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. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. —1 Thessalonians 5:23-28
So let’s look at this in our text. Notice three things: the commandments, the prayer, and the promise.
1. The Commandments
Paul has just finished giving a string of commandments in verses 14–22 which comes to an end in verse 22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” So we know that God uses commandments and incentives in the way he sanctifies us. He does not say: “I am the one who sanctifies you, so I have nothing to tell you to do.” The way he sanctifies is not merely subconscious. He deals with our minds and our motives. That’s the first thing to notice.
2. The Prayer
Then in verse 23 Paul shifts from exhorting or commanding us to be holy to asking God to make us holy: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So not only does God use commands and incentives in the way he makes us holy, he also uses the prayers of his people. He not only deals with your mind and motives in the way he makes you holy; he deals with the minds and motives of others so that they pray for you.
3. The Promise
Notice not only the commandments and the prayer, but most important the promise of God. After commanding us to pursue holy living in verses 14–22 and praying that God would sanctify us in verse 23, Paul says the decisive thing in verse 24: “He who called you is faithful, and he will do it.”
This is the way Paul handles the assurance problem. Let it shape your thinking this morning. It is mere human reasoning and not God that says: “Well, he is commanding us to abstain from evil, so it must be up to us to get holy, and therefore it’s not assured.” It is mere human reasoning and not God that says: “Well, he is praying for God to sanctify me, so it depends on Paul’s prayer and God may or may not answer, and so it is not assured.” All that is wrong thinking. It’s not what the text says. Right thinking moves on to verse 24 and says: God’s faithfulness combined with God’s call proves he WILL do it! “He who calls you is faithful, and he WILL do it.” What’s the IT? The “it” is what Paul’s been commanding and what he’s been praying for, namely, sanctification. God will do it.
That is the foundation for full assurance. Paul did not say that you have to make holy living unnecessary to have assurance. He said that God is faithful and he WILL do it. The issue of assurance is: will we trust him not only for the grace to forgive our sins, but also for the grace to make headway in overcoming our sins? Will we believe what verse 24 says: “God is faithful; he will do it”?