(1 Thessalonians 4:1-4) 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
(1 Thessalonians 5:23) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
SANCTIFICATION. This word which means to be sanctified, is often times misunderstood, misused or under-defined. Simply put, the word in any of its forms (sanctify, sanctified, or sanctification), means to be set apart. This being set apart is a direct reference to the O.T. holy vessels from the Jewish Temple. What were these holy vessels? These were the golden cups, pitchers, snuffers, bowls, sacrificial utensils and a host of other things. The point being that they were to be used in service to the LORD only, for no other thing. They were set apart, as holy unto the Lord. Interestingly, one of the times they were misused, unto great detriment to the user was in the Book of Daniel chapter 5.
The chapter describes an event put on by Belshazzar, a descendant of the great king Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar decided he wanted to drink out of something special and decided it would be a good idea to use these gold and silver vessels in his store house, from some captive people and their by-gone God. Most likely this was a shot at Daniel himself, who had great influence and was most likely more respected than this foolish king. His little idea to use vessels set apart by god and for god’s purpose only ended in overnight disaster, as the king was slain and his kingdom conquered by the Medes and their king Darius. The point is sanctified vessels are set apart for God and his purposes alone.
For all who are redeemed by the precious and powerful blood of Jesus, sanctification mean’s the same. It means we are holy in His sight the moment we are justified by faith, yet that is not the end. In fact there is the added aspect of our being holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). So how does our being set apart look in our context?
Consider the gun a police officer carries with him at all times. For most police officers, carrying their in service weapon, is required even when off duty. In light of this fact, it must be stated that the vast majority of all police officers do not draw their weapons in the line of duty in the entirety of there careers. Despite this fact, the weapon still needs to be “set apart” on their person, at all times. Even though most will never fire their weapon in the line of duty, they need to practice using it, clean it regularly and keep it loaded.
In similar fashion, we are set apart by God, for His purposes only and all the time. This means our life, our time, our resources, our bodies, our gifts and our energy is for God alone. This extends to the whole of life, whether at work, in the car, at school, or in our off hours. We are to be waiting to be used in His service, cleaned and loaded with power by the Holy Spirit; through our submission to the word of God and His in time leading.
From the passages above we find that sanctification is first God’s work alone, although we do have a part in it.
(I Thessalonians 5:23a) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely”
God sets us apart in spirit, soul and body. This means our unseen spiritual life, our soul life (our mind, intellect, will and emotions), and our physical bodies. Our soul is sanctified, or “set apart to God”, in the new birth. From this new creation beginning, God then, from inside out, brings holiness and cleansing to our soul, and body, as we seek Him, obey His word, and submit to the leading of His Holy Spirit.
In all ways God’s work in sanctification is a miracle of our partaking in His nature and that relationship altering us in time and for eternity. Despite this promise we must understand that practical sanctification will not happen without our participation. this is why I Thessalonians 4:3-4 instructs us to know how to possess ourselves as sanctified vessels. To use our police officer analogy, we are to learn how to always be on call for God, learn from the word of God and the Holy Spirit how to be clean vessels, and stay loaded for service by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Please prayerfully consider what being set apart for God at all times looks like for you. As we already know, living for Jesus has a high cost. When seeking to be set apart for God alone, the cost increases exponentially. This is why many would rather under define the word. Consider the extended quote from Oswald Chambers, in reference to the passages highlighted at the top of this post.
“When we pray to be sanctified are we prepared to face the standard of these verses?”
“Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost us the intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept only for God’s purpose. Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for? And then after the work is done in us, are we prepared to separate ourselves for God even as Jesus did?
Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him rules us. Are we prepared for what that will cost? It will cost us everything that is not of God in us.”
(My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 8)
Though Chamber’s words may seem a bit extreme, and they are extreme, they are absolutely God’s idea of our being “set apart”. Jesus declared He set Himself apart that we would be set apart as well (John 17:19). Jesus’ sanctification was extreme, as He was totally at the Father’s beck and call. Do you want to be totally at Abbas beck and call for Jesus sake?