Stye SHtll of ffioo, gout Sancttficatton.
"For this is the will of God, even your sanctifieation."— I Thbss. iv. 3.
THE Apostle had closed the third chapter of this Epistle with the wondrous prayer for the Thessalonian believers that the Lord might "establish their hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father." He proceeds in chapter iv. to urge them to a walk well-pleasing to God. He begins by specially warning against two sins, uncleanness and fraud, iv. 3—7. And then just as he had pleaded with God to establish them unblameable in holiness, so he pleads with them to remember and yield to the blessed truth: "This is the will of God, your sanctifieation." "God hath not called us for uncleanness, but for sanctifieation." The great plea against sin is that we are called to be holy. And the great power of holiness is that it is God's will for us.
And what is holiness? God alone is the Holy One. There is none holy but the Lord. There is no holiness but His. And nothing can be holy except as He makes it holy. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." "I am the Lord which sanctify you." Holiness is the very nature of God, inseparable from His being, and can only be communicated by His communicating Himself and His own life. We are in Christ, who is made of God unto us sanctification. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Holiness. We are God's "elect in sanctification of the Spirit," "chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit." The Three-One God is the Thrice Holy One, and Father, Son, and Spirit each share in making us holy. Our part in sanctification consists in our recognising how God makes us holy. We have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. The new nature we have derived from Him has been created in true holiness. Our holy calling is in the power of the new, Divine, holy nature, to act out its impulses and principles. Our justification and our sanctification are equally in Christ, by union with Him, and therefore equally of faith. It is as we believe in God working in.us, through Christ and the Spirit, that the inflow of the holy life from above is renewed, and that we have the courage and the power to live out the precepts that reveal the way in which it is to act. Like the whole of salvation, sanctification, or the life of holiness, is the result of man's co-operating with God. That means first of all his entire dependence on, and surrender to, the Divine operation, as the only source of goodness or strength. And then the acting out in life and conduct all that God has worked within us.
And what is now the help we can get from the words—This is the will of God, your sanctification? The first thought is that of the Divine obligation of holiness. God wills it. It is not enough to regard it in the other aspects in which it can be presented. It is indeed an essential element of the Christian life, the great proof of our gratitude for our deliverance from the guilt of sin, indispensable to true peace and happiness, our only preparation for heaven. All this is of great importance. But at the back of all this there is something of still greater force. We need to realise that God wills it. In eternity God predestinated us to be holy, " we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God in sanctification of the Spirit." (Eph. i. 4; 1 Pet. i. 2.) God's whole purpose as a holy God, was to make us holy, as He is holy. The whole of redemption was ordered with a view to this. It is not only one of His commands, among many, it is the command which includes all. The whole being and character of God proclaim it; the whole nature and aim of redemption insist upon it; believers, God wills your sanctification! Worship God in His holiness, until every thought of God in His glory and grace is connected with the deep conviction: This blessed God wills my holiness. Eest not until your will has surrendered unconditionally to the will of God, and found its true destiny in receiving that Divine will and working it out.
A second thought that suggests itself is that of the Divine possibility of holiness. We have learnt in our meditations that the will of God is not only a Divine purpose of what God is to do, or a Divine precept as to what we are to do, but a Divine power that works out its own purpose. All that God wills He works. Not, indeed, in those who refuse to accept or submit to that will. They have the power to resist it. But in those who yield their consent, who love that will and long that it should be done on earth as in heaven, God Himself worketh out all things after the purpose of His will. In every man with a sound, strong will, it seeks at once to embody itself in action, and to effect what had been counted an object of desire. God works in us both to will and to do. When He has worked the willing, He delights, if He be waited on and yielded to, to work the doing. When, by His grace, the believer wills as God wills, when he has accepted God's will for sanctification as his own will, he can count upon God's working it. God wills it with all the energy of His Divine being. God can as little cease working holiness as He can cease being holy or being God. He wills our sanctification; and if we will but will it too, in the faith of the new nature in which the Holy Spirit works, and yield ourselves to the will of Omnipotent Love in the assurance of His working in us, we shall experience how true and blessed the message is: God wills, and therefore most certainly works your sanctification.
The third lesson suggested by our text is—the Divine means of holiness. The will of God is your sanctification—that is, all that God wills has this one object, will secure this one result. Whether it be His will in the eternal counsel, or here in time in Providence, whether in mercy or in judgment, whether in precept or promise, all that God wills concerning us is our sanctification. This gives a new meaning, and its true glory, to every command of Scripture. The commands of God have unspeakable value, as marking out for us the path of safety and of life, as guiding us to all that is lovely and of good report. But here is their highest glory: through them the Holy One seeks to make us partakers of His own holiness. Do let us learn to regard every indication of God's will, in Scripture or in Nature, in things great or little, as the will of the Holy One coming to make us holy. Let every thought of God's will fill us with the longing and the hope to be holy. And let every thought of holiness lead us to the study of, and the delight in, and the faithful doing of, God's will. Let every sin that God's Word forbids, such as those Paul mentions of uncleanness and fraud, be put far from us. Let everything that is of the earthly, carnal, selfish nature be put off, that the whole spirit, soul, and body may be sanctified. Let every command that points to the true Christ-like life—humility, and love, and self-sacrifice—be welcomed as the channel of God's holiness. The desire after, and delight and faith in, God's holiness and God's will become inseparably one. Let all who would experience this remember one thing. It is because it is God's will and God's holiness that there is power, and life, and blessing in it. Everything depends upon our knowing God and waiting on Him, coming under the operation of His Holy Presence and Power. As we know Him as the Living God, and have intercourse with Him as the Holy, Loving, Almighty, ever-present and ever-working One, His will and His holiness will become to us heavenly realities, and we shall know how certainly, how blessedly, His will is our sanctification.