Prayer for Entire Sanctification
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.
Paul again prays for the people in Thessalonica and affirms what Jesus’ goal is for his people — that they be entirely sanctified, or be made holy. Yes, that’s why Jesus lived and died — so that we could be made holy.
The nature of God is again revealed in this prayer, our God is a God of peace. It is this God of holy, loving, peace that draws humanity toward him so that we, too, might be made entirely or completely holy. Paul expounds on that a little — “may your spirit and soul and body” — may every single part of you be made holy and continue in holiness until Jesus comes again.
Of course this is not your own personal work, but the work of the God peace — the one who is calling you into this life of holiness. The God of peace draws you into this relationship of holy love and in doing so the Holy Spirit permeates every single part of your being. The presence of the Holy Spirit in every portion of our lives is our sanctification. He can and will do it.
This is one of those passages that I want to chew on every time I come to it. Having grown up in the “Holiness Tradition” the language of “Entire Sanctification” was used a great deal. Somehow from what I had heard I had come to think that this meant that it was something that happened to you and then you were done. Kind of like baking a cake — once it’s baked, it’s baked! Once I’m “Entirely Sanctified” I’m done. And yet, I remember hearing voices of people like Dr. Ralph Earle saying things like — let’s look at the Luther Bible where it’s translated, “heilige euch durch und durch.” Literally in English that would say, “make you (all) holy through and through.” He reiterated that idea of “through and through.” The Russian version leaves you with the idea of an on-going activity that makes you holy all the way to the very completion. It’s this idea that we are to be sanctified or made holy (an on-going activity) until we have reached the goal — to be God’s holy people.
The problem with the baked cake analogy is that life is an on-going event. The reality is that I do believe in “Entire Sanctification” — an event subsequent to salvation in which the Holy Spirit may fill me through and through. But then, my sanctification continues to be an on-going event that continues throughout the remainder of my life. Why is that? Because my spirit, soul and body are changing. Who I was yesterday is not the same person that I am today. Relationally I am not the same person. There are new people in my life that weren’t in my life yesterday. Reactionally I am not who I was yesterday because daily I am confronted with new situations and new opportunities in which to respond. Therefore Paul’s prayer is the prayer that I need — that I would be sanctified through and through — yes yesterday — but even more so today and tomorrow and the next day. And that my sanctification will continue on to completion — meaning that it will continue all the way through my life until eventually I am able to stand “sound and blameless” before our Lord.
Jesus’ desire was for his people to be made holy — to be made holy by being in a face to face relationship with him. That relationship is to be reflected in every other relationship we have. Paul knew that this was not easy and only possible through the power of the One who was calling us to be holy. It should be our prayer today as well. May we never be deceived into believing that God is finished with us. Instead of being fully baked, we may instead just be pickled — stuck in a state of unhappiness, refusing to grow and refusing to acknowledge that in growth the Holy Spirit must continue to infill. All of God’s people should join Paul in the prayer to be made holy through and through!
Lord, may your Holy Spirit work in my spirit, soul and body today. Amen.