GCL A.10 Soul’s Sanctification: His Call, Our Destiny

Standard

In Which We Are Set Apart For Obedience And Suffering, To Become Holy

This week we round out our discussion on salvation and conviction by focusing on sanctification and holiness, words that include both being “set apart” and “made righteous.” The overall idea is forming God’s character and purpose in humanity the way He originally intended, before we rebelled against Him.

The process of sanctification is central to our calling as disciples and leaders, yet often poorly understood. Let us dig into God’s word to explore what all it involves…

Memory Verse: “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” — 1 Peter 1:15 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading

  1. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings
    • 21. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
    • 22. Justification and Adoption
    • 23. Sanctification (Growth in Likeness to Christ)
  2. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
    • 46. Human Beings as Body and Soul
    • 47. Human Beings as Flesh and Spirit
    • 64. Faith
    • 65. Saving Faith
    • 66. Justification by Faith
    • 67. Faith and Works
    • 68. Repentance
    • 69. Merit and Grace
    • 70. Perseverance of the Saints
  3. 21. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
  4. 22. Justification and Adoption

Adoration

Read Psalm 25. How does God treat those who wait upon Him?

Bible

1 Peter 1

And now, for a word from the apostle Peter:

{1:1} Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

The idea of “pilgrims” could refer to the Jewish diaspora, but more likely includes all Christians who are in some sense “aliens” on earth (cf. 1 Peter 2:11).

{2a} elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

The phrase “election” is associated with the doctrine of predestination, which in turn is primarily associated with Calvinist (or Reformed) theology. It touches on many deep (and contentious) philosophical and theological issues, but the core concept is that God chooses who will belong to Him, as well as foreknows who will choose to follow Him. These concepts can be difficult to reconcile with those of free will and moral responsibility — yet the Bible clearly teaches all of them!

[Discuss: How do you feel about being chosen by God? Does it diminish or enhance your memory of choosing to follow Him?]

The best response to this paradox is simply to hold equally strongly to everything the Bible teaches, even if our human minds can’t quite fit them all together. Also, keep in mind that this passage is less concerned with how we are saved than why we are saved:

{2b} in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

In other words — paralleling our second lesson — we have been set apart by the Holy Spirit to a) obey Christ, and b) be “baptized” in His blood.

{2c} Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

Grace is a very rich concept, as is peace — but here they may just play the role of an opening benediction. Paul’s main focus is on what God has done:

{3} Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Here Peter links being “begotten” (our new birth) to Christ’s resurrection. While we don’t know the exact mechanism, somehow Christ’s death and resurrection opened the door to us experiencing God as our Father. Not that Christ had to somehow contend against God the Father to make this happen (as is sometimes claimed); the passage makes it clear that it is the Father’s mercy that made this all possible.

This new life is intimately tied up with a future hope of absolute, indestructible purity:

{4} to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Though it is already present here and now, while we wait:

{5} who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

This power is appropriated through faith, which allows us to rejoice even when the going is tough:

{6} In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

And why might such testing be necessary”

{7} that the genuineness of your faith, [being] much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

This is a difficult truth. Many Christians like to think the only reason we are saved is to go to heaven, and would prefer to get there as soon as possible. However, God’s primary goal is not our comfort, but our glory — and His. As such, He delights in faith that has been tested, like gold refined in a furnace.

And the very fact that we don’t know all that is going on is what makes our faithfulness so glorious:

{8} whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see [Him], yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

For salvation is not itself the whole story, but rather the culmination to the story of faith:

{9} receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of [your] souls.

[Discuss: What difference does it make whether we see salvation as primarily an escape from hell versus the destination of a lifelong journey of faith?]

A salvation many before us had longed to grasp:

{10} Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace [that would come] to you,

{11} searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

But could only prepare the way for us to do so:

{12} To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things which angels desire to look into.

Which is why we should not take such knowledge lightly:

{13} Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest [your] hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Even though our salvation may have been predestined, that does not mean we can simply wait passively for God to take care of everything. We must have prepared minds and calm spirits.  Not so we can win salvation by our own efforts, but so we can hold fast to the hope of God’s grace being revealed to us.

For it is that hope (and grace) which enables us to obey:

{14} as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, [as] in your ignorance;

This is a profound claim. He contrasts the obedient life — the hope of Christ’s glorious character being revealed in us through our faith and His grace — with our past life of being conformed to our sinful desires. Moreover, Peter attributes that conformity to “ignorance” — i.e., lack of a true heart understanding of who God is and what He wants for us.

The implication is that if we had a clear-sighted understanding of God’s purpose, we would naturally obey Him; and thus our sinful follies reflect a deficiency in either our minds or our spirits.

Which is why it is essential to understand that God Himself is holy:

{15} but as He who called you [is] holy, you also be holy in all [your] conduct,

{16} because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Holiness is one of those concepts we could spend a lifetime studying and still barely scratch the surface. The core concept is “set apart”, meaning reserved for special use as opposed to our everyday human purposes. God is not something we “use”, He is something we value for who He is.

The flip side is that God does not need to “use” us to make up some deficiency within Himself. Rather, He is complete and self-sufficient in Himself. However, He chose to create us — and chooses to interact with us — to manifest His glory in our lives.

[Discuss: Whom do you know that you think of as “holy”? Why? ]

And as we submit to that Fatherhood, we too become set apart in the holy image of Christ:

{17} And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay [here] in fear;

{18} knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, [like] silver or gold, from your aimless conduct [received] by tradition from your fathers,

{19} but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Who was set apart for us, to bring us to God:

{20} He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

{21} who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

To what end?

{22} Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

There appears to be a well-defined progression:

  1. Submit to the Spirit
  2. Obey truth
  3. Purify our souls
  4. Love sincerely, our human family (phileo)
  5. Love fervently, with divine purity (agape)

[Discuss: Which part of verse 22 do you most wrestle with? ]

That is, love is both the means and the measure of our sanctification. The move from merely human love to divine love is the ultimate evidence that we have been “born from above”:

{23} having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,

That incorruptible seed is Christ, the Word (logos) of God. Our love is a sign (cf. John 13:34-35) that we have been loved by Him and born of Him. For that is the only thing that will endure:

{24} because “All flesh [is] as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,

Any time we submit ourselves to the lusts of flesh — or any merely human glory — we are merely hastening our own destruction. The pleasures of this world grow less satisfying each time we partake, even as they dim our minds and confuse our spirits.

In contrast to being conformed to the “Word of God”, where every investment pays dividends for eternity:

{25} But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

Words to live by!

Decision

  • Repentance: Where are you still in bondage to “former lusts”?
  • Action: How can you clear your mind and calm your spirit to more effectively hope in God?
  • Worship: What might it look like to be reborn in God’s image, sharing in His holiness?

For Next Week

For next week, read Ephesians 4. What does it mean to be the body of Christ?

Memory Verse: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” — Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)

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