THRIVE | THRIVE with Wholeness | 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 | Christopher Rich
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:23–28
Christopher Rich – November 26, 2023
1 Thessalonians | THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
Wk11: THRIVE with Wholeness |1 Thessalonians 5:23-28
Introduction | Whole Disciples
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace.
Living on Jesus Mission. Today we continue our series from 1 Thessalonians. THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
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, Flourishing and Faithfulness 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 THRIVE with Wholeness.
PART I | Thrive in Wholeness | 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
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.
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. We feel this deep in our bones. 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 peace and He defines peace. 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 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 to feel peace.”
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 truly THRIVE 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, if we just had every election or cultural shift be in a positive and life giving
direction I would be at peace. 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
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 only just 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 Jesus for us. 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 wholeness.
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.
Thriving 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
“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. 17 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 we never cease “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 | THRIVE Together | 1 Thessalonians 5:25-27
1 Thessalonians 5:25-27 | 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.
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. New people are gathering with us every week. 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
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 | THRIVE Forever | 1 Thessalonians 5:28
1 Thessalonians 5:38 | The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
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 THRIVE when we remember Jesus has Risen, Jesus is Returning, so we Trust Jesus.
More in THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
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