September 1, 2010
Building Strong Friendships in Christ
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23
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Have you ever taken time to think about your spiritual life? How about your spiritual being? So many people teach that we are nothing more than molecules. So many people do not believe in a resurrection or after-life of any type. So many people do not understand what God wants to do for them, and to bring more joy to them than they could ever know apart from the Lord Jesus. So many people do not want the God of peace working to produce holiness in their lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul has provided a list of commands to change your life. As he concludes his letter to the Thessalonians, he now invokes the blessing of God upon them. I often like to look at the particular title of God used in a particular verse. Please recall always that every word of the Bible has been chosen by God, without errors of any kind. Therefore, when Paul describes God as “the God of peace,” I take those words as a title of God in this passage. In Romans 5:1, we read that believers have been justified by faith, and therefore, they have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, you will never know God and you will never know His peace (John 14:6; John 14:27). Notice too the word “Himself” in our passage today. God will be doing His work in your life.
Now we turn to the work God will be doing in your life: “sanctify.” This word sanctify (““) means to make holy, fit and separated for God’s use and purposes. God seeks to work directly in your life to make you perfect before Him. He will do the work in your life. You turn your life over to Him by faith and He will work. Notice here the word “entirely.” This word entirely (“ “) means that God intends to change every part of who you are. In Christ, the moment you believed that Jesus Christ died in your place on the cross, and you accept His gift of forgiveness, then you became a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Jesus teaches us about several types of sanctification in the Bible. At least three related types of sanctification exist in the Bible.
From the standpoint of salvation, you have been completely sanctified in Christ, because the penalty of your sins has been completely removed by the blood atonement of Jesus Christ and you no longer live under the wrath and judgment of God (Hebrews 10:10).
From the standpoint of daily experience, you still sin after salvation and need daily help with sin. In that sense, God continues to sanctify you over the course of your lifetime, and to produce His holiness in you and He works to remove sinful patterns and habits from your life by His sanctifying power (1 Thessalonians 5:23). As a new creature in Christ, you no longer live under the slavery of sin, and you now live to righteousness. Jesus also prays for the Father to sanctify His children in the truth of the Word of God (John 17:17).
Finally, we also sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, ready to make a defense of the hope that is within us, with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).
Paul also refers to the body, soul and spirit. Many Bible scholars have researched the question of what makes up a man. Do we have a body? Yes, that question does not pose a problem for anyone except gnostics and docetists, who both deny the Bible and the true divinity of Jesus Christ because they both deny that Jesus had real human flesh (Hebrews 2:14; John 1:14). Now we get to the harder questions. Does the Bible show that man has only a soul (““) and spirit (“ “)? Many people use this passage in 1 Thessalonians to prove that man has only body, soul and spirit. They teach a tri-partite view of man. In contrast, others see the Bible as teaching an immaterial part of man (spirit, soul, mind of Christ, heart, conscience, etc.) and a material part of man (body). You may learn many things from studying passages related to who you are in Christ, but for today, I simply want to focus upon the text before us. God wants to sanctify every part of you, for His glory and use right now and throughout eternity.
Finally, notice that the purpose of God’s sanctifying work centers upon presenting us blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God never agrees to let believers continue to sin. He seeks to sanctify our lives continuously. I take great hope and feel tremendously blessed when I ponder God’s game plan for my life. He wants to make me blameless when Christ comes for me. I will not have to take special self-help courses, or make my own efforts to change my life, or join some new fad or program for better living. No, God Himself has already committed to sanctifying me so that I would be blameless before Him. My task hinges upon obedience to His work, keeping His commandments, taking up my cross, and following Jesus every day–all done by His power alone.
So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship form when we understand that God sanctifies our lives and every part of us in Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship grow when we encourage others to have faith in the sanctifying work of God in every part of their lives.
● We harm our bonds of friendship when we resist the sanctifying work of God in our lives, and fail to recognize the progressive work of God among us. None of us are perfect yet and without sin. Love covers a multitude of unsanctified behaviors.
Application for Today
Today, I want to receive God’s sanctifying work in every part of my life. Supernaturally, I want to see it, feel it, and enjoy it. Will you be trusting God to continue His work of sanctification today?