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Echo Evangelique

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8:30am Bible Study
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Living in Light of Christ Return. Final Words and Greetings

Text: 1 Thess. 5:23-28

Key Concepts:

  • The prayer of sanctification and benediction
  • What is sanctification?
  • The confident promise
  • A request and a greeting

 

It is always encouraging to hear of Christian brothers and sisters who remain faithful even under dire circumstances, who endure through trials, tribulations, and sufferings. Such was the conviction of the Thessalonian church. Though they faced trials and persecutions, they persevered faithfully. They remained strong in their convictions and steadfast in the faith. Paul wrote the Thessalonian epistle to remind those young believers that they were called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:3, 7) and to educate them on how to live in the light of the return of Christ. He encouraged them to live in vigilance and sobriety. He then handed them a set of commands. Paul concluded the letter with a prayer in the form of a benediction, a confident promise, a request for prayer, and a greeting. His parting words were meant to make an impression.

The prayer of sanctification and benediction

In the days of Gideon, the children of Israel lived in constant fear. They were threatened on all sides (Jdgs. 6). The Midianites, a people they had previously defeated, reemerged to oppress and menace Israel with zeal. Gideon lived with fearful uncertainty because of the fate of his people. While still living under the threat of the enemy, God sent them His angel – most likely a Christophany (Christ preincarnate). In the midst of their fear and worry, they receive reassurance from God “ … Peace to you. Do not fear; you shall not die”(Jdgs. 6:23). Gideon experienced the peace of God from this assurance, though his circumstances had not changed. He built an altar, as a reminder to himself, which he called ‘the Lord is my peace.’ In Hebrew “the God of peace” is translated to Jehovah Shalom or Yahweh Shalom or Adonai shalom.  This an Old Testament designation of God. Paul uses the same assurance to remind the Thessalonian of the peace of God. Shalom does not only describe the absence of conflict but soundness, sanity, welfare, and peace. It also refers to the idea of completeness, the lack of nothing, and no deficiency. In this context, Paul uses this expression to remind the church that they needed to experience the peace of God in the midst of their afflictions and tribulations but also to point to the complete sanctifying work of salvation and its beginning. Salvation begins by making peace with God. For we know that “… having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

What is sanctification?

Sanctification is not only God’s will but His work in His children as well. There are several aspects to sanctification. The first is positional which has two aspects - God not only sets us apart or separates us from the world, but He also consecrates us unto Himself. For this reason, He puts us in Christ and Christ in us. This is to facilitate the work God wants to accomplish in us. The next phase of sanctification is the progressive step in which we are going through the process. This is also referred to as experimental or practical holiness. As we continue to progress in holiness, we will ultimately attain perfection, then we will truly be the likeness of Christ. This is the complete sanctification that Paul prayed for the Thessalonians. Have you ever prayed for God to make you more righteous? Have you asked “Lord, more holiness, give me?” Do you really want to be Christlike? If you have no hunger for holiness, you need to examine yourself. We need to pray that we may be found “blameless in holiness” (1 Thess. 3:12-13). Sanctification must be complete, body, soul, and spirit. Indeed, our entire being must be submitted to the Holy Spirit for sanctification to take place, both the material and immaterial parts. This includes our mind, intellect, will, conscious, personality, emotions. Every one of our dimensions must be part of the process since every aspect of our being was tainted by sin. In order for us to have an intimate relationship with God, all our parts must be sanctified.

The confident promise

 Every child of God will be made holy as Christ (Phil. 1:6). If there is no evidence that God is producing holiness in you, perhaps you are not His. If you have been playing church, with no transformation in your heart and mind whatsoever, living in sin, you may want to reconsider your Christian status. How is God sanctifying us? What is our responsibility in the process? God is sovereignly making us holy, making us into the likeness of His Son. How He does this and what part we share in the process are two sides of the same coin. There are four ways that God is doing it and all of which requires our responsible contribution. God is not sanctifying us in a vacuum,  neither can He do it in our dream. The first part of this process is a desire for holiness without which we will not participate in the work. We are called to work out our salvation – not for our salvation- but to work out that which we already possess (Phil. 2:12-13). God gives us the will to be sanctified. The second means is the Word of God (Jn. 17:17).  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(2 Tim. 3:16-17). We are sanctified by the Word of God. Thirdly, God uses His sovereign work in all our circumstances to sanctify us. This includes our trials, testing, afflictions, persecution, natural calamities (Rom. 8:28-29). This means we must allow God to use our circumstances to make us holy. Finally, God uses the body of Christ-other believers. This consists of the use of our spiritual gifts to minister to one another. In avoiding or removing oneself from the fellowship of the body, one misses out on this opportunity to be holy. Both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility work in harmony to produce holiness in our lives.

In conclusion….

A request and a greeting  

To have fellowship and to live with God for eternity, there must be redemption, a complete transformation, and total sanctification. The call to salvation is a call to holiness. There is no salvation apart from holiness. For, “…without holiness, no man will see God” (Heb. 12:14). Paul’s prayer is for God to maintain us in His holiness. It is crucial that we pray likewise for our leaders’ sanctification. As they lead us into Christlikeness, pray that they themselves may be sanctified daily (1 Thess. 5:25).  Paul, in the spirit of fellowship, encouraged the brethren to kiss each other with a holy kiss (1 Thess. 5:26). It was a cultural practice to kiss one another but Paul made it a spiritual practice among children of God, children of the same family, related by the same blood. This is not a hypocritical, carnal, or self-serving kiss, but a gesture of love and sincerity. In our pandemic reality, we are unable to fulfill this edict, but this too shall pass.  We will hug and kiss one another again. If you are wondering whether you will ever achieve holiness, rest assured. God’s plan for salvation will be fulfilled. As certain as you are that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you, as certain as you can be that He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell you, you can be sure He will sanctify you. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1Thess. 5:24).  Some day we will indeed be like Christ. Our lives will be what God intends them to be because “He will do it.” The doing rests on His faithfulness. Paul insisted that the church in its entirety read this epistle, likewise we must consider this message carefully and wisely.

 

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Roslindale, MA 02131
Phone: 617-323-3107
Fax: 617-323-3165
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Every Sunday at 10:45am