Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
People pursue many things in life that are (to coin James’ phrase) here today and gone tomorrow (Jas. 4:14). Life on earth is temporary, but our existence does not end here. We are immortal beings, and our souls reach into the eternal realm (Matt. 10:28; Heb. 9:27). Therefore, we must pursue eternal things (2 Cor. 4:16-5:1). Peace and purity are among life’s highest pursuits. Peace with God and holiness (sanctification) of obtained in Christ (Isa. 9:6; Acts 3:13-19). Christians are called by Him to press forward for peace with all (as much as it depends on us, Rom. 12:18), and to have amiable tranquility among ourselves (Rom. 14:19; Heb. 13:1). Commenting on this passage, brother Dan King observed, “The church is forever at war with the world, but ought never to be at war with itself” (Truth Commentaries: The Book of Hebrews, 427). Our reason for actively running after peace and purity is that we may see the Lord. Our desire to gaze upon the Lord calls us to strengthen the weak and straighten the paths of others rather than hinder them (Heb. 12:12-13). This desire also urges us to shun profane endeavors (Heb. 12:15-17). Make peace and holiness your daily pursuit, and your treasures will last eternally (Matt. 6:19-21).
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, NKJV)
It is essential that the church honors God for the abundant “power that works in us.” Notably, it is “in the church by Christ Jesus” that God’s measureless power is glorified. So, the church is essential. It is essential for the church to know how to give God honor and glory. The church honors God being faithful to obey His will. You see, Jesus died for His church to sanctify it, so it will not have “spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Therefore, we must love God and not the world (1 John 2:15-17). When Christians defy the will of God and love the world, Christ is shamed and God is dishonored. The church must do more than say it honors God in Christ. Christians must reflect honor for God by how we live. This is done by obeying Him faithfully. This is how to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Such obedience is when and how God’s power works in us (Philippians 2:13). Trust God’s power. Live by faith, obeying Him “with fear and trembling.” He will work in you mightily, and take you home to eternal glory.
13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NKJV)
Paul was thankful to God for his brethren because they are participants in God’s election in Christ (verse 13). This was not a predetermining of each soul being either saved or lost, but of God’s choice to save sinners in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-4, 11:12). God uses the gospel to call sinners to redemption’s glory. Jesus said the Father draws sinners to Himself by teaching them His will, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44, 45). God does not call people through personal revelations, visions and experiences. He calls sinners “by our gospel” (that is, the gospel preached by the apostles, Mark 16:15). God’s call to salvation is for everyone and the same to everyone. There is only “one faith,” the gospel preached by Christ’s apostles (Galatians 1:11, 23; Acts 24:24). Notice the linkage between the gospel and salvation. The gospel that calls us to salvation produces faith so that we may be made holy (sanctified) and obtain the glory of Christ. To suggest we can be saved with the gospel nullifies the “sanctification of the Spirit,” the “belief in the truth,” obtaining the glory of Christ.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)
Paul felt a moral obligation to always thank God for his brethren. His reasons for giving thanks for them gives us guidance for being thankful for one another. Paul was thankful for them because they were loved by the Lord. Let us be thankful for our brethren because they share in God’s love. Paul was thankful because his brethren were the recipients of God’s eternal purpose of salvation. God chose to save sinners in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:4). His plan of “sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” is fulfilled in each person who believes and obeys the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-35). Because Christians share in salvation it fills our hearts with thankful prayers as we meditate on the rich blessings of God’s eternal love.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Some nations are ungodly, like Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-6). Some nations are angry and headstrong, like ancient Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). Israel was a “sinful nation” during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4). But, the church of Christ is a spiritual nation of holy people (saints). We are sanctified in Christ Jesus – set apart from sin and made holy before Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of the gospel is a call to holiness in heart and life, not a call to continue living in the defilement of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore, as its citizens we must not be of this world and we must not love this world (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17). The church is a holy nation that constitutes a holy priesthood, serving in the house of God under the kingly and priestly rule of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 1:8-9; 5:5-6). Therefore, let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, NKJV)
God has always called His people to holiness: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Sanctification is a state of purity, set apart from defilement and dedicated to God and His service. This includes keeping our bodies from fornication (sexual immorality). To do that, the Lord calls on us to refuse the “passion of lust” that generates sexual sins (Matt. 5:28; Mk. 7:21). God expects us to “possess” (gain control over) our bodies by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2). By doing so we can use our bodies in holy ways that honor God. On the other hand, those who do not know God live to satisfy their fleshly lusts. By doing so, they dishonor themselves and God. But, Christians are called out of sin’s defilement to be holy and pure in mind and body.