“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”
“Though our numbers at this date far exceed those of our Evangelical forefathers, I believe we fall far short of them in our standard of Christian practice. Where is the self-denial, the redemption of time, the absence of luxury and self-indulgence, the unmistakable separation from earthly things, the manifest air of being always about our Master’s business1”
Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica came with a certain level of trepidation as he was hindered from re-visiting them. (See I Thess. 2:18) So, he feared lest they should fall away from the walk in Christ that he had instructed them in.(see 3:5) For these reasons Paul would send Timothy on to Thessalonica in order to encourage and further instruct them in the faith. Therefore, it was with great comfort that Paul received the report of their continued walk in faith upon Timothy’s return to him. It is then with this in mind that Paul now turns his attention toward exhorting them to avoid stagnation in their walk.
The phrase used by Paul to exhort them in the area of spiritual growth and sanctification in the original language is (Grk.) “περισσεύητε µᾶλλον”(perisseuate mallon) which means; you might abound more. The verb has the connotation of excess or superfluous and is then further modified by the adverb “more.” In other words, it is like adding salt to your ham steak. Paul further stresses the excess of this by stating this exhortation with a sense of urgency, saying; “we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus” where the compound verb is used as a classic Greek idiom as much as to say that it is absolutely imperative that you implement this instruction immediately. Thus, in Paul’s embellishment of his exhortation to the Believers in the church, he has conveyed both the vitalness and criticalness of the saints to be in a state of constant movement in life that reflects the image of Christ and pleasing God.
Now my concern on this issue in the contemporary realm of Christianity is that such an ideal has become relatively foreign. In fact, I would summit that J. C. Ryle’s comment, cited above, regarding his own period in church history looks surprisingly parallel to that which we see in the modern church. Ryle’s comments in respect to the walk of the Christian contingency in his own time were reflective of the same concern Paul had for the church of Thessalonica, only, Paul had addressed the issue before it became a reality in the church. But there remains one distinct difference from the church of Thessalonica and that of Ryle’s time and ours; mainly, that Paul and Timothy had taught the necessity of Christian sanctification as a fundamental product of genuine faith; whereas, modern Christianity has adopted a teaching of nonessentialism in the matter of sanctification. Where Paul stressed the urgency and perpetuity of the Christian walk in a manner that was moving more and more toward a life that looked and breathed Christlike moral and spiritual qualities; the consensus in today’s church is that such a high spiritual ambition is an antiquated ideal.
But this is not so much proven by the few that have expressed concern for the apparent failure of the Church to maintain a strikingly distinct life that indisputably manifests and witnesses to the reality of the resurrected Christ – for that is the essence of sanctification in Paul’s theology – rather, it is the secular world’s comfort and new found friendship with the modern Church. The secular world no longer must endure the discomfort of a Christianity that was once pre-occupied with the excessive conformity to a sanctified life because the church has found it more convenient to abound more and more in the ideals and ambitions of the world. Thereby, she has made herself powerless to impact and change society and the world. Therein is the reason Paul is so intense regarding the Christian’s sanctification, mainly, that the world is headed for destruction. What impact is our life making on this dire reality?
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.