Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 5:23 Paul says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In order to understand this verse, we need to have a brief review of the entire book of 1 Thessalonians. Chapter one indicates that the holy life for the church life is constructed of faith, love, and hope. Such a life surely turns to God from idols, serves the living God, and waits for the coming of the Lord. This is the main point revealed in chapter one. Chapter two tells us that the apostles did their best as nursing mothers and exhorting fathers to foster such a life. They cared for this life and nourished it so that it would result in a walk worthy of God’s kingdom and glory.
How can such a life become worthy of God’s kingdom and God’s glory? There is no way other than to be sanctified. Thus, chapter three says that this life needs to be perfected in faith and also needs to increase and abound in love in order that the Lord may establish our hearts, the acting agent of our being, blameless in holiness. This is the establishment of our inward being, of our heart, our acting agent.
In chapter four Paul goes on to point out that not only should our heart inwardly be established in holiness, but also that our body outwardly needs to be preserved in sanctification, the process of being made holy. Furthermore, the physical body needs to be preserved not only in sanctification before God, but also in honor in the sight of man. In this chapter Paul also speaks concerning the saints who have died, who are sleeping. He deals with this matter in the scope of hope. In chapter three Paul says that the holy life for the church life should be perfected in faith and should increase and abound in love, and then in chapter four he shows that the resurrection of the dead saints is a matter of hope.
In 5:8 Paul covers the three matters of faith, love, and hope: “But we who are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and a helmet, the hope of salvation.” In warfare two crucial parts of our body—the head and the breast—need to be guarded. The breast must be covered, and the head must be protected. Hence, we have the breastplate of faith and love to cover our breast, and the helmet of the hope of salvation to cover our head. In our study of the Song of Songs we pointed out that the breasts of the seeking one signify faith and love in Christ. For this reason, the breastplate is of both faith and love. Our head, our mind, the thinking organ with its thoughts, needs to be protected by the helmet of God’s salvation. Therefore, in chapter five we see that when we are fighting the spiritual warfare, we need to be covered by the armor of God that includes the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. In chapter five the three basic elements of the Christian life—faith, love, and hope—are all included.
Eventually, in 5:23, Paul expressed his desire that the God of peace would sanctify us wholly, not only in heart or in body. Inwardly we have a heart, and outwardly we have a body. The heart and the body form the main structure of a living, acting person.
As living persons, we have a heart within and a body without. The heart is the directing agent, for it directs our actions, activities, and motions. The body is the means, the organ, by which we act outwardly. Hence, through our body our heart moves, and our body acts under the direction of our heart. This is the reason chapter three deals with the sanctification of the heart and chapter four, with the sanctification of the body.
What, then, about our spirit and our soul? Even though the soul is very much like the heart in its components, there is still a difference between the soul and the heart. As far as the composition of our being is concerned, we have a spirit, a soul, and a body. But in our acting, our living, we have a heart and a body. Thus, when speaking of our being, we should refer to the spirit, the soul, and the body. But in speaking of our living and our actions, we should refer to the heart and the body. Our daily living is a matter of our heart and our body. For this reason Paul in 1 Thessalonians differentiates what we are from how we act. In action, we have a heart with a body. But in our being, that is, with respect to what we are, we have a spirit, a soul, and a body.
In chapter three of 1 Thessalonians sanctification is a matter of our inner part, our heart. In chapter four sanctification is a matter of our outward part, our body. Then in chapter five, as a conclusion of the book, sanctification includes our entire being. This is the reason Paul speaks of the God of peace sanctifying us wholly. By “wholly” Paul means our whole spirit and soul and body. Therefore, he expresses the desire that the saints’ spirit and soul and body would be preserved complete. This is to be sanctified wholly.
The adverb “wholly” in 5:23 indicates quantity. It points to the fact that every part of our being—spirit, soul, and body—needs to be sanctified and preserved. Furthermore, the adjective “complete” refers to quality. Thus, Paul, an excellent writer, indicates in a brief way that quantitatively we need to be sanctified wholly, and qualitatively we need to be preserved complete. We need to be preserved not partially or superficially but completely, even absolutely and perfectly. I hope that this brief survey of 1 Thessalonians will help you to understand what we shall cover in this message and in the message following.
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