Being Counted Worthy
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
2nd Thessalonians 1:1-5
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: 5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
We are sometimes fearful that somehow we will not “measure up” and that we will be left behind, or booted out of the family of God. We harbor doubts about whether we are “good enough” or consistent enough, or sincere enough, and, despite Jesus’s promises that we are secure in Him, we tend to doubt, just as Peter and the other disciples did.
Peter believed Jesus, sufficient to walk on the water, one stormy night! And, just a few seconds later, he doubted, and he sank! But Jesus caught him and walked with him back to the boat.
Jesus said in John 6:29 that the “work” God asks of sinners, in order to please Him, is to “believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
A few verses later, in John 6:37, He promised, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Then, in verse 39, He said, “And, this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Now: that leaves us with a choice: do we believe Jesus’s clear promises, or do we build doubt, founded upon our misgivings over verses that are less clear?
Going back to Peter’s example, we can see that he asked Jesus for a clear command. And Jesus gave it to him! There was no possibility of a misunderstanding. So, Peter got out of the boat, and stepped onto the surface of that violent, heaving, stormy lake!
Now, consider: Peter knew he could not walk on water. He knew it was physically impossible! So, believing Jesus, enough to get out of the boat during a storm was really incredible faith! And it resulted in his actually walking on the water, for a few steps.
So, why did he begin to add “amendments” to the “constitution” of his faith? He knew walking on water was not possible at ALL! Then he found that under Jesus’s authority, it was possible to walk on water. Then, why did he suddenly think, “…except when the wind and waves are strong!”? Why do we add provisions and exceptions to the promises of God?
No Surprises to God
God is never “surprised” by my failings. I find them very discouraging, but He knew from eternity past, exactly how I would respond (or fail to respond) to His Grace and His authority.
So, Jesus was not surprised by Peter’s failure. Peter was surprised and thrilled to find himself walking on water, and was disappointed when he doubted, and sank. Here’s the question: did either experience (walking or sinking) make him worthy or unworthy of God’s kingdom?
That answer, of course, is “NO!”
We are not qualified for Heaven by our actions. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him as Righteousness. But in James 2:18, we find that humans cannot see faith without works. So, from a human perspective, we may be seen as “unworthy to call ourselves believers” or “unqualified to serve God.”
But it has been God’s specialty to take those “unqualified, unworthy and unlovely” people and use them to His Glory. He says so! (1st Corinthians 1:27 “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”)
Faith and Love (v. 3)
Paul expressed his gratitude that the church at Thessalonica was growing in Faith and Love. Their Faith in God was growing and constantly being proved by their actions, so that Paul boasted of their walk with God when he spoke to other churches. He knew the persecutions and tribulations they were enduring, and he was pleased and satisfied to have been a part of their beginnings.
You will notice that the King James Version says their “charity” was abounding. “Charity” is the word that the Kong James Version translators used for the “agapé love, as opposed to the other three or four words which also could be translated “love.”
Their Love (specifically the Agapé Love) was abounding toward one another. They were taking care of one another and accepting one another, and cherishing one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
These are the two key things Jesus requires of believers: Faith and Love.
Endurance by Faith (v. 4)
Endurance is what we are to grow into: the King James Bible uses the word “patience” here, but the issue is not one of “patiently waiting,” but rather, enduring the hardships the believers were experiencing. Immature believers might say, “I just can’t understand why a loving God would allow…” whatever it is that they don’t like. (By the way, that is exactly what the unbelieving world says, too.) But a mature believer recognizes that the world is chock-full of evil and danger and tragedy, and that all of it is the long-term result of sin. And he/she endures in faith!
Past, Present and Future Salvation
Jesus saved us (past tense) from the eternal penalty of Sin, at the Cross: that is a “positional truth.” Because I am in Him, I am no longer condemned. That is my position: “in Him!”
He saves us (present tense) from the current power of sin on our own lives, as we walk with Him: that is a “conditional truth.” As I walk with Him, He can guide me and protect me from the traps laid by the Enemy.
He will eventually (future tense) deliver us from the presence of Sin, eternally. That is also a Positional truth: The Thief on the Cross, who was being executed as a consequence of his own sin, is just as free today from the presence of sin as any of us can hope to be.
But the general consequences of sin, which fill this broken, sin-ruined world around us, we usually simply have to endure. Diseases exist for which there is no cure. Believers contract those diseases, too, and there is no guarantee against them. We accept that burden, and we endure it in faith.
In the nations where persecution awaits all those who believe in Jesus, the believers endure that persecution by faith.
A Token of Judgment (v.5)
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have Peace. In the World ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the World.”
Those who are doing the persecuting face the Judgment of God, whether they know it or not. Jesus said, “they are already condemned because they have not believed on the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God.”
But the coming judgment, including the tribulation, about which Paul had told them in the previous letter, will be a worldwide judgment on sin, upon all nations, and upon Israel, fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel chapter nine. The seven-year tribulation will pour out the judgment of a righteous God on the unbelieving world.
The judgment of our sins was poured out at the Cross, and that included the sins of the whole World. But the Judgment on the unbelieving World has a specific purpose in Daniel nine. He says it is to complete several things, and that the judgment is upon Israel and the World.
At the end of that time, Jesus will return, as we have read in the previous book. And in the process of His return, (Revelation 19:15) He will speak, and it says that His enemies will be destroyed by the sword that proceeds from His mouth. (His Word!)
But at the end of the Kingdom age, the entire earth will pass away in a flash of supernatural fire.
Not a single believer will be harmed by that final judgment:
How do I know? Because Jesus said so! He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” He said my future is secure: I will not be condemned.
And, in Romans 8, he says “there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” He goes on to say that “the Law of the Spirit of Life, in Christ Jesus has made me free from the Law of Sin and Death.”
So, Are We “Worthy?”
If the question has to do with our own personal “worthiness,” then obviously the answer has to be a resounding “NO!” But if I can reply concerning the “Righteousness without the Law” as Paul mentions in Romans 3:21, then I can freely say that we have been judged worthy, solely on the basis of Jesus’s shed blood: His completed work at the Cross.
As Paul put it in Philippians 3:9, he wanted to ” … be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
That, again, is a positional truth…”in Him!” We are to be found “in Him.” In Him, we have been “accepted in the Beloved.” In Him, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Can Grace be Earned?
Please turn to Romans 11:6. “ And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
Grace specifically means “unearned favor.” If you think that you can “earn” God’s favor, either as an unbeliever or as a believer, you are falling prey to the trap of the Evil One. The entire book of Galatians was written to warn against this trap of “legalism,” supposing that “something I do” can earn God’s Favor.
If at any point, my salvation or my security depends upon my feeble works, instead of Christ alone, then ultimately, it is entirely dependent upon my works, as I guarantee, my works will always be the “weak link.” Jesus finished His perfect Work at the Cross. He is my only hope.
Does Our Testimony Demonstrate “Worthiness?”
In Ephesians 4:1, we are exhorted to “walk worthy” of the vocation wherewith we have been called. The calling is secure…but are we walking in such a way as to demonstrate that calling?
We do not become a child of God, nor do we maintain that status, by the way we live. We live in such a way as to demonstrate our new life in Christ, because we ARE His children! And we live for Him out of gratitude and Love, not fearing that if we don’t “live up to our calling,” He will cast us out. (Remember the promise of John 6:37? “He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out!”)
But our testimony to others will either reflect that reality or fail to do so. That is our choice, day by day, and moment by moment.
What do others see?
The world and other believers can only see our faith by our works, according to James 2:18. How I endure hard times is a statement to others, either that Jesus is in control, or that He is not.
Lot’s life was a demonstration that he was not walking with God. If that were the only information we were given, then we might assume he was not a believer at all. But God says he was a believer—that God had declared him righteous! (2nd Peter 2:7, 8) Yes, he was saved, but his life was a sad wreck, due to his own sin.
We want a better experience than that of Lot! We want to walk with God in such a way that our lives shine as a testimony of His Grace…not our own character or works.
Jesus alone is worthy!
Lord Jesus, change our motivation, so that we live to please You, not to impress other people, nor to “prove ourselves.” Draw us along as Your children and as laborers together with You. Teach us to see through Your eyes and care as you care.