Worthy of the Gospel
“1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6 ESV
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” Philippians 1:27 ESV
11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV
Dear Church Family,
This Sunday, Romans 12 will begin a new section in our study. Living “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1 NIV) is a concept that Paul often mentions. The gospel is not just a doctrine to be believed; it is a pattern to be lived. Paul speaks of living “worthy” of God or of the gospel.
“Worthiness” is one of those biblical concepts that can be confusing. In modern usage, “worthy” describes someone who has earned something, who is “good enough” to deserve something. That does not do justice to Paul’s meaning. Christians are right to resist any idea that we are “worthy” of receiving salvation. That would lead to boasting, which Paul explicitly rejects.
Ephesians 4 does a good job of explaining what Paul really means. To walk “worthy of the calling to which you have been called” includes things like humility, gentleness, patience, and love. “Worthy” in this sense means something like “appropriate to.” For example, it is inappropriate in the extreme for someone who has been shown grace to be short-tempered with others. Jesus told a parable addressing that problem (Matthew 18:23-35).
One of my favorite examples of this idea occurs in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. In remembering the selfless sacrifice of Christ, some in Corinth would have a feast next to others who had nothing. What a tragic irony. Paul, thus, warned against taking the Supper “in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:27). You can’t honor Christ with selfishness.
In Ephesians 4 and Philippians 1, the key word is “one.” As Christians, one Spirit makes us one body. We share one hope; we are called to one commitment by one God; we have one purpose to serve God. All of this means that any activity—any “manner of living”—that threatens our unity is not worthy of the gospel. You’re never “worthy” of salvation, but you are always called to live a lifestyle that is appropriate to the salvation you have received by faith. Live as one today.