by Shawn Brasseaux
If we have trusted exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, we are members of the Church the Body of Christ. This is positional sanctification. Our unchanging accepted position in Jesus Christ has set us apart from the lost world (Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 6:11; et al.). As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, we are “new creatures in Christ;” that is, we have received a new identity in Christ. In addition to positional sanctification, the Bible speaks of practical sanctification, or where our day-to-day living reflects our position in Christ. In other words, we as God’s children are expected to have lifestyles that reflect godly behavior and our new identity in Christ.
Let us begin in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 KJV, which says:
“1 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:”
The Thessalonians were already saved from hell and their sins, as evidenced throughout the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. Positionally, in Christ, they were sanctified (set apart). Practically speaking, they (like us) could use more spiritual growth. They had not yet fully comprehended their position in Christ and they had not yet allowed God’s Word to infiltrate their lives. Therefore, Paul wrote: “so ye would abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Thessalonians, you are doing well, but there is room for improvement concerning your practical sanctification!
Continue reading in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:
“3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;”
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence [personal desire], even as the Gentiles which know not God:
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
Again, notice how this Bible passage focuses on practical sanctification, with the Bible calling our bodies “vessels” (verse 4). This is day-to-day grace living. God’s will for us as Christians is that we would be practically sanctified: “God hath called us unto holiness.” Now that our sin nature has been crucified with Christ, we are dead with Christ. So that we could live again, we were raised again with the Lord Jesus Christ, “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This is our practical sanctification. Our new identity in Christ should be making an impact on how we live on a daily basis. Let us further consider other Scripture that speak of practical sanctification.
In 2 Timothy 2:19-21 KJV, the Bible speaks again as us Christians being “vessels”:
“19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
According to the above verses, there are two types of Christians: those that are vessels “to honour” and those that are vessels “to dishonour.” To wit, our lives can bring glory and honor to the Lord (like the Thessalonians), or we can be a reproach and a poor testimony (like the Corinthians and Galatians). What is the definition of practical sanctification? We find it in verse 21: “fit for the master’s [God’s] use, and prepared unto every good work.”
We can allow God to practically sanctify us in the same manner in which He has already positionally sanctified us, or we can refuse to allow Him to work in our inner man. We can let Christ live His life in and through us, or we can rebel and do whatever our sinful flesh wants to do. Either way, we exercise our free will.
Do you, as a Christian, want to be “sanctified” practically? Do you want to be “a vessel unto honour?” Would you like to be “meet [fit] for the master’s use?” Do you desire to be “prepared unto every good work?” In 2 Timothy 3:16,17 we read: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Notice how this correlates with 2 Timothy 2:21.
The Holy Spirit will use His Word to mature us. If we want to be “edified” (built up) and “perfected” (matured), then we must study God’s Word rightly divided (dispensationally). As we study and believe God’s Word, God’s way (rightly divided), God the Holy Spirit will take that sound doctrine and strengthen our inner man (see Ephesians 3:16). He will apply the sound doctrine to our lives, and our lives become Christ’s life. At that point, we start to think like God thinks, and our actions begin to reflect the godly living found in God’s Word.
Consider Romans 12:1,2 KJV: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
This is further explained in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” God’s Word works “effectually” in those who believe. This is how we as Christians become vessels “to honour.” How else does the Bible use the term “vessels” in regards to us?
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV). What are these “earthen vessels?” Literal clay jars? Obviously not. According to verses like Genesis 2:7, Genesis 3:19, and Job 34:15, the LORD God made our physical human bodies from the “dust of the ground.”
Medical science agrees with the Bible when it tells us that the human body contains elements found within earth’s crust (oxygen, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and so on). When God made Adam, the first man, He took earth and shaped it into a physical body! Then, God breathed into that body “the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). That is to say, within that physical body, God placed man’s spiritual body (soul and spirit).
So in 2 Corinthians 4:7, we understand that Paul is referring to our physical bodies. We, as human beings, are literally “earthen vessels.” Let us go back to 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” What is this “treasure” that we have in our bodies? Continue reading the context:
“8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
Notice how the Bible text actually defines this “treasure in earthen vessels.” Verse 10 says “the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” Verse 11 says “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” Clearly, the “treasure in [our] earthen vessels” is Christ living His life in us! In the midst of trouble, as was the case here, Christ empowered Paul to endure persecution. When his flesh (sin nature) was trying to overcome Paul, Christ Jesus gave Paul the strength to deny it (Romans 7:22–8:10). Remember, it is God’s power (2 Corinthians 4:7): “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
We can be vessels “to honour” or vessels “to dishonour.” We can let the Lord Jesus Christ permeate every aspect of our lives, or we can live in our own strength (which will only bring about failure when overcoming sin or difficult times because we are weak). If you have not done so, trust Christ Jesus alone for salvation. If you are saved, why not place your faith in sound Pauline dispensational Bible study, and then let Christ live His life in and through you? Why not be a vessel “to honour?”