Flourish in Wholeness | 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

November 27, 2016 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: FLOURISH | 1 Thessalonians

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:23–28


Introduction | Full Disciples

Good Morning! We are continuing our series on the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians.

The series is titled Flourish: Hope and Holiness amid Hostility. Where do you find hope?

How do you handle hostility? What does the word “holiness” mean and do we pursue it?

How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but

can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one

of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel

Community. While there is much to affirm and celebrate in the life of the Thessalonian church,

much hope seen, and there are issues to address. Paul has spent significant time calling the

church in Thessalonica to remain committed to individual holiness (abstaining from sexual

immorality, caring for one another, and working diligently). He has reminded them of their great

hope in the risen Jesus who will one day return. In all of this, he has sought the church both

remain, and continue, to intentionally grow in health, holiness and hope, even in the midst of

hostility. Last week we saw this letter address key relationships with leaders, with each other,

and with God. After laying out some key ingredients to the recipe for a healthy Gospel

Community, we are landing the plane on this letter. Much of our correspondence closes with

little more than an empty “sincerely,” or careless emoticon. I am so lazy at this point I only

respond to text with a thumbs up emoji. As Paul ends this letter to the Thessalonians, he closes

with a robust and carefully constructed benediction. These final verses ring out the notes of

Hope and Holiness sung throughout the entire letter. It also includes big themes of God’s

character, His continuing work in the lives of His people, clear instructions for the church to

quickly and obediently follow, and encouragement in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ,

so we can see what it means to Flourish in Wholeness.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 | 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.

PART I | Flourish in Wholeness | v23-24

God’s peace makes us whole. Sin has impacted the totality of our being. Mind, body, and soul

are all broken and in need of healing and wholeness. Our efforts to fix ourselves have failed to

mend our human imperfection, and keep us from being in peaceful communion with our creator.

Our sin stains, but our God sanctifies. Because of His work in our place we are made blameless

before him. Paul’s final reminder to the church is not in the faithfulness and perseverance of the

Thessalonians but in the complete faithfulness of their God. Paul highlight specific

characteristics of God. “May the God of Peace himself” He doesn’t end with reminders of God’s


justice, theology of death, calls to get back to work. He ends with a hope that this church would

be who they are, and they would continue to grow and be shaped by God so they can

experience greater peace. There are two truths evident in this first phrase. One that God

Himself is peace. He is the source of it and He defines it. Two, it implies that prayers for peace

are necessary. Necessary because while we have moments and glimpses of what we think

peace is, it is not present in a complete way. Peace is an elusive concept for us to understand

because we don’t fully experience it.

Like love, we often define it in numerous ways most of which boil down to emotions that are a

best fleeting. We hike up an alpine lake with undisturbed water, we have coffee and a book by a

fire, there are those few beautiful moments right after all the kids are in bed. It usually is little

more than “I want all the ‘feels’”. We usually have a very individualized view of peace in that is

comes from within ourselves, or is best experienced alone, as if the world would be completely

peaceful if not for ‘everyone else but me!” We can think of peace in terms the opposite of war so

when the shooting stops, or “peace is brokered” we celebrate the end of violence and that each

side is forced to tolerate each other just enough to no longer actively seek the others

destruction, mostly because they have calculated their inability to achieve victory, if they could

without consequences they would. To flourish we have to aim for peace that is higher.

Yes peace is at least the absence of conflict, but it is decidedly more. Peace is the natural

state of being between the Creator and His creation. God is the maker of all and is the

maker of us. Everything and everyone made and fashioned for a purpose. He is the creator, we

are the creation, we exist because of Him, we are dependent on Him for our very breath and life.

We are made to be in communion (peaceful life giving relationship) with God; because of a real

and vibrant relationship with Him we have rich relationships with others. We see a glimpse of

peace in the beginning of the bible as humanity is naked and unashamed literally nothing

between them and God or each other. There was flourishing abundant life. Yet that is not we

see with Humanity throughout history or today. If Peace is to be a ‘natural’ why don’t we

experience it and why doesn’t it particularly ‘feel’ very natural. It is because of sin. Sin entered

the world through man’s rejection of the God of Peace. In declaring independence from the God

of peace, conflict enters and peace become distant. Because of sin we are unaccustomed to

peace. It is foreign to us and uncomfortable. We are comfortable in conflict. We are aquatinted

with conflict well to the point we believe something decidedly “unnatural” in terms of God’ design

is the most natural thing in the world.

What gets in the way of you experiencing peace? We start by looking outside ourselves. If this

was only different? Societal conflict, we just had election a decision was made and everyone

is peaceful. Nope. Inner conflict, I know there thing about me that are broken, that aren’t right,

you feel shame. Relational conflict, I wish that person would either change to fit my desires or

go away. We have conflict with God, usually because we keep thinking we should have His job

or He should do His differently. Our conflict with God is one we’re most comfortable ignoring

one most of the time, because it is the least outwardly visible. If we don’t ignore it, we try to

solve it by changing our ideas about God and who he is to fit whatever we want him to be. God

is like us or like we want him to be. Conflict solved. Wrong. In society, relationships, our inner


conflict and with God we are the source of conflict not God. WE are the ones who need to

change not Him, we are the ones whose defeat is necessary not His. Paul doesn’t say my

prayer is that those in the community that are hostile to you would be stayed or quieted. He

doesn’t pray, I hope your circumstance change. He says simply. “My prayer is God who is

Peace would change you completely.”

God’s peace is sanctifying. God in Christ has brought peace. True Peace doesn’t come from

the absence of conflict but total victory over sin and evil. God isn’t merely interested in ending

the conflict between us and Him. If he was He could easily stop every breath, end every

heartbeat, and obliterate every soul achieving total victory and “crush our puny rebellion”. But

He is not an evil emperor, this verse doesn’t even call him the “God of Victory”. God’s goal is His

glory and He has seen fit to display His glory though pursing, not total victory through our

defeat, but Total peace between Him and His people by taking our defeat. God’s answer to the

conflict between us and Him is to send His son. Not to wage war against us or achieve

victory over us, but take our necessary defeat. He takes our defeat on the Cross. He give us his

victory in the resurrection. The victory IS total, it ends the state of conflict AND it brings


We know somethings have to change, we see it we feel it so we begin to work on our own to try

to change ourselves our surroundings, our circumstance. We think if we just produce I can have

peace and rest. God in Jesus produces so we can have peace. God’s will FOR US is our

Sanctification. The process of looking more and more like His son Jesus. So the eternal conflict

with God is over when we are Saved by Jesus’ Work. AND we see God Himself sanctifies us

as we are Changed by Jesus’ Grace.

Flourishing in Peace is comprehensive. Peace is wholeness, so it can’t be partial or

piecemeal. Our change is to be comprehensive! The hope longed for in verse 23 is that we

would be “sanctified completely” and that our whole spirit, soul, and body would be kept

blameless. That is a lot! We know we’re not yet perfect. However, that doesn’t mean that we

don’t desire, pray, that God would change any and every part of our lives, both in our inner

being, thoughts, heart attitudes, and our outward acts to His will. This means what we believe

about God will change to be inline with His word, and our lives will look different as we are

morally transformed.

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who

is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”-Abraham Kuyper

What are you still holding on to in your life thinking if you have control over it you will have

peace? What part of your life are you purposely keeping from God thinking if somehow God had

it wouldn’t be to your benefit? The trust of who God is (good, peace) leads to who we are (His,

sanctified) and what we do.

We are being and becoming. My twin girls were born 8 weeks early spending over a month in

the NICU. That day I placed my hands on each one (at less than 3lbs they were too small to

hold). I was their father and they were my daughters. That day, and every day since, our


identities as father and daughter(s) has not changed; but what we look like and how we live out

our identities has. 10 years later we have changed and grown dramatically. Today, (thankfully!)

they both weigh a lot more than 3lbs, and I am sure I’ve gained more than 3lbs. The way I care

for them, and their younger siblings, looks different as I am becoming a more experienced

parent. The way they respond to me and interact with each other changes as they grow in

maturity. We are continually “becoming” while never ceasing “being” who we are.

Flourishing Peace is completing. This sounds incredible difficult!! It is! We are incapable, of

completing this on our own. Verse 24!!! He who calls you I will do it. We’re going to flourish in

His faithfulness not our own. There is simple but true theology bumper sticker theology “HE>i”. “I

in HiM.” The work that God began in the individual and corporate lives of His people will

certainly be brought to completion. Ultimate, final, perfection will not be experienced in this

lifetime, but only at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. While the timing is uncertain the results

are not, God who has called His people will finish what he has started.

Philippians 1:6 | And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to

completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Pray, ask, desire, strive, work (from your identity in Christ). But when you’re frustrated with

yourself, or others in God’s family and you are thinking “Why am I not better, yet?!” “I thought I

would have grown more by now!” “I don’t know if I can do this!!” REMEMBER You can’t! But HE

CAN, HE DOES, HE WILL. So be at peace, it is because your story is not yet over and His work

in is not yet complete, but it will be. He who calls you is faithful, he will sure do it!!

PART II | Flourish Together | v25-27

Paul transitions from God’s promises and character to the church’s call and commission.

The church is the adopted family of God. As a family, the “immediate family” of the church in

Thessalonica is to pray for their “brothers” in their “extended family” who are not physically

present. As a family, they are to greet, receive, and care for one another with warmth and

intimacy. More than a casual suggestion Paul also commissions the contents of this letter to be

read to all who call this church home for the purposes of their spiritual growth and shaping to be

more effective at Living on Jesus’ Mission.

Pray for the Peace of Leaders. Leaders pray for their people, and leaders are also people who

need to be prayed for. Leaders are often on the front lines of the mission where there is the

most uncertainty and are often at the heart of conflicts. Mediating the conflicts and challenges of

others and also having to deal with conflicts they are responsible for. They are often conflicted

people as they do have to walk the tension we saw in last week’s verses of being among and

over the flock. “Brothers pray for us” reminds them and us Leaders are part of the same family

that is being and become what God has done and is doing.


Whole people are part of a peaceful community. This family was made up of a whole bunch

of different races, classes, roles. As unnatural as peace is to experience and embody in a fallen

world; seeing and treating people who are different as family requires the supernatural work of

God in or hearts. We can say and believe In Christ we’re all sons and daughters and brothers

and sisters, but that better move us to actual action. Holy Kiss was absolutely cultural for the

time. For us its more of a sanctified side hug. You’re going to greet everyone like they’re family!

Not like they’re going to be family, or when we feel like we’re family, but we’re going to greet,

welcome, invite, fold in, adopt people AS family, knowing we are and we are going to become.

This is incredibly important as we look ahead to the next season of Damascus Road. Marysville

First Baptist Church voted last week to pursue folding into our church. This means, Lord willing,

a lot of new Brothers and Sisters being adopted into our family of families. So when new kids

come into a family there is not a distinction between who was and who is in the family. All are in.

Because of vertical peace with God from God we can be at peace horizontally with each other.

In Christ you see great diversity transition into family.

Whole people are constantly going back to the well for living water. There is a serious

commission to be placed under oath that this letter be read to all the brothers. This isn’t a

careless note to be discarded but a crafted message to be meditated on. Why do pastors

always say things like pray to God, pray for people, love others, read your bibles, trust what God

has done and what he’s doing in Jesus? It’s so unoriginal and un creative, we’re just following

the example of the bible itself.

PART III | Flourish Forever | v28

Paul ends where abundant life begins; the unmerited favor of God in Jesus Christ.

Individual salvation of sinners and communal life of the church are gracious gifts from God to be

received and enjoyed. This letter begins and ends with Grace and Peace because this is where

we are and this is where we are going. He has unpacked the truth of the Gospel of God who

saves people in Jesus. The implications of what it means that saved people are a sanctified and

holy people, the great hope of resurrection for the dead and final hope of His return, the health

of the church now and ongoing growth of His people. This all begins and ends with Jesus. We

flourish when we remember Jesus has Risen, Jesus is Returning, so we Trust Jesus.

More in FLOURISH | 1 Thessalonians

December 4, 2016

Flouish in Response | 2 Thessalonians

November 20, 2016

Flourish as the Church | 1 Thessalonians 5-12-22

November 13, 2016

Flourish in Fear | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11