Grace to the End

1 Thessalonians ends where it began - in the grace of God.

1 Thessalonians 5 (6)

Pray Psalm 17.6-9.
I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;
Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand,
O You who save those who trust in You
From those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,
From the wicked who oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who surround me.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5.23-28.

1. What does it mean to be sanctified “completely” so that we are “preserved blameless” to the coming of the Lord?

2. How does grace work in us unto these ends? 

We recall that this epistle began with Paul wishing the grace of God for his readers (1 Thess. 1.1). From there, he proceeded to show how that grace had been in evidence in the way they received the Gospel in the face of trials, and in their taking up works of faith, love, and witness, so that they became an example to all the churches.

Then Paul launched into a series of exhortations and instructions designed to encourage them to persevere in the faith and in their sanctification. It is not enough to begin well; we must be diligent at all times to grow in Christlikeness. Now, as he closes his first epistle, Paul commends the Thessalonians to the grace of God and Jesus Christ, which alone can enable them to fulfill their calling to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12).

He calls upon God to do the work of sanctification in them (v. 23), in all aspects of their lives. The mention of spirit and soul here should not be taken to mean that two spiritual natures exist within us. Calvin points out: “The word soul means often the same with spirit; but when they occur together, the first includes all the affections, and the second means what they call the intellectual faculty. So Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, uses the words, when he prays God to keep their spirit, and soul, and body blameless until the coming of Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:23,) he meant no other thing, but that they might continue pure and chaste in mind, and will, and outward actions.”

There is a lovely tenderness in Paul’s request for prayer and for the brethren to show love to one another. This is followed by a strict charge to make sure this letter is read to all “the holy brethren.” Then, finally, the benediction, commending the Thessalonians to the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” for unless His grace attends, moves, transforms, and works through us, we have no hope of salvation or sanctification. Grace brought the Thessalonian church into being. Grace sustained them through trials. And grace would be the means of their being sanctified “completely” (v 23). God is faithful; He will do what He has promised (v. 24). Thanks be to God!

1. Grace is both a disposition of God toward us and a power that works within us. Explain.

2. How does God sanctify us? What means does He employ? What is our responsibility in this great work of sanctification?

3. Paul says God is “the God of peace.” How would you describe the connection between grace, sanctification, and peace? 

This, therefore, is perfection in the Christian life in my judgment, namely, the participation of one’s soul and speech and activities in all of the names by which Christ is signified, so that the perfect holiness, according to the eulogy of Paul, is taken upon oneself in “the whole body and soul and spirit,” continuously safeguarded against being mixed with evil.  Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 AD), On Perfection

Lord, let Your grace attend to me, fill me, move me, strengthen and transform me, so that I…

Pray Psalm 17.

Let the Lord test your soul as you pray; and call on Him for the grace you will need to serve Him today, even in the midst of enemies and obstacles of various kinds.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 17 (Park Street: All You that Fear Jehovah’s Name)
Hear a just cause, O God the Lord! Gladly receive my plaintive word.
I cry with lips of purity: Look on my case with equity!
Look on my case with equity! 

Let judgment from Your throne proceed; You have discerned my every need. 
Let naught of sin in me be found, and from my tongue let truth resound! 
And from my tongue let truth resound! 

As for the deeds of sinful men, I will not walk those paths again. 
My feet hold firm from first to last: Help me pursue Your righteous path; 
Help me pursue Your righteous path! 

When I have called, You answered me, Lord; hear now my fervent, seeking word! 
Let kindness flow by Your command. Keep and preserve me by Your right hand, 
keep and preserve me by Your right hand. 

Treasure me in Your holy eye; shelter me from a troubling sky. 
Around me all my enemies eagerly would despoil me, 
eagerly would despoil me. 

They their unfeeling hearts have closed, while with their mouths they loudly boast. 
They set their eyes to cast us down, roaring and lurking all around, 
roaring and lurking all around. 

Rise up, O Lord, and bring them low! Brandish Your sword, and save my soul! 
With children they are satisfied; treasures fulfill their hope and pride, 
treasures fulfill their hope and pride. 

But as for me, Lord, save and bless! Let me behold Your righteousness. 
Your face in glory I would see, and thus forever blessèd be, 
and thus forever blessèd be.

T. M. Moore

Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you understand the setting of all the books of the Bible, and how they fit into God’s unfolding plan of redemption. Watch the brief video introducing this course at The Ailbe Seminary (click here), then plan to register after January 1 in our Certificate in Kingdom Studies program, featuring Introduction to Biblical Theology.

Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.

If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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