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Sep 04, 2022

Sanctified Summation

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: prayer, fellowship, god's word, soul, sanctification--positional, progressive and permenant; holy living--body, spirit; body life


Paul ends this letter with a concluding call to holiness and santification in every part of our being that forms a summary of the entire book. Then he gives us some things we must do together as the body of Christ in order to help each others holiness. Enjoy this concluding call of this great book!


Sanctified Summation

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

September 4, 2022

It’s appropriate that as we finish out our summer today that we also finish the last portion of a book we’ve been in (and out of) since February—1 Thessalonians.  If you haven’t been with us for the whole journey, let me just tell you that 1 Thessalonians is a book written to a relatively new group of Christ-followers who were already paying a price in persecution and hardships for their faith in Jesus.  So, when Paul wrote this book, he had a couple of key purposes in mind:

  • Let these new believers know how much he cared for them.
  • To teach young Christ-followers what was important to know and experience in order to keep growing in Christ—things like where to pin their hopes so they don’t get disillusion in the journey, how to communicate with God, why holy living is so important and how God has designed us to experience it.
  • Giving insight into what happens to deceased believers in Jesus as well as information on the return of Christ.

Well, today’s passage is a summation of the entire letter.  I hope you will see that God truly led those who brought the word to us this past month.  Their individual and stand-alone messages fit hand-in-glove with what this book and closing passage is all about.  So let’s read it.  1 Thess. 4:23-28

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.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


There is one word here that really demands some sort of working definition or idea if we are to understand at all what Paul is telling us.  It’s the word “sanctify”.  Not a word we use in everyday conversation, right?  It’s a word (hagiazo) that comes up a couple of dozen times in the N.T. with a range of meanings.

In general it means, “to make or declare holy.”  Holy = free from moral impurity, pure (God-like purity). 

  • “To separate someone/thing from things profane so that they/you are dedicated/consecrated to
  • “To purify,” either externally or internally by making someone free from the guilt and shame of sin.

ILL:  During the really hot weather in August, I finally got around to extracting about 100 lbs of honey I had stored in honeycomb since 2020.  My bees had died that winter and I also had honey from the summer of 2020 that I hadn’t extracted from the comb.  Well, when honey changes temperature, it tends to crystalize over time. A lot of this honey had done that while still in the comb.  Every tried to get crystalized honey out of a jar?  It takes a strong knife.  Out of honeycomb?  It takes a miracle…or thousands of bees, which I no longer have. 

            So, what did I do?  Well, I reasoned that since honey melts somewhere between 104-122 degrees, and since heating it above 140 degrees degrades and destroys its nutritional elements, I needed something some sort of large container I could heat up just enough to get the crystalized honey melted and out of the comb. 

            Long and short of it, I placed the frames in large plastic bins in the sun, heated them up, and then scraped out both the liquid honey and the still solid comb/wax. 

            But that just gave me a bunch of honey all mixed up with bees wax.  So next, I strained it through a fine honey strainer, got the honey out the bottom, went on to melt the wax in in a double-boiler pan, poured off the wax and recaptured the remaining honey. 

            Trust me, it’s an arduous process.  You’re fighting wasps the whole way, getting super-sticky and having to work really hard to get pure hone and pure bees wax.  But the end product is really satisfying! 

            That’s a picture of what God is doing with every one of His kids when He saves us through the blood of Jesus, brings us into His family, adopts us and begins the process of making us like our Savior Jesus.  It’s a long, difficult, time-intensive process that GOD does with us but which WE also do with God. 

APP:  The question is, do we view this process of sanctification as a positive thing of something we must engage in unfortunately?  Is “pure honey” of a righteous character and life what we are wanting OR are we content to be spreading adulterated, dirty honey on our life-toast, honey filled with chunks of dead bees, wasps, wax and God-knows what else that will get suck in our teeth? 

            For the person who has been redeemed by Jesus and filled with His Holy Spirit, there will be an innate, divinely-given desire for the “pure honey” of life with God.  This is precisely what Andrew was saying last week that the Apostle John was teaching in 1 John 1.  If you are truly a believer in Jesus who is walking in the light, you will be growing in conformity to Jesus and decreasing in conformity to sin.  But if known, ongoing sin in our lives doesn’t bother us, if we’ve given up fighting sin and striving for holiness, then at the least we should stop lying to ourselves that we are actually children in fellowship with the Father.  We’re not!

            But back to this concept of “sanctification.”  Very briefly, the N.T. talks about this purifying, cleansing and “being-made-holy” process of sanctification in 3 ways. 

  1. Positional sanctification: This was accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice at the moment of your salvation (1 Cor. 1:2, 30; 6:11;  10:10, 14; 13:12) when His holiness, purity and sanctification was applied to our long and horrible rap-sheet of sin.  Our death-demanding felonies of sin before God were canceled by the sacrifice of Jesus.  But that wasn’t all that was needed.  We needed to have the “positive-righteousness” of God himself applied to our record if we were to have any hope of personal relationship with God both now and through eternity.  Listen to how Hebrews 10:10 & 14 describes it:  10By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. Notice, it is God doing the work here, not us.  Positional sanctification is God’s work of sanctification on our behalf.
  2. Progressive sanctification: This is a purifying and being-made-holy life-long process.  It is the living process by which my body, soul and spirit actually get purified so that I’m a person set apart for the holy, righteous life and living God destined me for.  The Apostle Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 1:15-16 when he said, “But, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

Hebrews 10:14--For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We saw earlier in this very book of 1st Thessalonians that Paul said the same thing and got very specific about ‘bodily holiness’ when he wrote in 3:12-13 & 4:3-7, 12 And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we do for you, 13 so that your hearts are strengthened in holiness to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 

4:3ff-- For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, 4 that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God. 6 In this matter no one should violate the rights of his brother or take advantage of him, because the Lord is the avenger in all these cases, as we also told you earlier and warned you solemnly.

7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 

  1. Perfect sanctification: Complete, total and permanent sanctification when we finally meet Jesus.  1 John 3:2--Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

All of these types of sanctification work together.  Without positional sanctification, we would not have the Holy Spirit or ability to be in right relationship with God now.  Without “progressive sanctification” we will waste our lives, continue to experience the painful effects of our sin, be under divine conviction and miss the great and high calling we have in this life to live into and out the life of Jesus.  Without “perfect sanctification” or ultimate and final sanctification, we would lose hope and be left with the prospect of an eternity of striving and struggle that we now experience. 

            Sanctification is our life as Christ-followers.  Shedding sin and embracing the wholeness of holiness is our calling, past, present and future. 

Now let’s see how Paul wants to summarize this sanctification process for us today. 

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely…

  1. God is championing our sanctification/holiness from start to finish.

ILL:  Ever started a project with someone who bailed out on you part-way through?  That’s frustrating at best and potentially fatal at the worst. 

  • If you’re rappelling or rock climbing, you better be sure the other person on the end of the line is going to go the distance with you and hasn’t made another commitment that’s going to take them away from finishing the climb.
  • If you’ve contracted someone to do a kitchen or bath remodel and they walk off your job site leaving the place torn up and without putting in new fixtures or tile, frustration doesn’t begin to describe your feelings.

Just so there is no confusion about whether or not God is going to see you through to the end, look at vs. 24—24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

ILL:  When I was 4 years old, my parents took me on a train trip back east.  We boarded the Empire Builder at the wonderful hour of 1:00 a.m. at what was the old train station (now the Riverfront; clocktower).  Somewhere in Montana or N. Dakota on our way to Chicago, the train caught fire.  The train stopped.  All the passengers were moved to the coach seating cars.  I remember seeing the train brakeman and fireman coming through the car, black with soot.  I still remember sitting in the seat next to my mother, crying my eyes out!  Nothing she said could convince me that we weren’t going to burn up on that train in the middle of nowhere. 

            Having been a parent now, I know how foolish that was.  My lack of confidence was utterly unfounded.  My concern and fear was never going to materialize.  I was not going to burn alive in that train car.  My mother knew that.  My siblings new that.  But I chose fear, angst, terror and dread. 

APP:  Most of us despair, at some or various points in life, about whether or not God is really going to get this business of personal holiness done in us.  Too many, as Andrew alluded to last week, just give up.  Maybe they have a diminished view of the blessings holiness will bring to their lives and the pain sin will bring to them.  So, they quit fighting, quit trying to beat pornography or persevere in suffering or fight for sexual purity or overcome anger or depression.  Even when we do, God will never give up on His children.  If we are truly His, he’ll keep convicting us by His Holy Spirit…and we just won’t be truly happy until we repent and pursue holiness.  When we want to walk away from Him, His holy Spirit will whisper, “You can run, but you can’t hide.  You can abandon me, but I’ll never leave or forsake you.”  God is never going to give up on the cleansing, purifying and holiness process in our lives. 

            There is another component that Paul alludes to here in this process when he says “the God of peace” is the one handling this process.  Why would peace be so important to this process? 

            In Hebrew, the term and concept of peace (shalom) refers to total well-being.  Our God of peace designed us to live a.) in peace with Him, b.) in peace with ourselves/own souls, and c.) in peace with those around us who are like or becoming like God.  NOTE:  God didn’t promise peace in this life with the wicked around us…so don’t expect to enjoy shalom with everyone.  In fact, someone may well kill you one day for the peace you enjoy with God and in your soul.  (Just picture any of the myrters of history.  Scene from Paul, Apostle of Christ where whole families are waiting to be marched into the Coliseum and devoured by wild beasts.) 

Temporary peace with this world and evil people in it will rob you of eternal peace with God and your own soul…or eternal peace with God and your soul will put you at temporary odds with the evil world around you.  We will never find peace in our souls without finding ‘the God of peace’ who, by His own death on the cross for us, made peace with God’s necessarily justice against our sin.  Romans 5:1--Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

APP:  Call to peace with God through trust in Jesus Christ.

The sum total of God’s blessings to us are expressed by peace—total well-being in the essential and eternal aspects of our lives.

  1. Next Paul ends his call to holiness and sanctification by reminding us that sanctification involves every part of our being—“body, soul and spirit.”

This is one of the primary passages people who believe we are tri-part or trichotomous beings use to argue that issue.  While I would personally advocate for this understanding of human nature, I don’t think it’s a theological point over which I want to get lost in the weeds.  However you slice and dice a human being, we know we have a physical, bodily component to us.  We know we have an immaterial soulish nature to us.  And, I would contend, that when we are born again in Christ, we receive a spiritual component of a new nature/heart. 

            Paul’s point here is that God is interested in purifying, sanctifying and perfecting every part of our being—body, soul and spirit. 

  • He cares about our MINDS and mental soundness. That’s why he emphasizes so much the issue of being able to discern truth from lies, the renewing of our minds through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, and the call to set our minds on eternal realities rather than temporal illusions. 
  • God cares about our BODIES and bodily holiness—the proper, godly use of our bodies. (See messages April 3 & 10 on “Bodily Holiness”.) That’s why he gave us 1 day in 7 to rest. That’s why he cares about whether we’re engaging in sexual immorality of any kind or walking in sexual integrity in singleness or married  That’s why gluttony is a sin he wants us to fight against and moderation/discipline is a virtue of God…and why so much of America is sadly suffering from a host of painful and life-threatening diseases and health outcomes from obesity.  That’s why addictions of any kind destroy our bodies while treating our bodies as holy and belonging to God leads to better health and better life outcomes.  Sadly, the American church seems to be swimming in a new form of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism that saw the body as irredeemable and therefore winked at a host of sexual immorality.  Today some 80% of self-declared “Christians” engage in sex outside of marriage, apparently thinking that sexual sanctification doesn’t matter anymore to God or one’s relationship with God.  But Paul is telling us, “If you want to enjoy God you need to pursue bodily holiness.”
  • God cares about the holiness/sanctification of our SOULS This involves our emotions and how we handle things like anger or anxiety, worry and impatience.  Then there is the soul-health & sanctification component of personal relationships with others.  That’s why he gives so many instructions about what leads to a good marriage and a healthy family.  That’s why he calls us away from bitterness, grudges and gossip and into active, other-focused love, patience, kindness and gentleness. 
  • What does spirit-sanctification look like? It’s effectively anything that cultivates the life of God’s Holy Spirit communing with our spirit.  It involves cultivating any of the spiritual practices like prayer, worship, serving, fasting from a host of things so we can connect more with God.  It includes things that cultivate our spirits in conforming to God through Bible study, solitude and silence, listening to God, journaling, generosity and fellowship. 

Are you starting to see how every decision we make about our lives is actually a sanctification or holiness decision?  God wants it to go well with every part of our being. That is why sanctification “body, soul and spirit” matters to Him and is His agenda for us for the rest of lives…if you are a follower of Christ. 

  1. Paul reminds us in his conclusion that we must keep our “end” in view—the coming of Jesus Christ for us. 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. That “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” for us will either be our deaths at age 12 or 25 or 85 AND/OR it will be the return of Jesus Christ and the remaking resurrection of our bodies.

Do you remember John Southwick’s sermon on August 7th?  If you weren’t here, please go listen to that one on our web site /YouTube.  John showed us from God’s word that how as followers of Jesus Christ have lived our lives in Christ (or not done so) will affect in some very concrete and eternal wayz how we experience heaven itself?  He challenged us that too many of us have a view of heaven as some sort of “celestial communism” where everyone, regardless of how sanctified or unsanctified we’ve lived this life, will all have the same experience and rewards in heaven.  That’s simply not biblical.  How we handle our ‘progressive sanctification’ here on earth will have definitive impact on what we experience in heaven.  Heaven will be heaven for all of us who love God but that doesn’t mean it will be “celestial communism”—an identical experience for all.

Living with eternity in view has the capacity to sanctify the most difficult and challenging aspects of our lives.


  • Knowing that vacation is a month or 3 months away helps me to keep pressing on in work when I’m tired.
  • Knowing that constantly engaged parenting that results in deeply-loved and well-disciplined children will eventually produce successful teenagers and young adults…and farther down the line happy and enjoyable grandchildren…has the power to give to parents the perseverance day after day that good parenting needs.
  • So too, knowing all the God has promised us when Christ comes for each of us has the power to help us persevere through persecution or suffering, trials or God’s discipline.

What we truly believe about the future will change how we handle the present…including our own holiness and sanctification. 

  1. Finally, Paul points to the importance of loving community to personal holiness.

Protestant Christians often tend to emphasize our individual responsibility for holiness to the neglect of the role of a community of believers in that process.  Notice 1 word that Paul repeats 3 times in his closing words on this book about holiness. 

25 Brothers, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Just to be clear, the Greek term for “brothers” was understood to include the “sisters” as well.  It’s a gender-neutral, all-inclusive literary use of the noun. 

            What 3 shared spiritual activities does Paul point to that we as God’s gathered people should be doing that will significantly impact our sanctification? 

  • Prayer one for another.
  • Meaningful fellowship
  • Engagement with God’s Word.

As we launch into a new school year this month, let me encourage you to use all three of these sanctification tools in your spiritual toolbelt. 

  1. Become part of a praying spiritual community. Paul asked the church to pray for him.  He realized he needed the prayers of others.  Do we? 
    1. When was the last time you asked another believer to pray for you…right then…in person?
    2. What regular fellowship of believers are you a part of that is praying for you and you are praying for them?
      1. Families?
      2. Small group/support group/home group?
  • Prayer group?

Prayer is one of the strongest bonding agents relationally available to us as the people of God.  Like I mentioned last week in our prayer time, prayer changes us as prayers and it changes the people we pray for.  When we are praying for the spiritual health, passion and holiness of one another, we all change. Churches and people who don’t pray regularly together are simply weaker and less passionate about holiness.  But being together in the presence of our holy God through prayer will actually make us more holy, sanctified people.

  1. Having genuinely warm, loving fellowship with other believers develops holiness. I’ve talked often about this before so I won’t say a lot now. The passage commands, “Greet all the brothers/sisters with a holy kiss.” 

When Jesse asked me for a sermon title this week I told him I’d be teaching on “Holy Kissing.”   His stunned face told me I probably ought to reconsider.  Paul is simply stressing the importance of culturally appropriate signs of acceptanceKissing everyone in American culture isn’t culturally appropriate.  It is in Spain or Italy, but not here.  What is culturally appropriate greetings and signs of acceptance in our culture? 

  • Handshakes
  • Depending on how well you know the person, a hug.

That’s about it, even among family.  And that is what we are to be—spiritual family.  If you come home day after day and avoid any kind of human touch with your family, you’re not going to bond as deeply as you should.  Respectful touch between people shows respect, love, kindness and a host of other positive things.  Lack of it shows distance, suspicion, fear—some other priorities than loving community.  I would even contend that, particularly for singles who may not have a family that is daily reminding them how they are loved, appropriate, accepting human touch and interaction is a critical part of becoming holy, healthy people. 

NOTE:  the other side of this is that any touch or interaction is to be “HOLY”. We don’t do it because it makes us feel accepted or good.  And we certainly don’t do it because we get some sort of unholy pleasure out of it.  “Holy fellowship” must be what will lead us and others to God-like purity and holiness.  If you don’t know what those boundaries are, ASK.  If you are in doubt, err on the side of less physical contact and more relational/verbal interaction.

APP: If you are not in a spiritual community where this is happening naturally and regularly, I challenge you to change that.  If you are feeling disconnected from deep fellowship with other Christ-followers, make changes that put you into community.  Join a small group, support group or recovery group.  Take interest in just one other person every Sunday you’re here and every time you’re around other believers.  Find out about their story, their history, the defining events of their life, their spiritual journey, their testimony and one challenge they are facing that you can pray for them about that day. 

  1. Paul reminds us that growing in sanctification must include a significant diet of the Word of God.
  • How often are you consuming the Word of God? Once a week when you hear a sermon?  Once a month when you go to church? Once a day when you read God’s Word…or multiple times a day reading, listening to and discussing God’s Word? 
  • ILL: one of our children who hasn’t been real steady about reading God’s word daily recently got the bright idea to challenge another family member who has been wanting to work out regularly.  So, they texted them and said, “Every day you work out, I’ll match you by reading my Bible.”  To which that family member texted back, “I worked out today!  What have you read today?”  That’s been going on now for several weeks…and I think the Bible-reading family member is pretty surprised (and challenged) by how regular the work-out member is.  But just this week, the one needing more of the Bible commented, “You know, it’s amazing how just reading a chapter a day changes how I look at life.” 

Holy living…sanctification…requires a solid diet of the word of God. 

APP:  If you’re really serious about ‘progressive sanctification’ in this life that taps into all the blessings of Christ God wants to share with you, then what might you want to do differently this fall that will improve your diet of the Word of God?  Join a small group?  Start a daily reading plan?  Make a challenge to another believer who will match you in the challenge?

            Jesus himself told his disciples that purity, holiness and sanctification came through “the Word I have spoken to you,” (John 15:3).  That is how it will come to us too!

            How wonderful it would be if this fall becomes the holiest fall of shared growth in Christ we have all known.  Let’s not settle for less. 


24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.