*The Whole of You
May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB
The God of peace sanctifies by the peace which He works in us, which is a great means of sanctification. The word used in the original signifies wholly and perfectly—every part and all that concerns us.
And may the whole of you, the apostle continues, the spirit and the soul and the body, be preserved blameless. He shows that he wished their spiritual state to be preserved entirely, as well as desiring the health of their natural state.
To explain this a little further: Only the soul and the body are the natural constituent parts of men and women. The Spirit is not in the fundamental nature of humans but is the supernatural gift of God, to be found in Christians only.
To encourage the Thessalonian Christians, St. Paul added, Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it (v. 24), if you do not quench the Spirit, for which purpose he had already written (v 19). For wherever the Spirit is, it burns. It flames in holy love, in joy, prayer, thanksgiving.
Oh, quench it not, damp it not in yourself or others, either by neglecting to do good, or by doing evil! As a great means of preventing this, he wrote, Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks. A blessed admonition, even in our day!
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this thirtieth lesson on prayer, Wesley makes the point that God wants all of us; not just the spiritual, but the natural as well. He quotes from 1 Thessalonians 5. The context of chapter 5 is the coming day of the Lord, as verses 1-6 say,
“1Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3While they are saying, ” Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
Paul makes an important distinction here between those who are saying “Peace and safety” and those who, because they are alive in Christ, live in peace and safety. The former sees peace and safety from a worldly perspective that is as dark as their souls. The latter knows peace and safety by the Spirit of God, the Light who indwells them.
Wesley starts this lesson with, “The God of peace sanctifies by the peace which He works in us, which is a great means of sanctification. The word used in the original signifies wholly and perfectly—every part and all that concerns us.” Sanctification works itself out in us from a spirit that is made alive in Christ and possesses that peace of God. That is why Paul could say in Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul echoes this again as he continues in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-24:
11Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16Rejoice always; 17pray without ceasing; 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not quench the Spirit; 20do not despise prophetic utterances. 21But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.