The Second Sunday in Lent
The Epistle. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
The Gospel. St. Matthew 15:21-28
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
It is confusing to some when on the first Sunday of the month the priest or deacon will read the Decalogue, The Ten Commandments and the first Command is, “Though shalt have no other gods but me.”
And the second one is, “Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven image.”
Yet on the other Sundays the same minister will say, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.”
This doesn't make sense, some might think. And it is a legitimate question. But what is being said is that the first is being summarized in the second.
In other words, the first and great command, to love God with all of our heart soul and mind refers to all that is found in the first half or the first table of the Law.
This includes Commandments 1,2,3,and 4. These are all ways in which we are instructed to love God, and to honor Him and to keep Him as our greatest and highest priority. Nothing and no one else is allowed to be higher in our lives.
And the Second is like unto it, “love your neighbor as yourself, is summarized in the second half or second table of the Law… Commandments 5,6,7,8,9, & 10.
These all have to do with ways in which we love our neighbor. Honoring father and mother, not stealing, not coveting, not murdering, not bearing false witness about another.
The one that seems to only list 2 commands is called “The Summary of the Law.” It’s in the Prayer Book on page 69. And, conveniently the Ten Commandments are also on pages 68 & 69.
The entire first table of the Law is on page 68 and the second table is on page 69. Most likely laid out that way purposefully.
So they are all there to study and to keep.
In our Epistle lesson for today, we find what Paul is writing about relates to sins against ourselves, sins against one another (or our neightbor) and sins against God.
The reason for the writing is first laid out in the first few verses.
“ Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification:…”
So first Paul sets the tone by giving his credentials as sent by Christ…commissioned by Christ and in His authority, “we ask and urge you, in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God…”
Paul and whoever he is with at this time and is adding as additional authority, probably Silvanus and Timothy…who he mentions at the beginning of the letter.
He tells them that they have already received instruction as to how to walk in light of being Christians. It is a way that is pleasing to God.
He notes that they are already doing it and he is urging them to do it more and more.
He then says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” Sanctification should be understood by now, but briefly again, it is that doctrine of the Church, pulled from the Bible that teaches that God works in us to conform us to His will.
He works in us to incline our hearts to obey His commands…to love Him…to love neighbor…to live righteously. Not that this living will merit us a reward, but Sanctification is doing all such good works as God has prepared before hand for us to walk in.
This is the will of God.
This is your Sanctification.
Then Paul goes on to list sanctified life living commands.
Abstain from sexual immorality.
Control your body in holiness and honor.
Not transgressing brother at any time.
Not impurity, but holiness.
So first notice much if not all of this is aimed at sensual sins. Sexual immorality, control of the body, transgressing another person, impurity.
These are the ways in which we first, sin against ourselves. Each of us has been entrusted with a body as a vessel or an instrument to be used for the Giver of the body…who is God.
So he says, we need to learn and recall how we are to possess this vessel we have been given. We are to work to acquire mastery over it.
One of the most striking teachings in the Bible is the one that says,
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“ …do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)
The possession of our bodies….especially in light of being a Christian means that God dwells in our body.
If Jesus were coming to stay at your home, I'm sure you would do come cleaning. This is similar. The body is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Christ then dwells in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The one who created us and created the universe as well, dwells in each of us in some mysterious yet real way.
If this is the case, what should our life be like? We are not our own. We were bought with a price. We have been purchased.
The price was the death of Jesus Christ. He bought us when He voluntarily went to the Cross.
It makes one wonder, would Paul, upon seeing someone who is a professing Christian committing some such sin to the body, say, “How dare you?! You are not your own. Who do you think you are soiling and tainting the body where Christ dwells???!!
So we can do great harm to our own selves and sexual, sensual sins are one of the most prevalent ways.
This is sin against ourselves.
There is also sin against others.
Sensual sins are not only committed to oneself, but to others as well.
Sins committed to others destroy relationships. They destroy or damage homes and families. They corrupt the true intention of the created order. They defile the marriage covenant.
They are all sins of selfishness.
Not being satisfied in the order of creation.
Not being satisfied with the person God has ordained you to be with.
Not being satisfied with fidelity, self-control, and compromise in the relationship.
Finally there is sin against God. All sin is sin against God, even if we don't think or intend it to be so.
These sins Paul lists are idolatrous. They are worshiping the creation rather than the creator. They are saying that we would rather live differently than how God has ordained….making ourselves out to be god.
Through the regenerative grace given to us at our baptism when we were born anew, we were called into a state of holiness.
Even as infants…we are called to grow into a state of holiness…all, of course with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.
At that time we are made living members of Christ’s body. (p. 274) We died to sin and rose again to newness of life. (p. 278).
We pray the baptized may grow in the Spirit.
We pray that they be endued with heavenly virtues. (p. 278).
The Holy Spirit is instrumental and indispensible in all of this. This is the work of God in us. This is our sanctification.
So to sin in any way, is to go against the work God is doing in us.
And the warning of Paul is important for us because though we know from his other writing that there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ on the last day, he also says this, Galatians 6:7-8
“ Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (ESV)
There are still temporal consequences for the sins we commit here and now and there will be as God sees fit until our death.
But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is the promise made to us in the mean time.
“The fact that we have…temptations [to sin] is no sign that we have not received grace, but if we fall it is a sign that we have not made use of the grace given.
The fault is not in God’s grace, but in man’s rejection; not in baptism, but in the baptized who have neglected the pledged assistance of grace.”
Our prayer for today was this and it is quite appropriate as we think on the sins we commit to self, others and to God.
“ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
To close out, Paul finishes this section with these words, and they were touched on a little earlier…
“  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit has been given to each of us. His work is that of sanctifying us in this life. The sins we commit against our selves and one another, are ultimately against God as Paul says here.
If we disregard His words, we disregard God. So the words of Paul here are even from God. He did not speak on his own authority ultimately…but on God’s.
As we continue to press on through Lent, let us think about how we do sin against ourselves, one another and remember that they are all offences against God.
And then let us use this time in Lent to ask God more earnestly for His Spirit that the work of grace increase in us every day.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.