1 Thessalonians 2 v 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and gl
We begin this morning with a question. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MISSIONS? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH? AND WHAT DOES THE CHURCH HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY PREACHING THE GOSPEL?
We could answer that the purpose of missions from churches with the message of the Gospel is * to save the lost * to reform society * to christianise heathens and pagans * or to turn the world upside down – a term used to describe the activities of the first Christian Missionaries in the first century AD.
But are these purposes truly the most important intentions of Mission according to the Bible and its record of missionary work in New Testament times, and indeed of the record of the last 2000 years?
I would venture to suggest to you this morning that the Purpose of Gospel Missionary Activity is primarily to restore and re-establish what was lost in the garden of Eden. That some human beings descended, as all are, from Adam and Eve, would once more walk worthily and honourably as intended by their creator God. And that they would reflect, as Adam and Eve did in their original state, the image of God in them, and then demonstrate this in their behaviour.
Since the fall in the garden of Eden at the beginning of time all human beings have been born in sin. Sin is a feature of mankind from conception and is a growing feature as a child develops into adulthood. Left to him or herself, sin dominates and controls so that there are none righteous in the world. As the soul sins so it declares its spiritual deadness.
So, how can dead people glorify God as they should, being creatures of a holy, perfect and almighty God?
The truth is – they cannot. In their natural state they cannot become citizens of God’s Kingdom and they cannot share in anything related to God’s glory.
The only hope that such sinners have is to be called by God’s divine favour and grace and have faith in His son the Lord Jesus Christ
This is the solemn message of the Gospel that was brought by 3 men to a city called Thessalonica in Macedonia. In his letter to these new Christians, 1 Thessalonians, Paul has explained his methods of bringing this message to them, by way of a defence against his critics.
It was a successful mission – many had been converted even though it had cost the evangelists a great deal. They were BOLD in the face of opposition; but they were also gentle as a mother and firm as a father, with a sincere affection for them all. They came honestly with a desire to please God; did not use flattery or a desire to obtain money or other favours. Their exemplary behaviour and honest hard work had spoken volumes to these new believers so that they were able to personally testify to the enormous blessing that the mission had been to them – a new church had been born!
These things have been mentioned in the first 11 verses of the second chapter of the letter. In verse 10 he began a sentence that ends with verse 12 –
10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
So there had been a concern that the Thessalonians were converted – but Paul did not want it to remain there – he had a pastoral concern too – for them to progress in the Christian life.
A mother and father do not put all of their energy into merely producing their children only to abandon them soon after birth! Caring parents nurture and feed and protect their little ones until they are old enough to fend for themselves and stand on their feet alone. Independence comes next and maturity emerges.
So it is with converts to the Lord Jesus Christ. New Christians are often called “babes in Christ,” needing milk at first and not strong meat. So then Paul encourages and comforts and testifies to the new believers that they need to move forward in their Christian experience.
What should spur us on as believers into maturity – that is holiness and righteousness? Is it reciting rules of conduct and adhering slavishly to a set of rules, endless regulations and commandments? NO! These things are not the primary motivation – but the Gospel is! It is the Gospel that galvanises us to a Christian lifestyle and code of conduct. How does this happen?
In the Gospel we are reminded of all that the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us – in dying for us on the cross as our substitute – and rising again from the dead – and he has provided the freedom to live for Him – to please Him – to love Him and to seek His glory as our overwhelming aim. This is what we are called to do and verse 12 will help us this morning to see exactly what we as Christians have been called to.
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
1. We are called to WALK WORTHILY of God.
2. We are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God.
3. We are called to be inheritors of the future glory of God.
Before we think about these 3 aspects of Christian calling as set out in verse 12 we need to ask what it is to be called in the first place.
We are thinking in particular of the Call of God. We are not considering the name by which we are called – “What are you called?” We are not considering how a visitor comes to your house and is said to “Come to call.”
Neither are we thinking of the Americanism to use the Telephone – “Give me a call!”
The Call of God is that gracious act of God whereby He invites sinners to accept the salvation that he has provided in His son the Lord Jesus Christ.
This call is External – which consists of the presentation and offering of salvation in Christ to sinners with an earnest exhortation to accept Christ by faith in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This external calling, issued by the Lord God Himself is universal in its nature. Paul told the people of Athens that
God commands all men everywhere to repent.
The Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples before He ascended –
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matthew 28 v 19.
But the Lord qualified this by His statement in Matthew 22 v 14
For many are called, but few are chosen.
God is serious about this calling to sinners. He earnestly desires that sinners accept His invitation and He promises eternal life to those who repent of their sins and believe. An example of the way that the Lord was so earnest in this call is when he stood over Jerusalem and said
Matthew 23 v 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
This calling is the God appointed means of His calling His elect, his chosen ones from out of all the nations of the world. This is a blessing for sinners – if only they would hear it – sadly the majority of people turn this calling into a curse – and refuse to heed the call.
Perhaps there is someone here this morning whom God is calling. For the first time you are hearing these words, which you may well have listened to many times before, and you know that God is calling you. You sense that he has a claim on life. There is that inner compulsion now to repent of your sins because God calls you to repent. He has commanded you to repent and you are ready to respond in obedience to that command. Up until today you have not given this call a moment’s thought – but now things are different – what is that is different?
The difference is what is called the INTERNAL CALL.
THE internal call is the external call made effective by the work of God the Holy Spirit. By His gracious unseen influence he comes to the sinner with the Word of God, the scripture, and it is savingly applied.
Permit a very simple illustration. I can be called for my dinner. The call comes to me loud and clear to come to the table to eat. Sometimes, I have to confess, that I am so absorbed in work and I do not arise from my desk immediately. But if I am really, really hungry, and there is a pressing need that I feel within me, then I respond instantly to the call! Hunger is the internal reason that makes me respond to the external call to eat.
Now it is possible, but not very likely I am glad to say, but just possible that the call I receive to the table to eat could be withdrawn – that after all a meal is not ready.
But this, my friends is never, ever true about God’s external call to repent and be saved – this calling is without repentance on God’s side because he also places within the soul the hunger – for Him and for salvation. Indeed no one can respond to the call, no matter how many times he hears it, UNLESS there is that internal, effective call that guarantees salvation.
God the Holy Spirit operates through the preaching of the Gospel, the Bible – God’s persuasions are effective and the person called hears God speaking directly to Him or her.
There is a purpose to this call – external and internal – and it is that men and women are called into fellowship with the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ – who has died to save those whom He calls. Every born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has been called to repent of sin – to turn from sin, leave it behind, and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. This what these Thessalonians had done – they had turned to God from their immoral and idolatrous ways and trusted in Jesus Christ as their saviour.
Have you done this my friend? Has the call of God come to your soul and mind so that you have turned away from your rebellion against Him and sought His pardon and forgiveness? There is nothing more urgent in anyone’s life than this – to get right with God; to be at peace with the God who is angry with sin, and to know freedom from a guilty conscience. I urge you to think seriously about your creator and what He has done in accepting the sacrificial death of His Son on behalf of others. He calls you to believe that this death is sufficient to deal with your sins, however black they may be, however many times you have rejected Him in the past. Do not let this call pass you by!
The believers at Thessalonica are now encouraged to consider their calling – and at the same time we who believe are once more faced with these three aspects of our calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. We are called to WALK WORTHILY of God.
When a person becomes a Christian a new relationship is formed. There are inevitably changes that occur. The new life that we have as Christians DEMANDS a new way of living, a new way of walking.
The word walk is the Greek word PERIPATEOH, which means to maintain a certain walk of life. It can also mean to roam about by walking; there are some teachers who are called “peripatetic teachers” who roam or travel between schools teaching their subject in different places. People walk in a certain profession – they have a walk of life – this is the sense of the word.
This new walk as a Christian therefore is not a reformation, a clean up – on the outside. It is a dynamic and powerful change from the inside. The Christian now lives to please God the Father. The believer lives in union with the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer lives in the power of God the Holy Spirit. What a change this is! No more does the Christian live in the strength and power and dominance of the sinful nature – that has gone! The very essence of the effectual call, the calling to be a holy person, a Christian, is to have the principle of holiness implanted in the soul. Since this is true then it will follow that one’s speech, behaviour, aims, attitudes and whole way of life will be transformed – to become an imitation of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since it is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ who fills us – then it follows that we should be like Him in our walk of life. It also follows that if we behave in a worldly way, an unChristlike way and follow an un-Christian course of behaviour – then we are either not converted – or we are being disobedient and quenching the Holy Spirit and thereby grieving Him!
The word WORTHY in the original language is AXIOS, which means suitable or fitting, worthy of the character of God. God is holy – therefore His people, Christians should be holy. As they live in holiness then they imitate in a worthy way, the holiness of their heavenly Father. It is the same with other characteristics that can be borne by human beings. To get a little understanding of this worthy walk which reflects our membership of the family of God I quote from Albert Barnes, a well known commentator who explains it this way – A child "walks worthy of a parent" when he lives in such way as to reflect honour on that parent for the method in which he has trained him; when he so lives as to bring no disgrace on him; so as not to pain his heart by misconduct; or so as to give no occasion to any to speak reproachfully of him. This he does, when (1.) he keeps all his commands; (2.) when he leads a life of purity and virtue; (3.) when he carries out the principles of the family into his own life; (4.) when he honours a father by evincing a profound respect for his opinions; and (5.) when he endeavours to provide for his comfort, and to promote his welfare.
In a manner similar to this, a true Christian honours God. He lives so as not to bring a reproach upon him or his cause, and so as to teach the world to honour him who has bestowed such grace upon him.
There is an application for parents and children here.
For parents – the Lord God requires us to so train our children while they are young, that they learn how, one day, to give honour and respect to the Lord God. Whether or not your children actually come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ it is right for them to be taught to honour and obey you, and to respect your opinions as a Christian. This is the setting for children in a Christian family to learn about the Lord God and how to respond to His rule – it is learnt in the family. Parents are to reflect God’s ways in their bringing up of their children.
For children – the Lord God has given you your parents. He is wise and loving, but he is also the judge of all. He has provided a safe and comforting way for you to learn about Him and how to honour and obey Him – he calls you to love honour and respect your parents in your home and to obey them in all things – so that you will know how to obey and honour God when you become an adult and are responsible for yourselves before God! Can you see how kind the Lord God is?
But can we all see what is happening in society – Satan does his best to destroy families so that this principle of respect and nurture in the family that points to respect and honour and obedience to God, is totally undermined. May God restore to our society such Christian values that will enable children to grow up learning about the Lord God from those closest to them.
Let us consider some of the changes that characterise this worthy walk in life –
It is a walk that is in newness of life –
Romans 6 v 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
We are to walk after the Spirit –
Romans 8 v 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
We are to walk in honesty –
Romans 13 v 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness,
We are to walk by faith –
2 Corinthians 5 v 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are to walk in good works –
Ephesians 2 v 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are to walk in love –
Ephesians 5 v 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
We are to walk in wisdom –
Colossians 4 v 5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
We are to walk in truth –
2 John 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
And we are to walk in his commandments –
2 John v 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Can we see how all of these qualities of walking in life are those that were shown by the Lord Jesus Christ in His manhood as he lived here in his human body? We see them vividly portrayed in His life as we read of Him in the New Testament – honesty, faith, good works, love, wisdom and so on. What a walk of life we are called to – one that is worthy of the God who has loved us and saved us! May we ever live up to His name – bring credit to him and honour Him in every aspect of our walk before Him.
We must move on to one or two things more about our calling as Christians -
2. We are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God.
We are called to Dignity NOW – in this life we are to behave as citizens of another country as if in a foreign land.
This place is not my home, I‘m just a’ passing through.
The Kingdom of God is the sphere of God’s rule. We can see that from such scriptures as
Psalm 22 v 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.
Psalm 145 v 13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.
So why is everything not perfect and holy here on earth where Jesus Christ the King of kings is reigning?
It is because the earth is the scene of the universal rebellion against God; and so the Kingdom of God is the sphere in which at any time God’s rule is acknowledged.
Despite the rebellion, both demonic and human, God has not relinquished His sovereignty – He has declared His purpose to establish His kingdom –
Daniel 2 v 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is among you – Luke 17 v 21. At the present time, as far as the earth is concerned, there are those who acknowledged the King and bow to His rule. In the hearts of individual believers and in the churches of God the Kingdom of God exists.
Entrance into the Kingdom is only through the new birth – Jesus in Matthew 18 v 3 said
Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And to Nicodemus he said
John 3 v 5 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
As the new nature received in the new birth is made evident by obedience, only those who do the will of God shall enter the Kingdom of God.
Are we all called into that Kingdom this morning my friends? Are we obviously wearing the colours of our King the Lord Jesus Christ? Years ago people knew whom you belonged to by the clothes that you wore. National costumes have their origin in this – people identify by wearing similar clothes. The king’s clothes are provided for us as Christians – they are righteous clothes and, when worn, show others to whom you belong, to the righteous Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ. What clothes your soul this morning?
3. We are called to be inheritors of the future glory of God.
If the Kingdom pointed to our Dignity now – in this life as believers belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ – then glory points to our eternal destiny. We are made heirs of God’s glory and we are to share in that glory one day! But it is through trials and difficulties that we have to move towards it. The Kingdom of God here on earth entails suffering for the believer. We suffer on behalf of the Kingdom that is refused by the majority of people on the world. It is through much trouble that we enter into and stay in the Kingdom of God – there is a cost to being a Christian. But it is the prospect of glory with the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ that keeps us going. In Romans 8 v 18 Paul says –
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have a glorious future ahead of them. We have an incredible destiny. God has made us into children – but he has also made us into heirs. We are going to inherit His eternal Kingdom – there is no trouble or hardship in the eternal Kingdom. It is the perfected realm of His rule.
So with such a future how should we then live?
We should live lives that are worthy of the Lord!
We should live lives that have a clear grasp of the privileges of the Gospel. We are those who have had God’s image restored in us – God has graciously come into our lives and changed us. Now it is up to us to walk worthily – to be a credit to our saviour and to keep our hopeful eyes fixed on the day when He shall come again and signal the end of this phase of the Kingdom – and then grant us the full realisation of His wonderful glory! May each one of us be ready and prepared for that great day, and may none of us be ashamed at His coming!