More and More for Oak Hills, Part 2

August 24, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

We return to Paul’s unique exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 4. In verse 1 and 10 he commands the church to “do more and more.” This is directly applied to how they “ought to walk and to please God” (v. 1) and to “love one another” (v. 9), but it has implications for how we think about the work and mission of the church. As followers of Christ, there is nothing new to add to or replace the gospel. We are called to dig deeper and deeper (i.e. more and more) into the glorious truths of the gospel and let them shape our thinking, our values, and our actions more and more.

Last week we looked at how we ought to grow more and more in our faith. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). We please God more and more with ever deepening delight and rest in him. This week, let’s look at what Paul calls our “walk.” It is one of Paul’s favorite words to describe the day-to-day practical living of Christians. When saw him use this word in the pivotal verse of Ephesians, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1). Like Ephesians 4, Paul goes on in 1 Thessalonians 4 to give explicit instruction on what constitutes a worthy walk. 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” He is explaining to the church that they already have received from him clear instructions on how they “ought to walk.” He reminds them that their walk must be marked by sanctification. The Greek word Paul uses here can simply be translated “holiness.” Paul uses it again in verses 4 and 7, where the ESV translates it as “holiness.” This Greek word convenes both meanings: 1. the process of growth in holiness, i.e. sanctification, and 2. the product of the process, namely, holiness itself.

 Paul says that the church is to grow more and more in holiness. Or, in other words, God’s will for the church is sanctification. In verses 3-8, Paul gives a roadmap for the church to grow in holiness. 

  1. Keep Away from Sin. Paul writes in verse 3, “abstain from sexual immorality.” The word for “abstain” literally means to avoid contact with or to keep away from. Paul specifically mentions sexual immorality, but the principle applies to any sin. If we are to grow in holiness, we must avoid contact with the sins that so easily ensnare us. This includes the temptations to these sins. We cannot expect to grow in holiness if we remain in contact with temptations to sin. 
  1. Pursue Holy Activity. Paul writes in verse 4 that each Christian ought to “control his own body in holiness and honor.” The pursuit of holiness is not only the abstention from sinful activity, but also the engagement with holy activity. Active love and service for others is necessary for growth in holiness. 
  1. Passion for God. In verse 5 Paul warns against being caught up in “the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.” The longings of our hearts are powerful; they direct how we use our time and energy. Paul warns against passions that draw one away from God. The opposite are passions directed toward God, like longings to know God, be with God, and honor God. There is no growth in holiness without a passion for God. 
  1. Humble Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Paul concludes this section in verse 8 with a warning, “whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” Emphasizing again that sanctification is God’s will for his people, not his own will for the church, he mentions the Holy Spirit. We have to ask, “Why?” The answer is simple. God has given his Holy Spirit to his people to empower the growth in holiness. If we “disregard” God’s desire for our growth in holiness, we are resisting the Holy Spirit. But, if we pursue growth in holiness, it will only come by the empowerment of the Spirit. The Spirit works in us when we rely on him through persistent prayer and Bible study and meditation. 

God desires us to grow more and more in holiness. The roadmap is laid out before us. Will we follow God’s direction?


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