Weekly Bible Study 22nd June 2021 Topic: God and Man Cooperate in Sanctification Text: 1 Thess. 5: 23 INTRODUCTION God and man “cooperate” in sanctification. God’s work is primary and our work in sanctification is only a secondary one (Phil. 2:12–13). God works in our sanctification and we work as well, and we work for the same purpose. We are not saying that we have equal roles in sanctification or that we both work in the same way, but simply that we cooperate with God in ways that are appropriate to our status as God’s creatures. The fact that the Scripture emphasizes the role that we play in sanctification (with all the moral commands of the New Testament), makes it appropriate to teach that God calls us to cooperate with him in this activity. 1. GOD’S ROLE İN SANCTİFİCATİON. Since sanctification is primarily a work of God, it is appropriate that Paul prays, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly” (1 Thess. 5:23). One specific role of God the Father in this sanctification is his process of disciplining us as his children (Heb. 12:5–11). Paul tells the Philippians, “God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13), thus indicating something of the way in which God sanctifies them—both by causing them to want his will and by giving them power to do it. The author of Hebrews speaks of the role of the Father and the role of the Son in a familiar benediction: “Now may the God of peace...equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever” (Heb. 13:20–21). The role of God the Son, Jesus Christ, in sanctification is, first, that he earned our sanctification for us. Therefore Paul could say that God made Christ to be “our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Moreover, in the process of sanctification, Jesus is also our example for we are to run the race of life “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Peter tells his readers, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). And John says, “He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). But it is specifically God the Holy Spirit who works within us to change us and sanctify us, giving us greater holiness of life. Peter speaks of the “sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:2,), and Paul speaks of “sanctification by the Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13). It is the Holy Spirit who produces in us the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22–23), those character traits that are part of greater and greater sanctification. If we grow in sanctification we “walk by the Spirit” and are “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16–18; Rom. 8:14), that is, we are more and more responsive to the desires and promptings of the Holy Spirit in our life and character. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of holiness, and he produces holiness within us. 2. INDİVİDUAL ROLE İN SANCTİFİCATİON. The role that we play in sanctification is both a passive one in which we depend on God to sanctify us, and an active one in which we strive to obey God and take steps that will increase our sanctification. We can now consider both of these aspects of our role in sanctification. First, what may be called the “passive” role that we play in sanctification is seen in texts that encourage us to trust God or to pray and ask that he sanctify us. Paul tells his readers, “Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life” (Rom. 6:13;19), and he tells the Roman Christians, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1). Paul realizes that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit’s work to grow in sanctification, because he says, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Rom. 8:13). Unfortunately today, this “passive” role in sanctification, this idea of yielding to God and trusting him to work in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13), is sometimes so strongly emphasized that it is the only thing people are told about the path of sanctification. Sometimes the popular phrase “let go and let God” is given as a summary of how to live the Christian life. But this is a tragic distortion of the doctrine of sanctification, for it only speaks of one half of the part we must play, and, by itself, will lead Christians to become lazy and to neglect the active role that Scripture commands them to play in their own sanctification. There are many aspects to this active role that we are to play in sanctification. We are to “Strive...for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14); we are to “abstain from immorality” and so obey the will of God, which is our “sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). John says that those who hope to be like Christ when he appears will actively work at purification in this life: “And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Paul tells the Corinthians to “shun immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and not to have partnership with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). He then says, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). This kind of striving for obedience to God and for holiness may involve great effort on our part, for Peter tells his readers to “make every effort” to grow in character traits that accord with godliness (2 Peter 1:5). Many specific passages of the New Testament encourage detailed attention to various aspects of holiness and godliness in life (Rom. 12:1 It is important that we continue to grow both in our passive trust in God to sanctify us and in our active striving for holiness and greater obedience in our lives. If we neglect active striving to obey God, we become passive, lazy Christians. If we neglect the passive role of trusting God and yielding to him, we become proud and overly confident in ourselves. In either case, our sanctification will be greatly deficient. We must maintain faith and diligence to obey at the same time. The old hymn wisely says, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 3. CORPORATE ROLE İN SANCTİFİCATİON. Sanctification is usually a corporate process in the New Testament. It is something that happens in community. We are admonished, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). Together Christians are “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5); together they are “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9); together they are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11). Paul says that “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) is to live in a special way in community—“with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2–3). When that happens, the body of Christ functions as a unified whole, with each part “working properly,” so that corporate sanctification occurs as it “makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love” (Eph. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–26; Gal. 6:1–2) When that happens, the body of Christ functions as a unified whole, with each part “working properly,” so that corporate sanctification occurs as it “makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” 4. SANCTİFİCATİON AFFECTS THE WHOLE PERSON. We see that sanctification affects our intellect and our knowledge when Paul says that we have put on the new nature “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). He prays that the Philippians may see their love “abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9). And he urges the Roman Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Although our knowledge of God is more than intellectual knowledge, there is certainly an intellectual component to it, and Paul says that this knowledge of God should keep increasing throughout our lives: a life “worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” is one that is continually “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). The sanctification of our intellects will involve growth in wisdom and knowledge as we increasingly “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and find that our thoughts are more and more the thoughts that God himself imparts to us in his Word. Moreover, growth in sanctification will affect our emotions. We will see increasingly in our lives emotions such as “love, joy, peace, patience” (Gal. 5:22). We will be able increasingly to obey Peter’s command “to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). We will find it increasingly true that we do not “love the world or things in the world” (1 John 2:15), but that we, like our Savior, delight to do God’s will. In ever-increasing measure we will become “obedient from the heart” (Rom. 6:17), and we will “put away” the negative emotions involved in “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander.” (Eph. 4:31) Moreover, sanctification will have an effect on our will our decision-making faculty, because God is at work in us, “to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). As we grow in sanctification, our will be more and more conformed to the will of our heavenly Father. Sanctification will also affect our spirit the nonphysical part of our beings. We are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1), and Paul says that a concern about the affairs of the Lord will mean taking thought for “how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Cor. 7:34).15 Finally, sanctification affects our physical bodies. Paul says, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). Moreover, Paul encourages the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). As we become more sanctified in our bodies, our bodies become more and more useful servants of God, more and more responsive to the will of God and the desires of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 9:27). We will not let sin reign in our bodies (Rom. 6:12) nor allow our bodies to participate in any way in immorality (1 Cor. 6:13), but will treat our bodies with care and will recognize that they are the means by which the Holy Spirit works through us in this life. Therefore they are not to be recklessly abused or mistreated, but are to be made useful and able to respond to God’s will: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
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