1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “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. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
What happens when we are sanctified? What changes when our spirit, soul, and body become wholly holy? What difference does it make to be sanctified? It impacts every part of our lives, but one of the most important ways it changes us is in our witnessing. Have the changes God has made in you changed the way you communicate, and have you increased the amount of witnessing you do for the Lord? A closer look at the story of the Gospel coming to Thessalonica helps us to see this process in action.
Paul’s custom when he went to a new city was to go to the synagogue where the Jewish people would gather. Paul would explain to them from the Old Testament how Jesus had fulfilled prophecies like those in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The Bible says he showed that Jesus was Christ—the Messiah. Many people believed, both Jews and Greeks. These were the first members of the church at Thessalonica. Now if this was all we knew of the story, we would not see much about sanctification and witnessing. But in First Thessalonians Paul gives us more information about what happened.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”
Paul begins by talking about himself and the people who came with him to bring the Gospel to Thessalonica. Because God has chosen to use individuals to take the Gospel to the world, the lives of those individuals have a profound effect on those who hear the Gospel. It is not simply adequate for us to have the right message; we must be the right man or woman as well. When the Gospel enters someone’s life, the person who brings the Gospel enters that life as well.
Paul wasn’t a one-man show. He used the expression “our entrance”. There were Silas, Timothy, perhaps Luke, and a few others. Paul did not say “I” brought you the Gospel, he said “we” did. Though we have an individual responsibility to take the Gospel to others, we do not do so in isolation. We should band together in unity around the greatest cause in the world, getting the Gospel to the lost!
Paul then says that his work “was not in vain”. Everyone who has worked with people and invested their lives in them knows the pain of trying to help someone who, despite the best efforts we make, turns away from the truth. In fact, Paul tells the Thessalonians that he sent Timothy to check up on their spiritual condition “lest our labour be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Many people profess faith in Christ but do not move forward into sanctification. Paul was excited to learn that his presentation of the Gospel was having an ongoing effect on their lives.
Success in ministry is not found in big buildings, big attendance, or big offerings. Success in ministry is found in people being saved and then growing spiritually in sanctification. That is what matters. What we see in these verses is that it is important not only to take the Gospel to people, but to live and conduct ourselves in such a way that people are attracted to the Gospel. It can rightly be said that you will not win people to Jesus Christ without winning them to yourself. Our influence will be very limited in soul-winning and discipling people to spiritual maturity unless we have a wholesome, healthy, honest, and transparent relationship with them. Will you allow God to increase the influence of your witness and make you a sanctified witness?