1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That’s an interesting verse isn’t it? Just what is Paul trying to tell the church in Thessalonica?
Two great heresies plagued the early church as it was trying to go forth with the gospel as Jesus had commanded. The two heresies I speak of were the teaching of the Judaizers, live according to Jewish customs, and then there were the Gnostics. Gnosticism teaches that the realization of Gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world.
Here is a video which goes into more detail to let you know just how evil this heresy is.
Satan has introduced and reintroduced these two teachings in one form or another throughout history, yet man keeps falling for them because they appeal to the flesh. He is slick in his approach in that he continuously repackages them with different leaders, different names and different catch phrases. However, they are both some form of proving one’s self worthy of salvation by some means other than Jesus’ free gift that He paid for on the cross.
I want to focus on the second heresy in this article, the heresy of Gnosticism. Many today do not realize that this heresy is alive and well within the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches today. If you read the writings of the early Pentecostals, you will see that their beliefs were much different from what is being promoted across most television “ministries.” Many of the popular preachers on TV today boast of having greater knowledge about faith than the Apostle Paul had and that if Paul had only known what they know, he wouldn’t have had to live in persecution all of the time.
How can anyone who calls themselves a believer in God’s word make such a claim? An elementary reading of the book of Acts will show that it was actually in God’s plan that Paul would suffer persecution, even telling him on several occasions that beatings and chains awaited him. However, because he was completely sold out to God and trusted Him no matter what came his way, Paul counted it all joy to suffer physically for the cause of Christ.
What does this have to do with the verse in 1 Thessalonians? The Gnostics were teaching that it didn’t matter what you did in the body, it was your spirit that God was concerned about. They thought that upon receiving this special knowledge of Who Jesus was, they would have a saved spirit but that one day, they would be free from their evil body that kept them tied to this world. No need to live holy before God because your body didn’t matter any more.
In this verse, Paul was emphasizing that not only did they have to think and believe correctly, they also needed to live for God in their body. However, He was also emphasizing the fact that it is God Who alone sanctifies us as we put our faith in Him and what Christ did on the cross, not any works that we do. When God sanctifies us, He sanctifies us spirit, soul and body.
The Word of Faith movement tries to separate these three aspects of humanity and this causes many of their teachings to not only be bad interpretations of scripture, but some of it actually goes completely against scripture. Not only does God want to minister to the whole person and sanctify us as a whole being, His word is the only thing which can separate the three and work on each aspect of us as we need it.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow(the body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Many Word of Faith preachers, will not speak against sin because they don’t want to “put a negative thought” into the person’s mind and cause them to have thoughts about sin or they may end up sinning. However, if you look at the lives of many of them, they have had affairs, extorted money, etc., rather than living a holy life before God.
How does this happen? They have fallen for the lie that when you are born again that your spirit is completely perfect and that it must teach your soul and your body to fall in line with God’s word. They completely throw out the biblical idea that we still must contend with the old fallen nature. Yes, we are a new creation, but we must keep our eyes on Jesus, allowing Him to live through us so that we no longer fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
I’m not trying to pick on any segment of the church, but the Gnostic heresy is pervasive in a lot of their theology which cannot be found in scripture. I used to follow many of their doctrines, but when it was pointed out to me that this is where they were based, I turned my back on those teachings and back to the pure and simple message of the cross of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished there.
Not only did Paul address this age old heresy, but so did the Apostle John in his three epistles to the church.
3 John 1:2
“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
The group that John was addressing, was only concentrating on their soul since they thought that the ultimate salvation was freedom from the material world. What Jesus promised was that He would live through us and keep us until the final day if we would but put our trust in Him and Him alone.