How Does God “Preserve His Saints?”
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
1st Thessalonians 5:23-28
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
This passage gives seven precious doctrinal points:
- GOD is the one who sanctifies us, in every sense of the word.
- We have a Body, a Soul, and a Spirit, and all three are to “preserved blameless” by God unto the Lord’s return.
- Again, the Faithful God who calls us is the One who will bring all these things to fruition.
- We are called to consistent prayer for one another.
- We are called to true fellowship with one another (holy brethren, holy kiss …as opposed to Judas’s treacherous greeting to Jesus.)
- We are Called to Be in the Word.
- We are called to be the daily partakers in the Grace of God.
The God of Peace, Who Sanctifies Us
Who is the God of Peace? Romans 5:1 says we gained peace with God, the moment we trusted in His saving sacrifice. Also, Jesus promised Peace to His followers…the Peace of God.
John 14:27 says “Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give unto you. Not as the World giveth, give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken unto you that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.”
The Peace of God
And in Philippians 4:6-9 we see how to experience the Peace of God:
“6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The God of Peace who is “With us”
9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
So, when Paul prays that the God of Peace would “wholly sanctify” the believers, he refers to the same “God of Peace” whom he said would “be with us,” in Philippians 4:9. And there were conditions attached, in the Philippians promise. If you want to experience the Peace of God, you need to walk with Him, in fellowship with Him, “pulling in double harness with Him.” He listed several conditions:
- Don’t be anxious
- Pray about everything, with thanksgiving
- Take seriously the list of things upon which we are to think, instead of worrying.
- DO the things God has taught you to do, and those which you have learned from (and seen in) other believers.
AND: The God of Peace shall be with you!
How Does God Sanctify Believers?
That is also the way that God sanctifies you. (Sanctified means “set apart for God’s use): As you walk with Him, he gradually builds into your life a practical holiness, so that in a very practical way, you are becoming more and more clearly “His personal property” and “set aside for His personal use.“
Some people attempt to use this passage to teach that believers can eradicate their sin nature, and no longer be subject to temptation, as they have become “wholly sanctified.” That is false teaching. We are constantly surrounded by the enemy’s attempts to render us fruitless. Paul was constantly on guard, knowing (1st Corinthians 9:27) that it was possible that after he had taught others, he himself could become a “castaway” … having suffered a “shipwreck” of his faith (1st Timothy 1:19). (He did not fear losing his salvation. That is not a possibility. But it was entirely possible that he could become fruitless, through a collapse into sin.)
Body, Soul, and Spirit
All three of these terms are frequently used in regard to our natural humanity. To begin with, all humans have a body, a soul and a spirit. And, as believers, we have a promise that our bodies will be resurrected, intact. Our souls will live forever with God, and our Spirits will be forever in fellowship with Him, in eternity.
Do I really understand the difference between the “soul” and the “spirit?” Not really, no! I know that the Greek word, “psuke” is translated “soul,” usually, and that it is where we get our words “psyche, psychology, psychosomatic, and psychotic.” It apparently has to do with the seat of emotions, and feelings and basic thought.
The Greek word for “spirit” is “pneuma,” and it is where we get out words, “pneumologist, and pneumonia.” It literally means “breath.” But it evidently refers to the portion of humans which was originally capable of fellowship with God, in Adam and Eve. That fellowship was broken by sin, of course, and humans effectively are born with a “broken communicator.” We are born spiritually dead, apart from God’s Grace to reconnect us. He offers that Grace in the Person of Jesus, at the Cross.
All Preserved Blameless?
The body of every single person (excluding of the Rapture of the Church) will die, and decay, and return into the dust of the earth, one way or another.
The soul of every human is eternal, and will either stand with Jesus as part of the Body of Christ, or stand before Him for final judgment, at the Great White Throne.
The spirits of all humans are eternal…but some will spend eternity with Him, and others will spend eternity apart from Him.
All will be resurrected: some to eternal Judgment, some to Eternal Joy. The judgment of those who have placed their trust in Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, was completely fulfilled at the Cross. Jesus died as our representative. Therefore, God sees our sins as having been fully judged at the Cross. As a result, He sees us only in Christ.
This is how God can say that our spirit, soul, and body will be preserved blameless until the return of Christ. In 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we saw the resurrection of the righteous dead, and the transformation of the living believers at the Rapture of the Church. Consequently, every single Church-age believer will be raised eternally at that point.
The Faithful God
“Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”
1st Peter 4:19 says, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of our souls to Him, in well doing, as unto a Faithful Creator.”
Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the LORD and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”
Who are we to trust? The LORD, in the Old Testament, whom we find to be the Jesus of the New Testament. (In Hebrews, and in the Gospel of John, we discovered that Jesus is the Creator! In John 5:22 we saw that Jesus is the Eternal Judge of all the Earth!)
He is the one who calls us to walk with Him and to “pull in double harness” with Him. He is the faithful Creator! And He is the one who will bring all these promises to fruition. There is nothing I can do to “improve” upon His promise.
We are Called to Consistent Prayer
In the previous passage (1st Thessalonians 5:17) God says “pray without ceasing.” In Ephesians 6:18, 19 we see Prayer listed as the seventh piece of the armor of God. We are told to:
- Pray always,
- With all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
- Watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication,
- For all the believers
(Lots of use of the word “All,” there!) And in verse 19, the Apostle Paul requested prayer for himself that he would be given the ability to boldly preach the Mystery of the Gospel. Paul needed Prayer! And we are commanded in no uncertain terms to give ourselves to the practice of consistent prayer for one another, in all things, at all times. Especially pray for your leaders, as they will especially be under attack by the enemy.
We are Called to True Fellowship With One Another
Remember how Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane: Still today, we call it a “Judas-kiss,” when someone pretends to be a friend, but in reality is betraying their victim to an enemy. Kissing has been a standard greeting of a dear friend, for thousands of years in many cultures. In others that is not the case, unless it is a family member.
In our culture, kissing is reserved for familial relations, as a general rule, but the Old Believers of the Russian communities, here in the United States, still practice this “holy kiss” as a matter of normal obedience to scripture.
To the average American believer, a handshake is considered normal. In fact, that was also recognized in scripture, as the Apostles offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Paul and Barnabas in Galatians 2:9.
Acceptance in the Beloved
The core issue is sincere acceptance of one another, as we have been fully accepted by God. Ephesians 1:6 says that we have been fully accepted by God, in the Beloved. God sees us only in Christ, and in Him, we are fully accepted.
Accept one another on the same basis! Are we still flawed individuals who irritate one another with our idiosyncrasies? Certainly we are! That is why He commands us to “forbear one another in Love.” Accept the flaws, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies of those around you and love them for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
We are Called to Be in the Word!
Verse 27 seven gives us a command! 27I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. That is a command! (And it even includes the illiterate. The literate were commanded to read the Word to the illiterate, or, possibly simply to a congregation at large.) Either way, we cannot escape the fact that feeding on God’s Word is normal behavior for all believers! In fact, this is where our walk with God will live or die! We need to feed on His Word!
We are Called to Be Daily Partakers in the Grace of God
This is not the “Saving Grace,” by which we entered into Christ: this is the “Living Grace,” by which we learn to walk with Him, and learn to endure hard circumstances. For example, when Paul suffered from some malady (probably with his eyes) he petitioned God three times to heal it (whatever it was.) And then God told him to drop it! (Stop asking! The answer is no!) He said, “My Grace is sufficient for thee!” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
We have a hard time with that, but that Grace is what enables us to walk with Jesus at all. This is not some “special Grace” that only Paul got! It is what we depend upon for every breath! Lamentations 3:22 says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” In this age, we call it the Grace of God. Grace means “unearned favor.” Unmerited favor. I have not earned special treatment form God. When He gives it, it is Grace. And when we face hard trials, we depend upon His Grace to sustain us.
This is How God Preserves His Saints.
We need to learn to walk with Him, daily spending time in His Word and in Prayer, and seeking His face in our daily lives. He is the One who accomplishes His Will in our lives. Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
God will preserve you until the end of time. Trust in Him once for all for salvation. Trust in Him daily for Grace by which to live, and enjoy His Service!
Lord Jesus, please teach us to walk closely with You, and to experience Your Grace for living, every day, as we learn to look to You at all times, for direction, sustenance, and strength.