May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV).
This is a tall order. Admit it: you can’t do this on your own; I know I can’t. I’m betting quite a few people are better than I am at behaving themselves and at resisting temptation. There are quite a few people who wouldn’t give a second thought to the pet sins that have plagued my life. But the dirty secret is that there are many of THEIR pet sins that wouldn’t interest me in the slightest yet these may be very real struggles for them. Everyone has a vice, even the folks we consider to be upright or pious. Gambling, porn, drinking, marijuana, profanity, power, gossip, pride; pick one or name another. Got skin, got sin.
Which is why Paul ends his letter with this benediction. He doesn’t end with “prayers and positive thoughts to you” or “thinking of you” or “best wishes, pal.” He invokes the tangible, real presence of the all powerful creator in the daily lives of his friends. He asks for, even implores, God’s real action in their lives. And he prays for this over his friends, asking that God set them apart as pure, then preserve everything about them to keep them blameless.
Paul knows his friends will be tempted; he has just written about how evil will always work to tempt us and how we must reject it. Paul understands that his fellow believers are sinners like himself. Paul realizes that they can’t be blameless in God’s presence without God Himself making it possible. So he prays this benediction over them, both requesting for them and reminding them that God gives peace and sanctification. Only God can do this; only Jesus is the only way.
Hint: that’s still true. Paul’s words still resonate with us because they still apply. The same God who spoke everything into existence through His Son is still abiding with us now. The same God who watched that Son die on that cross – and felt it all through Him – is still living through us today. The same God who forgave, sanctified, and strengthened Paul and the Thessalonians 2000 years ago is still doing those things for us today. We don’t have to do anything to please God; in fact we can’t. But we do need to see Him through our hearts, to submit to Him and believe Him. Tall order or not, without God’s presence in our lives, we don’t stand much of a chance against evil.
For further reading: Romans 15:33, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
Lord Jesus, stay with me. Sanctify me, forgive me, abide with me. Without You, I am powerless.