What Do We Know About Holiness?
Christians at Thessalonica were encouraged to "abound more and more" in holiness. "Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) Holiness at first is a heart issue. God calls us to be holy. Holiness is living your life as someone who belongs to God. Holiness is living with God present with you and God within you!
We know that we are exhorted to abound in holiness. Paul very affectionately encouraged the Christians at Thessalonica to be Holy. With much love Paul begged these people as "brethren in Christ." He "exhorted" them to holiness because his love for them was great. Paul encouraged these brethren to abound more and more in holy living. They were already examples of faith in God and service to Him but Paul desired growth in these areas. Even those who are examples for others should themselves continue to grow in all the graces which identify them as followers of the Master. Christians should grow until death in their "walk of holiness." I "urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you abound more and more" in your walk in holiness. God called us to holy living. “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
We know why we should abound in holiness. Paul lists several reasons why the Christians at Thessalonica should abound in holiness. They understood their duty to God. "For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 4:2) If they failed to do their duty they could not plead ignorance. They knew the will of God for their lives. James said faith without works is dead. (James 2:26) It is also true that knowledge without action is fruitless. The gospel is a way of living, not just a way of believing. The design of the gospel is to control our daily living. Paul taught these brethren how to "walk" so as to please God. Those who are in Christ do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)
The encouragement to abound more and more in the walk of holiness is "by the Lord Jesus" or by His authority. "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18) When Paul challenged these brethren to more holiness he did so by the authority of Christ. God's people should walk in holiness so as to please Him. God is holy and He expects His people to be holy. "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct." (1 Peter 1:15) As we walk in holiness we please God because He is glorious in Holiness. "Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exodus 15:11) Our life should never be lived to please men, but should always be lived to please God. Those who walk in holiness walk by the commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Christians must learn to observe all the commandments of the Lord. Jesus said believers were to be taught "to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Life can be filled with both peace and joy when lived by the commandments of the Lord.
We know that to abound in holiness we must avoid sin. In the holy walk God's people must avoid sexual immorality. This includes any and all sexual uncleanness. All that is contrary to the purity of heart, tongue and life expressed in the gospel is in opposition to the "walk in holiness." Your sanctification to "the will of God" demands holiness. God called you to be holy. He requires purity of both body and soul. A body set apart for God's service must be kept pure. The body is the vessel in which our soul lives. What is done in this body either honors or dishonors God. The things done in the body will be matters for judgment. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10) Those Christians who do not control their lusts and passions are living like the heathen. "That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God." (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5) Those who do not know the will of God are controlled by all kinds of uncleanness. It should not be so among the children of God. Christians should not live like unconverted Gentiles!
Sin will not go unpunished. You should not "take advantage of and defraud your brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness." (1 Thessalonians 4:6-7) The sin of sexual uncleanness will be punished by God! "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Hebrews 13:4) Those who reject Bible teaching on purity of life are not rejecting men but are rejecting God! "Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 4:8) The Holy Spirit has been given to help us live above the world. Let us show the fruit of the Spirit to the world. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
Do you need to become a Christian today? If you believe in Jesus and want to receive the remission of your sins then you should repent and be baptized to "wash away your sins." (Acts 22:16) There is urgency in your gospel obedience. "For He says: "In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2) After you become a Christian here is what you must do. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58) In Jesus Christ we have victory! Man’s chief goal must be holiness, not happiness. Holiness in life by the Lord Jesus leads to a home in heaven.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA