The Agora
Waiting For His Son - Thessalonians

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IX. Conclusion (5:23-28)

A. Paul's Second Prayer for the Thessalonians (5:23,24)

v. 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.
v. 24
"Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."


v. 23 "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly": One of the loveliest, and most revealing, designations of the Father in all of Scripture is this: "the God of peace." It is one of the most attractive features in Paul's letters (Rom 15:30; 16:20; 2Co 13:11; Phi 4:9; 2Th 3:16; Heb 13:20). These titles and other similar ones (Rom 15:5,13; 2Co 1:3) proclaim the divine attributes in the eloquent fashion of Exodus 34:

"The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty" (vv 6,7).
Peace is a term with more than one implication. It can, for example, describe the new relationship to God into which a man is brought as the result of the sacrifice of Christ (Eph 2:13-17); it can also represent the tranquillity of mind which is the product of true fellowship with God, and which is the companion of joy (1Th 5:16). In the introduction to this letter Paul prays for this "peace" on behalf of his brethren (1:1), and now in his conclusion he returns to the same prayer. (Note 1Co 14:33, in the context of the proper use of Spirit gifts: "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.")

The linkage in this verse of the words "wholly" ("holoteleis") and "whole" ("holokleros") -- literally, "whole to the end" and "the whole lot" -- is helpful. It indicates that "spirit/soul/body" is intended not so much as three distinct entities (in a scientific sense) but rather as a unit, equivalent to "you" in the first phrase of v 23.

"And I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ": Paul prays that every part of each believer be sanctified (set apart, made holy) absolutely -- not necessarily "unto" the coming, but more probably "at" or "in" (Greek "en") the coming of Christ. (The same phrase occurs in 1Th 3:13, and a similar one in 1Th 2:19.)

Any sharp and absolute distinctions among the three "parts" of a person may be forced. Just as there are no perfectly clear-cut lines of distinction (but rather a fair degree of overlap) among "heart, soul, mind, and strength" in Mark 12:30, or among "heart, soul, and might" in Deu 6:5, so it may be with 1Th 5:23. Paul writes of the whole person, not several artificially separated elements. Nevertheless, some differentiation may be noted:

  1. "Spirit'' ("pneuma") is reasonably equivalent to mind (1Co 5:3; 7:34; 2Co 7:1; Phi 1:27), and may in this case denote especially the "mind of the Spirit", the renewed mind of a believer (cp such passages as 1Co 2:14; Heb 4:12; etc).
  2. By contrast, "soul" ("psuche") may represent the natural life -- of either a human being or an animal. Even in a man, "psuche" may indicate no more than the baser, natural elements of personality (Luke 2:19,22; 1Co 15:45; 1Pe 1:22; James 3:15; etc).
  3. "Body" ("soma") is the physical form and substance. Without a natural "soul" (life), it is only a corpse. With a "soul" (life) but no (renewed) "spirit", it may be an ever-so-intelligent creature -- but it is still, in God's sight, spiritually "dead" (1Ti 5:6; Rom 8:13; Eph 2:1,5)! It is a scriptural teaching that God must be, and will be, glorified in our bodies as well as our minds (4:4; 1Co 6:13-20).

v. 24 "Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it": Paul adds this brief postscript to assure his readers that the God who called them (1Th 2:12; 4:7) will in fact answer his prayer. It is God's will that His children be sanctified and preserved (cp v 18), and it is in His character to be faithful to that expressed will (1Co 1:9; 2Co 1:18; 2Th 3:3; 2Ti 2:13; 1Jo 1:9; Rev 1:5; 3:14). "He who hath begun a good work in you will also bring in to completion" (Phi 1:6).

B. Farewell (5:25-28)

v. 25
"Brethren, pray for us.
v. 26
"Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
v. 27
"I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
v. 28
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."


v. 25 "Brethren, pray for us": This is to Paul no mere formality. He has prayed for them (1Th 1:2-4, notes). Now he desperately desires their prayers on his behalf; probably he has in mind a special prayer at the memorial meeting (cp v 27). Such requests for prayer appear in a number of his letters (Rom 15:30-32; 2Co 1:11; Eph 6:19,20; Phi 1:19; Col 4:3,18; 2Th 3:1,2; Phm 1:22). Paul was far from infallible, though a Spirit-guided apostle; he knew that he needed the prayers of the believers as much as they needed his.

v. 26 "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss": Those who believe in Christ become a family (Mat 12:46-50); the kiss is not a formal greeting, but a common affection among members of the same family. It was to be "holy", or chaste, so as to give no appearance of impropriety. The same practice is referred to also in Rom 16:16; 1Co 16:20; 2Co 13:12; 1Pe 5:14.

v. 27 "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren": This implies that the letter was to be read at the general assembly of the church, probably just before the Breaking of Bread. Paul seems especially anxious that all in the church have the letter read to them (his language -- "I adjure you" -- is very strong): the most likely reason is that he wanted to be sure that the unruly would hear its contents (v 14).

Paul considers this letter (and presumably he considered his later letters) to be authoritative. In insisting upon their being read to all the brethren he is inaugurating a new feature of worship, and establishing a new form of revelation to add to the variety already evident in the Old Testament (Heb 1:1,2).

v. 28 "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen": Paul concludes as he has begun, with a prayer for grace from the Lord Jesus Christ (1Th 1:1). This is the grace that God offered to the apostle, and to his converts, and lastly to us. This grace leads a man to serve God in simplicity and truth. This grace is also the means by which weak, sinful man may carry forward the work of God in every generation, despite the trials and doubts and fears that he encounters along the way.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."

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