Holiness Before Him

Especially with the arrival of Jesus in view, Paul summoned believers to become completely sanctified by that day1 Thessalonians 5:23

Lonely Trail - Photo by Melissa Brown on Unsplash
Paul concluded his letter to the Thessalonians by calling on God to “
sanctify” them “wholly in spirit, soul, and body.” In this way, they would be found “blameless at the coming of Jesus.” His call was preceded by several exhortations summoning disciples to righteous living in the time remaining before Christ’s “arrival from heaven” - [Photo by Melissa Brown on Unsplash].

Previously, he raised the same subject when he called on the Lord to increase their “love toward one another, and toward all men.” In that way, their hearts would be “established blameless in holiness” before God. And abounding in love toward all men is the key to attaining “holiness” – (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

In Greek, the verb rendered “sanctify” is related closely to the word translated “holiness.” It denotes setting something apart for a specific use - “to consecrate” it. The biblical idea of “sanctification” is not moral perfection but the complete consecration of something or someone to the service of God. This traces back to the Levitical system where things and persons were set apart for Yahweh. When something was dedicated to His service, it because “holy” and could no longer be used for anything “common.”

Paul was summoning the Thessalonians to become totally consecrated to the Lord in every aspect of life, which is why he wished for them to be sanctified “wholly in spirit, soul, and body.” This reflects the holistic view of man. He was not speculating about our “tripartite” nature, but instead, was summoning believers to consecrate their entire beings to the Lord.

Leading up to his summary declaration, Paul provided his readers with specific and practical ways to achieve “holiness,” and thus be found “blameless” on the day when Jesus “arrives.”

And a few verses previously he gave them the primary key to holiness, namely, to have “love for one another and for all men.”

In the preceding chapter, Paul reminded the Thessalonians how he taught them to walk and please God through their “sanctification,” which meant they must “abstain from fornication” and not live in the “passion of lust as the Gentiles who know not God do.” Moreover, they must not “wrong a brother” by succumbing to such lusts “because the Lord is an avenger in all these things… and did not call us for uncleanness, but in sanctification.”

Fortunately, concerning love, Paul had no need to write the Thessalonians since “you yourselves are taught of God to love one another,” though he also called them to abound in love “more and more.” And once more, Paul touched on the heart of the matter, love toward one another and toward all – (1 Thessalonians 4:1-10).

And in his closing comments, Paul calls for righteous conduct and provides both negative and positive examples on how to do so. For example, he admonishes the “disorderly.” At this point, he does not specify who he has in mind by this term, but this becomes clear in his second letter where he chastises members of the congregation who refuse to work thereby damaging the reputation of the church - 2 Thessalonians 3:11).

Negatively, he exhorted the church not to “render to anyone evil for evil,” not to “despise prophesying” or “quench the Spirit,” and to “abstain from every form of evil.”  Here, “form” translates the Greek term eidos, meaning “image, appearance, form, class, kind.” Included is the idea of avoiding even the appearance of evil.

Positively, disciples of Jesus are to “encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, and be longsuffering toward all.” And it is not enough simply not to take vengeance against others. They must also “pursue that which is good one toward another and toward all.”

Likewise, rather than just avoiding evil, Christians must “prove all things and cling to that which is good.” And beyond not “quenching the Spirit,” they should “rejoice always,” “pray without ceasing,” and “in everything, give thanks” to God.

And the core characteristic that underlies all this is love towards all men. The idea is not unique to Paul. Jesus himself taught that love for God and others is the sum of all the prophets and of the Law of Moses – (Matthew 7:12, 22:40).

The Apostle’s exhortations provide practical examples for how disciples become “sanctified,” and thus, how become “blameless in holiness” by the time Jesus “arrives” at the end of the age.



Language of the New Testament

Two "Little Horns"?