OceanSide church of Christ

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A Walk in Sanctification

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

Victor M. Eskew




A.  We live in a Hedonistic society.

1.    Hedonism is the belief that life should be devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification.

2.    Most of the time, this pleasure and gratification come from the indulgence in sensual pleasures.


B.   In the days of Paul, Greek was the culture of the world.

1.    They had many “fertility” gods and goddesses:  Aphrodite, Artemis, Cybele, Dionysus, Eros, and Rhea were just a few.

2.    These gods and goddesses were worshipped through the sexual gratification of their subjects:  temple prostitutes, festivals involving orgies, and the practice of homosexuality and lesbianism.


C.  Many of these gods and goddesses were worshipped in the city of Thessalonica.  Paul’s powerful preaching, however, had caused some of the citizens of this city to turn away from these gods and had turned to the living God (I Thess. 1:9).


For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.


D.  Living in the midst of a society filled with immorality would be extremely difficult for these new Christians.

1.    The Thessalonians would be constantly tempted by family and friends to fulfill their fleshly desires.

2.    Sanctification was essential for these new Christians.  Thus, Paul writes about it in I Thessalonians 4:1-8.

a.    I Thessalonians 4:3a


For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…


b.    Definition of sanctification

1)     Strong (38):  purification, that is, (the state) purity

2)    Thayer:  consecration, the sanctification of heart and life

c.    To practice sanctification would require self-control by the Thessalonians


E.   The text we will study in this lesson is I Thessalonians 4:1-8.  We have entitled this lesson:  “A Walk in Sanctification.”




I.         PLEA (I Thess. 4:1-2)


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.  For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.


A.  Stated

1.    Paul wanted the Thessalonians to walk and to please God.

a.    The word “walk” literally means “to tread about.”  The word means “to live” or “to conduct one’s life.”

b.    How they were to do this had already been taught to them by the apostle Paul.  He taught them many things during his stay when he established the church.

c.    He begs them to do this, and, then, he calls them close and begs again (beseech and exhort).

2.    Two points:

a.    This should be the desire of every child of God (Eccl. 12:13).


Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man.


b.    When our lives are conducted properly, God is pleased.

1)     One definition of that word is that His emotions are excited.

2)    He sees and is stirred with pleasure much like a parent whose child has obeyed.


B.   Superabound

1.    Paul did not want the Thessalonians to simply walk and please God.

2.    He wanted them to “abound more and more.”

a.    Definition

1)     Strong (4050):  to superabound, abound in excess, be superfluous

2)    Thayer:  to abound, overflow, to be abundantly furnished with

b.    Lesson:  God does not want His people to “just get by” or “cut it close.”  He does not want His people to be mediocre.  When it comes to our obedience, He wants us to overflow and to be super abundant.


C.  Standard

1.    Paul now establishes the standard of the Christian’s behavior.

2.    For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

a.    The word “commandments” involves mandates and charges.

b.    Paul had given these young Christians orders and rules and regulations from God as to how to conduct themselves.

c.    NOTE:  There are a lot of people who do not like to be told how to live and what to do.  They don’t like mandates.  For that reason, they do not like the Bible.

d.   Christians are not of this mindset.

1)     They know that God’s commands are good and right.

2)    They understand that in keeping of them there is great reward (Ps. 119:47).


And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.


II.       PURITY (I Thess. 4:3-6a)


A.  Stated

1.    Because of the immorality of this city, one of the commands Paul empha-sized was sanctification or purity.

2.    He challenges them with this teaching again in this letter (I Thess. 4:3).


For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.


a.    He tells them that this is God’s will.

1)     It is what God had determined should be done.

2)    It is His wish, desire, and decree.

b.    He also reveals that sanctification is a two-sided coin.

1)     There is the practice of sanctification.

2)    There is the abstinence from fornication.


B.   Steps

1.    Step #1:  Practice Purity


For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…


a.    Paul told Timothy:  Keep thyself pure (I Tim. 5:22).

b.    This process begins in the mind.

1)     Our actions originate in the mind (Prov. 4:23).


Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.


2)    If we want our actions to be pure, we must make certain that our minds are pure (Phil. 4:8).


Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


2.    Step #2:  Flee fornication


…that ye should abstain from fornication.


a.    Fornication is a broad term that encompasses many forms of illicit sexual behavior:  adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sex before marriage, sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman.

b.    The word “abstain” involves the concept of self-control.  It means “to hold one’s self off.”

c.    Once a person has refrained from fornication he needs to run the other way as quickly as possible.

1)     I Corinthians 6:18


Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own boy.


2)    Example:  Joseph with Potipher’s wife

3.    Step #3:  Control chassis


That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.


a.    There are two thoughts about the meaning of the word “vessel.”

1)     One’s physical body (II Cor. 4:7)  This is the meaning in our text.

2)    One’s wife (I Pet. 3:7)

b.    Each of us, men and women, has an earthen vessel that must be controlled.

1)     It must be sanctified, that is, kept pure (sanctification).

2)    It must be treated as something of great value (honor).

c.    All of us have the power to control our actions.

1)     Proverbs 25:28


He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.


2)    I Corinthians 9:27


But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:  lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.


3)     We need to control what our minds consume, what our eyes see, what our hands do, what our bodies do, and where our feet go.

4.    Step #4:  Constrain cravings


Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.


a.    Lust is a depraved passion and concupiscence is a craving or desire for what is forbidden.

b.    We are not to have a vile passion for the forbidden lusts of the flesh.

c.    Numerous passages tell us to refrain from evil, wicked, forbidden lusts.

1)     I Peter 2:11


Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.


2)    I Peter 4:2


That he should no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

5.    Step #5:  Forbid fraud


That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter…


a.    The practices of the Gentiles involved adultery and fornication with another’s wife or children.

b.    Paul exhorts the Thessalonians not to defraud their neighbor.

1)     Defraud

a)    Strong (4122):  to overreach

b)    Thayer:  to gain or take advantage of another

2)    Example:  David who took Bathsheba from Uriah (i.e., Nathan’s parable about the ewe lamb, II Sam. 12:1-4).

c.    God has placed the sexual experience with the marriage relationship (Heb. 13:4).  Man needs to keep it there.  He does not need to defraud, or, take advantage of his neighbor by taking his wife (Exo. 20:17; Prov. 5:15-19).


III.      PUNISHMENT (I Thess. 4:6b-8)


A.   The Avenger (I Thess. 4:6b)


…because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.


1.    Man does not always consider:

a.    The consequences of his actions

b.    The fact that future events are still to come

2.    One day every individual will have to deal with God.

a.    Romans 2:6


Who will render to every man according to his deeds.


b.    Romans 14:12


So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.


3.    To those who have failed to sanctify themselves, the Lord will be an avenger.

a.    Definition

1)     Strong (1558):  one who carries out justice, punisher

2)    Thayer:  exacting penalty from one, an avenger, punisher

b.    The fleshly, sinful, and carnal will have the wrath of God poured out on them (Rom. 1:18).


For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.



B.   The Authorization (I Thess. 4:7)


But God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.


1.    God called us by the gospel (II Thess. 2:14).

2.    This call involved a life of holiness.  This is the same word translated sanctification previously.

3.    God did not call us to an immoral lifestyle.

4.    I Peter 1:14-16


As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conver-sation and godliness; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.


C.  The Actuality (I Thess. 4:8)


He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.


1.    It was Paul who had established this church and who had instructed her members.

2.    Some might think that if they did not follow the instructions given that they were merely rejecting what man said.

3.    Not so!  To reject the teachings of the apostle was to reject the teachings of God Himself (Luke 10:16).


He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.


4.    If they rejected Paul, why was this also rejecting God?  Because God had given to these inspired individuals His Spirit so they could reveal His mind to man (I Cor. 2:9-13; II Pet. 1:21-22).




A.  This lesson contains a very simple message.

1.    God’s will for us is sanctification or purity.

2.    Sanctification involves two things:

a.    Doing the right things

b.    Abstaining from carnal lust and practices like fornication

c.    Those who reject sanctification will deal with the avenger, the Lord Jesus Christ, because it is He they have despised.


B.   I Thessalonians 4:1


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.