1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Furthermore then we beseech you, brothers, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus…
Purity is the perfection of the Christian character. It is the brightest jewel in the cluster of saintly excellencies, and that which gives a lustre to the whole. It is not so much the addition of a separate and distinct grace as the harmonious development of all. As Flavel has said, "What the heart is to the body that the soul is to the man; and what health is to the heart holiness is to the soul." In the prayer just offered the apostle indicates that God will fill them with love to this end. He now urges the attainment. Human agency is not destroyed but stimulated by the Divine.Observe —
I. THAT A HIGHER SANCTITY CONSISTS IN LIVING UNDER A SENSE OF THE DIVINE APPROVAL.
1. Religion is a life. A "walk" implies continual approach to a goal. Religion is not an ornament, a luxury, a ceremony, but a life, all penetrating, ever progressing, but sometimes concealed.
2. Religion is a life modelled after the worthiest examples. "As ye have received of us." The Thessalonians not only received the wisest counsels from their teachers but they witnessed their holy and consistent lives; and their attention was constantly directed to the all-perfect example — Christ Jesus. It is the tendency of all life to shape itself after the character of its strongest inward force. The love of God is the mightiest power in the life of the believer; and the outer manifestation of that life is moulded according to the pattern of the inner Divine ideal.
3. Religion is a life which finds its chief joy in the Divine approval. "And to please God." It is possible, then, so to live as to please God. What a powerful incentive to a holy life. Donne, on his death bed, said, "I count all that part of my life lost which I spent not in communion with God, or in doing good."
4. Religion is a life capable of vast expansion. "So, ye would abound," etc. God has made every provision for our increase in holiness. There is no limit in our elevation but our faith.
II. THAT THE NECESSITY OF A HIGHER SANCTITY IS ENFORCED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY. "For this is the will of God even your sanctification."
1. A higher sanctity involves a conformity to the Divine nature. God is holy, and the aim of the believer is to be like Him. There is to be not only an abstinence from impurity but a positive experience of purity. By faith we participate in the Divine nature, and possess qualities analogous to the Divine perfections — mercy, truth, justice, holiness.
2. A higher sanctity is in harmony with the Divine will what God proscribes must be carefully avoided; what He prescribes must be done. His will is here emphatically expressed; it is supported by abundant promises of help; and it is declared that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The will of God is at once the highest reason, the strongest motive, and the final authority.
3. The Divine will regarding a higher sanctity is enforced by duly authorized messengers, and well understood precepts (ver. 2). The apostle did not assume authority in any dictatorial spirit. He delivered unto others what he had received. These precepts were well known. Obedience should ever be in proportion to knowledge. Knowledge and practice are mutually helpful to each other. To know and not to do is to incur the heaviest condemnation. "Not My will, but Thine be done."
III. THAT THE POSSESSION OF A HIGHER SANCTITY IS REPEATEDLY URGED BY EARNEST EXHORTATIONS. "We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you." Doctrine without exhortation makes men all brain, no heart; exhortation without doctrine makes the heart full, leaves the brain empty. Both together make a man. The apostle laboured in both. Here we have a fine example of the combination of a tender, brotherly entreaty, with the solemn authority of a divinely commissioned ambassador. Some people, says a certain writer, are as thorns; handle them roughly and they pierce you; others as nettles; rough handling is best for your safety. A minister's task is an endless one. Has he planted knowledge? — practice must be urged. Is the practice satisfactory? — perseverance must be pressed. Do they continue in well-doing? — they must be stimulated to further progress. The end of one task is the beginning of another. Lessons: The believer is called to the attainment of a higher sanctity —
1. By the voice of God.
2. By the voice of His faithful ministers.
3. And by the aspirations of the life divinely planted within him.
Parallel VersesKJV: Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.