What does it mean: “God’s will is our sanctification”? |

“For the will of God is your sanctification; that you abstain from fornication,” 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

The is the process that begins in the conversion of the sinner, through which the Spirit of God makes us more like Christ and more free from the influence of sin. It is a process that will continue throughout our lives and will be completed with our glorification when Christ comes for his church.

It is customary to speak of our sanctification in three phases: positional, progressive, and final. That is, all believers have already been separated and sanctified by the work of Christ (positional); all believers are being sanctified in the present (progressive); and we will all be ultimately sanctified in the future in (final) glorification.

Now, in his letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul tells them that the “God’s will is your sanctification”. And while this truth is expressed in many ways in the Bible, this is the only passage that directly tells us that our sanctification is God’s will.

This is a statement that tells us a lot about ourselves and above all a lot about God. But what does Paul mean by “The will of God is your sanctification”?

Taking the rest of Scripture, we can conclude that there are three things to keep in mind as we ponder this statement. Three truths that we can bring to our minds and hearts when thinking about this statement: First, that God’s will refers to God’s purpose. Second, that God’s will is what we must obey. Third, that the will of God is a reference to what pleases and pleases God.

1. It refers to the purpose of God.

The first thing to keep in mind when saying “God’s will” is that we are talking about those things that God carries out, that is, his eternal purposes. When we affirm that God’s will is our sanctification, we are saying that God’s purpose is to make us holy. In other words, according to his good purpose, God is working to make us more holy every day. He is making us more like Christ every day. That is why Paul says that those whom God knew “He also predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). That was the purpose of our redemption. That is the goal of our salvation: to make us like Christ, to make us more holy.

And that is what God is carrying out. That is why the same apostle said: “Being convinced of this, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). In the same letter, Paul says that “God is the one who produces in you both willing and doing, by his good will” (2:12-13). At the end of the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul makes a sentence that points to this very thing when he says: “And the same God of peace sanctify you completely” (1 Thess. 5:23)

These texts combine to remind us that God’s purpose in saving us was our sanctification. God’s business, God’s plan, the enterprise in which he is engaged, is to make us holy. God is busy making us more like his Son every day.

2. It refers to what God expects of us.

Second, to say that God’s will is our sanctification refers to what the Lord expects of us. This is what emerges after a natural reading of the passage we are studying:

Because this is the will of God: your sanctification; that is, that you refrain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to possess his own glass in sanctification and honor, not in a passion of concupiscence, like the Gentiles who do not know God; Y let no one sin and defraud his brother in this matter, for the Lord is the avenger in all these things, as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. Because God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification (1 Thes 4:4-7).

When Paul says that God’s will is our sanctification, he is also implying that he calls us to holiness. God wants us to be holy and we must do his will, that is, respond with obedience. We must walk in holiness, walk in light, exercise ourselves in godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), follow holiness (Heb. 12:14); put to death what is earthly (Col. 3:5); work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

The concept of God’s will is also linked to the things we must do. Paul himself said: “As servants of Christ, from the heart doing the will of God” (Eph. 6:6). Our Lord said: “Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, that is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Matt 12:50). The apostle John also affirmed the same when he said: “He who does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:17).

These passages remind us that God’s will is also something we do. It is something we do in response to what is revealed in his Word. God shows us his will so that we can walk in it. In this case, his will is that we walk in holiness.

John Calvin said that, once God has expressed his will to us, “it is reasonable that his will be our only law.” That is, knowing his will should move us to obedience.

3. It refers to what pleases God.

To say that something is the will of God not only expresses what God is carrying out and what God expects of us, but also what delights and pleases him. To affirm that God’s will is our sanctification is to affirm that God is pleased to see his children grow in holiness. God is pleased with the holiness of his people.

This is what Paul suggests when he introduces this very passage: “For the rest, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that in the way that you learned from us how it is convenient for you to conduct yourselves and please God, so you abound more and more” (1 Thes. 4:1).

The psalmist said: “The LORD Delights in Those Who Fear Him” (Ps. 147:11). King Solomon wrote: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who do faithfully are his delight.” (Prov. 12:22).

These texts remind us that holiness, righteousness, obedience, is something that delights God. Obedience produces God’s approval and pleasure. When believers walk and grow in holiness, God delights.


Therefore, to say that the Will of God is ours sanctification It is a reference to three realities: The first is that it is the purpose that God is carrying out; the second is that it is something we should be busy with; and third, it is what delights and pleases God.

Our vision of holiness must take into account these three realities. We are not to esteem our sanctification as an austere list of things to do, nor as a life of cold and rigid prohibitions, but as God’s wise and good purpose, in which he is engaged, and as that which pleases and delights him. Sanctification is God’s masterpiece in his people.

May God grant us to keep this in mind as we walk in holiness. May the Lord give us a heart that contemplates his work in us and that we celebrate the blessed reality that God desires, is pleased, and delights in our holiness.

This is a paraphrase of the definition that theologian L. Berkoff makes of sanctification.

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