(My apologies if the formatting is still wrong. It is not publishing as it is supposed to…)
Last week, some of the beautiful ladies on our university campus invited me to share with them about being “kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23b). I was richly blessed in the study! Here are some thoughts.
Everything starts and ends with HIM!
God refers to Himself as “the Alpha and Omega” in Revelation 1:18, the One “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The whole story of Life begins and ends with Him!
I notice, though, that sometimes in our faith, we get confused about the middle. We realize that our salvation began with God, and that it will ultimately end with God, but what about now?
A lot of us live as though the middle were on us.
In Thessalonians 5:23-24, Paul writes with redundant emphasis to make sure that we realize and remember the faithfulness of God, not only in the end and the beginning… but the whole journey through!
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
As I break down verse 23 into meaning and theme, do you notice the beautiful rhythm of Paul’s message?
Here is the verse in ESV:
may your WHOLE spirit and soul and body
at the coming of OUR LORD
Here are the meanings/themes that seem to correlate almost as a chiastic structure [a literary pattern of symmetry (A, B, C, D, D, C, B, A) often used in the ancient literature including the Bible].
may THE GOD WHO REIGNS WITH AUTHORITY
WHOLLY CLEANSE, COMPLETELY TRANSFORM, BRING YOU TO A PLACE OF UTTER COMPLETION AND PERFECTION
COMPLETELY, WHOLLY, PERFECTLY
may your WHOLE PERSON, ALL OF YOU, EVERY PART
BE KEPT BLAMELESS, PERFECT, WITHOUT FAULT
at the coming of OUR LORD
JESUS CHRIST, WHO REIGNS IN AUTHORITY
Just in case we missed it, Paul clarifies at the end in v.24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
God has called you (v.24). The word call means to call, bid, name, or call by name. His Word went forth out of His mouth to speak you into existence, both as a created being, and as a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is the Alpha, the Beginning, your beginning… You are on the journey because He has beckoned you here.
The word keep means to preserve, to tend carefully so no harm comes to it, to keep one eye open at all times, to guard…
Beloved, your “new creation” sits with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), which is the safest and most secure place it could be! No enemy can access it there! Still, Paul is also saying that God keeps our whole person, our “spirit and soul and body.” He is guarding it, carefully tending to it, until the day He brings us fully into His presence.
As He keeps you, he sanctifies you… all of you!
Did you notice how much of Paul’s language was around the idea of WHOLE or COMPLETE? He was intentionally redundant in emphasizing the fact that ALL OF ME is on this journey. There is no compartmentalization of the human being to God! God sees, knows, keeps, and sanctifies ALL OF US!
Sanctification – a big scary word to some – refers to that process or journey of being made whole or complete, or “made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). By God’s grace, we are righteous and holy. Still, we are in the process of becoming righteous and holy.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Jesus will present his bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing… holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27), to Himself.
“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25b-27).
He is faithful and will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24)!
So what do I do? What is my role?
If I don’t need to busy myself with the effort of perfecting myself, (as it is God’s business to make whole and not my own), what is my role? What am I supposed to do?
A mentor of mine once brought my attention to John 15:3, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” It is right in the middle of the Vine and the branches section of Scripture, if you are familiar, and I was absolutely puzzled by the inclusion of this verse, tucked right there in the middle, “Already you are made clean…”
It took years for this particular seed of truth to ruminate in my spirit. (I think that is what Jesus means when He says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32). Eventually, my people-pleasing, God-pleasing mind started to grasp what the Spirit what saying…
The work is already done by the “Word” God has spoken! He has already spoken my name, called me, ushered me into existence and eternal Life! And He is the one who is keeping, sanctifying, and making whole my whole person!
Here is one picture of what abiding might look like:
The work of the believer is to believe. “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:29).
God saves and sanctifies us by grace through faith. God gives grace, and we give faith. These are the mechanisms with which we move forward in our salvation. Like the wheels of a clock, each one connects to the other. They turn on the same rotation, one wheel activating another. God’s grace first lubricates the machine to enable movement. Our faith, our act of belief then activates the wheel of grace, and our mechanism begins to move… Eventually, our act of faith begins to look like obedience, and grace continues to flow.
To keep this mechanism moving, at all times, is to abide. We keep activating faith as he infuses us with grace, our faith leads us to obey as he infuses us with grace… and this is the Way of Abiding (John 15). Then, fruit is born! …fruit that is lasting (John 15:16). And “By this my Father is glorified” (John 15:8).
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).
CELEBRATE GOD’S FAITHFULNESS BY ABIDING IN HIM TODAY! Who knows what fruit might come of it!?