or only 2 basic parts [Dichotomy] – material and immaterial
No need to get overly technical here –
– words are piled up for emphasis – not to delineate separate and distinct parts of man
(Mk 12:30 – four parts specified here: heart, soul, mind, strength);
– sometimes man is referenced as body and soul; sometimes body and spirit
– both soul and spirit have the same emotional descriptions associated with them
Point is that the entirety of man is going to be preserved in holiness and ultimately completely sanctified
Interesting that Paul includes the “body” – Greeks sometimes made a distinction where the body was viewed as inherently evil and not subject to sanctification – believers are to glorify God in the body (1 Cor. 6: 13-20)
**Cannot compartmentalize your life – sanctification must flow through your entire life
Sott: Emphasis is on the thoroughness of God’s sanctifying work
Van Paranak: The object of the overseer’s watching is the believer’s soul (Heb. 13:17). Today we speak glibly of the “soul” as the spiritual and eternal part of man, that which lives on beyond the grave. But in the Bible, the lines are not so sharply drawn. The whole person can be termed a “soul” (Acts 7:14; 1 Pet. 3:20). Or “soul” can refer to a man’s physical life, without reference to spiritual salvation or damnation (Acts 15:26). It may refer to the inner self, which experiences the whole gamut of sensations to which man is subject: satisfaction (Luke 12:19), sorrow (Matt.26:38), pleasure (Heb. 10:38), pain (Luke 2:35), even being well-fed (Matt. 6:25). The overseer, in watching for the soul of the believer, guards far more than his spiritual well-being. He is responsible for every aspect of the believer’s welfare.
C. Encouragement as we consider the Process
1. “sanctify you entirely” – set apart from sin to God for His purposes and for His service
Hoke: Throughout the Old Testament, you find God setting things apart for His use — thus making them holy. The priests were set apart. The Tabernacle and all its utensils were set apart. When the Tabernacle was set apart the shekinah glory of God appeared between the cherubim inside the Holy of Holies and the cloud appeared outside. God was in it. The reality of His presence on the inside appeared on the outside. So God also wants that to happen in our lives as well.
You see, sanctification is a door into communion with God. God desires for our lives to be progressively more set apart to Him. This process means that He makes more of a difference in my life today than yesterday. I should be more yielded to Him. I should experience a greater awareness of His presence. My behavior should be impacted. Jesus should make more of a difference in how I live my life. And if those things are true, then I will experience a greater communion with God, a greater sense of His presence and power.
Rom. 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service”
Bruce: This is the only place in the NT where o`lotelei/j occurs. . . cf. an inscription recording Nero’s announcement of “complete exemption from taxation” to all Greeks at the Isthmian Games of A.D. 67.
Hiebert: a compound of holos, “whole, entire,” and telos, “end.” Its basic connotation is “wholly attaining the end, reaching the intended goal,” hence has the force of no part being left unreached. The prayer is that the divine sanctification may extend to every part of their being, leaving no area untouched by the pervasive power of divine holiness. It is tragically true that “many are satisfied with a partial Christianity, some parts of their life are still worldly.” (Lenski)
2. “preserved” – thrhqei,hÅ Guarded
Morris: The word “entire” does not differ very greatly from that rendered “wholly” in the earlier part of the verse, though there is probably some difference of emphasis. Whereas the former word brought us the thought of “that which has attained its end,” this one signifies “that which is complete in all its parts.” It has interesting associations with sacrifice in the Greek Old Testament and elsewhere. It describes the “whole” stones that were used in making the altar. It is used also of the victims that were offered. If Paul has this sacrificial usage in mind it would fit in very well with the entire surrender of the man to God which is involved in sanctification.
b. “without blame”
Those that emphasize that this passage deals only with the progressive aspect of salvation have difficulty with this phrase – make it parallel to an elder being blameless as he is judged by men; but here we stand in judgment before God; He is the one making the evaluation – does this mean that God finds in us enough fruit so that we have at any point in time the brand of Christianity on our life?? I think it goes beyond that to God causing us to Abide in Christ … to remain in living connection with the holiness and righteousness of Christ so that He looks on us and sees Christ and ultimately transforms us completely into the image of Christ in terms of holiness and sanctification
D. Encouragement as we consider the Timeframe — “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Don’t expect complete sanctification before this timeframe – those who hold to sinless perfectionism need to consider this verse
Not Sinless Perfection right now – that is a pipedream
Much emphasis in 1 Thess on the imminent return of Jesus Christ – something we are looking forward to with great anticipation – uncertain about the exact time – but it is soon and drawing closer
Are we prepared for Christ to return? Are we encouraged that God will sanctify us completely?
Here Paul goes beyond Encouragement to Assurance!
II. (:24) ASSURANCE OF COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION
A. Based on the Faithfulness of God in Calling You
“Faithful is He who calls you”
2:12 “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory”
4:7 “for God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification”
God’s Faithfulness to His Word is what is at stake here – but is He able to carry out this promise?
B. Based on the Sovereignty of God in Completing His Work in You
“and He also will bring it to pass”
God is a Doer; He is the Sovereign Worker — no one can hinder or thwart His plans
Num. 23:19 “God is not a man that He should lie; nor a son of man that He should repent; Has He said and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?”
God is no Indian giver; not going to go back on His promises; not going to drop us halfway along the road to heaven
Rom. 8:30 – impossible to get off the train of God’s Sovereign Salvation before we reach the final destination
(:25-28) FOUR CLOSING REQUESTS – DO YOUR PART WHILE DEPENDING ALWAYS ON THE SOVEREIGN GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
I. (:25) PRAY FOR THE MISSIONARY TEAM – FOR PERSEVERANCE IN HOLINESS AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL
“Brethren, pray for us.”
Paul and the missionary team had been praying for them; these prayers should be reciprocal; Paul stands in need of prayer himself;
II. (:26) MAINTAIN CLOSE FELLOWSHIP (CONTEXT OF LOVE AND HOLINESS) WITH ALL BELIEVERS
“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”
Avoid discrimination and favoritism; no Christian cliques; no elitism; no personal favoritism as James warned against
Accompanied by a culturally appropriate physical gesture of fellowship
[College fellowship group tried to apply this literally at one point – awkward]
Ryrie: For the kiss as a symbol of welcome in Jewish life see Luke 7:45; 22:48. As a symbol of Christian fellowship . . . Paul uses the phrase in Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; and 2 Cor. 13:12.
Hiebert: While defining its spirit, there is no indication that these words were intended to inaugurate a new Christian practice. The kiss upon the cheek was a common form of Oriental greeting among friends. The custom, common in non-christian circles, was taken over by the Christian church, but purified and sanctified. It was exchanged among believers as they assembled for worship. Apparently at this time the sexes were segregated in the assembly and the men kissed the men and the women the women. The kiss was exchanged on the basis of brotherly love among members of one spiritual family.
III. (:27) COMMUNICATE THE TRUTH
“I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”
Never forget the privilege we have of such great access to the Word of God – we get to quibble over which translation to use; we have our large study Bible and then our smaller Bible to carry around
God’s Truth is precious and needs to be communicated to all the brethren
This was not just some message intended for the leaders of the church
IV. (:28) GROW IN GRACE
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Closes the epistle how he had opened it: 1:1 “Grace to you and peace”
We have at our disposal all of God’s resources to enable us to live the Christian life
CHURCH PLANTERS ENCOURAGE GROWING DISCIPLES TO ENDURE PERSECUTION AND WALK WORTHY OF THEIR CALLING IN ANTICIPATION OF THE LORD’S RETURN
– Times may be difficult; persecution may increase in this country
– We have a high calling
– Christ is coming soon
The Lord’s message to us is one of Holiness and Sanctification
The encouraging news is that the God of Peace has promised to sanctify and preserve His saints