The notion of worthiness in scripture is one often mentioned but less often fully realized and recognized. It is a concept which can wrongly bring about the idea of salvation by works rather than by faith alone. We sing in songs of worship, “Worthy is the, Lamb!” and “I am unworthy but still you love me” but what are we really saying?
“Worthy” is defined as: “having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way,”
which breaks out into two similar but distinct components:
1: “deserving effort, attention, or respect”
2: “good enough; suitable.”
Often the idea of worthiness, in our cultural understanding, is limited to simply being deserving of something, but the definition of the word allows us more broad usage which can clarify how we who are so undeserving of grace are still called “that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—“.
2 Thessalonians 1:5
Paul mentions his ministry and the way he’s called people to repent
In Acts 26:19-20,
“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
Not to go all “Ancient Greek” on you, but the original Greek word “axios” is the word translated as “worthy of” in some versions but also as “appropriate to” in the NASB or “in keeping with” in the ESV. Using this, we can clarify our understanding of how worthiness can be applied to our relationship to God.
We are not considered to be “worthy of the kingdom of God” in the sense of earning it by our actions. We know this is totally impossible or else we could be saved by our works.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Likewise, we find our value is completely apart from our own merit, and is based solely on how much God loves us. If our own earnings had influence over whether God chose to offer us salvation, not one person would find themselves on par.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
All of Ephesians 2 is great at explaining how God sees us, but these verses in particular highlight not only how God sees us, but how we are to live in a manner worthy—or appropriate of—what our purpose is.
We were created for good works, that is our overall purpose in this life. Despite this, in our natural state of sinfulness, we can never accomplish the kind of good that honor God and our motives can never be perfectly pure. This is why the Gospel matters so greatly! To draw our attention to the fact that we are not worthy and still must be. And moreover, God found it fitting to restore us in his deep and perfect love to a place where we can live according to—or worthy of—our purpose through him! So we find ourselves in this great and complicated place as Christians: We are wholly unworthy of God’s love and sacrifice by our own merit, yet he found us to be worth loving and sacrificing himself for. We are wholly unable now on our own to live in a way that is suitable of the identity God has given to us as his children and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), yet he not only commands us to be, he gives us the ability to do so through his Holy Spirit!
So what can we make of this divine, beautiful, and seemingly contradictory position? The answer is clear.
1: You are loved and worth being loved by the perfect God of the Universe though you didn’t do anything to earn it, in fact you did everything possible not to earn it.
2: You are commanded to live in a way that reflects God and the love he has shown which you can’t do on your own.
Therefore, because we have been shown such great love with such a high worth and have been given such a great task with such a high standard, we must stay close to God and be in constant relationship with him so that we may live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”.
Our living in worthiness has nothing to do with our own ability to earn or lose ranking or value to God. It has everything to do with our understanding of God’s own worth and the worth of what he did to save us. Living in a way that is worthy of redemption is living in a way that knows the high cost it took God to buy our freedom from damnation, the perfect sacrifice in our place. It is understanding what James talks about in chapter 2 where he explains “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The takeaway I hope you come to after reading this is, if anything, that you know your place and your simple, infinite purpose.
You were given grace that you didn’t deserve so that you can do the things you were made to do. Know how truly loved you are and in turn love God and those around you with the same kind of demonstrative and active love.
If you have any doubts about what was done for you and to what degree you are loved, read the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I promise you there is no truer love than that which is described there.
I hope this blesses you, that you have a great week, and that you take time to think and talk with God about how you can live worthy of what’s been done for you.
Love you guys!