Paul concludes his first Letter to the Thessalonians with a series of exhortations calling on the disciples of Jesus to pursue righteous living in the interim between their conversion and his “arrival” from heaven. He ends by summoning the congregation to pursue complete sanctification, an exhortation with verbal links to the preceding sections of the Letter.
This includes admonishments against the “disorderly.” This rendering in English translates the Greek adjective derived from the noun taktos, meaning, “order, rank.” It and its verbal form were used in military contexts for the ranking or ordering of troops. The negative connotation implied by the term is to break rank.
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While Paul does not specify exactly who he has in mind, most likely, he is addressing the same group that he will correct in his second letter, the members of the Assembly who were refusing to work for a living.
Most likely, the “disorderly” members had ceased working due to heightened and incorrect expectations about 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 at the end of the Letter provide practical examples of how believers do become “sanctified,” including encouraging the fainthearted, supporting the weak, not rendering “evil for evil,” praying without ceasing and abstaining from every form of evil. Paul then sums up the contents of the 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 at the end of the age. His desire for believers to be found “without blame” recalls the exhortation that concluded 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 being set apart or dedicated 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.” The term translated as “entire” represents the Greek word holokléron, a combination of holos (“whole”) and kléron (“lot, part”). In other words, 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. A man may consist of several parts - “spirit and soul and body” - but he is a complete and single entity. The idea behind the exhortation is that no part of the individual should escape “sanctification.”
“Faithful is he who calls you.” Paul previously referred to the “call” of God on the Thessalonian Assembly. Now, he sums up the theme of this “calling.” Not only has God “called” his sons and daughters to complete sanctification, but He also will perform it for them – (1 Thessalonians 2:12, 4:7).
So, how does the believer play his part in this 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”). In this way, the disciple of Jesus will find himself “wholly sanctified” on the Day when he “arrives from heaven” accompanied by “his holy ones.”
What stands out in the Letter when Paul discusses “holiness” is how he consistently links it to the “arrival” or ‘Parousia’ of Jesus. Being found “blameless” and “holy” is critical for the believer’s standing before him on the day when it counts the most.