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23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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23 Now the God of peace himself. Having given various injunctions, he now proceeds to prayer. And unquestionably doctrine is disseminated in vain, 620620     “Que proufitera-on de prescher la doctrine?” — “What profit will be derived from preaching doctrine?” unless God implant it in our minds. From this we see how preposterously those act who measure the strength of men by the precepts of God. Paul, accordingly, knowing that all doctrine is useless until God engraves it, as it were, with his own finger upon our hearts, beseeches God that he would sanctify the Thessalonians. Why he calls him here the God of peace, I do not altogether apprehend, unless you choose to refer it to what goes before, where he makes mention of brotherly agreement, and patience, and equanimity. 621621     “Repos d’esprit;” — “Repose of mind.”

We know, however, that under the term sanctification is included the entire renovation of the man. The Thessalonians, it is true, had been in part renewed, but Paul desires that God would perfect what is remaining. From this we infer, that we must, during our whole life, make progress in the pursuit of holiness. 622622     “En l’estude et exercice de sainctete;” — “In the study and exercise of holiness.” But if it is the part of God to renew the whole man, there is nothing left for free will. For if it had been our part to co-operate with God, Paul would have spoken thus — “May God aid or promote your sanctification.” But when he says, sanctify you wholly, he makes him the sole Author of the entire work.

And your entire spirit. This is added by way of exposition, that we may know what the sanctification of the whole man is, when he is kept entire, or pure, and unpolluted, in spirit, soul, and body, until the day of Christ. As, however, so complete an entireness is never to be met with in this life, it is befitting that some progress be daily made in purity, and something be cleansed away from our pollutions, so long as we live in the world.

We must notice, however, this division of the constituent parts of a man; for in some instances a man is said to consist simply of body and soul, and in that case the term soul denotes the immortal spirit, which resides in the body as in a dwelling. As the soul, however, has two principal faculties — the understanding and the will — the Scripture is accustomed in some cases to mention these two things separately, when designing to express the power and nature of the soul; but in that case the term soul is employed to mean the seat of the affections, so that it is the part that is opposed to the spirit. Hence, when we find mention made here of the term spirit, let us understand it as denoting reason or intelligence, as on the other hand by the term soul, is meant the will and all the affections.

I am aware that many explain Paul’s words otherwise, for they are of opinion that by the term soul is meant vital motion, and by the spirit is meant that part of man which has been renewed; but in that case Paul’s prayer were absurd. Besides, it is in another way, as I have said, that the term is wont to be made use of in Scripture. When Isaiah says,

“My soul hath desired thee in the night,
my spirit hath thought of thee,” (Isaiah 26:9)

no one doubts that he speaks of his understanding and affection, and thus enumerates two departments of the soul. These two terms are conjoined in the Psalms in the same sense. This, also, corresponds better with Paul’s statement. For how is the whole man entire, except when his thoughts are pure and holy, when all his affections are right and properly regulated, when, in fine, the body itself lays out its endeavors and services only in good works? For the faculty of understanding is held by philosophers to be, as it were, a mistress: the affections occupy a middle place for commanding; the body renders obedience. We see now how well everything corresponds. For then is the man pure and entire, when he thinks nothing in his mind, desires nothing in his heart, does nothing with his body, except what is approved by God. As, however, Paul in this manner commits to God the keeping of the whole man, and all its parts, we must infer from this that we are exposed to innumerable dangers, unless we are protected by his guardianship.




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