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 to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) And.—The logic of such an expression as, “Do this, and may you be happy,” lies in the writer’s own connection with both the command and the prayer: “I bid you abstain from every evil kind of thing, and I pray that God Himself may enable you to keep the commandment.”

The very God of peace.—In more usual English, “the God of peace Himself:” the contrast is between the futile efforts after holiness of which they in themselves were capable, and the almighty power of sanctification exercised by God. This sanctification (which is the special work of the Third Person) is here ascribed to the First Person of the Holy Trinity, from whom the Holy Ghost proceeds. He is called (as in Hebrews 13:20) the “God of peace,” not in reference to any dissensions between the Thessalonians (1Thessalonians 5:13), but because of the peace which His sanctification brings into the soul, so that it fears neither temptation’s power nor persecution’s rage. (Comp. the Second Collect for Evensong).

Sanctify you wholly.—Rather, sanctify you whole. The idea is rather that of leaving no part unsanctified, than that of doing the work completely so far as it goes: thus it serves to introduce the next sentence, which explains it.

And I pray God.—If there were need of any insertion, it should have been “We pray God:” Silas and Timothy are never forgotten throughout.

Spirit and soul and body.—This is St. Paul’s fullest and most scientific psychology, not merely a rhetorical piling up of words without any particular meaning being assigned to them. Elsewhere, he merely divides man according to popular language, into two parts, visible and invisible, “body and spirit” (1Corinthians 6:20; 1Corinthians 7:34, et al.); the division into “body and soul” he never uses. (Comp. Note on 1Corinthians 2:14.) The “spirit” (pneuma) is the part by which we apprehend realities intuitivelyi.e., without reasoning upon them; with it we touch, see, serve, worship God (John 4:23-24; Romans 1:9; 1Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 1:10, et al.); it is the very inmost consciousness of the man (see, e.g., 1Corinthians 2:11); it is the part of him which survives death (Hebrews 12:23; 1Peter 3:19; comp. Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59). The “soul.” (psyche) includes the intellect, the affections, and the will: and it is of the very essence of the gospel to force sharply upon men the distinction between it and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12). Low-living men may have soul (i.e., intellect, affection, will) in abundance, but their spirit falls into complete abeyance (Jude 1:19); the soul belongs altogether to the lower nature, so that when St. Paul uses the two-fold division, “body and spirit,” the soul is reckoned (not, probably, as Bishop Ellicott says on our present passage, as part of the spirit, but) as part of the body; and when St. Paul describes the “works of the flesh,” he includes among them such distinctly soul-sins as “heresies” (Galatians 5:20). Sanctification preserves all these three divisions entire, and in their due relation to each other; without sanctification, the spirit might be overwhelmed by the other parts gaining the predominance, which would, of course, eventually be the ruin both of “soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28. N.B., that our Lord says nothing of the destruction of the “spirit” in hell: the question is whether He there definitely meant to exclude “spirit,” or used soul” popularly as including it). Where the New Testament writers acquired such a psychology cannot be determined, but it was probably derived from experimental knowledge of life, not from books, and all experience confirms its accuracy. Modern science tends more and more to show that “soul” is a function of “body.”

Unto the coming.—A mistranslation for “at the coming,” caused by the slight difficulty in understanding the true version. The idea is not so much that of their preservation from sin during the interval, but rather the writers hasten in eager anticipation to the Coming itself, and hope that the Thessalonians at the Coming will be found to have been preserved. “Blameless” should have been “blamelessly.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-26. And the very God of peace Αυτος δε ο Θεος της ειρηνης, literally, May the God of peace himself; that is, he who is ready to give you peace with himself after all you have done; who is in Christ reconciling you to himself, not imputing your trespasses unto you, if in repentance and faith you turn to him, but on these terms preaching peace to you by Jesus Christ: sanctify you wholly — That is, may he carry on and complete the work of purification and renovation begun in your regeneration, redeeming you from all iniquity, Titus 2:14; cleansing you from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1; stamping you with his whole image, and rendering you a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but made holy toward God, dedicated to and employed in his service, and without blame in the whole of your conduct toward men. The word ολοτελεις, here rendered wholly, signifies every part of you, and every part perfectly; implying that every faculty of their souls, and every sense and member of their bodies, should be completely purified, and devoted to the service of God. And I pray God — These words are not in the original, which is literally, and may the whole of you, ολοκληρον υμων, your whole constitution, the whole frame of your nature, all belonging to you, all of and about you, be made and preserved blameless. And what the apostle means by this whole constitution, or frame, of their nature, he immediately specifies, mentioning the spirit, the soul, and the body. Here, says Whitby, “the apostle justifies the ancient and true philosophy, that man is, as Nemesius styles him, τριμερης υποστασις, a compound of three differing parts. This was the doctrine of the Pythagoreans, and also that of the Platonists, who held that there is in man a soul irrational, which includes the affections of the body; and a mind, which uses the body as its instrument, and fights against it. This also was the doctrine of the Stoics, whence Antoninus saith, The three constituent parts of man are σωμα, ψυχη, νους, the body, soul, and mind. Irenæus, and Clemens of Alexandria, and Origen, say the same.” He adds, “those two excellent philosophers, Gassendus and Dr. Willis, have established this philosophy beyond all reasonable contradiction.” It appears also, as the learned Vitringa has very accurately shown, a notion prevailed among the rabbis, as well as the philosophers, that the person of a man was constituted of three distinct substances; 1st, the rational spirit, which survives the death of the body, and is immortal; 2d, the animal soul, which man has in common with the beasts, and which dies with the body; and, 3d, the visible body. Many other learned divines, however, are of opinion, that as the apostle’s design was to teach mankind religion, and not philosophy, he might use the popular language to which the Thessalonians were accustomed, without adopting the philosophy on which that language was founded: consequently that it is not necessary to consider him as intending more by his prayer than that the Thessalonian believers might be thoroughly sanctified, of how many constituent parts soever their nature consisted. “To comprehend,” says Macknight, “the distinction between soul and spirit,” which the sacred writers seem to have intimated in some passages, “the soul must be considered as connected both with the body and with the spirit. By its connection with the body, the soul receives impressions from the senses; and by its connection with the spirit, it conveys these impressions, by means of the imagination and memory, to the spirit, as materials for its operations. The powers last mentioned, through their connection with the body, are liable indeed to be so disturbed by injuries befalling it, as to convey false perceptions to the spirit. But the powers of the spirit not being affected by bodily injuries, it judges of the impressions conveyed to it as accurately as if they were true representations, so that the conclusions which it forms are generally right.” It may not be improper to add here, that the spirit, as distinguished from the two other parts included in the human constitution, seems to be supposed by the apostle (Hebrews 4:12) to be capable of being separated from the soul, his expression being, The word of God is quick, &c., piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; and some have thought that he intimates, (1 Corinthians 14:14-15,) that the one may know what the other does not. Be this, however, as it may, the apostle’s words were certainly not intended to teach us philosophy, or to imply more than a prayer that all our powers of mind and body, the rational, including the understanding, the judgment, conscience, and will; the animal, comprehending the affections, passions, and sensations; and corporal, namely, the members and senses of our bodies, should be wholly sanctified; that is, purified from pollution, dedicated to God, and employed in glorifying him. Unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ — To call you hence by death, or to summon you to appear at his bar. Faithful is he

To his word and promises; that calleth you — By his gospel; who also will do it — Will preserve you blameless to his coming, unless you quench the Spirit. He “will not,” says Whitby, “be wanting in what is requisite on his part toward it; I say his part, for if the faithfulness of God required that he should sanctify and preserve us blameless to the end without our care, or should work in us absolutely and certainly that care, and the apostle believed this, how could he fear lest the Thessalonians should be so overcome by Satan’s temptations, as that his labour with them might be in vain, 1 Thessalonians 3:5; this being, in effect, to fear that God might be unfaithful to his promise.”5:23-28 The apostle prays that they might be sanctified more perfectly, for the best are sanctified but in part while in this world; therefore we should pray for, and press toward, complete holiness. And as we must fall, if God did not carry on his good work in the soul, we should pray to God to perfect his work, till we are presented faultless before the throne of his glory. We should pray for one another; and brethren should thus express brotherly love. This epistle was to be read to all the brethren. Not only are the common people allowed to read the Scriptures, but it is their duty, and what they should be persuaded to do. The word of God should not be kept in an unknown tongue, but transplanted, that as all men are concerned to know the Scriptures, so they all may be able to read them. The Scriptures should be read in all public congregations, for the benefit of the unlearned especially. We need no more to make us happy, than to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is an ever-flowing and an over-flowing fountain of grace to supply all our wants.And the very God of peace - The God who gives peace or happiness; compare notes, Romans 1:7.

Sanctify you - See the notes at John 17:17.

Wholly - ὁλοτελεῖς holoteleis. In every part; completely. It is always proper to pray that God would make his people entirely holy. A prayer for perfect sanctification, however, should not be adduced as a proof that it is in fact attained in the present life.

Your whole spirit and soul and body - There is an allusion here, doubtless, to the popular opinion in regard to what constitutes man. We have a body; we have animal life and instincts in common with the inferior creation; and we have also a rational and immortal soul. This distinction is one that appears to the mass of people to be true, and the apostle speaks of it in the language commonly employed by mankind. At the same time, no one can demonstrate that it is not founded in truth. The body we see, and there can be no difference of opinion in regard to its existence. The "soul" (ἡ ψυκὴ hē psuchē - psyche), the vital principle, the animal life, or the seat of the senses, desires, affections, appetites, we have in common with other animals. It pertains to the nature of the animal creation, though more perfect in some animals than in others, but is in all distinct from the soul as the seat of conscience, and as capable of moral agency.

See the use of the word in Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Luke 12:20; Acts 20:10; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 8:9, et al. In the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy this was distinguished from the higher rational nature ὁ νοῦς, τὸ πνεῦμα ho nous, to pneuma as this last belonged to man alone. This "psyche" (ψυχὴ psuchē) "soul." or life, it is commonly supposed, becomes extinct at death. It is so connected with the bodily organization, that when the tissues of the animal frame cease their functions, this ceases also. This was not, however, the opinion of the ancient Greeks. Homer uses the term to denote that which leaves the body with the breath, as escaping from the ἕρκος ὀδοντων herkos odontōn - "the fence or sept of thy teeth" - and as also passing out through a wound. - This ψυχή psuchē - "psyche" - continued to exist in Hades, and was supposed to have a definite form there, but could not be seized by the hands.

Ody. 2:207. See "Passow," 2; compare Prof. Bush, Anasta. pp. 72, 73. Though this word, however, denotes the vital principle or the animal life, in man it may be connected with morals - just as the body may be - for it is a part of himself in his present organization, and whatever may be true in regard to the inferior creation, it is his duty to bring his whole nature under law, or so to control it that it may not be an occasion of sin. Hence the apostle prays that the "whole body and soul" - or animal nature - may be made holy. This distinction between the animal life and the mind of man (the "anima" and "animus," the ψυχὴ psuchē and the πνεῦμα pneuma), was often made by the ancient philosophers. See Plato, Timae. p. 1048, A. Nemesius, de Nat. Hom. 1 Cited Glyca, p. 70; Lucretius, 3:94; 116, 131; Juvenal, 15:146; Cicero, de Divinat. 129, as quoted by Wetstein in loc. A similar view prevailed also among the Jews. rabbi Isaac (Zohar in Lev. fol. 29, 2), says, "Worthy are the righteous in this world and the world to come, for lo, they are all holy; their body is holy, their soul is holy, their spirit and their breath is holy." Whether the apostle meant to sanction this view, or merely to speak in common and popular language, may indeed be questioned, but there seems to be a foundation for the language in the nature of man. The word here rendered "spirit" (πνεῦμα pneuma), refers to the intellectual or higher nature of man; that which is the seat of reason, of conscience, and of responsibility. This is immortal. It has no necessary connection with the body, as animal life or the psyche (ψυχὴ psuchē) has, and consequently will be unaffected by death. It is this which distinguishes man from the brute creation; this which allies him with higher intelligences around the throne of God.

Be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - The apostle does not intimate here that either the body or the vital principle will be admitted to heaven, or will be found in a future state of being, whatever may be the truth on that subject. The prayer is, that they might be entirely holy, and be kept from transgression, until the Lord Jesus should come; that is, until he should come either to remove them by death, or to wind up the affairs of this lower world; see the notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:10. By his praying that the "body and the soul" - meaning here the animal nature, the seat of the affections and passions - might be kept holy, there is reference to the fact that, connected as they are with a rational and accountable soul, they may be the occasion of sin. The same natural propensities; the same excitability of passion; the same affections which in a brute would involve no responsibility, and have nothing moral in their character, may be a very different thing in man, who is placed under a moral law, and who is bound to restrain and govern all his passions by a reference to that law, and to his higher nature. For a cur to snarl and growl; for a lion to roar and rage; for a hyena to be fierce and untameable; for a serpent to hiss and bite, and for the ostrich to leave her eggs without concern Job 39:14, involves no blame, no guilt for them, for they are not accountable; but for man to evince the same temper, and the same want of affection, does involve guilt, for he has a higher nature, and all these things should be subject to the law which God has imposed on him as a moral and accountable being. As these things may, therefore, in man be the occasion of sin, and ought to be subdued, there was a fitness in praying that they might be "preserved blameless" to the coming of the Saviour; compare the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:27.

23. the very God—rather as the Greek, "the God of peace Himself"; who can do for you by His own power what I cannot do by all my monitions, nor you by all your efforts (Ro 16:20; Heb 13:20), namely, keep you from all evil, and give you all that is good.

sanctify you—for holiness is the necessary condition of "peace" (Php 4:6-9).

wholly—Greek, "(so that you should be) perfect in every respect" [Tittmann].

and—that is, "and so (omit 'I pray God'; not in the Greek) may your … spirit and soul and body be preserved," &c.

whole—A different Greek word from "wholly." Translate, "entire"; with none of the integral parts wanting [Tittmann]. It refers to man in his normal integrity, as originally designed; an ideal which shall be attained by the glorified believer. All three, spirit, soul, and body, each in its due place, constitute man "entire." The "spirit" links man with the higher intelligences of heaven, and is that highest part of man which is receptive of the quickening Holy Spirit (1Co 15:47). In the unspiritual, the spirit is so sunk under the lower animal soul (which it ought to keep under) that such are termed "animal" (English Version. "sensual," having merely the body of organized matter, and the soul the immaterial animating essence), having not the Spirit (compare 1Co 2:14; see on [2447]1Co 15:44; [2448]1Cor 15:46-48; Joh 3:6). The unbeliever shall rise with an animal (soul-animated) body, but not like the believer with a spiritual (spirit-endued) body like Christ's (Ro 8:11).

blameless unto—rather as Greek, "blamelessly (so as to be in a blameless state) at the coming of Christ." In Hebrew, "peace" and "wholly" (perfect in every respect) are kindred terms; so that the prayer shows what the title "God of peace" implies. Bengel takes "wholly" as collectively, all the Thessalonians without exception, so that no one should fail. And "whole (entire)," individually, each one of them entire, with "spirit, soul, and body." The mention of the preservation of the body accords with the subject (1Th 4:16). Trench better regards "wholly" as meaning, "having perfectly attained the moral end," namely, to be a full-grown man in Christ. "Whole," complete, with no grace which ought to be wanting in a Christian.

The apostle here concludes all with prayer, as knowing all his exhortations and admonitions before given would not be effectual without God; and he prays for their sanctification and preservation. Though they were sanctified already, yet but in part, so that he prays for further progress in it to perfection, which he means by

wholly; a word no where used by the apostle but in this place, and variously rendered; some render it throughout, some, perfectly, some, in every part, some, in all things, some, fully, and the French, entirely. It may refer to all the parts of holiness, and the degrees of holiness, and to the whole man in the several faculties of soul and body, expressed in the next words by

spirit, soul, and body, that their whole man may be entirely separated and consecrated to God, offered up to him as a sacrifice, Romans 12:1; and hence we serve that not only the beginning, but progress in grace is from God. The apostle therefore prays for it to God, (whom he calls the God of peace, to enforce his exhortation to peace, 1 Thessalonians 5:3), which confutes the Pelagians, who thought objective grace sufficient to sanctify, or that man’s nature needs only at first to be excited by God, and then can go forward of itself, being only maimed, not totally corrupted by the fall. It is true, our faculties co-operate with God, but not of themselves, but as acted by his inherent grace and indwelling Spirit.

And what the apostle prays for:

1. That Christians should endeavour after, which is a progress in sanctification to perfection. We may also note, that true sanctification reacheth to the whole man, spirit, soul, and body.

2. Preservation, which we call perseverance, expressed here both by the subject and term of it. The subject is the whole man, branched into three parts, spirit, soul, and body, figured, at least resembled, by the three parts of the temple.

Consider man naturally; and then by spirit we mean his superior faculties, as the mind, conscience, rational will.

By soul, his sensitive appetite, with the affections and passions.

By body, the outward man, the tabernacle and instrument of the soul.

The Jewish rabbins and others think all these are expressed in the creation of man, Genesis 2:7; God formed man of the dust of the ground, there is his body; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, or lives, Nishmath Chaiim, Nephesh Chaijah, that is, the faculties of the rational soul; and man became a living soul, that is, the animal and sensitive life. Neither is properly meant here the Spirit of God, for he saith, your spirit; nor the sanctified part of the soul, for he prays for the preserving of their persons. Only observe, when he speaks of their spirit, he calls it their whole spirit. And by the figure zeugma, the word whole is to be carried also to soul and body; so that as he prayed their whole man might be sanctified, so their whole spirit, their whole soul, their whole body might be preserved; and the same word we find Jam 1:4, where it is rendered perfect, alludiug to the perfect possessing of all inheritance or lot that belongs to a man. And by preserving, he means not so much the substance of the spirit, soul, and body, to preserve them in being, as to preserve them in holiness. And they are preserved, partly by being delivered from the sinful distempers that are naturally in them, as ignorance, vanity, impotency, and enmity in the mind, reluctancy and obstinacy in the will, inordinacy and irregularity in the affections, disobedience to the law of God and the regular commands of the soul in the body. If these prevail, they will bring destruction; as diseases prevailing destroy the natural life. And partly also by being supplied with that grace whereby they act regularly towards God, and are serviceable to the end of man’s being, as supply of oil preserveth the lamp burning. And hereby we may understand, that not only the inferior faculties are corrupted in man’s fall, but the superior and the supreme of all, else the apostle need not have prayed for the spirit to be sanctified and preserved, as well as the soul and body. And elsewhere he prays for a renewing in the spirit of the mind, Ephesians 4:23. Next we may consider this preservation with respect to the term of it,

preserved blameless unto the coming of Christ: the same which the apostle means by being preserved to God’s heavenly kingdom, 2 Timothy 4:18 2 Peter 3:14. And those that are preserved to that day, are preserved to the end, and will be found blameless; and their whole man, spirit, soul, and body, being first sanctified, and then preserved, shall be saved and glorified. And the apostle insinuates in the word amemptwv, blameless, that strict discovery that will be made of persons at that day, wherein some will be blamed, and others be found without blame. And herein the apostle may have respect both to the teachers and ministers in this church, and the private members of it, that with respect to their several duties belonging to them they may be found blameless; and though, according to the strictness of the law of God, none can be without blame, yet, those that have been sincere, and have their sin pardoned, and their persons accepted in Christ, may be found blameless in the day of Christ: however, it is that which we should strive after. And the very God of peace,.... Or "the God of peace himself". The apostle follows his exhortations with prayer to God, knowing the weakness and impotency of the saints to receive them, and act according to them, and his own insufficiency to impress their minds with them; and that unless the Lord opened their ears to discipline, and sealed instruction to them, they would be useless and in vain: wherefore he applies to the throne of grace, and addresses God as "the God of peace"; so called, because of the concern he has in peace and reconciliation made by the blood of Christ, and because he is the giver of peace of conscience, and the author of peace, concord, and unity among the saints, and of all happiness and prosperity, both in this world, and in that which is to come; See Gill on Romans 15:33. And the apostle might choose to address God under this character, partly to encourage boldness, freedom, and intrepidity at the throne of grace, and partly to raise hope, expectation, and faith of having his requests answered, since God is not an angry God, nor is fury in him, but the God of peace: and the petitions he puts up for the Thessalonians are as follow: and first, that God would

sanctify you wholly; or "all of you", as the Arabic version; or "all of you perfectly", as the Syriac version. These persons were sanctified by the Spirit of God, but not perfectly; the Gospel was come to them in power, and had wrought effectually in them, and they were turned from idols to serve the living God, and had true faith, hope, and love, implanted in them, and which they were enabled to exercise in a very comfortable and commendable manner; but yet this work of grace and sanctification begun in them was far from being perfect, nor is it in the best of saints. There is something lacking in the faith of the greatest believer, love often waxes cold, and hope is not lively at all times, and knowledge is but in part; sin dwells in all; the saints are poor and needy, their wants continually return upon them, and they need daily supplies; the most holy and knowing among them disclaim perfection in themselves, though desirous of it. Their sanctification in Christ is perfect, but not in themselves; there is indeed a perfection of parts in internal sanctification, every grace is implanted, there is not one wanting; the new creature, or new man, has all its parts, though these are not come to their full growth; there is not a perfection of degrees, and this is what the apostle prays for; for sanctification is a progressive, gradual work, it is like seed cast into the earth, which springs up, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear, and is as light, which shines more and more to the perfect day. Sanctified persons are first as newborn babes, and then they grow up to be young men, and at last become fathers in Christ; and this work being begun, is carried on, and will be performed, fulfilled, and made perfect: and it is God's work to do it; he begins, and he carries it on, and he will finish it; and therefore the apostle prays to him to do it; this is his first petition: the second follows,

and I pray God your whole spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. A like division of man is made by the Jews: says one of their writers (y).

"a man cannot know God, unless he knows , "his soul, his breath, or his spirit, and his body".''

Says (z) R. Isaac,

"worthy are the righteous in this world, and in the world to come, for lo, they are all holy; their body is holy, their soul is holy, their spirit, and their breath is holy''

See Gill on Hebrews 4:12. Some by "spirit" understand the graces and gifts of the Spirit in a regenerate man; and by "the soul", the soul as regenerated, and as it is the seat and subject of these graces; and by the body, the habitation of the soul, which is influenced by the grace that is last; and this is a sense not to be despised. Others by "the spirit" understand the rational and immortal soul of man, often called a spirit, as in Ecclesiastes 12:7 and by the soul, the animal and sensitive soul, which man has in common with brutes; see Ecclesiastes 3:21 and by the "body", the outward frame of flesh and blood, and bones; but rather "spirit" and "soul" design the same immaterial, immortal, and rational soul of man, considered in its different powers and faculties. The "spirit" may intend the understanding, Job 32:8 which is the principal, leading, and governing faculty of the soul; and which being enlightened by the Spirit of God, a man knows himself, Christ Jesus, and the things of the Spirit, the truths of the Gospel, and receives and values them. The "soul" may include the will and affections, which are influenced by the understanding; and in a regenerate man the will is brought to a resignation to the will of God, and the affections are set upon divine things, and the body is the instrument of performing religious and spiritual exercises: and these the apostle prays may be

preserved blameless; not that he thought they could be kept from sinning entirely in thought, word, or deed; but that they might be preserved in purity and chastity from the gross enormities of life, and be kept from a total and final falling away, the work of grace be at last completed on the soul and spirit, and the body be raised in incorruption, and glory; and both at the coming of Christ be presented faultless, and without blame, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, first to himself, and then to his Father.

(y) Aben Ezra in Exodus 31.18. (z) Zohar in Lev. fol. 29. 2.

And the very God of peace {i} 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.

(i) Separate you from the world, and make you holy to himself through his Spirit, in Christ, in whom alone you will attain to that true peace.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 5:23. If what the apostle requires in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 is to be actually realized, God’s assistance must supervene. Accordingly, this benediction is fitly added to the preceding.

αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης] the God of peace Himself; an emphatic contrast to the efforts of man.

ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης] the God of peace, i.e. who communicates Christian peace. Neither the connection with 1 Thessalonians 5:22 nor the contents of the benediction itself will permit us to understand εἰρήνη of harmony. To refer to εἰρηνεύετε, 1 Thessalonians 5:13, for this meaning is far-fetched.

ὁλοτελής] here only in the N. T. spoken of what is perfect, to which nothing belonging to its nature is wanting. Jerome, ad Hedib. 12, Ambrosiaster, Koppe, Pelt, and others understand ὁλοτελεῖς in an ethical sense, as an accusative of result: “so that ye be entire, that is, pure and blameless.” But it is better, on account of what follows, to take ὁλοτελεῖς as an adverb of quantity, uniting it closely with ὑμᾶς, and finding the whole personality of the Thessalonians denoted as if the simple ὅλους were written: “in your entire extent, through and through.”

καὶ ὁλόκληροντηρηθείη] a fuller repetition of the wish already expressed.

καί] and indeed.

ὁλόκληρος] means, as ὁλοτελής, perfectly, consisting of all its parts. ὁλόκληρον refers not only to τὸ πνεῦμα, although it is governed by it, as the nearest noun, in respect of its gender, but also to ψυχή and σῶμα. Comp. Winer, p. 466 [E. T. 661]. The totality of man is here divided into three parts: spirit, soul, and body. See Olshausen, de naturae hum. trichotomia N. T. scriptoribus recepta in s. Opusc. theol., Berol. 1834, p. 143 ff.; Messner, die Lehre der Apostel, Leipz. 1856, p. 207. We are not to assume that this trichotomy has a purely rhetorical signification, as elsewhere Paul also definitely distinguishes πνεῦμα and ψυχή (1 Corinthians 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:44; 1 Corinthians 15:46). The twofold division, which elsewhere occurs with Paul (1 Corinthians 7:34; 2 Corinthians 7:1), is a popular form of representation. The origin of the trichotomy is Platonic; but Paul has it not from the writings of Plato and his scholars, but from the current language of society, into which it had passed from the narrow circle of the schools.

πνεῦμα denotes the higher and purely spiritual side of the inner life, what is elsewhere called by Paul νοῦς (reason); ψυχή is the lower side, which comes in contact with the region of the senses. The spirit is preserved blameless in its totality at the advent, i.e. so that it approves itself blameless at the advent (ἀμέμπτως is a more exact definition of ὁλόκληρον τηρηθείη), when the voice of truth always rules in it; the soul, when it strives against all the charms of the senses; and, lastly, the body, when it is not abused as the instrument of shameful actions.[67]

[67] According to Schrader, ver. 23 contains an un-Pauline thought, because when Paul distinguishes the ψυχή from the spirit, the latter is considered as something “divine,” as “unutterably good,” as “eternally opposed to every perversity.” Paul, accordingly, could not have assumed, “besides the soul in man, a mutable spirit which must be preserved from blemish.” But the discourse is not of the holy Divine Spirit which rules in man, but of a part of man, himself, of the νοῦς; but the νοῦς may fall into ματαιότης (Ephesians 4:17), may be ἀδόκιμος (Romans 1:28), μεμιασμένος (Titus 1:15), κατεφθαρμένος (2 Timothy 3:8), etc.1 Thessalonians 5:23. εἰρήνης, with a special allusion to the breaches of harmony and charity produced by vice (cf. connection of 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3 f.), indolence, impatience of authority or of defects in one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13 f.), retaliation (1 Thessalonians 5:15), and differences of opinion (1 Thessalonians 5:19 f.) Such faults affect the σῶμα, the ψυχή and the πνεῦμα respectively, as the sphere of that pure and holy consciousness whose outcome is εἰρήνη.—ὑμῶν, unemphatic genitive (as in 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13, cf. Abbott’s Johannine Grammar, 2559a) throwing the emphasis on the following word or words. πνεῦμα is put first, as the element in human nature which Paul held to be most directly allied to God, while ψυχή denotes as usual the individual life. The collocation of these terms is unusual but of course quite untechnical.—ἀμέμπτως has almost a proleptic tinge = “preserved entire, (so as to be) blameless at the arrival of,” which has led to the substitution, in some inferior MSS., of εὑρεθείη for τηρηθείη (cf. textual discussion in Amer. Jour. Theol., 1903, 453 f.). The construction is rather awkward, but the general sense is clear. With the thought of the whole verse compare Ps. Sol. 18:6: καθαρίσαι ὁ θεὸς Ἰσραὴλεἰς ἡμέραν ἐκλογῆς ἐν ἀνάξει Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ, also the description of Abraham being preserved by the divine σοφία in Sap. 10:5 (ἐτήρησεν αὐτὸν ἄμεμπτον θεῷ).23. And the very God of peace] the God of peace Himself (R. V.)—so “God Himself” in ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:11, and “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself” in 2 Thessalonians 2:16, where the like contrast is implied between human wish or endeavour and Divine power. With this contrast in his mind, St Paul begins, But, not and: “I bid you keep yourselves from evil; but may God, Who only can, cleanse and preserve you.” Comp. Php 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation; for God is He that worketh in you.”

“The God of peace” is a favourite designation with St Paul (found also in Hebrews 13:20), in wishes and blessings: see 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Romans 16:20, &c. For peace, see note on ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:1. This is God’s distinguishing gift in the Gospel, that by which He makes Himself and His grace known in the hearts of men. In like fashion He is named from other gifts, “The God of patience and consolation” (Romans 15:5), “of hope” (1 Thessalonians 5:13), “of love and peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11), “of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). While He is “the God of peace,” true peace is “the peace of God” (see Php 4:7; Php 4:9). And His peace bears fruit in our sanctification.

sanctify you wholly] Rather, unto completeness, or full perfection. The readers are already sanctified in Christ Jesus (see ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, “in sanctification”; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:2); the Apostle prays that they may be sanctified to the fullest extent,—or rather, that God may so sanctify them as to bring them to the full perfection of their nature, that as sanctified men they may realise the end of their being in all its length and breadth. See Trench’s Synonyms of the N.T., § xxii., on the relation of this expression to entire in next clause.

On sanctification, see notes to ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; also 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless] “I pray God” is needlessly supplied in the A.V. More precisely, and in the Greek order: entire (or in full integrity) may your spirit and soul and body, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, be preserved. The word “entire” takes up the thread of the last sentence, to the prayer of which the Apostle seeks to give more comprehensive expression. But the completeness of blessing desired now assumes a new aspect. From the degree of holiness desired we pass to its range, from its intension (as the logicians would say) to its extension. St Paul prays that in the integrity of their human person and nature they may be preserved,—“spirit, soul, and body” alike finding their safety, with their oneness, in the holy service of God.

St Paul has already treated, in ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, of one chief branch of bodily sanctification. Now he thinks of this sanctity as penetrating the whole being of the man. It is not necessary to regard spirit and soul and body as three distinct logical divisions of man’s nature[8]. The Apostle aims at making his wish exhaustive in its completeness. He begins with the innermost—“your spirit,” nearest to God “Who is spirit,” and with which the Holy Spirit directly unites Himself, “witnessing to our spirit” (Romans 8:16); and he ends with “body,” the vessel (ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:4) and envelope of our nature, through which it belongs to the external world and holds intercourse with it. The “soul,” poised between them, is the individual self, the living personality, in which spirit and flesh, common to each man with his fellows, meet and are actualised in him. When St Paul bids the Corinthians to “cleanse” themselves “from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1 : contrast 1 Peter 1:22, “having purified your souls”—your individual selves), that phrase covers the same ground as this, but it treats the matter as one of contrast between man’s outer and inner relations; whereas the stress here lies on the integrity of the man himself, with his balanced and developed nature, and all his faculties in exercise. Hence the verb (be preserved) is singular: spirit, soul, and body forming one whole man. The “spirit” is “kept,” when no evil reaches the inner depths of the man’s nature, or disturbs his relations to God and eternity; his “soul,” when the world of self is guarded, when all his feelings and thoughts are sinless; his “body,” when his outward life and relations to the material world are innocent.

[8] Those who maintain a threefold analysis of human nature in Scripture are called Trichotomists; and the advocates of a twofold division, Dichotomists. Amongst the chief expositions of the former view is that given in Delitzsch’s System of Biblical Psychology, and in Heard’s Tripartite Nature of Man; on the other side, consult Beck’s Biblical Psychology, or Laidlaw’s Bible Doctrine of Man.

The connection between sanctity and safety (“be preserved”) lies in the fact that what is sanctified is given over to God. “No one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand,” said Jesus (John 10:29). See the next verse, and comp. 2 Timothy 1:12; also Psalms 121; Isaiah 27:3. The word “preserved” stands with emphasis at the end of the sentence. In the intercession of John 17, our Lord prays first, “Holy Father, keep them” (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:15), then “sanctify them” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But He is thinking there of the situation of His disciples, in the midst of the world; the Apostle leads up to their future manifestation, at His coming.

St Paul writes blamelessly—not blameless (A.V.); and in—not untothe coming &c. This adverbial adjunct must belong, despite its position, to the foregoing adjective (entire), not to the verb (be preserved); for God is the keeper in this context, and no blame can conceivably attach to the manner of His keeping: “In full integrity may your spirit and soul and body be preserved,—blamelessly entire in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the end of the Apostle’s thoughts in this letter, the goal of his readers’ hopes. It will supply the final test of the worth of character, and of the completeness of the sanctification effected in believers. Then the whole work of Christ’s servants will be brought to its issue and determination. “The Day will declare it” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

On “the coming” (parousia), and “our Lord Jesus Christ,” see notes to ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; on “blamelessly,” 1 Thessalonians 3:13.1 Thessalonians 5:23. Αὐτὸς) [The very] Himself. You will be defended, says Paul, not by my zeal, but by the Divine protection.—ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, the God of peace) who gives all that is good, and takes away all that is evil: εἰρήνη and ὁλοτελὴς, in the Hebrew שלם, are conjugates. [Therefore the following prayer shows what this title implies (involves in it).—V. g.]—ὁλοτελεῖςὁλόκληρον) He wishes that collectively (ὁλοτελεῖς) and as individuals (ὁλόκληρον) they should be claimed for God [as His], and being so claimed, should abide in Him: collectively, all the Thessalonians without exception, so that no one should fail; individually, every one of them, with “spirit, soul, and body.” The exposition of this verse will perhaps be more matured in course of time. There might be supposed an elegant Chiasmus, and if ὁλόκληρον were taken adverbially, it would cast new light on the exposition.[32] If we give the passage another sense, ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν, would constitute the genus and the whole; the three following words (πνεῦμα, σῶμα, ψυχὴ) would be the parts.—ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα, your spirit and soul and body) You; he just before has called them universally: and the same persons he now denominates from their spiritual condition, my wish being, saith he, that your spirit (Galatians 6:18) may be preserved ὁλόκληρον, whole and entire; then from their natural condition, and soul and body, for the nature of the whole man absolutely consists of these two parts, my wish is, that it may be preserved blameless.[33] The mention of the body agrees with the preceding discussion, 1 Thessalonians 4:4, note 16.

[32] The Chiasmus would make ὁλόκληρον answer to σῶμα, and πνεῦμα to ψυχή: meaning, May your body be wholly preserved, as also your spirit and soul!—ED.

[33] The Germ. Vers. exhibits on the marg. this periphrasis of the passage:—“May your Spirit, i.e. you yourselves be most fully preserved according to your spiritual state, which you have attained in respect both of soul and body.” In accordance with this view, I may observe, is the fact, that πνεῦμα is a heavenly principle—the life from above—linking us to a higher order of beings, and imparted by “the second Adam,” who, in 1 Corinthians 15:47, is called ζωοποιοῦν πνεῦμα, “a quickening Spirit.” Hence πνεῦμα is seldom if ever found associated with unbelievers. Passages are found where this word is used of good and bad alike “yielding up the Ghost.” But these mean rather “breathed their last,” πνεῦμα being used simply of the breath. Ψυχὴ, anima, on the other hand, is the inferior principle, common to bad and good, linking us to the first Adam, the ζῶσα ψυχή, living soul; from which we derive the σῶμα ψυχικὸν, the natural or animal body—a body animated by the ψυχή, as contrasted with the σῶμα πνευματικὸν, body animated with the Spirit, spiritual, which shall be given to the believer hereafter, 1 Corinthians 15:44-47. Comp. Romans 8:11; Judges 1:19, ψυχικοί.—ED.Verse 23. - And the very God of peace; the God who communicates peace; an expression frequently employed by Paul at the close of his Epistles (Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:16). Sanctify you wholly; that is, perfectly, without anything wanting, referring to the entireness of the sanctification, which is presently expressed in detail. And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body; the adjective "whole" applies to all the three substantives. The apostle here divides human nature into three parts - spirit, soul, and body; and this threefold division is not a mere rhetorical statement: "The apostle pouring forth from the fullness of his heart a prayer for his converts" (Jowett); but a distinct statement of the three component parts of human nature. The "spirit" is the highest part of man, that which assimilates him to God; renders him capable of religion, and susceptible of being acted upon by the Spirit of God. The "soul" is the inferior part of his mental nature, the seat of the passions and desires, of the natural propensities. The "body" is the corporeal frame. Such a threefold distinction of human nature was not unknown among the Stoics and Platonists. There are also traces of it in the Old Testament, the spirit, or breath of God, being distinguished from the soul. Be preserved blameless. "The spirit is preserved blameless at the advent when the voice of truth rules it, the soul when it strives against all the charms of the senses, and the body when it is not abused as the instrument of shameful actions" (Lunemann). Unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very God of peace (αὐτὸς ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης)

Better, the God of peace himself. God's work is contrasted with human efforts to carry out the preceding injunctions. The phrase God of peace only in Paul and Hebrews. See Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20. The meaning is, God who is the source and giver of peace. Peace, in the Pauline sense, is not mere calm or tranquillity. It is always conceived as based upon reconciliation with God. God is the God of peace only to those who have ceased to be at war with him, and are at one with him. God's peace is not sentimental but moral. Hence the God of peace is the sanctifier. "Peace" is habitually used, both in the Old and New Testaments, in connection with the messianic salvation. The Messiah himself will be Peace (Micah 5:5). Peace is associated with righteousness as a messianic blessing (Psalm 72:7; Psalm 85:10). Peace, founded in reconciliation with God, is the theme of the gospel (Acts 10:36). The gospel is the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:17; Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15). Christ is the giver of peace (John 14:27; John 16:33).

Sanctify (ἁγιάσαι)

See on John 10:36; see on John 17:17. The primary idea of the word is separation. Hence ἅγιος, the standard word for holy in lxx is, primarily, set apart. Ἁγιάζειν is 1. to separate from things profane and to consecrate to God; 2. to cleanse or purify as one set apart to holy uses.

Wholly (ὁλοτελεῖς)

N.T.o. So that nothing shall escape the sanctifying power. Ὅλος complete, and τέλος end or consummation.

Spirit, soul, body (πνεῦμα, ψυχὴ σῶμα)

It is useless to attempt to draw from these words a technical, psychological statement of a threefold division of the human personality. If Paul recognized any such technical division, it was more probably twofold; the body or material part, and the immaterial part with its higher and lower sides - πνεῦμα and ψυχὴ. See on Romans 6:6; see on Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23; see on Romans 8:4; see on Romans 11:3 and footnote.

Be preserved entire (ὁλόκληρον - τηρηθείη)

This is the rendering of Rev. and is correct. A.V. joins ὁλόκληρον with πνεῦμα, and renders your whole spirit. Ὁλόκληρον is predicative, not attributive. It does not mean whole, but is derived from ὅλος whole and κλῆρος allotment, and signifies having the entire allotment; complete in all parts. It occurs only here and James 1:4, where it is associated with τέλειοι perfect. It appears in lxx, as Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 27:6. Joseph. Ant. 3:12, 2, uses it of an unblemished victim for sacrifice. As distinguished from ὁλοτελεῖς wholly, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, it is qualitative, while ὁλοτελεῖς is quantitative. The kindred ὁλοκληρία perfect soundness, only in Acts 3:16. For preserved see on 1 Peter 1:4.

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