In today’s ready we get a few glances into what is the matter with the church in Thessalonica. Until this point, Paul seems to be giving the church praise after praise, without addressing any issues within the church. In chapter 4 he speaks to them about living lives that are pleasing to God, and what is going to happen with believer who have died.
The first point is what really grabbed my attention today. Paul defines this by saying, “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (4:3, NLT). I’m sure that the problem Paul is addressing is someone saying, “Since we’re saved from our sins, does it really matter if we keep on sinning?” This is a continuous problem in the early Church, since Paul addresses it frequently; most notably in Romans, “What sall we say then? Are we to continue to sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NASB). Paul goes on (in Thessalonians) to mention not harming or cheating against others (4:6), and finishes this little section by saying, “Therefore, anyone who refused to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (4:8, NLT).
God’s desire is for us to be holy, but what does that mean? It sounds like a lot of rules that we must follow, but really it is more that that. The word that is being used here (hagiasmos) to describe holy means dedication to God, both in faithfulness to Him and in active service. It is a process, not an achievement. John Wesley describes grace in three parts: previenient, justifying, and sanctifying. That sanctifying grace comes to us after we have accepted Christ, and is what works within us to be holy.
This understanding shows me that it is obvious that we cannot simply accept Christ and do nothing about it. There are obvious exceptions to this, one being the thief that accepted Christ while on the cross with him. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NASB). But for those of us that accept Christ long before we are on our deathbed, we are called to become holy, to be set apart for God and for God alone. This means we cannot sit idly by and do whatever we’d like. There’s are reason that “sinful nature” is also called “ways of the flesh”. Our natural status is for us to rebel against God. Paul tells us that if we work to become holy, we “will control [our] own body” (4:4, NLT). So to become holy is a path that we must forge, it is not something that just happens to us.
Spend some time in prayer today. Figure out where that next move is on this trip to holiness.