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
“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, 2016Flouish in Response | 2 Thessalonians
November 20, 2016Flourish as the Church | 1 Thessalonians 5-12-22
November 13, 2016Flourish in Fear | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11