Open as PDF
That the Thessalonians had been soundly converted to God before the Apostle addressed his first epistle to them cannot be doubted for he calls them ‚Äúbrethren beloved‚ÄĚ and declares that they ‚Äúknew their election of God.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúFor,‚ÄĚ says he, ‚Äúour Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance . . . And ye became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction,‚ÄĚ i.e., they espoused Christ right under the fire of persecution; and so deep and strong was their zeal for their new Master that they endured these much afflictions with joy of the Holy Ghost.
Paul further describes their religious status thus: ‚ÄúRemembering without ceasing, your work of faith and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;‚ÄĚ he adds that they ‚Äúwere ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.‚ÄĚ
What could more plainly set forth a thorough Gospel conversion and unblameable Christian character? Read the entire first chapter.
Let us now inquire whether they still maintained their fidelity to Christ. Paul, their beloved teacher and father in the Gospel, was now imprisoned at Athens ; and he sends Timothy, his only attendant, to ‚Äúestablish and comfort them concerning their faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions‚ÄĚ (1 Thessalonians 3:23).
‚ÄúBut now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity (love), and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you; therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith‚ÄĚ (1 Thessalonians 3:6-7). Here we see that their faith, love and zeal had not in the least abated.
But did this satisfy the apostle? By no means. While their steadfastness in Christ was a source of great comfort to the suffering prisoner of the Lord, his heart was still burdened for their advancement to the sure standing ground of establishing grace. Here him:
Night and day praying exceedingly, that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10)
Christ, the ‚Äúauthor of their faith‚ÄĚ had not yet finished it. Not having entered upon the ‚Äúmore excellent way‚ÄĚ of ‚Äúlove that believeth all things‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúendureth all things;‚ÄĚ they had not done ‚Äúall to stand‚ÄĚ and were therefore in much danger of falling.
He prayed fervently that ‚ÄúGod Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,‚ÄĚ direct his way unto them: and increase their love. ‚ÄúTo the end He may stablish their hearts unblameable in holiness, before God, even our Father‚ÄĚ (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). Their outward life he pronounced blameless, but he well knew that those good fruits were brought forth by the grace of God in opposition to the inbred foe that still lurked within. Therefore they needed the blessing of a pure heart by which God would make them ‚Äúperfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle‚ÄĚ them.
The burden of the Apostle‚Äôs preaching while he was yet with them, centered in his fervent desire to lead them into this higher life, and appealing to those former exhortations and earnest commands, he again assures them that ‚Äúthis is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication; that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor‚ÄĚ (1 Thessalonians 4:2-4).
Had they been entirely sanctified when they ‚Äúreceived the word of God‚ÄĚ and the ‚Äújoy‚ÄĚ of pardon, there would be no need of the Apostle urging it upon them now; no occasion for affirming it to be the will of God, for they would have know it by experience.
Until indwelling sin is removed by the blood of Christ there is much danger of the child of God being thereby overthrown, in which case those particular vices that characterized the past life are apt to resume their control. Therefore sanctification is urged upon these converts lest they fall into the shameful practices common to the low grade of heathen society, from which they had been raised by the ‚ÄúGospel of God.‚ÄĚ Other sins, as pride, worldliness, etc., exhibit the sad want of sanctification in the churches of the present age.
Paul continues to urge this important work of grace upon them by declaring that ‚ÄúGod hat not called us unto uncleanness but unto holiness‚ÄĚ (1 Thessalonians 4:7). This implies that God in the Gospel has provided for and calls us unto perfect holiness, and so long as we have not appropriated the means of our absolute purity, we have not complied with the ‚Äúperfect will of God.‚ÄĚ
Finally, as if to arouse all their energies into immediate effort to reach the glorious summit of full salvation, the Apostle lays before them the manner of his fervent ‚Äúnight and day‚ÄĚ prayers:
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God, your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
What! These good, zealous Christians, whose faith had acquired such a wide-spread notoriety, who had ‚Äúreceived the Word of God with joy of the Holy Ghost,‚ÄĚ and who had stood firm and true to the Lord in their persecution? Do they yet need the grace of entire sanctification? Why insist that God must do another work for them? Why not let them alone to grow in grace and thus ‚Äúgo on to perfection?‚ÄĚ
Such is the wisdom that men now teach, but not the ‚Äėwisdom that cometh from above,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúwhich the Holy Ghost teacheth.‚ÄĚ It appears to me that he who would attempt to wrest from these Scriptures the invulnerable evidence of sanctification as a divine work after justification, can unscrupulously evade any other declaration of Holy Writ that he chooses not to accept. Surely, such cannot say, with David, ‚ÄúMy heart standeth in awe of thy Word.‚ÄĚ
But the Word of God rejected remains still the same and by it we must stand or fall and all doctrine must be tried. Ever since the ‚Äúkingdom of the Holy Ghost‚ÄĚ was fully set up on the day of Pentecost, holy men and women of all nations and of every denomination have testified to two definite instantaneous works of grace wrought in their hearts by faith, i.e., regeneration and sanctification; both of which they claim are distinctly taught in the work of God.
In direct opposition to their testimony, another class disclaim the second experience and aver that the Bible teaches but one. Now, the latter class, not having obtained the second moral change, are entirely ruled out of the witnesses on that point being unqualified to testify. Hence, the testimony of the former class stands unrebutted. It is a truth that if we were to summons the whole human family; yea, all the created intelligences of the universe, we could not overthrow the testimony of one of the least of the higher life witnesses.
Since testimony rests upon actual knowledge or personal experience, and nothing else for a man to depose against the verity of either the experience of pardon, or entire sanctification, would presume that he knew that nothing exists outside of his knowledge; in other words, that he knows all that he does know, and all de does not know. The fact is he that disputes either of the above, simply announces that he has not had the experience himself; beyond this, his testimony is invalid.
But we have said that the Word of the Lord is the final umpire to which all questions in religion must be referred. Let us, therefore, use this Epistle of Saint Paul as a balance to weigh these two positions.
What do we see? An inspired Apostle addressing one of the best, if not the very best churches described in the New Testament, calling them and commanding them unto holiness of heart and praying, even ‚Äúnight and day,‚ÄĚ that the ‚Äúvery God of peace might sanctify them wholly.‚ÄĚ
With this Epistle open before us, I positively asset that:
1. It cannot be denied that the Thessalonians to whom Paul wrote were genuinely converted to God.
2. It cannot be denied that they possessed more than ordinary faithfulness in the Lord.
3. It cannot be denied that up to the time of Paul‚Äôs writing this epistle they were ‚Äúall the children of light‚ÄĚ and had not declined in their fidelity to Christ.
4. It cannot be denied that, with all their past experience of new life, light, and joy, their hearts were not yet ‚Äúperfect‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúestablished unblameable in holiness.‚ÄĚ
5. It cannot be denied that they were now under the call of the Gospel and subjects of the Apostle‚Äôs most fervent and constant prayers to God for their immediate sanctification.
6. It must also be acknowledged that their entire sanctification was not to be effected by their own works or developed from their present good state of grace, but that the same God who called them thereto by His Word was to do the work in them, and having been preceded by justification; I say, in the fear of God, yea, in the very presence of the God of the Bible,
7. You cannot, you dare not, deny that the children of God are raised into this pure and holy mount of perfect assurance by a second work of divine grace.
What perfect harmony in the order of salvation as set froth by Christ, its author, and the faithful executor of His will. Both led penitential souls into the kingdom of God , and subsequently prayed for their full sanctification into the full ‚Äúrighteousness of God.‚ÄĚ
From our last text we see that the grace of total sanctification extends to the entire man. Every faculty and power of spirit, soul, and body is to be separated from the inbeing of all moral corruption; even the most deeply rooted power of evil; yea, ‚Äúevery plant that our Father has not planted (in us) shall be rooted up‚ÄĚ and all our native powers brought into sweet harmony with and holy service to God.
How extremely gross and darkened that mind that thinks the Divine Being takes no notice of the use we make of our bodies; the corruption or perversion of appetite, the violation of physical laws, especially in point of temperance and cleanliness, which is practical godliness. He, who through filthiness of person or apparel renders himself offensive unto man, cannot well be pleasing to God. He may possibly have obtained a clean heart, but has yet to learn how to glorify God in its manifestations and a light thus smothered beneath a bushel must ere long expire.
How utterly repugnant to the pure and heaven born religion of Jesus, is the shameful, filthy appetite for tobacco; is it possible that a man can even in the ‚Äúfirst faith‚ÄĚ indulge this unholy habit without protest of conscience? If so, it can only be accounted for by the stupefaction of the filthy poison itself. The use of tobacco as a habit is a sin,
1. Because it is the gratification of an unnatural appetite.
2. Because it is inimical to the health of the body and mind, the appetite for the noxious weed is itself a disease.
3. Because it debases the social and moral powers, is greatly derogatory to good manners and refinement.
4. It is a sin because it involves a useless and unrighteous waste of the Lord‚Äôs means.
5. It is a sin because a sickening offense to nearly all who do not live and move in the stench of the vile habit.
6. Once more, it is a sin because a shameful imposition, a detestable outrage upon the kind and patient hands that are compelled to remove the stains of your sin, and the filth that falls from your unholy lips.
Do not, my enslaved brother, think me unkind for classifying this idol in the catalogue of sin: on the contrary, I do you a great favor. To your plague I attach the promise that leads under the blood. This is your only hope of deliverance. ‚ÄúThe blood of Jesus Christ God‚Äôs Son, cleanseth us from all sin.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe very God of peace,‚ÄĚ who ‚Äúcalls you not unto uncleanness but unto holiness,‚ÄĚ is able to ‚Äúsanctify you wholly,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúthrough and through,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúthe whole you,‚ÄĚ according to the German and literal Greek. And ‚Äúfaithful is He that calleth you who also will do it.‚ÄĚ He will make you pure and holy, and then preserve you blameless in soul, Spirit, and body‚ÄĚ all the days of your life.
The appetites for tobacco, liquor, etc., are sprouts from the bitter root of inbred sin and when the noxious old stump is extracted by the power of God, all its manifold shoots also disappear, see an enumeration of some of the products of the flesh, which antagonize the ‚Äúfruits of the Spirit,‚ÄĚ as the weeds do the rising crop (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Ephesians 5:3-4; Colossians 3:5). He who allows none of these ‚Äúworks of the flesh,‚ÄĚ a manifestation in life, is a Christian freely justified; but he in whom their root and source, all consciousness of their indwelling tendencies is eradicated and destroyed, is a Christian wholly sanctified.
This full redemption of ‚Äúsoul, spirit and body,‚ÄĚ as an instantaneous experience, including the removal of all traces of the tobacco, and other abnormal appetites, is confirmed by a ‚Äúcloud of witnesses.‚ÄĚ
Why should this seem an incredible thing? Has not God ‚Äúchosen us in Him before the foundation of this world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love?‚ÄĚ (Ephesians 1:4)
To say that God cannot make us ‚Äúpure even as He is pure‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúpreserve us blameless‚ÄĚ in this life is virtually robbing Him of the attribute of infinity. To say He can but will not is a reflection upon His holiness; for thus to allow sin implies sympathy with sin.
Again, I ask, is not our perfect deliverance from all sin provided for in the atonement of Christ?
For to this end, Christ both died, and rose again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living. (Romans 14:7-9)
Ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God‚Äôs. (1 Corinthians 6:20)
Would the All-wise God lay down the inestimable price of His dear Son to purchase you wholly for Himself, and still leave in you the Devil‚Äôs brand mark, the smallest particle of sin, or unholy nature? Certainly not. The full influence of the death of Jesus is our complete death to sin. ‚ÄúAll the fullness of the Godhead bodily,‚ÄĚ was concentrated in the person of Jesus Christ to effect this glorious emancipation; and as if no other sin-polluted man needed atonement, each one of the entire fallen race can say with Paul, ‚ÄúThe Son of God love me.‚ÄĚ Here is a whole infinity of redeeming love lavished upon a single soul, and must he yet suffer the distraction of inward foes to the end of his life? Can Satan infuse more bane into man than Omnipotence can extract? The voice of a crucified Redeemer speaks in language most unequivocal, that He ‚Äúcame to destroy the works of the Devil,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúredeem us from all iniquity.‚ÄĚ
When thus washed and sanctified through and through by the blood of the cross, our entire being is at once caught up in the flames of divine love and carried forward constantly in all the will of God by the double impulse of the ‚ÄúComforter‚ÄĚ and a united holy nature.
Remember once for all, dear reader, that full salvation is not a question of human ability, but of divine efficiency. It is the ‚Äúvery God of peace,‚ÄĚ who proposes to ‚Äúsanctify you wholly‚ÄĚ throughout ‚Äúsoul, spirit, and body,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúall things are possible with God.‚ÄĚ It therefore only remains for you to acquiesce in the ‚Äúholy calling‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúeternal purpose‚ÄĚ of Him that ‚Äúworketh all in all‚ÄĚ by an entire abandonment of self and all forever into His hands.
Now, beloved reader, the ‚Äúunreachable riches of Christ‚ÄĚ is before you, and the claims of heaven upon you; do you accept them. Either you must yield all to God and live out your life ‚Äúhenceforth unto Him who died for you,‚ÄĚ or go forward into the future convinced that you are wronging God and keeping back from Christ that which His death demands, and His love constrains. Which will you do?
Lord, my will I here present Thee,
Now no longer mine;
Let no evil thing prevent me,
Blending it with Thine.
Lord, my life I lay before Thee,
Hear the sacred vow!
All Thine own, I now restore Thee,
Thine forever now.
Blessed Spirit! Thou hast brought me,
Thus my all to give;
For the blood of Christ has bought me,
And to Him I‚Äôd live.