From a rough draft of a an upcoming study/reflection on 1Thessalonians...
Echoes of the Word
In verse 3 we see Paul answer the question of pleasing God by simply saying “that you become holy,”. God says elsewhere “be holy as I am holy”.
Paul uses the Greek word (πορνειας) translated in verse 3 as ‘sexual immorality’ to refer to intimacy with the world that characterizes the Godless. This metaphor helps us understand God’s anguish and anger at idol worship, when we give ourselves to anyone or anything other than him. Repeatedly, the idea of our relationship with God is defined in terms of relationship between man and woman. God uses our most intimate experience in creation to help us in our understanding of our relationship with him. We enter into fellowship with him and the two become one.
The imagery is embedded in the first book of the Bible in the story of Adam and Eve, the promised seed, and Israel portrayed as the wife of God to the Bride of Christ wedded to the Son in Revelation. The joining of man and woman foreshadows and informs us of our union with God.
Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary to conceive Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the heart of each believer, conceiving a new creation that will be fully realized when we receive our immortal bodies.
Within us a life is born, the light is given. It is from this intimate exchange that we learn and live in God. His law is written on our hearts as we partake in the bread of life, leaving behind the indigestible commands etched in stone.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians of God’s intent and expectation that come with this new life. There is an initial decision of choosing God, but there is an ongoing choosing of God in view before them and us , of walking in the light of his word in this new life. This is the exhortation and reminder of who we have become, and the resulting change in behavior becoming of that change. As we persevere in our faith, we grow. As we endure, we pursue to the end in the race before us. The goal line is to be like Christ.
This is part of putting on Christ and working out our salvation.
Being holy is not dependent on what we have done or are doing. It is what Christ has done and what he is doing. What he has begun he will finish. It may be true you are not perfect. You are not who you are going to be, but neither are you what you used to be. God sees the end from the beginning, life that we can’t begin to comprehend but is ours.
The work of the Holy Spirit will be revealed in the heart. All hearts are open before the Lord, and he alone is able and worthy to judge. The Holy Spirit confirms the salvation of Jesus Christ and sets us apart, consecrated and holy, before God and of God. In the previous chapter we are told that love strengthens holiness, and the source of that love is God.
God told Abraham to walk in the land he was giving to him. God has done something similar for us. He has given us the word that we may walk in the kingdom of God. As we walk in that way, the landscape begins to change as our spirits grow in his presence. It transforms as our awareness increases with the revealing light rising within.
Part of the struggle with knowing is awareness. We must first be aware of a thing before we can begin to grasp or understand that thing. Seeing from God’s perspective, we now can judge rightly for he alone is truth. We have to see something as sin before we are ready to see the need for change.
This is the challenge for the Thessalonians. It is the challenge for us. How do we understand, articulate, and respond which is hearing the word? It is this hearing that brings life, of being holy and sanctified before God, a hearing that includes doing.
We are given the unique privilege of a moment in creation. It is in this place we are given the opportunity to become sons and daughters of God and for us to know him as Father. The unknowable is communicated through the known. The parable of life informs of God and through it we are able to glimpse the hope and splendor which awaits.