1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly…
In concluding his Epistle, and finishing his list of practical exhortations, St. Paul sums up his desires for the welfare of his readers by one comprehensive prayer for their complete sanctification.
I. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF SANCTIFICATION. The sanctification of a man makes a sanctuary of him. It consecrates him to the service and for the presence of God. It includes two things, the second of which is essential to the first.
1. Dedication. The sanctified man is dedicated to God. He yields himself up to the will of God. He is ready for any use to which God may put him. He lives to glorify God.
2. Purification. We have come to regard this as essentially the same as sanctification. It is not so, for Christ was sanctified (John 17:19), and he never needed to be purified. But the great hindrance to our consecration of ourselves to God or to any special Divine purpose, is sin. Therefore for us the one great preliminary is purification.
II. OBSERVE THE SCORE OF SANCTIFICATION. It is to be complete:
1. In range. It affects spirit, soul, and body - St. Paul's human trinity.
(1) Spirit. Our highest thoughts, aspirations, and efforts are to be sound, pure, and devoted to God.
(2) Soul. Our lower capacities of feeling and acting in our natural human life are to be equally sanctified. We cannot have a devout spirituality side by side with a carnal natural imagination. Moreover, our natural humanity, in its lower perceptions and energies, should be used for the service of God.
(3) Body. This is not only not to be degraded by vicious appetite, but to be used as an instrument for God's service. It is unchristian to mutilate or weaken the body. This should be kept sound and healthy and vigorous for our Master's use.
2. In intensity. The sanctification is to be thorough. Each part of our nature is to be "wholly" sanctified. We must not dedicate ourselves to God half-heartedly. He requires the whole surrender of our whole nature.
III. NOTE THE SOURCE OF SANCTIFICATION. It is in God. St. Paul turns from exhortation to prayer. Here and there little duties are directed by our own will and energy. But the grand work of complete purification and consecration must be God's.
1. By means of his spiritual influence. He sanctifies by breathing into us his Holy Spirit. Contact with God burns out sin, and lifts the soul into an atmosphere of holiness.
2. By means of his providential care. St. Paul prays that God will keep his readers "entire" - as we read in the Revised Version. He guards from too great temptation.
IV. LOOK AT THE END OF SANCTIFICATION. This is to be "blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1. Preparation for the second advent. We are required to be ready to meet Christ. The glad expectation should encourage every effort to prepare, lest we should be like the foolish virgins.
2. Blamelessness. Christ comes as Judge. How sad, after longing to see him, to meet, instead of a welcome from our Lord, only stern words of rebuke! - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.