“For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, . . . that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.”—1 Thess. 4:3, 4. NW.
1. How precious is God’s Word?
JEHOVAH’S Word comes down to us in the book we call the Bible, composed of many smaller books, all inspired by the great Author who used faithful human writers thus to disclose his mind upon the matters with which the Bible deals. That Word of God is tried and tested and it is pure. (Prov. 30:5) Throughout the centuries it has been preserved to stand bright and clean now in the midst of a corrupt and decayed system of things. Its great Source being complete, righteous and holy, this Word is sufficient and is not subject to addition or reduction. (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18, 19, NW) No question about it, persons who love righteousness and all that it implies must turn to this holy Word of God because therein alone lies guidance in uprightness. So pure, holy and precious is it, and so beautiful its component parts, that the seasonable word is compared to golden apples in silver settings. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” “Like apples of gold in a setting of carved silver is a word that is aptly spoken.” “Golden fruit in figured silver baskets is a word spoken on fitting occasion.”—Prov. 25:11, AV; AT; Ro.
2. In the contents of God’s Word, what truth is found, and what attitudes thereto exist on the part of men?
2 Though a treasured ornament or vessel may be of pure gold or silver, if seized by unclean or careless hands it can be grossly misused, turned upside down and emptied of its precious contents. Such has been done by ungodly men in their mishandling of the Word of God’s truth. Within the beautiful and vital contents of the Bible is the truth concerning sanctification, and, yet, what understanding and appreciation of sanctification do the people of even the so-called “Christian” world have today? Sanctimoniousness they know in all of its odious meaning. Sanctimoniousness, hypocrisy, spreads a cheap veneer over the entire old-world structure in a vain attempt to hide the corruption underneath every part of the old system of things. Because of their unrelenting effort to justify their ungodly course of action by the misapplication of scriptures, leaders of public thought, and especially the religious teachers of all Christendom, have robbed the people of appreciation of genuine sanctification as it is presented in God’s Word. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other ministers of religion in general cater to the masses in their self-indulgence, and they themselves go along with God-dishonoring practices, resulting in the warping of the sense of values of mankind to such an extent that the person who sincerely regrets those things that are an abomination to God is truly an exception. (Ezek. 9:4) And yet there are many such exceptions, honesthearted persons who do love righteousness. These may know with assurance that in spite of hypocritical sanctimoniousness practiced in the name of God, true sanctification, now as always, is the wise course for Christians to pursue. Let them look to the holiness of the great Author, the holiness of his Word of truth and the sacred ness of its incorruptible doctrines.
3. State the apostle Paul’s relationship to the congregation at Thessalonica, and his encouragement to them and to us regarding sanctification.
3 It was probably about A.D. 49 or 50 when the apostle Paul, while on his second preaching tour, founded the Christian congregation at Thessalonica. Those Christians from the beginning underwent severe religious persecution because of their faith. Their endurance was a joy to their older brother, Paul, and in writing to them he commended them because of their faith and encouraged them with great emphasis to maintain their sanctification, continuing in the course of righteousness in which they had set their feet. It was good that Paul wrote them as he did in First Thessalonians, and if Christians today will but allow them to, the same words of Paul can aid those who love Jehovah God now to maintain their sanctification.
4. What is the origin of sanctification of Christians?
4 Sanctification of the Christian congregation did not originate with the apostle Paul. Its Author and Provider is Jehovah God himself. Through his Son, Christ Jesus, this relationship to God was opened up and made available, and Jesus himself made references to sanctification. Paul shows that sanctification was Jehovah’s will for the members of the body of Christ, the anointed Christian congregation, of which the Christians in Thessalonica were a part.
5. As respects God’s will for Christians, give Scriptural evidence.
5 In the text first above cited, Paul points out “this is what God wills, the sanctifying of you.” (1 Thess. 4:3, NW) Showing further that sanctification is Jehovah’s will for Christians, Paul expressed himself similarly at the tenth chapter of Hebrews, in discussing the office of Christ Jesus and his priestly work on behalf of his body, his spiritual congregation. To Christ Jesus Paul applies the prophecy of Psalm 40:8, which says: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea thy law is within my heart.” (AS) Paul puts it this way: “Hence when he comes into the world he says: . . . ‘“Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” (Heb. 10:5, 7, 10, NW) So as surely as it was Jehovah God’s will that Jesus performed, it is His will that Christians be sanctified, whatever sanctification is.
6. Give the implication in the title of this article, and enumerate three things which will prove to be helpful to us.
6 When we speak of maintaining sanctification we imply that it is something that is not retained automatically but must be continually pursued. And such is the case. What encouragement in this regard it must have been to the Thessalonian Christians to receive Paul’s letter! Determination to continue in the way in which they had started, faithful to their God, must have increased in them when they read: “Finally, brothers, we request you and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, just as you received the instruction from us on how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are in fact walking, that you would keep on doing it more fully. . . . For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor.” (1 Thess. 4:1-4, NW) In order for us to maintain sanctification, we, of course, need to know what it is, how it is received and how it can be maintained.
WHAT IS SANCTIFICATION?
7. Proceed toward defining “sanctification,” showing its justification and the contrast that it emphasizes.
7 Sanctification means to be in accord with Jehovah God, who never steps down from his holiness and righteousness, never changing. The righteousness of Jehovah is complete justification for his creatures to devote themselves to him. In fact, sanctification is preceded by the personal dedication to do God’s will, and this step by the individual, as well as his subsequent course of action consistent therewith, is because of his worship of Jehovah God. This certainly does emphasize the extreme contrast between Jehovah’s morality in every respect and the present-day civilization’s immorality in every respect. This holiness of God prompts his acts and impels the righteous acts of his creatures in obedience to him and in worship of him; and therefore appropriate are his words to Israel already in a law covenant with him: “I am Jehovah your God: sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves . . . For I am Jehovah that brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”—Lev. 11:44, 45, AS.
8. What application does Leviticus 11:44, 45 have to those of the Christian congregation?
8 This sanctification because of Jehovah’s holiness did not end with the nation of Israel. Rather, it extended in principle to the Christian congregation of anointed followers of Christ Jesus with more impelling force so that the apostle Peter both practiced and preached it. In doing so Peter pointed out to other Christians the necessity of their maintaining their sanctification, saying: “Brace up your minds for activity, keep completely balanced and set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the holy one who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’”—1 Pet. 1:13-16, NW.
9. State the warning example of Israel.
9 Israel as a nation failed to maintain its sanctification, and therefore lost God’s approval and blessing. Christians are to take warning therefrom.—1 Cor. 10:6-11.
10. Continue with the forceful definition of “sanctification.”
10 The word “sanctify” means to make sacred or holy, to set apart to a sacred office. That is a generally recognized definition of this English word, which comes from the Latin and has also the significance of making free from sin, cleansing from moral corruption. It certainly is a forceful expression and embodies much in its significance.
IS IT REAL? POSSIBLE?
11. Is sanctification a reality, and why do you so answer?
11 What shall we say? Is sanctification for Christian men and women now upon the earth real, or is it just a phrase that religious organizations incorporate in their doctrines and teachings that has no reality and no practical application? Sanctification is real, even as Jehovah God himself is a reality and is holy. If we believe the plain statement of God’s Word before quoted, we know that Jehovah’s holiness is a real thing, with nothing make-believe about it. The Son of God, Christ Jesus, was not misrepresenting things when in prayer to his heavenly Father shortly before his death he said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. . . . I make request concerning them; I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me, . . . Holy Father, watch over them out of respect for your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are. . . . I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world. . . . Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth. . . . And I am sanctifying myself in their behalf, that they also may be sanctified by means of truth.”—John 17:6-19, NW.
12. Jesus’ situation when speaking the text of John 17:6-19 highlights what contrast?
12 How shabby the false religious veneer of sanctimoniousness alongside the sound words of the Master spoken from the fullness of the heart of one facing death upon a torture stake! As surely as Jesus lived and died because of his worship of Jehovah God, just that certain is the reality of his own sanctification of which he here spoke, and also of the sanctification of his associates, or body members, to which he here also made reference.
13. Paul and Peter set out sanctification as being what?
13 It was real for the Thessalonians, according to Paul, because to them he said, “Just as you are in fact walking, that you would keep on doing it more fully.” (1 Thess. 4:1, NW) And Peter, in giving us his foregoing exhortation to holiness, was not misleading us on the reality of sanctification. So the point here is that sanctification is genuine, not an empty phrase to be merely spoken, but is a practical Christian way of life, God’s will for his people and a reality.
14. Relate the facts relative to imperfect men and the question they allow.
14 But someone in all sincerity may opine: We are weak and imperfect creatures and we are sinful by inheritance, so even though sanctification is God’s will for Christians and even granting it to be a real thing in his sight, how is it possible for us to be sanctified, holy, devoted to righteousness or set apart to a sacred service? To this, from the Scriptures we say that sanctification is possible of attainment.
15, 16. Reason upon the matter of the possibility of sanctification from the standpoint of Jehovah, Christ Jesus and the Roman congregation.
15 There is no one knowing the human frailties which are ours better than Jehovah God himself. Christ Jesus was and is well aware of our condition, appreciating its reason and its remedy even more than we do, and yet we have his foregoing words of assurance. Also, the apostle Paul wrote to another congregation about sanctification, and this congregation was of both Jews and non-Jews, located in what probably was the most corrupt city on earth in its day: the city of pagan Rome, the capital of the pagan Roman empire. Rome has been described as the sink or cesspool into which all the corruptness of the vast Roman Empire drained. Of course, the evil old system of things has not improved since those days of Rome. It has become worse and it is more corrupt today with its veneer of false Christianity; but even as God’s provisions for his worshipers were effective in the days of the early Roman congregation, so they are completely effective now. Therefore, notice what consideration the apostle Paul had for the disabilities upon his brothers in Rome and know that this same consideration as Paul here expressed is had by Jehovah through Christ Jesus for the benefit of his people now:
16 “Do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies that you should obey their desires. Neither go on presenting your members to sin as weapons of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, also your members to God as weapons of righteousness. For sin must not be master over you, seeing that you are not under law but under undeserved kindness. What follows? Shall we commit a sin because we are not under law but under undeserved kindness? Never may that happen! Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him, either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view? But thanks to God that you were the slaves of sin but you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were handed over. Yes, since you were set free from sin, you became slaves to righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh: for even as you presented your members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness with lawlessness in view, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness with holiness in view.”—Rom. 6:12-20, NW.
17. What change in individuals’ lives is implicit in “sanctification,” and does sanctification automatically continue with Christians?
17 For the Roman then as well as for the Thessalonian Christians and for anointed Christians today in the year 1954, sanctification means that they have changed their lives and that each individual of them has turned from a course of lawlessness to lawfulness before the great Lawgiver, Jehovah God. This sanctification necessarily is something that must be pursued and maintained. It does not continue with a person automatically, because it involves a change in a person’s life, which change he makes after he dedicates himself to serve the Most High and in which he must continue and mature. This change in a person’s life means carrying out his dedication to the righteous God, and hence to his righteous cause. In the earth, what cause is righteous? a national cause? a political cause? What cause is free from any taint of corruption? What issue is worthy of the devotion of intelligent creatures? The proper determination of the issue of godship, of supremacy, of pure worship, the one righteous cause and holy enterprise, is the cause of Jehovah God. This issue of Jehovah’s supremacy moves those who worship him to uphold his Godship by calling attention to the facts relative to his relationship to his creatures and relative to his revealed Word, the Bible.
18. Does Jehovah find a champion for his cause among the religions of this old world?
18 Does Jehovah find a champion for his cause among the religions of this old world? Name one! There is none. An illustration of this is in the writings of an outstanding spokesman for Protestantism. In his recent book Preaching in a Revolutionary Age, making reference to a previous writer telling of a father and son at church, this bishop recounts: “The aged rector read from the Old Testament, and the boy learned of the terrible God who sent plagues upon the people and created fiery serpents to assault them. That night, when the father passed the boy’s bedroom, the boy called him, put his arms around his father’s neck, and, drawing him close, said: ‘Father, you hate Jehovah: so do I. I loathe him, dirty bully.’” Observe now the comments made by the author relative to this anecdote, and determine if he upheld the God of the Bible and the Scriptural accounts of his acts of vindication of olden times: “We have long since rejected a conception of reconciliation associated historically with an idea of a Deity that is loathsome. God, for us, cannot be thought of as an angry, awful, avenging Being who because of Adam’s sin must have his Shylockian pound of flesh. No wonder the honest boy in justifiable repugnance could say, ‘Dirty bully.’”
19. Who only uphold Jehovah’s cause?
19 It is a shameful thing for one taking the name of Christ, who consistently upheld Jehovah, to justify the conclusion of a poor, mistaught child that Jehovah God is a “dirty bully.” However, this situation is not new. Even from the time of Jesus till now, who upon the earth have stood up for the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, proclaiming His supremacy, giving to Him love and devotion, and calling upon their fellow man to do the same? Who take this course of action in behalf of the cause of Jehovah God in this day? Those persons, and only such, who deliberately, with understanding and love, change their lives so that their very members are presented as “slaves to righteousness with holiness in view.” That is serving the holy cause of the holy God. Sanctification includes this presenting of one’s dedicated members to Jehovah for the attaining of holiness. This holiness is a real thing and it is possible of attainment and of being maintained.
20. From whom is sanctification?
20 Consistent with other texts, the Scriptures considered above show that sanctification is from Jehovah God. He it is who through his Word of truth draws men to himself through Christ by attracting them with his own righteousness. He it is who through Christ’s ransom provision has made it possible for imperfect men to have a standing of reconciled relationship with God, being declared righteous by the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice and their faith therein. “But it is due to him [God] that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom.” (1 Cor. 1:30, NW) Jehovah God is the one to whom believers dedicate themselves; so, truly, sanctification is from Jehovah. Jesus indicated this, saying: “Do you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, I am God’s Son?”—John 10:36, NW.
21. What part does the truth play in sanctification?
21 Also, in considering the means of obtaining sanctification, we at once think of Jesus’ words which show the truth to be the instrumentality, when he said to his heavenly Father: “Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, NW) So God’s revealed Word is essential for the righteous course of sanctification. Jehovah, having sanctified the dedicated members of the Christian congregation of the body of Christ by giving them the call to the heavenly kingdom, anointing them with his spirit, does set them apart to his holy, sacred service, consecrating them, and he guides them through his Word of truth. Ah, yes, but how does the truth come to men and women in the first place in their individual lives? It is certain that Jehovah God does not come down and sit with them and instruct them in his Word. Neither does Christ Jesus, because he is the heavenly King. The apostle Paul, writing to the same congregation of the Thessalonians, shows how the truth which sanctifies comes to men, because he recalls how it came to those in Thessalonica, saying: “God selected you from the beginning for salvation by sanctifying you with spirit and by your faith in the truth. To this very destiny he called you through the good news we declare, . . . So, then, brothers, stand firm.”—2 Thess. 2:13-15, NW.
22. Show the part played by Christian ministry in sanctification.
22 Are we to understand that it was the declaration of the good news which Paul made to the Thessalonians that brought them God’s Word of truth, which they believed and in which they put faith, and that resulted in their being selected by God for salvation by sanctification? Yes, exactly! So it was throughout the Christian era, and so it is today, that men and women enter this blessed relationship with their God of sanctification or devotion to him because of the fact that other Christian ministers who preceded them have come to them with the message of God’s Word and have preached this Bible truth to them and they have heard and responded. “For me to be a public servant of Christ Jesus to the nations, engaging in the holy works of the good news of God, in order that the offering, namely, these nations, might prove to be acceptable, it being sanctified with holy spirit.”—Rom. 15:16, NW.
23. Describe a present-day relationship of “older” and “younger” spiritual brothers.
23 Spiritually speaking, Paul was their older brother and they were his younger brothers in Thessalonica, because from him they had received this message of God’s Word. That Christian pattern has not changed. It is the same today. Since the Kingdom was born in 1914, and the Lord came to the temple for judgment in 1918, and since the active proclamation of the message of God’s present kingdom throughout the earth since 1920, the numbers of those who are worshiping Jehovah have expanded until today there are hundreds of thousands of persons in 143 countries and lands who have responded to the preaching of ministers who are spiritually “older” than they are, just as the Thessalonians responded to the preaching of the apostle Paul. Active in the service of God now are ministers who have upheld Jehovah’s cause for many years. Some of them are still going strong who were ministers of the good news even before the Kingdom was born in 1914. Many of them have been with the present Christian Bible-education work throughout its present increasing prosperity, which dates from 1919. These faithful servants of God have done much preaching, and as the years passed they have been joined by others, and thus the work has increased. Upon the earth now there are approximately 20,000 persons who give evidence of being of the remaining ones or the remnant of God’s sanctified body of Christ, as shown by the number partaking of the Memorial emblems in 1954.
24. In what do we discern our “older brother”?
24 Those of us who more recently have had our eyes opened by the Bible truth to see the wonder of Jehovah recognize in these older brothers ministers who bear to us a relationship similar to that borne by the apostle Paul toward the congregation in Thessalonica. Furthermore, and of greater importance, we recognize in the organization of the anointed remnant a loving older brother, and, if we are now devoted to God, we know that the reason we have been selected for salvation, having faith in the truth, is that this “older brother” preached the good news to us. Paramountly, however, we all recognize the past and present ministry of our truly oldest Brother, Christ Jesus. This we gladly acknowledge, giving all thanks and praise to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ.