Sermon Notes & References

Praying for God’s People

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

February 25, 2018

A. Spiritual Focus

    1. On Individuals

    2. On the Church 1

B. Pray for Holiness (5:23-24)

    1. Some Distinctions 2

    2. Quality of Holiness 3

    3. “Wholly Holy”

C. Pray for Fellowship (5:25-26)

    1. Meaning 4

    2. Service and Love 5

D. Pray for Growth (5:27-28)

    1. Knowledge and Grace 6

    2. The Scriptures 7

    3. Christ’s Gracious Presence 8

E. Conclusion 9

1 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28. . . . . . . . . . Praying for God’s People


A. Spiritual Focus

    1. On Individuals

        a. the North American church is often accused of focussing on individuals rather than upon the body of believers, i.e., the church.

        b. it must be confessed that to some extent this is true with the rugged individualism in the nature of those settling on these lands

        c. and, more particularly over the past half-century with what has been called the “me generation” ... but that is not limited to North America

        d. and, in a spiritual sense, this focus upon individuals is proper

            (A)    for salvation applies ultimately to the individual

            (B)    God’s love for the world is focussed on individuals in giving His Son so “that whoever believes on Him should be saved”

            (C)   faith cannot be exercised for others than one’s own self

            (D)   baptism is a personal act of faith and obedience

            (E)    and it is clear from the gospels that Jesus Christ in His ministry spent much of His time with individuals: His disciples and others

        e. yet, this is only part of the spiritual picture


    2. On the Church

        a. let us never forget that the literal meaning of the word “church” as used in the Bible is “those called out to an assembly, gathering”

            (A)    while the English word comes from a root meaning “the Lord’s”

            (B)    so it is not a building, but the people of faith meeting in it

            (C)   so it is not an organisation, but the living body of Jesus on earth

        b. the Scriptures greatly emphasise that the spiritual good of individual believers is found in their carrying out God’s designed relationship for them within the body of Christ – be it local or universal

            (A)    the picture of the church as individual members joined together with each one supplying that which is needed by the whole body

            (B)    or again as a temple built up with living stones – you and me – where each one fulfils his or her part in holding up the structure

            (C)   both illustrate the focus on the entire body and interdependence of those comprising the church

        c. so we are told that “… Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;” (Ephesians 5:25), the church universal consisting of believers of all ages and all nations, which is His body (Ephesians 1;23).

        d. so we find that in these closing verses which Paul writes in his letter to the church at Thessalonica prayer and blended concern as for the individuals and the body.

        e. here are some of the things that should be included in prayers for God’s people: holiness, trust, support, love, study of Scripture, grace


B. Pray for Holiness. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:23-24

    1. Some Distinctions

        a. righteousness and holiness

            (A)    both of these are the work of God

                 (1)    righteousness by God, the Son, through the channel of our faith in Him, His death and His resurrection

                 (2)    holiness principally by God, the Spirit of Holiness, through His continuing work in us as we surrender our desires to His desires

            (B)    righteousness allows us to stand before the accuser of the brethren, Satan, and his charges of our sin, and yet hear the Judge of all the earth, pronounce us “not guilty; forgiven; pardoned”

            (C)   holiness – which has the idea of separation – is His ongoing work of separating the new nature (the new man) which we are in Christ Jesus from our old nature (the old man) – of removing the taint and stain of sins which are abhorrent to God

        b. holier-than-thou and holiness

            (A)    first is the attitude of “The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.’” (Luke 18:11)

            (B)    second, holiness brings with it a great sense of humility, so that we echo the words “… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15)


    2. Quality of Holiness

        a. 23 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.

        b. one aspect of the quality of holiness – being sanctified – is its Source

            (A)    look first at the words that Paul uses to assure us that this can and will happen

            (B)    the one doing this is the “God of peace Himself” – the “very God of peace” (AV); “So it is He, the God of peace …”

                 (1)    it is a very distinctly the work of God

                 (2)    A woman was hanging out her washing. Proudly she looked at its whiteness. How it glistened! Then snow came making a beautiful blanket of white. Seeing her clothes and the snow side by side, she exclaimed, “What can a poor woman do against God’s almighty snow?” How poor, indeed, is any holiness that we might achieve for ourselves beside that which God accomplishes in us! 2

                 (3)    according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood:” (1 Peter 1:2a)

                 (4)    by which verse we see that it is the Holy Spirit’s part of the work of the Triune God to bring about our salvation

                 (5)    so, this alone must give us a measure of assurance

            (C)   but also, verse 24: “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

                 (1)    this verse could apply to the phrase “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v 23), yet it seems that the point of the statement is not the parousia, which here is in reference to the completion of the work of sanctification

                 (2)    rather the point is to do with the fulfilment by God of this work of salvation, which He carries out in accordance with His own word, with His promise and purpose


    3. “Wholly Holy” 3

        a. that was one preacher’s title for a sermon on this text

            (A)    “... sanctify you entirely … be preserved complete …

            (B)    the AV uses “… wholly … whole ...”; another, “through & through

            (C)   the words used are similar but have a differing emphasis

            (D)   but both convey that this is not a work which will be abandoned half-way through

        b. “Entirely”

            (A)    this word has the thought of completeness of our sanctification in keeping with God’s design or purpose in our salvation

            (B)    Paul is praying for this work’s continuation until that end achieved

            (C)   Most of you know that Maureen bakes pies. Having a degree in science, her approach to baking is scientific. She measures and weighs, checking each ingredient listed, so that nothing is left out that should be there. It’s pie and all pie.

            (D)   God’s sanctification is a wholly holy work. Entirely so.

        c. “Complete” – “spirit and soul and body

            (A)    this is just one of the expressions used in Scripture to summarise our whole nature

                 (1)    spirit – that which died in Eden, resurrected in Jesus, which has free consciousness of God

                 (2)    soul – that which makes us a distinct, living individual

                 (3)    body – that which relates these to other people

            (B)    other such expressions

                 (1)    “all your heart, ... your soul, ... your strength”

                 (2)    “heart … soul … mind … strength”

            (C)   this emphasises that no part of our being is left out of this process

            (D)   Perhaps you have seen someone else’s pies. Everything is done the same as above except perhaps the measuring may be by eye. But then at the end, a fork is taken and little indentations made all around the rim of the pie. It is set on the table for all to enjoy.

            (E)    Sanctification is applied to every part of the person. Completely.


C. Pray for Fellowship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5:25-26

    1. Meaning

        a. we commonly use this term as expressing time that believers spend with one another

            (A)    particularly in the sense of “table fellowship”, sharing a meal

            (B)    and, as such, this fulfills the need that we have as God’s family in enjoying one another

            (C)   weeping with those that weep, rejoicing with those that rejoice

            (D)   and, in this sense if should never be taken lightly or belittled

        b. for, indeed the Greek word, koinonia, translates means oneness, or the having ideas, values, thoughts, things in common with others

            (A)    the English word was originally used literally in this way

                 (1)    in a guild, the various members would share tools, supplies, and a place to work

                 (2)    or, scholars would band together in the same fashion – the term is still used of those given a scholastic place in a college

            (B)    in the early church, Acts 2:41ff, it was a practical necessity for new believers were ejected from the synagogue and therefore often also from their families – sharing helped them survive

            (C)   Paul tells us that the Philippian church had fellowship (otherwise called sharing or participation) with him in preaching the gospel


    2. Service and Love

        a. 25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.

            (A)    service and love, these two sides of fellowship, are found in these verses – that which reaches outward, that which reaches upward

            (B)    but note, in passing, that 1 John 1 shows that fellowship also reaches upward to our Father God as part of His family.

        b. Paul asks that the church join in fellowship with himself in the ministry of the Gospel

            (A)    he fully recognised that he was engaged in a fierce spiritual battle

            (B)    for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

            (C)   everyone who seeks to serve God in any form of ministry quickly discovers this truth and that prayer is the divinely powerful weapon that is needed

            (D)   when the people of God pray for these our brothers and sisters who are serving the Lord in this fashion

                 (1)    then we will be sharing the burden they have

                 (2)    and it is not long before we find ourselves sharing in other ways, in participating in the gospels as the church at Philippi

            (E)    that was the outward fellowship

        c. then the inward fellowship is marked by love one for another

            (A)    here the expression of that love is first of all his own expression towards them by the “holy kiss” to them in these words

            (B)    but it doesn’t stop there for the instruction is also for them to carry out the one with the other

                 (1)    my understanding of this custom is that it is still carried on in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea

                 (2)    that men greet men, and women greet women in this way

            (C)   but the point does not seem to be the method of greeting, but rather that in a holy, separated fashion, the relationship within the local family of God is kept warm, accepting, loving

            (D)   openly expressing how much we enjoy each other in Jesus Christ


D. Pray for Growth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:27-28

    1. Knowledge and Grace

        a. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

        b. Peter says much the same thing in closing his second letter, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

        c. How is it

            (A)    that we will see the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us?

            (B)    that we will trust in God to carry out this work?

            (C)   that we will support in fellowship the work of the Lord?

            (D)   that we will indeed lead the lives of love Christ would have us do?

        d. there seem to be two key elements of Christian growth found here that will enable and enhance these things in our lives

            (A)    reading the Scriptures

            (B)    abiding in Jesus Christ


    2. The Scriptures

        a. Paul has a very high view of the written word of God, as he exhorts Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

        b. not is he at all reticent with respect to the Scriptures he himself has written but writes “I adjure you by the Lord

            (A)    that is a very solemn declaration

            (B)    it is equivalent to saying, “take an oath on this that you will read this letter that I am sending”

            (C)   it is more than suggestion or even instruction

            (D)   it is a solemn command that they are to carry out

        c. this was to be read aloud – as the Greek word contains this idea

            (A)    to men, to women, to children

            (B)    to those who could read, and those not

            (C)   because these words will make us wise unto salvation

            (D)   and being from the Holy Spirit by inspiration will enable us to recognize His voice when He says, “this is the way, walk in it!”, so He may carry out His precious work in our lives


    3. Christ’s Gracious Presence

        a. The grace of our Lord Jesus” – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

        b. it is His abiding presence within us, and our daily consciousness that teaches us the meaning of grace – unmerited favour from God

            (A)    perceiving His beauty we are increasingly aware of our own unworthiness of His great salvation

            (B)    yet, if He is all that for our sake, what can we possibly withhold in our service for Him?


Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me—

All His wonderful passion and purity!

O Thou Spirit divine,

All my nature refine,

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. 4


E. Conclusion

    1. Pray for these things for the people of God – individually, as a church – “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)




© 2018 by Garth Hutchinson, Faith Fellowship Baptist Church of Aurora (Ontario): may be distributed or quoted freely, only let this be done to the glory “of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus ii.13). Except as noted otherwise, quotations are from the New American Standard version, used by permission. Various other English versions of the Holy Bible may be used in this sermon. Explanatory additions to the Bible text are shown in [braces]. Version identifiers are:


              AV          Authorized (King James) Version of 1769

              NAS        New American Standard version © 1960, 1995 The Lockman Foundation (usually the 1995 edition)

              IGNT              Interlinear Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, 1956; as well as other Greek Texts as W&H, Nestle, etc.

              NIV         New International Version © 1984 by the International Bible Society

              NKJV              New King James Version © 1979 Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers

              Philips     The New Testament in Modern Englis, J. B. Phillips, Geoffrey Bles Ltd

              RSV        Revised Standard Version © 1946, 1952 National Council of Churches of Christ; Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd

              WEY               The New Testament in Modern Speech © 1902, 1912 R. F. Weymouth

Some of the commentaries and resources used in the preparation of this message are identified as follow:

              BM       Biblical Museum, Editor James Comper Gray, ca 1870

              CP   -      Decision, July & August 1962, Open Your Bible, by Dr Sherwiood E. Wirt

              EBC             The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, © 1986 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 49530, MI:

                             1, 2 Thessalonians: Robert L. Thomas

              EGT             The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Hodder & Stoughton; 1903

                             1 & II Thessalonians, by James Moffatt

              JFB  -      Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, Fausset & Brown; S. S. Scranton & Co. 1872

              Gill       Exposition of the Old Testament, Exposition of the New Testament, by John Gill, D.D.

              Kerux –   The sermon & illustration data base compiled by Rev. David Holwick at the web-site,

              NCBC –    The New Century Bible Commentary – 1 and 2 Thessalonians – I. Howard Marshall – Wm B. Erdmans

              RWP             Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, by Dr. A. T. Robertson

              TTB      Thinking Through the Bible, Rev’d John McNicol, D.D., © 1944 by the author; The Upper Canada Tract & Book Society.


Fredericksburg Bible Illustrator Supplements, Holwick illustration #8857


Rev. J. David Hoke, Holwick sermon #2692


Albert W. T. Orsborn (1886-1967)