Considering the future arrival of Jesus, Paul summons the church to become sanctified completely by that day – 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
Paul concludes his first letter with a series of exhortations calling on believers to pursue righteous living in the interim between their conversion and Christ's “arrival” from heaven.
He ends the letter by summoning the Thessalonians to complete sanctification, an exhortation with verbal links to the preceding sections of the letter.
The Apostle includes admonishments against the “disorderly.” This rendering translates the Greek adjective derived from the noun taktos, meaning “order, rank.” It and its verb form are used often in military contexts for the ranking or ordering of troops. The negative connotation is to break rank.
While Paul does not specify exactly who or what he has in mind, most likely, he is addressing the same group that he will correct in his second letter, the members of the church who are refusing to work.
And in all probability, the “disorderly” have ceased from doing so due to heightened and incorrect expectations about the imminence of the “day of the Lord” – (“We hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all” - 2 Thessalonians 3:11).
The several positive exhortations provide practical examples of how believers become “sanctified,” including the encouragement of the fainthearted, by supporting the weak, not rendering “evil for evil,” praying without ceasing, and abstaining from every form of evil.
The Apostle then sums up the contents of his letter in his call for the total consecration of the believer:
- “And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly and may your entire spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless at the arrival (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calls you, who will also do it” – (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Once more, Paul applies the term ‘parousia’ to the “arrival” of Jesus. And his desire for believers to be found “without blame” on that day recalls the exhortation that concludes the first half of the letter:
- “To the end, he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the arrival (parousia) of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” – (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
Both passages describe how God will achieve this, and both are concerned with holiness and sanctification. These terms represent the two closely related Greek words hagiôsuné and hagiazô.
Furthermore, both passages look forward to believers being found “blameless,” also using two closely related Greek terms, amemptos and amemptôs for “blameless.”
The biblical idea of "sanctification" is not the moral perfection of the individual but becoming set apart for service to God. The moral element is contained in the term "blameless."
YOUR ENTIRE BEING
“May your entire spirit and soul and body be preserved.” “Entire” represents the Greek word holokléron, a combination of holos (“whole”) and kléron (“lot, part”), that is, to become “complete in all parts.”
Both the verb rendered “preserved” and the adjective for “entire” are singular in the Greek clause because Paul views the individual as a single whole. He may consist of several parts - “spirit and soul and body” - but he is a complete and single entity. The idea is that no part of the individual should escape “sanctification.”
“Faithful is he who calls you.” Paul already has referred to the “call” of God on the Thessalonians. Here, he sums up the theme of his “calling.” Not only has God “called” his sons and daughters to complete sanctification, He also will perform it for them – (1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:7).
So, how does the believer play his part in the “sanctification” process? By following the instructions that Paul has provided in the preceding verses (e.g., “encourage the fainthearted,” “support the weak,” “abstain from every form of evil”). By following these principles, the disciple of Christ will find himself “wholly sanctified” on the day when Jesus “arrives from heaven.”