CSC: WELS Topical Q&A: Doctrine: Justification/Salvation: entire sanctification
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Q:I understand that Lutheranism rejects the idea of entire sanctification. How do you then interpret these verses:

1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Th 5:24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ESV

Paus speaks of sanctification that is "complete", being "blameles" and says that God "will surely do it."

Also, this verse,
1Th 3:13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. ESV
shows that this work will happen prior to the Second Coming.

I would appreciate your interpretation.

A:With the expression “entire sanctification,” I assume you are referring to the notion that when a person is genuinely converted, he no longer has any desire to sin. This teaching that the true convert is entirely and faultlessly devoted to God’s service, also called “perfectionism,” is not based on Scripture.

Saint Paul was certainly a genuine convert to the Christian faith, for example. Yet he admitted that each day he still struggled with his sinful nature--“sin living in me,” as he also called it--even though as a Christian he did not want to sin. Only through Christ's merits could Paul or any sinner be rescued from this sinful “body of death.” See Romans 7:14-25.

Sinner-saints that we are, you and I not only struggle against sin. We also strive for that which pleases our Savior. By the power of the Holy Spirit our “new man” is eager to live a holy life filled with good works. This is rightly called “sanctification.” See Eph 2:10; Titus 2:14; John 15:5; Phil 2:13.

The passages you are quoting are not sanctification passages, however. While Paul uses the word “sanctify” (or “make holy”) in 1 Thes 5:23a, the meaning of the word in this context is made clear in the second half of v. 24. In other words, Paul is writing about what we would normally call “justification.” He is praying that his readers will remain in the Christian faith till the end of their earthly lives. Then, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, he will judge them as completely holy and entirely free from sin through the merits of his atoning life and death.

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