“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Paul prayed for the saints at Thessalonica that they would be wholly sanctified; their whole spirit, soul, and body preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord. What exactly did Paul mean by wholly sanctified? What does it mean to be preserved blameless, body, soul, and spirit?
Many months ago while seeking the Lord in prayer, He impressed upon me that He would be bringing forth greater understanding to the meaning of salvation. In this article, I hope to bring illumination and understanding to some of the readers by sharing a few things about God’s three-fold salvation plan for His creation man.
Most students of the scriptures will certainly agree that God’s creation man is a triune being, created in the image and likeness of our triune God. The word triune means to be three united as one. Man is a spirit that has a soul which dwells within a body of flesh. God’s plan of salvation is also three-fold, reaching into all three realms of man’s existence, body, soul, and spirit. This above verse reveals that there will be some saints who shall be “wholly sanctified,” brought to the fullness of their salvation at “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Ephesians 2: 8, 9 the apostle Paul writes:
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.”
Yet in his letter to the saints at Philippi he writes:
“Wherefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12)
And in his letter to the Romans Paul writes:
“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for it?”(Romans 8:24)
But how can we work out our salvation if it’s a free gift from God? And if it’s a free gift of God, how then are we saved by hope?
In these three verses, Paul is giving us some insight into God’s three-fold salvation plan. He mentions three ways by which we must be saved if the whole man is to be preserved blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The salvation of the spirit of man (by grace and received through faith).
2. The salvation of the soul of man (the soul-life brought into absolute obedience to the spirit by faith accompanied by spirit directed works).
3. The redemption of the body of man (a hope not yet seen, but will be accomplished at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at the resurrection).
The body of this article is an attempt to touch on the first two stages of this salvation process.
1. The free gift of spirit salvation:
This is when a person asks God for forgiveness of their sin, confesses with their mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believes in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead as Lord and Savior of all. This is the first step of the complete salvation plan. This person has now passed through the “gate” (by the blood of Jesus) into the Outer Court of the tabernacle in the spirit. The tabernacle in the wilderness is a blue print of God’s salvation plan for mankind (unfortunately, the details of which are far too numerous to be discussed in this article). At this stage, the Spirit of God now begins to commune with the spirit of this person, to comfort, teach and direct them into a fuller salvation experience in Christ.
Unfortunately, most believers never progress beyond this Outer Court experience in their relationship with the Lord; the initial stage of their salvation. These have pitched their tent in a comfortable place in the Outer Court where they can maintain a touch with the world and the carnal lifestyle just outside the gate. Their sight is not set on the journey to the Holy of Holies, but they have turned their back so they may continue to flirt with the idols of this world. These unfortunately have succumbed to the Laodicean syndrome and view their lukewarm, compromised state, as normal and even blessed. This is where the majority of the church is found today, not overcoming sin, the flesh or the devil, never finding victory, but caught in a perpetual state of sinning and repenting, being overcome and not becoming “overcomers.”
2. The next stage of the process is the “working out stage” of soul salvation for those who press on and into the Holy Place of sanctification.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:14: “Strait is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life, and few there be who find it.”
Jesus was not only speaking of the initial step of spirit salvation here, for there is yet a deeper meaning for believers in this verse. Everyone “born again” of the Spirit of God has passed though the gate into the Outer Court of God’s spiritual tabernacle, but is then directed by the Spirit to continue on a path of active obedience and intimacy with the Lord to the next stage of their spiritual development; the Holy Place of the tabernacle in the spirit. This is the place where the salvation of one’s soul must be worked out before God with “fear and trembling.” It is a continual process which must not be taken lightly. The words “fear and trembling” mean; “to be quaking, one who distrusts completely his own ability in meeting any task.”
On this path through the Holy Place is found a myriad of various trials and tribulations designed to bring the soul into a place of surrender and active obedience to the Holy Spirit. All desires, feelings, affections, thoughts and decisions can be governed completely by, and brought under the complete lordship, dominion and absolute rule of the Holy Spirit. Our soul-life can come into a place of alignment and agreement with the perfect will and purposes of God. God desires for the souls of men to come into complete submission to the spirit. The institution of marriage is used throughout the scriptures as a shadow of the relationship between the soul and spirit of man. When the soul (self) no longer usurps authority but comes into perfect submission to the spirit of God (Christ) there is a harmonious marriage between the two. This is part of the “Great Mystery” of marriage spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.
Many who walk the path of soul salvation and sanctification which leads to the Most Holy Place will not make it to the Most Holy Place in their lifetime though. Jesus said that this place of “life” will only be found by a “few.” The sad truth is that even some of the most devout Christians will end up pitching their tent in the Holy Place of salvation’s path and will not progress any further than that. Why is that? What is the obstruction that keeps these from attaining to the most intimate place of fellowship with the Holy One; the place of true resurrection life and power? Paul reveals to us in Philippians 3:10-11 just what that seemingly immovable obstruction is;
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Prior to entering into the Most Holy Place, the sufferings of the cross must be embraced. This is where the path remnant dwindles substantially. We don’t need to die physically or be “raptured” to know Him and the power of His resurrection, but we must die to all self-will, self-rule, selfishness and carnality. The only way to proceed beyond the veil and into the Holiest of All is to follow Jesus into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. This is the only way to be made conformable to His death and thus experience the power of His resurrection life. Many will not deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit into this glorious Place though. The love for God in such as these has apparently found its limit.
There is a remnant though, (the entirety of the blessed Book speaks of a remnant) who will go all the way into the fullness of their salvation and will be wholly sanctified at the end of this age and the dawn of the next. The love that these have for the Lord knows no bounds. These saints will be the first-fruits of the last day’s harvest, the tithe that will be holy unto the Lord. These will have understood the meaning of, and will have lived the “working out” of their salvation with fear and trembling. This is a remnant that will have willingly learned obedience through the sufferings of Christ and will have embraced the fiery trials that were designed to teach them and train them to walk intimately with their God. Because these will have suffered with Him, they shall also be glorified with Him. Because these will have suffered with Him, they shall also rule and reign with Him in the age that is to come. These chosen saints shall minister to the Lord in the Most Holy Place in the spirit and will stand before Him with the best of offerings acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. They shall be allowed to come near to the Lord’s Table and feast upon the bounty of wisdom, understanding, and heavenly knowledge set before them. This is the “blessed and holy” company that shall have part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6). These are revealed in type as the sons of Zadok spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel:
” But the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God. They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.” (Ezekiel 44:15, 16)
These will enter into a relationship with God that most people cannot even dream of or imagine. Having experienced the full salvation of their body, soul, and spirit, they will occupy priestly positions in the temple not built by human hands, and will minister to the Lord in the Most Holy Place of Heaven’s Tabernacle. These will also be used to distinguish between the holy and profane as they minister fresh truth and revelation to the saints relegated to the Outer Court (Ezek. 44:19).
Many in the church system today have settled in a place of comfort, complacency, and contentment with their traditional understanding of things, and these are now becoming increasingly more deaf to God’s voice and blind to His ways. But God does have a remnant that is moving on with Him in their understanding. The writer of Hebrews informs us of the importance of moving on with God;
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on into perfection (maturity): not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1, 2)
Beloved ones, what has been taught by many Christian teachers as God’s complete salvation plan is only a small part of the real mansion that God intends to build in your life. That which most people consider to be “salvation” is only the beginning of a spiritual path which leads to true spiritual perfection. So, with this is mind, let us embrace the sufferings of the cross of Christ so that we can be made conformable to His death. It is only by conformity to His “death” that we can become true partakers of His glorious LIFE. Yes … strait is the gate and narrow is the path which leads to LIFE. May we follow that path then … ALL THE WAY THROUGH to the fullness of His LIFE!