The transition which enables people to escape sin's slavery by existing as God's people is often called the process of "getting in" and of "staying in." Thus far these lessons focused on the "getting in" part of the transition. One has to leave slavery to sin (Romans 5:6-11) and become a citizen in God's kingdom (Ephesians 2:19-22). The power that allows any person to exercise this option does not arise from any form of human power, but from God who created our option in Jesus Christ. All we [any person] can do is accept the opportunity God offers us in Christ.
Through this loving God's incredible kindness [grace], God in Jesus' death atoned for our sins, redeemed us from sin's slavery, propitiated divine wrath, and provided us justification. No sinful human has the power or ability to do any of those things. God's love for us is so incredible that He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. The cumulative result of all God does for us in Jesus' death is our sanctification.
Through the atonement, redemption, propitiation, and justification of Jesus' death, God enabled us to be His holy people. To sanctify is to make holy. The basic meaning of sanctification is to "set apart." What God did for us in Jesus' death enables us to be "set apart" from slavery to sin to exist as God's people, God's church.
If in your thinking the word "church" means "institution" in the sense of an "organization" that offers people "membership," let Acts focus your thinking. Read Acts 5:11 [after Ananias and Sapphira's deaths]; 8:1-4 [noting the persecution and scattering]; 9:31 [with attention to the words "fear," "comfort," and "increase"]; 11:22 [the ears]; 14:27 [collecting the church]; and 16:5 coupled with 2:47. The church was and is those people who belong to God. People who have entered Christ to escape slavery to sin in order to be God's people are the church. According to Ephesians 5:25-27, these are the people Christ's death enables to exist as God's sanctified [holy] people who are set apart for God's purposes. The cleansing, the presentation to God comes from Christ. These people are sanctified because they are in Christ.
At the end of Paul's letter to Thessalonian Christians, he pronounced a blessing of hope. The God of peace could produce the total sanctification of these people. He could preserve them entirely. He could make them to be "without blame" at Christ's return. It was not because they were exceptional people. It was because of what God makes possible in Christ. God could do that for them, and God wanted to do that for them. He is a God who is absolutely dependable. He is faithful. He does not and cannot lie. He could make it happen. Note the source of power is the God who can make it happen, not us.
Hebrews 2:11 stated that Jesus came from God so that Christians could exist as God's people. God's Son made it possible for the sanctified to be God's people. Hebrews 13:12-16 compared Jesus' death to the Jewish sin offerings on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:27). Just as those sin offerings were burned "outside the camp" [the distance removed sins from the people who committed the sins], Jesus as our sin offering died outside the camp. He died so his blood could set us apart from our sins in order that we might be God's people. He was not ashamed to be our sin offering. We must not be ashamed of him.
In the last of the Hebrew 13:12-16 statement and the 1 Peter 1:13-21 statement, we are informed of a "staying in" reality. We are not the power source for our own salvation. We cannot be our own atonement, redemption, propitiation, or justification. We cannot sanctify ourselves. Yet, we can live lifestyles consistent with the things God did for us in Jesus Christ. In Peter's emphasis, Christians must diligently devote themselves to the responsibilities of sanctification. God did not save them to "do your own thing" in unholy lifestyles. They were the slaves of sin. Now they are God's people. The slave's lusts do not control their existence. God controls their existence. Nothing in life is more serious than God's call to holiness. God did not redeem them with mere money. He redeemed them with His innocent Son's blood. Therefore, their faith and hope were in God, not in themselves. Obedience declares our appreciation to God for delivering us from sin's slavery and confidence in God's ability to keep us in His Son.
There is an ancient principle God always uses in redeeming people. Ancient Israel is an understood example. They were slaves in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14). They thought like slaves, behaved like slaves, and had the morality of slaves. God used ten powerful acts to redeem them from their slavery (Exodus 7-11). God separated them from their slavery by placing the Red Sea between them and the land of their slavery (Exodus 14). After deliverance from Egypt, God gave them law [the responsibility of redemption] at Sinai (Exodus 20). God made it clear that if they made and kept covenant with Him, they would be His people (Exodus 19:3-6). They were no longer slaves. They were not to think like slaves, behave like slaves, or have the morals of slaves. They were to be God's people. God rescued them. They did not rescue themselves. If they appreciated God's deliverance, they would express their appreciation by living lifestyles of people who belong to God.
Ancient Israel never understood. They thought, "WE are special. God did all these things because of US." Read Deuteronomy 9:4-6. Because they failed to understand the "why" of their deliverance, they failed to live as God's people. Their existence was not ruled by their appreciation. God did not save them to think and behave as slaves.
The same point is made repeatedly in the New Testament epistles. To the Christians at Rome, "God ended your slavery to sin" (Romans 5:6-11). "Now think and behave as the redeemed" (Romans 12-15). To the Christians at Corinth [repeatedly!], "Do not continue in the acts and lifestyles of people who do not know Jehovah God and His Christ!" To the Christians in Galatia, "Do not live in the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16-21). "Live lifestyles that allow the Spirit to produce his fruit in you" (Galatians 5:22-26). To the Christians at Ephesus, "Before redemption you were dead" (Ephesians 2:1-3). "Now you have been recreated by God" (Ephesians 4:20-24). "Live lifestyles consistent with your new existence!" (Ephesians 4:25-32). To Christians in northern Asia Minor, "God made you unique" (1 Peter 2:4-10) "Form and maintain relationships that reveal you belong to God" (1 Peter 2:11-5:11).
God redeemed us. He by His power rescued us from sin's slavery. BUT...He did not redeem us from sin's slavery for us to continue to live lifestyles of slavery to sin. No one can save himself or herself. God provides us opportunity to accept atonement, redemption, propitiation, justification, and sanctification. We can do two things. (1) We can accept the salvation God provides. (2) We can, in faith, live the life of a person redeemed in Christ.
Discussion: share the basic lesson(s) about sanctification in each of today's texts.
1 Thessalonians 5:23,24
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 7
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