Sanctification: Holy Spirit Dependance and Critical Thinking
The two are not mutually exclusive. And yet many of those who claim to rely solely on the former overtly, or implicitly, deny any real role of the latter — when it comes to right doctrinal understanding. However, a Spirit enlightened mind manifests itself in clear, critical thought concerning the word of God.
Even if the term “critical thinking” troubles you, just consider it in terms of thinking aright. Essentially, it’s really a matter of meditating upon the matter, and the associated passages, pondering carefully and prayerfully, as you strive to ask the right and needful questions.
For instance, concerning the matter of anomianism/antinomianism (and those who reject the truth that Christians are to actively strive to obey God’s extant law, which is the body of His extant commands, imperatives, exhortations, admonishments, and reproofs for us today), many refuse to consider, let alone properly exegete, the key passages that relate to this controversy. They will ignore the vital proof-texts, talk over them, or haphazardly answer back concerning them, all without giving it a careful hearing. Yet the Bible states “He that answereth [responds, rejects, turns back, answers back] a matter before he [truly, objectively] heareth [it], it [is] folly and shame unto him” [Proverbs 18:13]. In essence, we act like shameful fools when we do not take the time to hear the counter arguments, choosing instead to harden ourselves in our (even erroneous) stances.
As an example of an often ignored, talked over, passage… consider:
1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 “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. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…”
It’s often not enough to read it, or even re-read it. We need to ask, what is the purpose behind the passage? What message is it trying to convey? Why is it worded as such? Is there anything about the wording that we need to take note of?
If we engage in this kind of evaluation of the text, with that kind of mindset, then we can ask questions like “If the Christian is not called to actively, diligently, pursue obedience to God’s spiritual law, in a manner that directly pertains to our sanctification, then:”
1. Why would the Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, start off with “Furthermore then we BESEECH you.”?
That word beseech is erōtaō/G2065, and it means “to ask/question,” but in the direct sense of ” to request, entreat, beg, beseech.” Why would the Apostle beg/entreat/beseech them (and us) concerning obedience and right behaviour if he did not want, and expect, them (us) to do something (diligently no less) about it? Was he just talking for the sake of it? Was he speaking notionally about impossibilities, about things that Christians (even by the Spirit of God) can’t even possibly do? I do not think so at all.
2. Why would Paul say “we beseech you, brethren, AND exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus.”?
a. Why the need to both Beseech and Exhort? Could it be that he is striving to bring a sense of gravity, and urgency, to the matter by not just begging/beseeching/entreating with that first word, but exhorting as well?
b. Isn’t he further adding gravity by bringing the very name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ into it? He’s not just beseeching and exhorting of himself, of his own notion and emotion, but by the very name and authority of The Lord!
c. Isn’t gravity added further still, when we consider that the word “exhort” there [G3870/parakaleō], in addition to meaning “to teach/instruct; to address; to call on one to; to call or summon one to; to call near; to exhort; to encourage / strengthen (or to encourage and strengthen by consolation/comfort)…, ALSO LIKEWISE MEANS “to beg, entreat, beseech” (generating a double application of that beseeching aspect)?
d. Why would Paul doubly beseech and exhort if we can just ignore it, as we so-called “trust in the Spirit” in some abstract manner, “waiting on the Lord” as if in some vacuum, without applying real diligence and effort, striving to do as He exhorts and commands us to do? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Clearly, the implication is that Paul, by the Spirit, is urging us on to real thoughtful action, real mindful effort.
3. Why would Paul bring up “how ye ought TO WALK and to please God,” if we are not to take heed, making real effort, giving all diligence, to walking uprightly, and to being as obedient as we can be, striving against sin and folly? What is the point of even mentioning our walk, except to have us take serious heed to it, in light of said beseeching and exhorting?
4. Why would Paul use language like “abound MORE and MORE” if he didn’t intend for us to strive to grow, increase, and even PROGRESS, more and more (unto abundance no less) in said upright walking and pleasing of God?
Again, is Paul just toying with us, engaging in notional ranting without any basis or foundation in reality? Is it some test to see if we are ‘really foolish enough’ (as some claim) ‘to believe that we can actually heed his call to be more and more obedient, more and more upright in our walk’?
It brings to mind one person I read recently, who actually believes that the commands/imperatives are placed in the Bible solely to show us our utter inability to obey any aspect of it, thus forcing us to (so-called) ‘rely on Christ all the more.’ He doesn’t realise that by promoting such a form of godliness, with the power thereof, he is truly relying EVEN LESS on Christ, and on the Holy Spirit as well, not ‘even more.’
The fact is, when God puts a desire in your heart to really obey, to really get serious about these things, LET ME ASSURE YOU (IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS), you will see clearly just how much YOU MUST rely on Christ, and rely on the Spirit, and rely on the Father (the Giver of every good and perfect gift), for ANY HOPE of having any victory. Nothing stemming from the flesh, or from carnal will, can enable or sustain you.
5. Why would the Holy Spirit lead Paul to mention “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” if (as some foolishly claim) there are either (a) no commandments for New Testament Christians to obey, or else (as others claim), (b) so-called “faith and love” (as if in some mindless abstract) are the only commands to be obeyed by Christians today? Why even speak of commandments, and abounding, and exhorting, and beseeching, if the goal was NOT for us to mindfully, diligently, and zealously, seek to be obedient?
6. Why would Paul say “For this is the will of God” if (as some claim) God doesn’t REALLY expect us to be obedient, because His law “REQUIRES PERFECT OBEDIENCE” (even by the true Christian, the one already made perfectly righteous in Christ), and thus (since no one can obey perfectly), no one can really, truly obey any commandment. Such is the “reasoning” of far too many anomians/antinomians.
Others do not go so far in such error. Instead, they reason (actually or implicitly) along the lines of “I can’t sin any more or any less than what God ordained. So if God wants me to be obedient at any given time, He will work obedience in me. However, when He doesn’t work obedience in me at any given time, that was His will, and no amount of effort would change it, so I’m not going to go around “striving” to obey, or “trying” to be more diligent in my obedience.”
This kind of passive, blown by the notional wind (whilst calling it being led by the Spirit), slothfulness and indifference makes no contextual sense whatsoever, in light of the above passage, and many other passages like it.
Clearly the will of God is for us to heed the beseeching, the exhorting, the instruction, making real effort, even giving all diligence (by the Spirit, using the available means God has provided), to abound in obedience, unto a progression in an upright walk. He wants us to grow, to abound, in improvements in our character, conduct, and usefulness in this present world.
7. Why would the apostle say “For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that YE SHOULD ABSTAIN from fornication…”:
(a.) If the (oft-repeated) “Christ is made unto us Sanctification; we are perfectly sanctified in Him; He is our only sanctification” aspect of sanctification is THE ONLY ASPECT of sanctification that pertains to believers in the New Testament era?
(b) If there is no such thing as manifest sanctification, even a real-world, real-time, experimental sanctification (which is the holy working out of our faith and profession)?
(c) If the Christian’s sanctification, during our sojourn here, has nothing to do with morality, with an upright walk, with obedience to the spiritual law of God (even all of the associated imperatives, commands, admonishments, etc.) — then why exhort to abound more and more?
(d) If our abstention from fornication, and other aspects of obedience, will not really, truly have any impact on sanctification, what is the purpose of that portion of the text (in light of the beseeching and exhorting)?
(e) If engaging in fornication, and other sin, doesn’t directly (adversely) impact our manifest sanctification, why does any of this matter? Why were these words even spoken?
Note: Though it admittedly does not impact our perfect sanctification in/by/through Christ (as it relates to any aspect of our standing or acceptance before God), it clearly can affect our sanctity, our being set apart for real, valuable, impactful “holy use.”
8. Why would the apostle go on to state in verse 7 “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto HOLINESS (same Greek word as sanctification)”:
a. If we are already sanctified in Christ, in such an absolutely exclusively considered manner, that there is no aspect of sanctification, and growth therein, that manifests (i.e., that is realised, worked-out) in this life?
b. Why would we be ‘called unto sanctification,’ if not so as to give diligence unto working out said sanctification?
c. If “Christ is our only sanctification,” then how is one “called unto sanctification? — and not just “called unto sanctification,” but “called unto sanctification” within the very clear context of obedience in particular, and an upright walk in general?
CONCLUSION: The fact is, even the natural reader, using nothing but “common sense” can often see the urgent, diligent, heart-felt nature of the apostle’s call unto obedience, unto manifest righteousness (in the sense of uprightness) and manifest sanctification.
The problem is that the anomian/antinomian spirit blinds, and hardens, and hides that which would even be obvious to a heathen/pagan/atheist reading such texts. It is a woeful state to be in, where even natural critical thought is weakened to the point wherein such obvious truths are obscured (hidden) from the understanding. I know this from personal experience; that is why I am so passionate about it. I write these things as a reminder and exhortation as much to myself, as to anyone else… if not more so.
God help us, even all who call upon His name, to TRULY live these things out, trusting in nothing, and no one, but Him.