Holy Father, we humble our hearts before you. We want to understand your Word. We want to live your Word. In Jesus' mighty name! Amen!
I'll always quote from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted. I use the 1995 edition except when I am quoting from my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," which uses the 1977 edition.
When we stopped last time we were discussing the last chapter of my book. The chapter is titled, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin Through the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atoning Death." I'll read part of the introductory comments of this chapter for a review. The Greek verb hagiazo, which was derived from the adjective hagios, is normally translated "sanctify" (in some form) by the NASB and the KJV. The Greek adjective hagios is normally translated "Holy/holy" or "saints" by the NASB and the KJV. The Greek noun hagiasmos, which was derived from the verb hagiazo, is normally translated "holiness" or "sanctification" by the NASB and the KJV. And the Greek noun hagiosune, which was derived from the adjective hagios, is translated "holiness" by the NASB and the KJV
This study will be limited to one very importantbut not well understoodNew Testament use of these super-important Greek words. These words are frequently used to communicate the idea that we are actually to be set apart from sin and to live for God in an abiding state of holiness (basically) from the time we become born-again Christians. This is the ideal (it sounds good doesn't it?); and the New Testament does not present is as an unrealistic or unattainable ideal.
In the following study the verses listed under hagiazo, hagiasmos, hagiosune, and hagios were chosen because the context (and sometimes the form of the verb; for example, "you were sanctified") helps demonstrate that these Greek words are used in the ideal sense we are considering in this chapter. I have not included all such verses, but the verses I have listed are more than sufficient to demonstrate that this ideal pattern is widespread in the New Testament
Several verses I have listed do not quite fit the ideal pattern, but they help demonstrate that this pattern does exist. These verses deal with situations in which some Christians were not adequately set apart from sin. In each of these verses, the apostle Paul was concerned that this inadequate situation be soon rectified and these Christians become sanctified. I mentioned four such verses here. Two of the verses (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Tim. 2:21) are listed under the Greek verb hagiazo. We will discuss these verses next:
When we stopped last time we had two more verses to discuss under the heading, "Some Verses that Use 'Hagiazo' and Fit the Ideal Pattern." Now we come to 1 Thess. 5:23, a very important verse. I'll read the verse, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify [Greek verb hagiazo] you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved [or, "be kept"'] complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
A little background information will help us understand this verse. The Christian church at Thessalonica had been recently founded by the apostle Paul "amid much opposition" (1 Thess. 2:2). He even found it necessary to leave Thessalonica before he wanted to on the occasion of his first visit there (see Acts 17:1-16; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14-18; and 3:1-13). In Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians, he mentioned some of his concerns regarding the state of the newly founded church at Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 3:10-13; 4:1-12; 5:12-15, 19-22).
With this background information, 1 Thess. 5:23 is easy to understand. The apostle prayed that God would "SANCTIFYENTIRELY" those recently converted Christians, who had known "much opposition," and then KEEP THEM IN THAT STATE OF HOLINESS, so that they would be "'WITHOUT BLAME at the coming of [the] Lord Jesus Christ." He prayed that God would do what was necessary to bring about the full sanctification of the church at Thessalonica. He was asking for a transformation to an abiding state of holiness in the very near future, as soon as possible.
For God to send the apostle Paul to Thessalonica was one way He could substantially meet the need of this church. See the discussion of 1 Thess. 3:10-13 later in this chapter. (We will discuss these verses later in this article.) The Thessalonian Christians themselves also had a major part to play in their sanctification (see, for example, 1 Thess. 4:1-12; 5:12-22; Rom. 6:1-23, especially verse 19; Rom. 8:12-14; 2 Cor. 7:1; and 2 Tim. 2:21). God does not sanctify people, or keep them sanctified, apart from their cooperation by faith.
The apostle wanted the Thessalonian Christians (and all Christians) to live their entire Christian lives IN A STATE OF HOLINESS, WITHOUT BLAME before God. Living in this state, they would always be ready for the "coming of [the] Lord Jesus Christ," and they would be "without blame" on the day of judgment. Sounds good, doesn't it? I'll read Phil. 2:14, 15, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world."
Now we'll discuss 2 Tim. 2:21, another very important verse. I'll read the verse, "Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [Greek verb hagiazo], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." "Sanctified" is a perfect participle in the Greek, which fits the idea of Christians entering an abiding state of holiness. The apostle says that if these Christians will cleanse themselves from all that is sinful and defiling, including false doctrine (see 2 Tim. 2:14-18), they will be sanctified. Of course it is to be understood that these Christians would cleanse themselves by the grace of God in Christ. It seems that Paul was speaking about those in the ministry in these verses, but what he says is applicable to all Christians. Sin will always interfere with our ability to serve God.
2 Corinthians 7:1 is a very important cross-reference for 2 Timothy 2:21. I'll read 2 Cor. 7:1, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting [or, "completing"] holiness in the fear of God." We'll discuss 2 Cor. 7:1 later in this article.
Now we come to the next major heading, "Some Verses that Use 'Hagiasmos' and Fit the Ideal Pattern." The Greek noun hagiasmos, which was derived from the verb hagiazo, is used ten times in the New Testament. The NASB translates it "sanctification" eight times; "sanctifying work" one time; and "sanctity" one time. The KJV has "holiness" five times and "sanctification" five times. The NIV has "holiness" four times. It also has "be sanctified," "holy," "holy life," and "sanctifying." I typically prefer the translation holiness for this noun. Christians are called (and enabled) to live in an abiding state of holiness. The verses we will discuss here under hagiasmos are Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Thess. 4:3, 4, and 7; and 2 Thess. 2:13.
We come to Rom. 6:19, 22. I'll be brief here because these verses are discussed in chapter 6 of this book, and we have already discussed Romans chapter 6 verse-by-verse in these articles. I'll read the last part of Rom. 6:19, "so now present yourselves as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification." I would translate "resulting in holiness." The KJV, NKJV, and the NIV all have holiness instead of sanctification here; "so now present yourselves as slaves to righteousness resulting in holiness"; "resulting in an abiding state of holiness."
Now Rom. 6:22, "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive you benefit [or, "you have your fruit"], resulting in sanctification [or, better yet, "resulting in holiness"; "resulting in an abiding state of holiness." The KJV, NKJV, and the NIV all have holiness here instead of sanctification. "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your fruit, resulting in an abiding state of holiness, and the outcome eternal life." We're going to inherit eternal life in its fullness at the end of this age.
Now we come to 1 Thess. 4:1-8, another very important passage that will help us understand holiness. The Greek noun hagiasmos is used three times in this passage. "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God just as you actually do walk, that you may excel still more. (2) For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (3) For this is the will of God, your sanctification [Greek noun hagiasmos; I would translate "your holiness"]; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (4) that each of you know how to possess his own vessel [his own body] in sanctification [Greek noun hagiasmos; I would translate "in holiness"] and honor, (5) not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (6) and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter [How would a "Christian" defraud his brother in the matter? By getting involved with his wife, or his daughter, for example.] because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. (7) For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification [hagiasmos; I would translate "in holiness."] (8) Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you."
These verses make it quite clear that holiness excludes all sexual immorality. Paul's area of concern when he wrote these verses was sexual immorality, undoubtedly because he had learned from Timothy that this sin still existed to some extent in the newly founded church at Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 3:1-6), but all other sin is also incompatible with holiness. The context makes it clear that the apostle was not thinking of a process of gradual withdrawal from this sin (or, and other sin). In verse 6 he spoke of God's being "the avenger in all these things." And verse 8 confirms that Paul considered this to be a very serious matter, "Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you." God sets us apart for Himself by sealing us with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit enables us to live in a state of holiness, as we walk by the Spirit, by faith, on a continuous basis.
The next verse listed under hagiasmos is 2 Thess. 2:13. This verse is discussed in some detail in my book. Here I'll just read this verse with a few brief comments. "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification [Greek noun hagiasmos; for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit; or "for salvation in holiness (in an abiding state of holiness) produced by the [Holy] Spirit"] and faith in the truth." If we submit to the truth of the gospel and walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith, which we are called to do, we will live in an abiding state of holiness. That sounds good, doesn't it?
Now we come to the next major heading, "Some Verses that Use 'Hagiosune' and Fit the Ideal Pattern," the pattern that Christians are actually supposed to be set apart from sin and to live for God in an abiding state of holiness, by His sufficient grace, through faith. The Greek noun hagiosune, which was derived from the Greek adjective hagios, is only used three times in the New Testament. It was translated "holiness" by the NASB and the KJV; the NIV has "holiness" two times and "holy" one time. Two of these verses are quite important for this study, 2 Cor. 7:1 and 1 Thess. 3:13. We'll discuss both of these verses in this article.
First I'll read 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; then we'll discuss 2 Cor. 7:1, another verse that will help us understand holiness. "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness ["Righteousness" is the opposite of "lawlessness."], or what fellowship has light with darkness? [God's light includes His truth, His righteousness, and His holiness] (15) Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (16) Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord, 'and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. (18) And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty. (7:1) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness [Greek noun hagiosune; 'perfecting holiness' or, 'completing holiness'] in the fear of God."
The words, "having these promises" refer back to the promises quoted from the Old Testament in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. There is a very strong emphasis in these verses on the need for Christians to be set apart once-for-all from all forms of sin, darkness, uncleanness, etc. For one thing, the apostle Paul was concerned about the sinful acceptance of false apostles by some at Corinth (see 2 Cor. 11:4, 12-15).
Now we'll discuss the words "let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit" of 2 Cor. 7:1. The Greek verb katharizo, which is translated "let us cleanse" here, is frequently used of a moral, sanctifying cleansing in the New Testament, as it is here (see Acts 15:9; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:14; James 4:8; and 1 John 1:7, 9). Most of these references speak of God as the One who does the cleansing, but it is always understood that these things don't just happen automaticallywe must cooperate with the cleansing/sanctifying grace of God through faith.
This verse makes it clear that true Christians can be defiled in the "spirit" (inner man, heart). Our spirits are not just automatically made clean or kept clean. The apostle Paul knew that there was some sin in the church at Corinth, and he wanted to see this unacceptable condition rectified at once. He was not thinking of a gradual, lifelong cleansing process.
Now we'll discuss the words, "perfecting holiness [Greek noun hagiosune] in the fear of God." As the Corinthian Christians "[cleansed themselves] from all defilement of flesh and spirit," they would be "perfecting [or, "completing"] holiness." They would be removing those things that were incompatible with holiness. The BAGD Greek Lexicon (under hagiosune) says, "to perfect holiness [equals] become perfectly holy (2 Corinthians 7:1)." The Bible (both the Old and New Testaments) teaches that Christians should fear sinning against God, and that they should fear having unresolved sin in their lives that needs to be dealt with through repentance. If we are in sin, we need to run to Him, not run from Him; run to Him and be forgiven by His grace, and be sanctified by His grace.
I'll read the Amplified Bible on 2 Cor. 7:1, "Therefore, since these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the (reverential) fear of God."
Now we'll discuss 1 Thess. 3:13, another important verse on holiness. I'll read 1 Thess. 3:6-13, "But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, (7) for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; (8) for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. (9) For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, (10) as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? (11) Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; (12) and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; (13) so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness [Greek noun hagiosune] before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
We have already discussed 1 Thess. 4:1-8; 5:23 in this article. Both of those passages help us understand these present verses. Given the background, which we have briefly discussed already, with the church at Thessalonica having being started "amid much opposition" (1 Thess. 2:2), which even included the apostle Paul's finding it necessary to leave Thessalonica before he wanted to, it was not surprising that there was something still lacking in the faith of the newly converted Christians at Thessalonica. I'll read 1 Thess. 3:10 again, "as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith." The apostle Paul knew the state of the church when he wrote this epistle because he had sent Timothy to Thessalonica to "find out about their faith" and to "strengthen and encourage them as to [their] faith]," and Timothy had just returned to Paul after visiting Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 3:1-6).
Paul knew that his apostolic ministry could go a long way toward meeting the need of the Christians at Thessalonica, so he prayed that God would direct his way to them (1 Thess 3:10, 11). In verse 12 he prayed for an increase in love on the part of those Christians. It was not that they were totally deficient in love, but there was room for improvement (see 1 Thess. 1:3; 3:6; and 4:9, 10).
I'll read 1 Thess. 3:13 again; then we'll get into the details, "so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness [hagiosune] before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints [plural of hagios]."
What the apostle says here is essentially the equivalent of what he prayed for in 1 Thess. 5:23. I'll read that verse again, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved [or, "be kept"] complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." In 1 Thess. 5:23 Paul prayed that the Christians at Thessalonica would be sanctified entirely in the very near future, as soon as possible, and then kept in that state without blame at the coming [Greek parousia] of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here in 3:13 the apostle requests that God establish their hearts without blame in holiness at the coming [parousia] of the Lord Jesus Christ. As in 5:23 Paul wanted to see them established "without blame in holiness" in the very near future, as soon as possible, and then for them to continue to abide in that state. That way they would always be fully ready to stand before God, whenever the Lord Jesus Christ would come. That sounds good, doesn't it?
Many verses speak of the fact that we must get ready and stay ready to stand before God at the end of this age. (See Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 1:21-23, 28; and Jude 24, for example). And many verses speak of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of this age. (See Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 1:10; 2:1; 1 Cor. 15:23; and Phil. 3:20, 21, for example.)
Paul concluded 1 Thess. 3:13 with the words "with all His saints." The apostle's meaning was not that the Lord Jesus Christ will come "with all His saints," though it is true that He will bring the departed saints with Him when He comes (see 1 Thess. 4:13-18, for example). For one thing, many of "His saints" will still be living on the earth at the time of His return. Rather, the apostle was concerned that the hearts and lives of the Thessalonian Christians be established "without blame in holiness" and then kept in that state so that they will be fully ready to stand before God "without blame in holiness" along with "with all [the other] saints."
Now we come to the next major heading, "Some Verses that Use 'Hagios' and Fit the Ideal Pattern." The Greek adjective hagios, which is used more than two hundred times in the New Testament, is normally translated "Holy/holy" or "saints." I listed the following verses under this heading: Rom. 1:7; 12:1; 1 Cor. 1:2 (we discussed this verse in the last article); Eph. 1:4; 5:3, 27 (we discussed Eph 5:27 in the last article); Col. 1:12, 22; 1 Thess. 3:13 (which we just discussed); 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16; and 2 Pet. 3:11.
The first verse we will look at is Rom. 1:7. I'll quote the verse from the KJV, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints [plural of hagios]: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." The NKJV and the NIV also have "called to be [to be] saints." The NASB has "called as saints." Christians are called to be saints, holy people, set apart for God and His righteousness people. As we have been discussing, God calls (and enables) us to be saints. In the ideal case, we will walk in accordance with God's Word and walk by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis by faith, and live in an abiding state of holiness. That sounds good, doesn't it?
In 1 Cor. 1:2, which we discussed in the last article, the apostle Paul also used the words "called to be saints." As we discussed, we were called to be saints, even as Paul was "called to be an apostle." The words, "called to be an apostle" were used in 1 Cor. 1:1. I'll read 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 from the NKJV, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, (2) to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."
Now we come to Rom. 12:1. I'll read this verse and part of the next verse from the NIV, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy [Greek hagios] and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing [better yet, "by the renewal"] of your mind."
The apostle was calling for a once-for-all presentation of ourselves, including our bodies, to God and for the accompanying once-for-all renewal of our minds (of the way we think, especially of the way we think in our hearts), including our attitudes, motives, and priorities. As he said, "DO NOT CONFORM ANY LONGER TO THE PATTERN OF THIS WORLD, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind [renewal of the way you think]." Paul was not calling for a gradual withdrawal from the sinful "pattern of this world." We must think right in our hearts to live right for God.
The apostle goes on in verse 3 to give an important illustration of what he means by having a renewed mind. I'll read the first part of verse 3 from the NASB, "For through the grace given to me [the enabling grace of God for him to fulfill his ministry] I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." One of the primary manifestations of walking in the flesh is the tendency to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Pride (with unbelief) is at the root of sin. Romans 12:1-8 are discussed in my "A Paper on Faith" that is located on my internet site.
On the renewal of our minds by the Spirit of God, see under Rom. 8:5-8 in chapter 6 of this book. We have discussed these verses and this topic in earlier broadcasts. Of course the Word of God also plays a key role in the renewal of our minds. We should continue to grow throughout our lives in Christ (in knowledge, wisdom, etc.), but in the ideal case we will not be gradually leaving sin behindwe will be living in an abiding state of righteousness and holiness. That sounds good, doesn't it?
We'll come back to this important topic in the next broadcast. God bless you!
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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