Peacefully Sanctified Entirely
1Th. 5:23 ¶ May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Th. 5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
Here Paul is expressing his desire for the people of Thessalonica, and that is that they would become wholly and entirely God's holy people. His prayer is that they would be entirely or wholly sanctified, and then he goes on to explain that this includes the spirit, soul and body. In other words, every part of their being is to be made holy. But this is not on their own or by their own power, but by the power of the God of peace. The God of peace is faithful and he is capable of making them holy, through and through (Luther). Wesley says, "every part and all that concerns you; all that is of or about you." This is what can be made holy by the power of the God of peace.
I find it fascinating that Paul refers to God as the God of peace in this passage. What is it about sanctification and peace? There must be some kind of a relationship between the two. Could it be that there is a relationship to being made holy and to peace? When the God of peace sanctifies you through and through, then it means that his very nature penetrates through your entire being. There is a change in nature which brings about peace in the body, soul and mind. I'm afraid that this is a picture of sanctification which we rarely see. Instead we have so often equated holiness with rigidity, anger and intolerance. Could it be that entire sanctification has, at times, so focused on the body that we have forgotten about the need for the Spirit of God to penetrate the soul and the mind? But it is in the penetration of the soul and the mind that we find real transformation.
Real transformation of the individual into the image of God, into a reflection of Jesus Christ, is possible through the work of the God of peace. To be a holy person is the telos, or goal of all of humanity. This is what God created us to be. And it is possible to be a living reflection of Christ -- to fulfill the telos while still living here on this earth. But only when we are in a right relationship with the God of peace. He is calling us into a deeper walk with him -- wanting to sanctify us through and through to the very core of our being.
Paul raises the bar pretty high in this passage. He believes that God can sanctify every nook and cranny of a person's being. In a recent conversation with a group of students we were discussing this "high bar." We were also discussing the fact that there is the possibility that, as Christians, we have been lowering the bar for quite some time. Somehow we have tried to make the Christian life easier -- one that doesn't take too much time -- or expect too much out of us. We have tried to make it easy to be "in this world, but not of this world." Maybe this was what Paul saw in the believers of Thessalonica. Maybe he realized it was time to raise the bar again -- to help people realize that the goal of this life is Christlikeness. If we would truly understand holiness or sanctification in this way -- that the goal is to be transformed into the image of Christ (through and though -- including our body, soul, and spirit) then I think the bar is pretty high! Wesley had accountability groups that helped those new believers understand that the bar was high -- to be reflections of Jesus Christ in the world. This is what it means to be sanctified through and through. To be like Jesus through and through.
This can only happen when we are steeped in his presence, day in and day out. Then the God of peace envelopes us with his deep and abiding peace which reaches to the very core of our being and we live facing the one that we love and we allow his reflection to shine out of every corner of who we are. Paul was raising the bar. Maybe we need to raise the bar again as well. The plan is for us all to be peacefully sanctified -- entirely!
Lord, draw me closer to you this day so that I might be a complete reflection of you. Amen.