The prayers of Paul
This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them (according to some sources). Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.
This is the closing prayer by Paul in this letter, or it would be if Paul could finish in one go and not get distracted. It comes at the end of a list, possibly things Paul wanted to mention before he got distracted. This is an early letter, later ones show some editing rather than being a straight narration.
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.1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Sanctifying means being made holy. Holy means set apart. We have been set apart and we are being perfected. That’s it. That is the meaning of this prayer, Paul is asking God to do what he has said he will do.
But we have a decision to make. Just before this prayer, Paul says, “Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
That’s right, test everything John said the same thing, he says to test every spirit to see if it is from God. (1 John 4:1). It does not matter if you hear it from a well-known preacher, your trusted pastor or even from me. Especially from me. Test everything.
If it turns out to be good then hold on to it, but if there seems to be even a little whiff of evil then stay well clear.
If that isn’t a great preface to prayer then there isn’t one. Paul’s prayer following on from talking about our choice is one of his main themes. Paul’s main theme is grace to the end that he has been called the apostle of grace, but another theme which we cannot overlook, which Paul returns to again and again is the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness is about the church, God’s church, its unity, its suffering, and its witness before the world; but the most significant thing about the church is that it is the company of people held in existence and maintained in truth not by human will or effort but by the sheer faithfulness of God. (Wright, Tom. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 133). SPCK. Kindle Edition.) The choice of the individual and God’s faithfulness to the church are two things we have to hold together. We are called as Christians to become holy in body mind and Spirit, and God is faithful and will bring the fellowship of all believers, Church with a big C, to completion.
God’s kingdom is already here. The job of the Church is to proclaim that kingdom is here and to live in and by the rules of that kingdom.
Paul started the first letter to the Thessalonians with a prayer of thanks. He ends here with a prayer of peace. It is the God of peace that will bring the church to completion, holy and blameless at the coming of Jesus.
You are invited to be part of that.
Sanctifying means being made holy. Holy means set apart. We have been set apart and we are being perfected. That’s it.
There is one more prayer is this letter:
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” [1 Thessalonians 5:28]
Prayers for grace are dealt with in the post on the letter to the Galatians. See here.