1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:…
It is comparatively easy for some minds to grasp the outlines of a grand undertaking, but they fail in working out the details. They are more theoretical than practical. So it is possible to form a hold conception of some leading Christian virtue — beauty, dignity, and necessity; but all the while to ignore the little details which, in everyday life, constitute the essence of the virtue. Sanctification is the perfection of the Christian life, and is attained, not by some magical feat, but by patient plodding and stern conflicts. It is the sublime but little understood science of living aright, in the sight of God and man. Secretary Walsingham, in writing to Lord Burleigh, said: "We have lived long enough to our country, to our fortunes, and to our sovereign; it is high time that we began to live for ourselves and for our God." Observe:
I. THAT A TRUE SANCTIFICATION CONSISTS IN THE MAINTENANCE OF A PERSONAL CHASTITY.
1. This involves an abstinence from gross and sensual indulgence. "Fornication" (ver. 3) designates not only the actual transgression, but all the sinful lusts of the flesh. This vice is the source of many others. It is like the fabled Hydra, of which it is said that when one head was cut off another grew in its place. It is the root of extravagance, drunkenness, disease, poverty, murder. It is bewitching, prevalent, most fatal in its tendencies; and against it terrible vengeance has been declared and executed.
2. Involves a rigid maintenance of bodily purity (ver. 4). The vessel of the body is The temple of the Holy Ghost, and whatever would defile that must be shunned. The apostle implies that there is a kind of art in chastity which all should practice. "Know," i.e., have skill, the power of self-control. Christianity is the science of sciences, the art of living well; and no small skill is necessary in regulating the exercise of the Christian virtues. To possess, to rule the body in purity, keep a diligent guard on the senses (Job 31:1; Proverbs 23:33; Genesis 39:6, 7); avoid the company and conversation of the sensual; be temperate, industrious, prayerful.
3. Involves a masterly restraint on the passionate outgoings of evil desire (ver. 6). Ignorance is the origin of unchastity; and the apostle shows to what an extent of wickedness a man may go who knows not God. An old writer says: "Ignorance is a master, a mother sin: pull it, thou pullest all sin." Evil must be restrained in its earliest manifestation; banished from the region of thought. The longer it is harboured, the more powerful it becomes.
II. THAT A TRUE SANCTIFICATION CONSISTS IN THE UNIVERSAL EXERCISE OF STRICT JUSTICE (ver. 6). Note —
1. That no violation of justice is allowable. The prohibition extends not only to acts of unchastity, but to all the transactions of life. The value of a commodity is governed by its relation to the immediate wants of man. In nature that which has life and sense is more excellent than an inanimate creature: in this view an insect is superior to a diamond. But with regard to use, a loaf of bread is of more value than a thousand insects. Justice requires there should be a fair proportion between a thing and its price. To exact a price which is beyond the worth of the commodity sold, or to give a sum which is below its due value, is to overreach on the part either of the seller or the buyer. The commercial world of the present day might ponder with advantage the wholesome lessons to be learnt from the practice of an ancient Christian simplicity. The man who begins a course of dishonesty by defrauding a stranger will soon reach the point of cheating his dearest brother and chuckle at his unjust success.
2. That every violation of justice will be certainly punished. The rogue will not always triumph; and his ill-gotten gains may be the instruments of his curse. An all-seeing Eye watches and an Unseen Hand rests on all his accumulations. The successful robber is apt to lull himself into a false security. But "the Lord is the avenger of all such" (Proverbs 22:22, 23; Proverbs 23:10). Not that we are to act honestly from the fear of punishment; but while striving to act rightly from love to God and a sense of duty, it is also salutary to remember that vengeance belongeth unto the Lord, and He will recompense. Where human justice fails, the Divine vengeance will supply the deficiency.
III. THAT A TRUE SANCTIFICATION RECOGNIZES THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE DIVINE CALL (ver. 7). A holy life gives no license to sin. Everything is in favour of holiness; the caller is holy (1 Peter 1:15), the instrument holy (John 17:17), and the Spirit, the immediate worker, is the fountain of all holiness. Religion is a holy calling, because it leads to holiness; and though it finds us not holy, yet it makes us so. They answer not their calling who commit any manner of sin. Unmercifulness, cruelty, fornication, fraud and uncleanness are not of God. In every temptation to evil remember the Divine calling. Lessons: A true sanctification —
1. Provides for the chastity of the whole man.
2. Governs all the transactions of daily life.
3. Responds to the highest call of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: