One of the big questions individuals who are concerned with spiritual matters often have is whether or not they can lose their salvation. Some fear that they might do something that could cause them to stumble beyond recovery. Certainly human responsibility in salvation and perseverance are biblical concepts and should be emphasized in the thinking of any true Christian. At the same time, salvation is a work of God. He is the One who initiates an individual's salvation and preserves that individual to the end. A few biblical implications might serve to turn persons' eyes away from themselves and toward God here. If that happens, then those persons might gain a measure of peace in their lives as they rest in the finished work of Christ on their behalf.
First, as folk who are concerned with spiritual matters, there is no doubt that somehow we must obtain the spiritual revelation and power we need to be saved in the end. We must be completely sanctified and preserved. In the closing verses of 1 Thessalonians, Paul's focus throughout is God Himself and the fact that no one is saved, sanctified, or glorified apart from His free and powerful grace. Paul prays thusly: "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 (5:23)."
Paul refers to the "very God of peace." That is, God is the One who is peace and brings peace. Without His peace and His work of peace, no one would be reconciled to God as all human beings are born enemies of God. It is God who has brought peace between us and Himself by sending His Son to die as the substitute for guilty sinners.
It is this God of peace who must "sanctify [us] wholly." Sanctification here refers to that process whereby believers are progressively conformed to the image of Christ throughout their lives. Again, God is the One who works sanctification in us. If we are to be completely sanctified, God is the One who will accomplish it.
Elaboration is made upon this concept in Paul’s phrase, "and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless." God is the One who preserves us to the end. He is the One who preserves us for ultimate salvation.
Further, the whole of who we are is preserved to the end. Even believers who die before the coming of Christ will receive glorified bodies in the resurrection. Paul prays that our "whole spirit and soul and body be preserved." We are holistic beings. The spirit's escape from the body is not the goal of the Christian life. We are not Gnostics. The goal is resurrection of our bodies unto life.
Some conceive here that Paul speaks to the tripartite nature of the human being: body, soul, and spirit. He actually does no such thing. Throughout the New Testament, body and soul are used interchangeably. They are synonyms. Human beings are bipartite. Paul is piling words on top of words as he often does for emphasis. Again, his point is that the believer's soul or spirit will be preserved along with the body.
It is important for us to remember that this church is "second coming conscious" and Paul has already emphasized the resurrection in light of that reality (4:13f). As there was some confusion as to the destiny of departed believers prior to the coming of Christ, Paul revealed the mystery of the last generation and the fact that they will not die but they will indeed receive resurrection bodies in the twinkling of an eye at the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But, they will not precede those in Christ who have already died as those individuals will be raised up and receive their resurrection bodies at His coming. Here, Paul prays for what he revealed in 4:13f. All that we are will be preserved: body and soul.
Paul prays that the saints will be "preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The word blameless refers to one who is a Christian in fact, in character, and in lifestyle. One who is blameless is not sinless. Yet, no blame can be placed upon him as he has been justified by faith in Christ Jesus. By virtue of His regeneration, justification, and sanctification, one who is blameless is one who strives to live for the Lord out of love and gratitude and delight to and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As noted, Paul is reminding the Thessalonians of the coming of Christ. We must be preserved by God until that day, for in that day, persons will either be caught up to be with the Lord or cast into the lake of fire. May our God indeed preserve us blameless in Christ until He comes again and in eternity.
[Part Two Tomorrow]
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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