Biblical Perfection and Sanctification

Biblical Perfection and Sanctification

January 23rd, 1983 @ 10:50 AM

1 Thessalonians 5:23

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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BIBLICAL PERFECTION AND SANCTIFICATION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 Thessalonians 5:23

1-23-83     10:50 a.m.

 

Thank you, choir.  God bless you, orchestra.  All you need to make it complete is for me to be singing in the choir or playing in the orchestra.  Ah, you all are great!  And God bless the great hosts of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television.  This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Biblical Doctrine of Perfection and Sanctification

I would like to encourage all of you here and you who listen on radio and television:  if you have a place for somebody to work, call the church.  This class of Zig Ziglar that meets at 5:30 o’clock in Ralph Baker Hall, I am surprised it is largely attended; several hundred over there, and they are being fitted to answer a call from you for somebody to work.  They have resumes; they will be given certificates, and you will be glad to have one of these men and women in your employment.  Bless you for doing it.  Just call the church, and we will send somebody good to help you build your work. 

About two weeks or so ago, I did something I can never remember doing before.  I preached an exegetical sermon.  There are three ways that a man can preach.  He can do it in a homily. A homily is taking the Bible verse by verse and commenting on it – a homiletical sermon.  A man can preach expositorily. He will take a section of the Bible and expound it – what God means in saying it.  The sermon tonight at 7:00 o’clock on the Agony And Ecstasy: The Cross And The Crown will be an exposition of the middle portion of the first chapter of 1 Peter. It will be an expository sermon.  There is another way to preach that I never had tried until about two weeks ago, and that is delivering an exegetical sermon – an exegesis.  That is a message where we take the Word of the Scripture itself, in Hebrew or in Greek, and see what God says to us in the meaning of the words that He uses. 

Now, to a man who did not believe in the inspired and infallible and inerrant Word of God, such a way of preaching would be unthinkable.  He doesn’t believe in the infallibility of the inspired Word.  But to somebody like me that believes that every word in the Bible is God-breathed – it is infallibly inspired; it is inerrant; it is the Word God has chosen to say to us, what He wishes that we know – to somebody like me, an exegesis is a natural.  And I tried it about two weeks ago and was surprised.  I was amazed at how the people responded – how you responded and how wonderfully God blessed the presentation.  So I thought I would try it again.  We are going to listen to an exegetical sermon.  A sermon that presents the meaning of the words that God uses, and they will concern the biblical doctrine of perfection and sanctification. 

As a background text, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."  And the very God, autos ho theos, God Himself, the God of peace–eiréné, the opposite of strife – a word used to refer to our soul’s reconciliation to God, one of the most beautiful words in the Greek New Testament: I-R-E-N-E.  And for a mother to name her daughter Irene, "peace," is a beautiful thing to do.  "The very God," God Himself, "the God of peace sanctify you wholly," hagiazó, to set you apart for Him, for His use, for His service. 

He believes in a trichotomy.  Do you notice, "Sanctify you wholly in your spirit and in your soul and in your body"?  Sometimes the Word of God will refer to us as a dichotomy, as a body and as an inward soul, but sometimes God will speak to us in the word of a trichotomy.  We are body and soul and spirit.  So he uses here pneuma, spirit. That refers to the man that can have fellowship with God, and only a man created in the image of God can do that.  The animal world doesn’t know God, but we are morally, spiritually, theologically sensitive; pneuma, spirit.  Psuchē, you’d say "psyche." That refers to the sensate man – the man that thinks and that feels and that responds. And then sōma which refers to the corporeal, physical body.  The Bible will speak of the pneumatikos man – the spiritual man.  It will speak of the psuchikos man – the thinking man, the feeling man.  The Bible will refer to the somatikos man, the body man, the physical man. 

He prays that God who sanctifies us will tēréō – will keep us and guard us. Amémptōs, translated "blameless;" actually it is an adverb meaning "without censure and without condemnation."  On the sepulcher, graves, of many in Thessalonica, that word is used in inscriptions–amémptōs, without blame.  In Luke 1:6, Zacharias and Elizabeth observed the law amémptōs, blamelessly.  In Philippians 2:15, we are to be amémptōs and harmless – without censure and harmless.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:10, "Ye are our witnesses how amémptōs we behaved ourselves among you."  Then all of this, the Holy Spirit keep us not unto the parousia of our Lord.  There are two words in the New Testament that are often used to refer to the second coming of Christ.  One is apokalupsis. That is the first great word of the Apocalypse of the Revelation.  Revelation begins with apokalupsis, and it means "the unveiling, the uncovering" of Jesus Christ.  And the other word is the word used here: parousia – "of calling alongside, of being alongside, of being present," the coming of the Lord. 

Now, our common idea of perfection and sanctification is this: we think of the word "perfect" as being sinless, and we think of sanctification as progression in getting rid of sin.  And we finally come to a sinless state of sanctification.  But when we think of perfection and sanctification as being a progress toward sinlessness, we immediately stumble into difficulty in the passage that you just read.  In the high priestly prayer of our Lord in John 17:19, He says, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself."  And to describe that as being a progressive, getting rid of sin or a moving toward perfection is unthinkable.  Our great apostle said in 1 Thessalonians 3:10, "I’d love to be with you that we might katartízō, that we might perfect that which is lacking in your faith."  Now what does "perfection, perfect, perfect" mean?  And what does "sanctification, sanctity, sainthood" mean? 

There are three basic ideas in the Bible of our perfection and of our sanctification.  The first is found in that word katartízō. Kata is just an intensive.  Ártios refers to "lacking in nothing, complete."  So artizō refers to a state in which we are equipped; we are complete; we are ready for service.  Katartízō really means "to refit, to repair, to restore" and thus, "to perfect and to complete."  The basic idea in that word translated "to perfect" is to be completely equipped, to be ready in every detail for the work of the Lord.  For example, a man is equipped. He is katartízō for the work if he is, say, is a carpenter, and he has got his tools and he is all ready.  Or a house is katartízō if it is equipped.  It has a bathroom.  It has a kitchen.  It has a den.  It has all of the things that a house ought to have.  So a Christian is katartízō when he is equipped for the work of the Lord.  There is no idea of sinlessness in it at all.  We are katartízō – we are equipped for the work of Jesus.  That is the word "to be perfected."  We’re ready.  Lord, use us. 

The second idea in that word perfection and sanctification is found in the word téleios.  Often used in the New Testament, it is much used and is always translated "perfect" except in Hebrews 5:14 and 1 Corinthians 14:20.  Listen.  The Lord said to that rich young ruler, "If thou wilt be perfect, well you get rid of what you have–it stands between you and God–and come follow Me" [Matthew 19:21].  In 1 Corinthians 13:10, Paul says: "When that which is téleios is come and that which is in part, incomplete, shall be done away."  In Philippians 3:12, describing himself, the Apostle avows: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already téleios, perfect, but,I press toward the mark,Let us therefore as many be téleios, perfect, be thus minded:" [Philippians 3:12-15].  In Hebrews 2:10, we have a description of our Lord: "For it became Him, our Lord Jesus,in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation," téleios, "perfect through suffering" [Hebrews 2:10].  "Though a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made," téleios [perfect], "He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" [Hebrews 5:8, 9].  In James 1:4, the pastor of the church at Jerusalem writes, "But [let] patience have her," téleios work, "her perfect work, that you may be téleios and entire wanting in nothing."

The word téleios, "perfect" never means sinless.  It always refers to an arrival at the goal, the purpose for which God created us and made us.  We are fully developed and complete.  For example, a man is a téleios of a child.  He has reached the completed state for which the child was made.  Or an oak is a téleios of an acorn.  It has reached the goal for which the acorn was created.  Now, you will see that in the King James Version in two translations of téleios  the only two translations where it is not translated "perfect."  In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul writes, "Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye téleios." "Be mature. Be grownup. Be men."  That is the way it is translated in the King James Version, "Be men."  Now, another, the other, instance where téleios is not translated "perfect" is Hebrews 5:13-14, "For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are téleios," and the King James Version translates it "full age." 

If you are hardly interested in the Bible and don’t study it and don’t look into its depths of meaning; why, he says, you’re a babe.  But that is not the intention of God.  God means for you to grow and to understand and to enter the depths of the wisdom of riches of grace in the Lord, in the Holy Word.  And that is called a state of téleios, "full grown, mature."  So we have seen thus far that in the biblical doctrine of perfection and sanctification, katartízō, it refers to our "being equipped" for the Word of God.  And then téleios, that we be mature, "full grown" that we reach that goal for which Christ made us.

Now, there is one other word used in the New Testament.  And that is hagiázō which refers to our being set apart for God, by God, for the work and ministry to which He has "chosen us and elected us," which is a good Bible word.  Hagiázō means "to sanctify, to make holy, to make saintly, to set apart for God."  The Hebrew word is qadosh, and they both mean exactly the same.  Whether it is used in Hebrew, qadosh, or whether it is used in Greek, hagiázō, it refers to our being set apart for God and the purposes of God.  Now, there are many English words that refer to our consecration and our sanctification and our sainthood, but they all come out of the same root.  Holy, holiness, hallowedness, hallowed, consecrated, consecration, consecrate, sanctify, sanctification, saint – all of those words come out of the same basic root. 

Qadosh, the Hebrew word means "to separate from worldly use for the work of God, to be placed at the disposal of our Lord."  That is holy and that is sanctified that belongs to God.  It may refer to days and seasons and places and objects and persons sanctified, used, set aside, for the Lord.  For example, in Exodus 13:2: "Sanctify unto Me all of the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb, both of man and of beast, it is Mine."  The firstborn of everything in the Old Testament was sanctified.  It belonged to God – all of the animals, all of the human beings.  Exodus 28:41: "Aaron thy brother and his sons with him, thou shalt anoint them and consecrate them and sanctify them that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office."  They are set aside.  They are sanctified.  They are consecrated for the work of God.  Exodus 29:36: "Thou shalt cleanse the altar and anoint it to sanctify it."  This altar is for the use of God.  It belongs to God.  Leviticus 8:10: "And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle, and all that was therein and sanctified them."  Everything about the tabernacle, the outside, the inside, all of the furniture, all of the belongings were sanctified; they were consecrated.  That is, they belonged to God for the use of God.  In Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord addresses Jeremiah and says, "Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.  And I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."  That is, he was chosen and set aside and consecrated for the use of God. 

Now, that word qadosh that we have just looked at in the Old Testament has an exact counterpart in the New Testament – hagiázō.  It means to set aside from common use and to consecrate for religious use to the service of God.  Hence, to sanctify, to set aside for God.  So Jesus speaks of Himself, John 17:19: "For their sakes, I sanctify Myself," I give Myself in behalf of these, His people – you, me.  In 10:36 he says, "Him Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world" [John 10:36].  Our Lord came on a definite mission, and that mission is a sanctification.  It is a consecration.  It is something that Jesus has done for us.  And that is the meaning in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the will of God even your sanctification."  God has called you.  He has elected you.  He has predestinated you.  He has consecrated you.  He has sanctified you.  He has set you aside and apart for Him.  You!

To be set aside for God, to be set apart for God is one of the most marvelous ideas presented in the Bible.  And it is marvelous.  When somebody brought an offering to the temple – let us say a gold coin which would be precious in those days – and he laid it on the altar, it is thereby sanctified.  It is consecrated.  It is to be used for God.  Now, the gold coin is still just the same.  The coin is just the same, but its use has changed.  It is now to be used for God.  Well, so with everything about the work of the Lord. It is taken out of common worldly use, and it is devoted to Jesus.  It is consecrated.  It is sanctified.  It is set apart for Him.  I sometimes think of this big General Motors plant in Arlington.  It was made in this way.  Right now, it is manufacturing automobiles, but it was made in the beginning to be set apart in the case of war for the manufacture of guns and tanks in defense of our country.  It is made to be set apart for that special assignment.  Same thing about a man; here’s a businessman.  Here’s a businessman and in days of war he is set apart in the army; and he puts on a uniform, and he starts marching for his nation and his country.  That is the meaning of sanctification and consecration.  We are set apart for God – taken out of the world and used for the purposes of the Lord. 

Now the saints – those who are sanctified – it does not refer to our being sinless but refers to God’s use of us.  He has chosen us, and He has called us, and He has sanctified us and consecrated us for holy, heavenly, godly purposes.  Now, you look at these people.  In 2 Peter 1:21, the apostle writes, "For the prophecy came not," the Old Testament came not "in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."  Now, I never said that. God said that through the Apostle Simon Peter.  He called those men who wrote the Old Testament "holy men of God."  Does that mean they were sinless? 

Well, look at them.  Moses wrote the Pentateuch; he was anything but sinless.  He was a murderer for one thing [Exodus 2:11-12], and he was denied entrance into the Promised Land because of his volitive spirit [Numbers 20:1-12]; yet he is called holy [Deuteronomy 34:10-12; Hebrews 11:24-29].  Another author among many in the Old Testament is David.  He wrote so many of the Psalms.  Would you call him sinless?  He became a reproach, Nathan said, to the name of the Lord [2 Samuel 12:14].  He even plotted the death of [the husband of] the woman that he had taken into the palace while her husband was at war [2 Samuel 11-12]. Yet David is called holy [Acts 13:22-23; Hebrews 11:32-24].  Well, Jonah – there is not anything right with Jonah except God’s use of him.  He was wrong in every part of his life, even in his attitude toward the Ninevites, whom God had mercy upon and upon whom Jonah was praying God to pour out fire and brimstone [Jonah 1-4]; yet he is called holy.  That is, these consecrated, sanctified, holy men are people that God has set apart for Himself, "They are Mine.  They belong to Me."

Now, the same thing is true in the New Testament.  Now, you look at this. In addressing the church at Corinth – 1 Corinthians, 1:1 and 2 – listen to him: "Paul," that is the first verse, "Paul to the church at Corinth, sanctified in Jesus Christ called saints."  And all of that is in [two verses], "sanctified,called saints."  Does that mean they were sinless?  Now, you look at them. In chapter 1, verse 11, Paul refers to "contentions among you."  In chapter 3, verse 3, he says: "Ye are carnal: for there is among you envying, and strife, dissension and divisions."  Yet these are sanctified saints!  In chapter 5:1, you listen to this, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the heathen," even the heathen do not do this, "that one should have his father’s wife."  We call that incest.  Yet these are the sanctified saints in the church at Corinth.  Now listen to 11:20-21, "When you come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, one is hungry and another is methuei, intoxicated, drunk" [1 Corinthians 11:20-21].  Now these are the sanctified saints in the church at Corinth.  In chapter [14] verse 23, "If therefore the church be come together and all speak with tongues, will they not say that ye are mad?" [1 Corinthians 14:23].  You have lost your minds, you are crazy.  I think so too.  Just like Paul said.  "In the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" [1 Corinthians 14:19].  Now all of that is the church at Corinth. Yet they are referred to as "sanctified," and they are called saints [1 Corinthians 1:2].  That is, they belong to God. 

However weak and however poor and however sorry and no-count and good-for-nothing and short-coming they are, they are God’s saints.  They are God’s sanctified.  They are consecrated to God.  The Lord has chosen them and saved them.  Man, does that do my heart good.  You have to be a saint and to be sanctified and to be consecrated is to be sinless.  Lord, Lord, what would happen to me?  And from what I know of some of you, what would happen to some of you? 

Now, may I speak of the work of sanctification and our experience of sanctification?  The work of sanctification is the work of God.  It is something that God does.  It is always attributed to God.  It is something that God does for Himself.  This is something God does for Him – for Himself.  First Thessalonians 5:[23], "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly."  Second Thessalonians 2:13, "God hath from the beginning chosen you."  Now, whether you believe in election, or predestination, or foreknowledge, of the choice of God or not, that is one of the basic revelations and teachings of the Bible.  Now, you do not have to believe the Bible, but if you do believe the Bible as your pastor does, election, and foreknowledge, and choice, and purpose, and sanctification is one of the great foundations of the faith.  "God hath from the beginning chosen you in hagiasmō pneumatos, in sanctification of the Spirit . . . whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the attaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" [2 Thessalonians 2:13-14].

As the priest is sanctified and consecrated to the work of the ministry, he belongs to God.  Now, he may have all of the weaknesses of Aaron, but he belongs to God.  God chose him and sanctified him.  And as our offerings are hallowed and sanctified, they are given to God for His use so the Christian believer is set apart for God.  Now, you may be a sorry instance of it and the poorest illustration in all God’s kingdom, but if you are saved, you are set aside and set apart for God.  That is sanctification.  That is consecration.  I don’t know of a more beautiful sentence in the Bible than Psalm 4, verse 3.  "The Lord has set apart him that is chasidah, chasid, him that He favoreth. God has set apart him that He favoreth for Himself."  He just says, "These belong to Me.  These are Mine.  I have chosen them and sanctified them and consecrated them.  They belong to Me."

Now, that sanctification, that setting apart, is wrought by the Holy Spirit of God.  He begins it in us when we are converted, when we are born again, when we’re re-born.  That is the work of the Spirit.  John 3:7, our Lord said to Nicodemus:

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, where it wants to, and you hear it, but you cannot tell where it comes and where it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

 [John 3:7-8] 

 

It is a work of God, our introduction to the blessed Lord, and our entrance – the open door into the kingdom of our Savior.  That is a work of the Holy Spirit.  We are born by the Holy Spirit into that kingdom.  Now, we are taken out thereby. We are taken out of the world, and we are placed in the body of Christ by that same Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ."  He’s just taken us out of the world and added us to the body of our Lord.  In Ephesians 2, He said "we were dead in trespasses and in sins" . . . But the Holy Spirit of God "has quickened us . . . He has raised us" from the dead and He has baptized us. He has joined us to the body of Christ, and we belong to Him [Ephesians 2:1-6].

In the days of His flesh, could I have seen our Lord?  He has hands; they are His hands.  He has feet; they are His feet.  He has eyes; they are His eyes.  He has ears; they are His ears.  Heart and mind, that’s the Lord Jesus.  Now, we are added to the body of our Lord. Just as He had hands and feet and eyes, the Lord Jesus today has you.  You belong to the body of Christ – a hand, a foot, an eye.  Remember that long chapter in the letter to the church at Corinth?  The foot can’t say to the hand, "I don’t need you." And the hand can’t say to the eye, "I don’t need you." We are all vital in the body of Christ, every one of us.  Each one of us has differing gifts, but we belong to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit of God put us there [1 Corinthians 4:12-24].  That’s what consecration and sanctification means.  We’ve been taken out of the world, and we’ve been added to the body of Christ. We belong to Him.  We are a part of Him just as much so as the members of His physical frame. We belong to the body of Christ now.  We don’t belong to ourselves; we don’t belong to the world.  We belong to Jesus.  We are His.  He chose us, and saved us, and sanctified us, consecrated us, added us to the body of Christ.  You have a picture of that in the ordinance of baptism – buried with our Lord and dead to the world and raised to the glory of Jesus to walk in a new life, in a glorious life with our wonderful Savior.  You remember what 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says? "Ye are not your own, you are bought with a price." You belong to God. 

There is one other thing in that sanctification, that perfection, what God’s Spirit has done – taken us away from ourselves and away from the world and adding us to Christ.  We belong to Jesus.  We are now made a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that carries with it one of the most glorious promises that you’ll find in the Bible.  First Corinthians 6:19: "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you."  This body temple, sinful as it now is, is a house, a temple, a living place, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God Himself.  And some day, it is going to be redeemed – made sinless, made perfect as you think of the word.  Ephesians 1:[13]: "After ye believed, ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the whole purchased possession" [Ephesians 1:13-14].  By the Holy Spirit of God, ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  God did not intend through Christ just to redeem our spirits, our souls.  But God intended and purposed in the atoning grace of our Lord to redeem, to sanctify the whole purchased possession – my physical body as well as my soul and my spirit.  Isn’t that what it said?  Your whole soul and spirit and sṓma," body." 

I had a dear, God-blessed woman come here to church one time and sit back there and listen to me preach.  And she walked out that door and said to a friend, "I never heard such a physical sermon in all of my life."  And she did that in a sarcastic way because she belongs to a denomination that believes that there is no such thing as physical – that everything is spiritual.  You don’t get sick; you just think you are sick.  You don’t die; you just think you are dead.  Now, I want to admit she certainly is right when I speak of the somatikos man, the corporeal physical man.  God made him. God did that, and God made all of the materiality around us.  God made substance.  God created existence, matter, the whole creation of God.  And He made us. He made us physical; he gave us a body.  God did that. 

And sin brought a great falling into the whole created world of our Lord.  The heavens fell.  There are stars up there that are burned out.  Even those planets that we can visit are scorching hot or insufferably cold.  There is no life on them.  And even our earth has great stretches on it that are blasted and ruined – vast deserts, ice caps.  It is a fallen universe that God has made.  And it’s a fallen body in which I live.  And it’s a fallen society to which I belong.  And it is a fallen people among whom I minister.  The whole thing is filled with sin and under the judgment of death, and that is I also.  But God has given us what he called the "earnest" of His Spirit [Ephesians 1:14]; the promise of God that the day is coming when the whole purchased possession will be redeemed, the whole purchased possession.  That means that Jesus died on the cross for the redemption of my body just as much as He died on the cross for the redemption of my soul and my spirit.  When I am converted, the Holy Spirit of God sanctifies; He converts; He redeems my spirit.  But the day is coming, God says, when He is going to redeem the whole purchased possession.  He is going to redeem the whole creation around me. There is going to be a new heaven and a new earth, and it will be perfected [Revelation 21-22]. 

And He is going to raise me from the dead if I die before He comes [1 Thessalonians 4:13-17].  And I am going to live in a perfected body [1 Corinthians 15:42-57].  The whole purchased possession will be redeemed.  And Paul says – and I must close – that is at the coming of the Lord, the ultimate redemption of the whole purchased possession: the heavens, and the earth around us, and the body in which we live and in which the Holy Spirit is the earnest that He is going to do it.  That is going to come to pass at the coming of Jesus.  Every chapter, all five chapters of 1 Thessalonians, closes with the coming of Jesus, the parousia, the apokalupsis of our Lord [1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 2:19; 3:3:11-13; 4:13-18; 5:23-24].  I wish I had time to comment on it.  It just hurts my heart to prepare this and don’t have time even to mention it.  In the fourth chapter, for example, of 1 Thessalonians, he speaks of the resurrection and the rapture at the coming of the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18].  Or as he says in 1 Corinthians 15:51, "When we all shall be changed." 

I conclude.  Paul said in Philippians 3:20, "For our politeuma," oh, what a word that is! "For our politeuma," our commonwealth, our citizenship, our heavenly home is up there with Him in heaven, "from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our tapeinós sṓma," our abased, depressed – the King James Version translated "vile body" – that it may be "fashioned like unto His glorious body" [Philippians 3:20, 21].  Up there, our politeuma, our commonwealth, our kingdom, our home, our inheritance, it’s up there in heaven.  It’s not here.  And we are looking for the Savior, who when He comes will change this tapeinós sṓma – this abased, depressed, vile body – and refashion it like He’s going to make the new heavens and going to make the new earth.  He’s going to make a new body for me. 

We are sinfully imperfect in this body now. We are constantly falling short, every one of us, constantly coming to God every night confessing our sins, but we belong to God.  His Spirit has set us aside and set us apart for Him.  And some glorious, resurrection, rapturous day, we are going to be changed.  And then we shall be saints.  We shall be without blemish.  And we shall stand in His presence just like Him [1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 35-57]. 

O Lord, for days and days I went through this sermon. And every time I went through it, I always came to the end thinking and saying to myself, "Lord, could such a thing be?  How could such a thing be?  It is too good to be true."  It is almost unthinkable that God purposes such marvelous, wonderful blessings for us.  But if I can believe the Scriptures, and if I can mind and heart receive the promises of God – someday we shall live in a new heaven, in a new earth, in a new city, holy, pure, undefiled; and we ourselves shall be without spot or stain or blemish–sanctified, belonging to God.  May we stand together? 

Our dear Lord in heaven, these great truths out of the Bible are too much for us.  How is it that God could deign to bow down, to stoop, to promise such heavenly things to such sinful earthly creatures as we are.  And yet You call us holy.  You call us elect.  You call us sanctified, consecrated, because You loved us before we were born.  You shaped us in Thy love and grace, and You set us aside for the work of the ministry.  And God bless our people as they respond to the loving overtures of God’s grace and may each one of us in the body of Christ find that purpose for which God chose us and sanctified us. 

And in this moment that we stand before the Lord, come.  A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you: "Pastor, we have decided this day for God.  The Lord has spoken to us.  I hear His voice in my soul; I feel it in my heart, and I am coming."  Accepting Jesus as Savior, or following the Lord in baptism as He commands, or putting your life with us in this wonderful church, make the decision in your heart. Do it now, and on the first note of the first stanza, take that first step.  It will be the greatest, sweetest, most meaningful decision you’ll ever make in your life.  Do it.  Welcome, and a thousand angels attend you in the way as you come. And thank you, Lord, for the precious harvest. In Thy saving, sanctifying name, amen.  While we sing, come.