“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely … “
1 Thessalonians 5:23a
Let us meditate for a moment on the scripture found in I Thessalonians 5:23-24.
This is a closing prayer Paul penned to the church in Thessaloniki, located along the coastline of the Aegean Sea in northeastern Greece just over 300 miles from modern day Athens.
Thessaloniki was a seaport, a Roman outpost in the time of Paul; he established a church there around AD 50.
Paul’s plea to the Lord on behalf of the Thessalonian Christians reads as follows:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.“
A lot of profound theology is packed into this benediction. We cannot possibly unpack it in just a few moments. So just some of the highlights. Its words will encourage us in our walk with the Lord.
I think we can all agree that we struggle with temptation, relapses, failed attempts to be better Christians, but often it is a few steps forward then several backwards. Those of us who have tried the discipline of dieting know only too well the struggle.
But notice the exhortation contained in these few words of encouragement:
- God is the One who sanctifies (the holiness we possess as saints [sanctify] is imputed). It is a gift from God Himself. It is His righteousness that is graciously imputed to our balance sheet … Titus notes, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us” [Titus 3:5] and that through His Holy Spirit.
- You may recall the popular lapel pin back in the 1970s: PBP GINFWMY (Please Be Patient – God Is Not Finished With Me Yet). Our salvation, our sanctification, our being set apart unto God moment by moment is progressive and will be perfected in due course and by God’s grace.
- It is by His Spirit that we are grow in grace. Paul writes to the Ephesian church, that we are His workmanship, created unto good works [Ephesians 2:10].
- It is the God of peace, the Holy Spirit who is at work in our lives; the God of the Old Covenant, also known as the FEAR OF ISAAC [Genesis 31:42], was one you did not want to offend, the One to be feared as many OT stories attest.
- That said, we do have our part, struggle as it may be much of the time. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”, Paul tells the saints in Philippi [Philippians 2:12]. It is not a cakewalk, it takes effort … we won’t attain perfection, but it is the humble effort that pleases God, who knows us only too well. Along life’s journey, God is the source and strength of our progress.
- The journey involves our whole being; body soul and spirit, our intellect, emotion and will. The first Beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” These ‘poor ones’ are the ones who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy, and their need for the grace and mercy of God their redeemer.
- The journey is only completed at either our coming to the Lord or at His coming to us if we are alive at the time of His Second Coming.
- It is God, who began a good work in each of us at some point in time past, who will ultimately bring that good work to fruition.
- “And how do we know that?” you might ask. Our passage says, “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it!”
Oswald Chambers wrote in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest:
“God has staked His reputation on the work of Jesus Christ in the souls of the men and women whom He has saved and sanctified.”
This is one of a developing series of devotionals posted by Haliburton Pastoral Charge. Our thanks to Paul Cornish for this devotion.