Lent 2 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
February 28, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
St. Paul says in today's text, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” Your sanctification is God’s will. And how could it be otherwise since God is holy. But it is necessary for us to hear it again, to be reminded again, of God’s will in our lives and God’s sanctifying acts. We speak of sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit. The Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther, in explaining the third article of the Apostles' Creed, says: "The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith."
And so St. Paul saying, “we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus Christ, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess 4:1). St. Paul urges us to be the holy people of God - which you are by virtue of your baptism into Christ – and yet to encourage you to be so all the more.
St. Paul writes and encourages, “Be holy.” To be holy is to be set apart by God, for God, for God alone is holy, to possess the grace of God, to have part in Christ’s divine life. This doesn’t mean you are perfect, not in this life. It certainly doesn’t mean that you are self-righteous or holier than thou. It means that through faith in Christ, God Himself establishes your hearts blameless, forgiven, cleansed, in holiness before our God and Father, unto the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints (1 Thess 3:13). This is the purpose and aim of your redemption. This is the will of God. Your sanctification is also the purpose of the Lenten preparation for Easter. It’s not just to temporarily give something up for 40 days, but for your own Easter when we shall rise with Christ in newness of life. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, devotion to the Word of God, the sermons, the midweek services, all aim at your holiness.
God has sent His Son, and Jesus has lived the holy life, and then laid down His own body for you. He purchased your holiness with His own, and by the cross and the agonies there. Look at the cross, see Christ nailed there and dying in agony. That is how important and precious your sanctification is to God. He has purchased holiness for you, and poured it out on you, and chosen you from among all mankind, and called you to live before Him in faith and in the holiness which He has given you in Christ. Your sins are forgiven. You have been made heirs of eternal life in glory with God. It is a gift to you by grace through faith. A life of sanctity frees us from the cage of sin and fills our hearts with a purpose so deep and abiding that one is forced to wonder how he ever lived without it before.
God has saved you for a purpose: To live as His sons and daughters forever. Jesus did not pay the price for your sins on the cross for you to continue in sin, nor live in the passions like the Gentiles who do not know God. You have been made holy in Christ. This is who you. So act like it. The truth of the matter is, how you live and what you do speak the truth about who you are and what you believe. If you are the child of God, then this is how you ought to walk, and that you do so more and more.
So there isn’t any confusion, St. Paul is very helpful here in giving us some practical advice dealing with sanctification so that our witness for the Lord may be blameless. Every Christian was entrusted by God with the body as an instrument to be used for the Giver, and so everyone must learn how to control his own body, how to keep it clean, regard it with honor, and not to treat it in the passion of lust like those who do not know God who have never learned the intention of the Creator. That is why Paul reveals that sin against your body is a sin against yourself, they are the worst kind of selfishness, but ultimately against the Giver. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who enables you to live a holy life (1Co 6:15–20). Jesus’ holy bride, the Church, must not take part of the impurity of those who do not know Him.
The world today needs the witness of Christian lives made holy through faith in Christ to contradict the growing persuasion that faith in Christ is of no particular value, and that Christians are just like everyone else, or in some cases worse because we seek to uphold God’s created intent and will. Your holiness, a life set apart from the sinful world to walk and to please God, how a child of God acts, talks or thinks in faith, according to the Ten Commandments, for the glory of God and the welfare of others. Your sanctified life continues to be a witness to the presence of Christ in us, and brings glory to God even when we are unaware that it our sanctification observed, or that it has any influence whatsoever.
And God knows how difficult living in this corrupt and sinful world. He understands the weakness of our flesh. We were just reminded in the Collect of the Day that we must guard our soul and our body. That prayer we prayed combines the Epistle’s admonition to purity and the thoughts of the soul and the Gospel account of bodily adversity suffered by the daughter of the Canaanite woman. We pray to be defended in body, cleansed in soul. Christ comes to redeem not just the soul, but also your body. All of you. That is why He has given us this holy meal, which we again shall share this morning, to strengthen us and purify us for holy living. Here is the very body of Christ, under the form of the bread, for your forgiveness and sanctification. It cleanses you! Here is the very blood which He shed for your sins to cleanse you and raise you up from sin to holiness and everlasting life. Come and eat and drink and be refreshed and cleansed and strengthened, for how you ought to walk, and here Christ would prepare you to walk faithfully as one of His own.
You are called in holiness. You have been set apart by the work of the Holy Spirit to live lives of purity in body and soul, of honor before God and man. Strive with eagerness and perseverance of faith more and more. God’s command and promise to you in Jesus Christ is true and faithful. Let it be done for you as you believe. Amen.