When God calls his elect, redeemed people out of this perverse generation in this present evil age, He calls them to a lifestyle of holiness. The transformation of the natural man into a saint is unparalleled profundity. It is equated with life from the dead. It becomes evident to the object of God’s irresistible grace and to the casual observer of that same grace. Simply put, the new believer in Jesus Christ is a new creature being conformed into the image of the perfect God/man (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 5:17).
God instructs His chosen people to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet 1:15–16). There is nothing attractive or alluring for sinners to pursue holiness. It is never the will of man (Jn 1:12–13; 5:40), nor is it in the power of the natural man to perform any works pleasing to God (Is 64:6; Rom 3:10–12; 8:7). Thus, the Christian is set apart from the sinful world at conversion. He or she then experiences the life-long work of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the sanctification of the saint (Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).
It is Jesus Christ who gives us rest from our vain labors by which we sought to please God (2 Pet 1:17). God is not pleased with anyone other than Jesus Christ, who has always done that which is pleasing to the Father (Jn 8:29). Jesus did the will of God when He came into the world, lived the sinless life (Heb 4:15; 2 Cor 5:21), and died on the Roman cross for the benefit of God’s family of adopted children (Jn 10:11, 15; Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5).
The Holy Spirit is given to God’s people as a gift (Lk 11:13; Acts 2:38; 10:45; Rom 5:5). He (as a gift of God) is also the giver of good gifts to God’s children (1 Cor 2:12; 12:4; 14:1, 12; 1 Tim 4:14; Heb 2:4; Jas 1:17). It is the Spirit of holiness who helps the child of God to walk in a manner worthy of His calling to be a royal son amidst a holy nation (1 Pet 2:9).
The Christian sexual ethic was a question to be answered in the church of the Thessalonians. In one of the apostle Paul’s most succinct appeals to new believers he wrote, “…abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3).” Those who do not know God are given to lustful passions (Rom 1:18–32; 1 Thess 4:5). They derive their inspiration to sin from demons, who tempt all people regarding the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:15–17).
Impurity in these matters is not the will of God for those set apart unto godliness (Rom 6:19; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:7). Christians are called to holiness by the Spirit of holiness (2 Cor 7:1; 2 Tim 1:9). It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies the saint by the truth of God’s holy Word (Jn 17:17; 1 Pet 1:2). It was Jesus Christ’s precious blood that made purification for sins a one time and once for all His people atonement (Heb 1:3; 1 Pet 1:19). Therefore, it behooves the child of God to confess his sin, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive him (1 Jn 1:9).
It is the Word of God that washes over the Christian like cleansing water (Eph 5:26). Living in a sinful world as sinners, the brethren beloved by God are now under the reign of grace (Rom 5:17, 21). Christians are saved by grace from beginning to end (Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:5). This includes sanctification — the loving discipline of an all-wise Father (1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:10).
Sanctification by God’s grace means that God is the sole agent in the process (monergism). God is willing and doing His good pleasure in performing all our works for us (Is 26:12; Phil 2:12–13). Imperative appeals and commands are noted throughout Scripture; but we remember that it is no longer us at work (Rom 4:5; Gal 2:20). Rather, it is Christ in us, causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28; Gal 2:20).
The life lived by the Spirit-filled soul is a life of faith. Our trust is in Christ who accomplishes what concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8). God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). He sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). This is why we boast in Him, not ourselves (1 Cor 1:32; Gal 6:14).
Holiness is God’s will for His adopted children; and the Spirit of adoption indwells the believer’s soul in order to do the work of increasing our faith, which is pleasing to God (Lk 17:5; Heb 11:6). The result is a Christian lifestyle that is progressing toward spiritual maturity (Eph 4:15). We are growing in both grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Pet 3:18).
The Christian walk is the Christian lifestyle. As noted, we walk by the Spirit, who causes us to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27; Gal 5:16). In addition, the Christian walk is a faith walk (2 Cor 5:17). This means we trust Christ to sanctify us entirely and to bring us home to glory (Rom 8:30; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 2:10).
We are pressed to walk in love (Dt 10:12; 11:22; Rom 14:15; Eph 5:2; 2 Jn 1:6) because that is the manner worthy of our calling. After being called to holiness, our calling becomes a heavenly calling (Phil 3:14; Heb 3:1). Thus, holy living by faith is the best preparation for our eternal home (Eccl 12:5; Rom 12:2).
Paul appealed to the church of the Thessalonians not to reject God, by ignoring or neglecting His commandments (1 Thess 4:1–2). This is especially true for Christian behavior toward other Christians (1 Thess 4:6). God is the avenger in these matters. It is God’s will and work to produce the fruit of self-control by His Spirit (Gal 5:23). In this gracious labor, our Lord helps us to fulfill His imperative to control our vessel in holiness and keep oneself unstained by the world (1 Thess 4:4; 2 Tim 2:12; Jas 1:27; 2 Pet 1:4).
Living godly in Christ Jesus draws the ire of the unbelieving world (2 Tim 3:12). It is an affront to the wicked and perverse who are without God (Eph 2:12), even haters of God and of Christ Jesus, our Lord (Jn 7:7; 15:18–25; Rom 1:30). Still, the love of God controls us in our desire to please the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Rom 5:2; Gal 1:4; 2 Cor 5:14; Titus 2:14). Therefore, let us press on toward the goal of our upward call in Christ Jesus — obeying all that He has commanded and rejoicing that we have such a boast as Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).
Finally, wherever there is an imperative like “purify your hearts” (Jas 4:8); there is always an indicative like “…to purify for Himself a people” (Titus 2:14). Indeed, it is God who is purifying for Himself — a people for His own possession, zealous for good works — good works prepared by Him beforehand for us to walk in (Eph 2:10; Titus 2:14). Therefore, let us walk in this way.
Spokane Valley, Washington
August 30, 2023