Lesson 24: A Prayer For Their Sanctification and Preservation (series: Lessons on 1 Thessalonians)
by John Lowe
Lesson 24: A Prayer For Their Sanctification and Preservation (1Thess. 5:23-24)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through4. May your whole spirit2, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Paul includes all his exhortations in a prayer for sanctification and assures believers that a faithful God will answer it.
(5:23) May God himself, the God of peace3, sanctify1 you through and through4. May your whole spirit2, soul2 and body2 be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify1 you through and through4.
Throughout the Epistle Paul has been concerned with sanctification (3:13; 4:3, 4, 7, 8); and here he prays that God will sanctify (separate to Himself) the readers of the Epistle. The Greek language here reads, “The God of peace Himself sanctify1 you wholly.” Paul is here stressing divine power, contrasting God’s divine ability with the limited ability of man.
“The God of peace” is a term often used by Paul in his epistles. God is the God of peace, and Isaiah said, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you” (Isa. 26:3).
In the apostle’s letter to the Romans, he said, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”―“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). We also “joy in God” through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:11), who through His shed blood made peace between God and man―that is, if a man will put his trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. Peace is God’s distinguishing gift in the Gospel through the sacrifice of His own begotten Son. God makes Himself known in the hearts of men through the peace that He gives.
All believers are sanctified in Christ Jesus when they are born again (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 1:2); but Paul is praying here that the very “God of peace sanctify you through and through”―sanctify you unto completeness or full perfection (fully grown, in a spiritual sense) in every area of their lives. Sanctification is progressive as well as positional. Paul is praying here that the sanctification of the Thessalonian saints will increase and bring them to the full stature of the spiritual man. Paul did not mean they could attain complete sanctification this side of heaven. That is impossible.
Paul continues his prayer, “May your whole spirit2, soul2 and body2 be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When God created man He said, ”Let us make man in our own image.” We know that there are no two human beings who are identical; but I personally believe that when the Bible speaks of man being created in the image of God, the scriptures teach that that image is not so much in physical appearance as it is in spiritual likeness.
My friends, I cannot explain the Trinity, and I don’t dare speculate. But I believe it because the scriptures teach it. Neither can I explain the trinity (body, soul, spirit2) of man―but man is a trinity. We are created in the image of God in that we are Trinitarian. We have a spirit, we have a soul, and we have a body―and the scriptures clearly differentiate between the three.
There is a definite distinction between soul and spirit in man. The Word of God clearly teaches that the spirit makes man capable of being God-conscious. Through the Spirit, we communicate with God. Read Job 32:8, Prov. 20:7 and Ps. 18:28. The fact is that man is a highly complex being. Aspects of his nature may be distinguished, but he cannot be divided up into parts. Man does not sin in either body or spirit irrespective of the other. The whole man is affected by sin, and the whole man is to be affected by salvation (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus came to save or make the whole man sound (John 7:23). All men have a soul and a body― really; each person is both body and soul. The Christian is spiritual in both. His spirit indwells his body. The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian’s spirit, thus saturating the whole of his life and soul.
It is absolutely imperative that man thinks right about God’s Word before he can be saved because salvation becomes ours by faith―and saving faith can come only by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17; John 5:246; 1 Pe. 1:23). Man has a spirit, and through that spirit, we can communicate with God when we believe His Word. Believing His Word, we love the Lord with all our soul. When we think right about God, we automatically love Him.
The body is the house in which the soul and spirit live. And when the individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our heart; the heart is the seat of life, and therefore the Holy Spirit abides in our body, and our body becomes the temple or tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. What do you think about that? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). To teach that the soul, spirit, and body are one and the same is gross ignorance.
Notice the last words in verse 23: “. . . be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Please note that Paul did not say “sinless,” but “blameless.” According to the Word of God, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). This does not give believers a license to sin; but when the best of us have done our best, we still fall far short of the glory of God. Many believers need to learn the definition of sin. If they fully understand what sin is, they will never boast again that they are sinless. Paul says, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). James says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17). “The schemes of folly are sin, and people detest a mocker” (Prov. 24:9).
Since we are, as believers, to do all we do to the glory of God, it stands to reason that if we do anything that is not to the glory of God, we have sinned. But we can live blamelessly, we can be examples to the unbelievers―in the words of Paul, “to those who are without.”
(5:24) The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Often in this epistle, Paul appeals to the faithfulness of God. God has pledged faithfulness; and because He is God He must be faithful. God will keep every promise He has made in His Word (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:13). The only guarantee that any believer will have a worthy report at the final judgment is God’s faithfulness. His calling carries with it the successful completion of His purposes (Rom. 8:30; Phil. 1:6). God is faithful to bring to completion the work He has begun in believers. God does not save a person by grace and then leave him alone to work out his Christian growth by works (Gal. 3:3). As God calls and Justifies by grace, He sanctifies by grace too. The believers in Thessalonica were keenly conscious that God had called them to a consecrated, separated, sanctified life (1 Thess. 2:12). For believers to live the kind of life God wants them to live requires the full surrender of every power―soul, spirit, and body. We must commit our members to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, or we can not live as God would have us live.