A Closing Benediction   --  Gil Rugh

A Closing Benediction


Gil Rugh

Copyright © Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska

GR1128  -  1st Thessalonians 5:23-28

The following text is taken from sermons preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff and may contain some material from adjacent sermons in the series.

Review 1 Thess. 5:11-22

In our last study, we examined 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22. In verses 12, 13, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to acknowledge and obey the leadership that God had appointed over them. He said, "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction" (vs. 12). Not only are we to acknowledge our leaders we are also to "esteem" them "because of their work" (vs. 13). We must hold our leaders in high regard with an attitude of Christian love.

Beginning in verse 14, Paul gave a series of commands to the Thessalonians relating to their behavior toward one another as believers. He said, "...admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men." We are to discipline those who are in rebellion, encourage those who are discouraged, help those who are spiritually weak, and be patient with "all" men, even when we are being persecuted.

Paul continued in verse 15, commanding the Thessalonians not to repay "evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good... ." Believers are to be set apart from the world, not repaying evil, as the world does, but by seeking after the character of God. We are to be doing what is good for everyone, including unbelievers. This is to be characteristic of us as believers.

In verses 16-18, Paul gave a series of sharp commands that are to be followed continually or repeatedly. He said, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." These commands summarized the attitude that we, as believers, are to have. How do we know that this is to be our attitude? Because we are told "this is God's will..."

Finally, Paul closed this section of 1 Thessalonians by giving a series of instructions that are related, although they may seem isolated. He said, "Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." As believers, we need to recognize that our lack of response to the Word of God can hinder the Holy Spirit. The Thessalonians failed to recognize the importance of the gift of prophecy. By their actions, they hindered the Holy Spirit's ministry. We do the same today when we reject God's Word.

That doesn't mean we are to accept everything that is said. Paul commanded, "...examine everything carefully." We must be discerning, holding fast to everything we recognize as being from God, and abstaining from everything that isn't from God.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


In verse 23, Paul continues where he left off in verse 22. He says, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ultimately, as we have seen in verses 21-22, the act of sanctification is the work of God. We can only hold to what is good and abstain from evil by the Holy Spirit working within us. This process of becoming more like Christ is the work of the Spirit of God within us.

Paul says it is the work of "the God of peace Himself." This may be reference to the peace that God brings to the life of the individual, or it may have to do with the peace that would be produced in the body of believers at Thessalonica if they are examining things carefully. As they hold to what is good, and reject what is evil, the peace of God will characterize them.

The peace of God is complete. Paul's wish is that the peace of God "...sanctify you entirely." Even when there is division in the body, God brings peace to those who are obeying His Word. Even though we will not fully recognize this peace until we are brought into the presence of Christ, His peace will exist in our lives in the present.

Paul goes on to say, "...may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul is saying, "may you submit to this work of God, holding back from what is evil, and clinging to what is good, so that God's work of sanctification can bring you into the presence of God without blame."

The question is, "is man a dichotomy, or a trichotomy?" In other words, "is man made of two parts, or three parts?" Are we body and soul, or are we body, soul, and spirit? Is there a distinction between soul and spirit? There is not an easy answer. Scripture addresses man as a dichotomy twice (James 2:26, 2 Corinthians 7: 1). The indication in both of these verses is that man is composed of two parts, "body" and "spirit."

However, man is not always referred to as "body" and "spirit." In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." It seems that the terms "spirit" and "soul" are used interchangeably. They are both referring to the immaterial part of our being.

The only other reference in Scripture where all three terms are used at the same time is Hebrews 4: 12; "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far (or to) as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." The way that the New American Standard has this verse translated, the terms "soul and spirit" cannot be divided. This can also be translated "even to the dividing," meaning the Word of God can even go so far as to make a distinction between soul and spirit. At any rate, it is very difficult, at best, to make a distinction between soul and spirit because only the Word of God, which is alive and powerful, can draw that line correctly.

Those who do make a distinction usually place the spirit above the soul. The spirit, they say, is the part of us that was made to communicate with God. But the affect of the fall is that we are spiritually dead, therefore we no longer are able to communicate with God. The soul, on the other hand, is where our personalities are rooted.

This is a difficult theory to accept. God has personality, which is emotion, intellect, and will, along with His self-consciousness. He is a personal being, and because we are made in His image, we are also able to communicate with Him. If our personalities are rooted in our souls, and our communion with God takes place in the spirit, that means that our personalities are disassociated from our relationship with God. I believe it is clear that our ability to communicate with God is part of our personalities.

Another reference that is used to differentiate between soul and spirit is 1 Corinthians 2:14; "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man." The word "natural" can be translated "soulish." This would indicate that the "natural" man lives only in the realm of the soul, and not in the realm of the spirit.

However, the problem is that the "Spirit" in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit of God. One cannot say, "A natural man does not have a spirit," because James 2:26 says the body without "...the spirit is dead." This includes believers and unbelievers alike. For this reason, it seems clear that 1 Corinthians 2:14 has no bearing on this issue whatsoever. It is not referring to the physical and spiritual make up of man, but rather to the transformation in a person' s life brought by the Spirit of God.

One thing is certain: the Bible does not give enough information to differentiate between the soul and the spirit. It does use both terms together in the two verses we have examined, but the evidence that these are two separate parts of man just doesn't exist in any clear terms.

At the end of verse 23, Paul says, "...be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is the same thing that he said in 3:11-13; "...that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." The word "hearts" encompasses everything having to do with our "spirit and soul." There is no distinction drawn between our soul and spirit. These are all terms used interchangeably to describe our immaterial man.


Paul goes on in verse 24. He says, " Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." This verse further develops the instructions Paul has given in verses 19-22 concerning our obedience to the Spirit, being open to the Word of God, discerning between good and evil, and recognizing that it is God who, through these things, completes the process of sanctification.

Paul says, "Faithful is He who calls you...." This phrase is in reference to the effectual call of God that results in salvation. And He who calls us to salvation will "...bring it to pass." This is the same idea expressed in Philippians 1:6; "...He who begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." God guarantees the success of His work, bringing us into the presence of Christ, blameless in His presence.

The point Paul is making is that we have a responsibility to be open to the Word of God, not stifling the Holy Spirit. We must recognize that the work of sanctification is the work of God, and it will be effectively accomplished for everyone who God calls to salvation through His Son.

We will stand in the presence of God blameless because God is "faithful". This is the doctrine of the security of the believer. The truth is, if we had to depend on our own faithfulness, or the faithfulness of another human being for our salvation, we would all go to hell. It wouldn't matter how many chances we were given; we would always fail. Praise the Lord that our sanctification does not depend on ourselves. This does not mean that we do not have any responsibility. Remember, we are to discern between good and evil, and cling to that which is from God. In all of this, we need to realize that God is continually completing His work of sanctification within us.

VERSE 25, 26

Paul begins his close of 1 Thessalonians in verses 25-26. He says, "Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss." The term "holy kiss" has been a topic of discussion for centuries. It was the greeting practice among those in the Orient. In fact, It still goes on today. For example, in many countries people greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. It is the expression of Christian love within the framework of holiness that Paul is referring to in verse 26.


Paul continues in verse 27; "I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren." This is a remarkable statement. Paul is at the end of the letter, and all of a sudden he says, "I adjure you... ." This is a phrase which means "to put someone under oath.." It seems, at this point in the letter that this is a very strong word to use. Yet, we must remember he is under the direction of the Spirit of God, which may indicate something of the problem in the church at Thessalonica.

He has already warned them about stifling the Holy Spirit, so perhaps he is worried about the influence of those who oppose his ministry. So, he is saying, "I put you under oath to have this letter read to the brethren." This would keep them from setting it aside and ignoring it. This was Paul's way to make sure that everyone in the congregation heard his instruction.


Paul closes 1 Thessalonians saying, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." This closing follows the pattern of all New Testament letters. What a reminder that all we are, and all we will ever be, is a result of the grace of the Lord. Every New Testament letter has this reminder at the beginning of the letter, and at the end of the letter. We need to be reminded that we don't deserve His grace. And it is only by His grace that He works in our lives to bring us to maturity. It is by His grace that we are able to handle anything we are confronted with in our lives. What a reminder for the Thessalonians, and for us!

Paul's message to the Thessalonians is the same for us 2,000 years later. We are to be faithful to the Word of God, to be discerning between the things of God and the things of Satan, and to remember that God is working in each of His children to bring us into His presence without blame.

Are you a child of God? If you are, you have been forgiven your sins, and will spend eternity in His presence. You have a responsibility to live in obedience to His Word, and to follow the instructions that Paul has outlined for us in his letter to the Thessalonians. If you are not a child of God, you are lost in your sin, destined for an eternity in hell, separated from God for eternity. In order to be forgiven, you must see yourself as the sinner God says you are, and place your faith in the person and work of His Son alone for salvation. When you do that, you will be born into the family of God for all eternity.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

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