Faithlife Sermons

Holiness

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1 Thessalonians 4:1–7 CSB
Additionally then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God—as you are doing—do this even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.
What does it mean to live in holiness?
Talk about general ideas of holiness being Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama, etc.
We don’t see these examples as necessarily something that we could ever replicate. It’s beyond us.
What then should we make of Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians?
1 Thessalonians 4:7 CSB
For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.
We started last Sunsay looking at 1 Thessalonian. Last week we looked at the encouragment that Paul wanted to give the Thessalonians.
This morning I’ve jumped ahead to look at this passage calling the Thessalonians to “sanctification”.
This morning, in our brief time together, I want to define what that is, and what that looks like for us.
So what is sanctification? Sanctification is the action of making or declaring something holy. That leads us naturally to the question, what does it mean to be holy?
Holiness can be defined as that which is consistent with God and his character.
How can we be possibly consistent with God and his character?
Bably interpreted, you could read this passage as saying, avoid sexual immorality, control your lustful desires, and don’t take avantage of each other and if you do this, you will be holy.
That is not what Paul is saying hear, nor is that consistent with the Bibles teaching on holiness and sanctification.
We are santified through Jesus sacrifice. We have been made holy. You and I, if your faith has been placed in Jesus, are Holy.
1 Corinthians 1:2 CSB
To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.
According to 1 Cor 1:2 the addressees enjoy their holy status because they are “made holy in Christ.” It is not something that we achieve by doing certain things, but only though God’s grace and action.
Holiness is not a goal to be achieved by dint of the human will or initiative, but because God gives that spirit of holiness.
So then why the list of actions in 1 Thes 4:1-6 for the Thessalonians not to engage in?
One commentator makes an interesting point, that what Paul is doing in this passage, in a sense, is reminiscent of the mother who stands at the door and calls out as her child scampers off to play, “Behave yourself! Remember you are a McLeod!” Without ever being explicitly told what it means to be a McLeod, the child learns that her behavior is to be consistent with that identity. Down the street, other children with different names hear the same admonition. They may even hear an additional warning, “We are not like those Davis’! Don’t act like them! Behave!”’
Paul is encouraging them to live out the identity as holy.
Holiness is a state of consistent with the character of God. It is a state of purity.
That is what he is calling them to do, to live out their holiness.
What does it mean to live lives of holiness? For God has not called you to a life of impurity but to live in holiness.
This passage is often read as a list about what to do and not to do when it comes to sexual Behaviours, I would ague though that it is more about living in holiness. This can't be done by simply living better, the whole point is that it has been made possible for us by Christ.
Often we start with the sinful behaviour and work backwards. Paul works from the nature of who we are, and calls us to live out of that.
Christians often confuse sanctification with striving for moral perfection. In Greek, sanctification (hagiasmos) is simply a noun related to the adjective “holy” (Gr. hagios) so that it may also be translated “holiness” or consecration. Paul refers to believers as “saints” or “holy ones,” not because they are extraordinarily good but because God has made them holy (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1).
We are holy, therefore, live this way.

So what does this mean for us?

Live out your holiness.
You can easily read this as list of do’s and don’t when it comes to certain sexual behaviours, but I think a better question for us to explore is what does it mean for us to engage in sexual behaviours in “holiness and honour”?
Recent discussion of sexuality in churches has sometimes focused so exclusively on the identity of the partners that nothing has been said about the quality of the sexual relationship itself.
Surely there are married sexual relationships that are abusive, in which the treatment partners render each other has little to do with holiness and honor.
We are called to live out our holiness, in the way we treat each other.
Paul said as much in verse 6.
1 Thessalonians 4:6 CSB
This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.
I’m not saying that the God doesn’t make clear his intentions for how we should act, it’s just often we start with the behaviours and presume holiness will result. That just isn’t how it works!
It starts with God making us holy, then we live out the holiness in response to his call.
You have been made holy. Live like it.
I wonder what does it look like for you this week to live in holiness?
Live a life consistent with the nature and character of God, because he has made it possible.
John 14:16–17 CSB
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.
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