Intro: Are you worthy of Jesus? Are you worthy of God’s blessings? In what sense could this be true? In what sense are we unworthy? The language of being worthy is found several places in scripture. Both Jesus and Paul use this terminology: Read some verses together…
- Revelation 3:4 – 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
- Matthew 10:37-38 – 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
- Luke 20:35 – 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;
- Matthew 22:88 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
- Acts 13:46 – 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
- Philippians 1:27 – 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,
- Colossians 1:10– 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
- 1 Thessalonians 2:12 – 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
It would seem obvious that there is a sense in which we are walk worthy and be worthy. What does this mean?
I. Counted Worthy – The N.T. word translated as worthy in the N.T.is most often axios (Ax-ee-os) which means literally, “of weight”, and in its adjective form means deserving or suitable. (Vines) It is used to describe individuals and deeds. In this sense it denotes an attained quality or value that is deserved. A piece of land is “worth” so much. A laborer is worthy of his wages (1 Tim 5:18)
A. The verb form of axios, as used in the N.T. describes a favorable estimation formed by God. He counts individuals as worthy of His blessings.
• 2 Thessalonians 1:5 – 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;
• 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, – Notice in this passages that God counts us worthy, it does not say we make ourselves worthy. What is described is the value God places on our conduct or “work of faith” and suffering. We are worthy, not because we have earned God’s blessings and made ourselves worthy, but because God values us to worthy of His blessings.
II. Worthiness and Sinfulness: Before we look at what it does mean, let me express to you what I believe it cannot mean. It cannot mean that one earns the blessings of God. This is especially evident in passages where one’s worthiness is connected with God Himself. Both Col. 1:10 and 1 Thess. 2:12 calls the Christian to walk worthy of God, worthy of the Lord. This does indicate that I can attain the worth of God. God’s holiness, perfection and glory stand alone. His worth stands alone and no one can make God obligated to bless him.
A. Of course the thing that stands in the way of interpreting worthiness in this way is my own sinfulness. I have sinned, and John says if I say I have no sin, the truth is not in us. If I say I have not sinned, I make him a liar.
1. Contrast the Centurion’s confession of his own unworthiness in Luke 7. “‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…” Jesus responded by saying ‘Not even in Israel have I found such faith'” (Luke 7:6, 9).And John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He who comes after me, the strap of his sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27).
a. Their confessed unworthiness stands in sharp contrast to the popular religious teaching that defines self-esteem as the greatest virtue, and even accounts the value of the cross as God’s way of showing us how worthy we are. Robert Schuller says…”The most serious sin is the one that causes me to say, I am unworthy… For once a person believes that he is an unworthy sinner, it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.” -…He goes to write “The death of Christ on the cross is God’s price tag on a human soul… it means we really are Somebodies”
b. Certainly the cross is the supreme act of love and mercy, and Jesus endured it freely. But cross is a demonstration of His glory and worth, not mine. God extended His love to me when I was totally unworthy. Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. My self -worth is the result of the cross, not the other way around.
2. How shall we understand our worthiness of Jesus in view of our sinfulness?
III. “Fruits Worthy of Repentance” – There is a N.T. phrase containing the word worthy (axios) that may be helpful to our understanding.
- Acts 26:20– but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.
- Matthew 3:8 – 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,
- Luke 3:8 – 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
A. What does the word worthy mean here? (Some translations use the word suitable or befitting) This cannot mean we bear fruit deserving of repentance, because the repentance (change of mind) has already occurred. It means there are deeds that are suitable to the change of mind that has occurred. It means that a person values his change of mind enough to do the deeds that show its worth. What is the value of your repentance? Show it be your reformed conduct and you will be bearing fruit that is worthy of your repentance. Have you ever had someone apologize to you and then turn right around and do the same thing again? You might conclude that their apology was not worth much to them.
IV. His Worth is Our Worth: This helps us understand Jesus’ words… Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).This does not mean that we deserve Jesus, or merit Jesus, or earn Jesus. Nothing we do puts him in a position of owing us anything good. When Jesus says we are not worthy of him if we value our parents or children or life more than him, he means that his disciples must see Jesus’ infinite worth (above all other things). The only suitable (worthy) response is to choose Him above all others.
A. Thus our preference for his worth is our worthiness. To be worthy of Jesus is to see and savor him as infinitely worthy. This is not earning or meriting or deserving him.
1. In fact, those who are worthy of His gracious gifts are those who have a real sense of unworthiness such as the Centurion and John the Baptist. In order to be worthy of His grace you must see your need for it and value it above all else.
B. This is seen in the story of the wedding feast in Matthew 22. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast” (Matthew 22:3–4).
1. But those who were initially invited would not come. Matt 22:5 – But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. In response the king throws open to door and sent messenger to invite everyone who would come. He says, “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy” (v. 8). The only guests who were worthy were those who counted the feast as worthy, and acted accordingly. Those who were not worthy were those who counted the other things of their life (business, farm) as more worthy than the feast.
C. Jesus said, “Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Only here he is saying, “Whoever loves farm or business more than me is not worthy of me.” The principle is the same. Worthiness of the wedding feast is not earning or deserving or meriting it. Being worthy is choosing the feast over all else.
D. This does not exclude the necessity or importance of obedience. In fact, the only way we can be worthy is to obey. It is through obedience that we walk worthy of God, declaring His worth above all else. When we obey Him God counts us worthy to receive His blessings. Rev 3:4 – You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. These are worthy because they have not defiled their garments – they have chosen to obey God, even in the face of great persecution. Thus God accounts them worthy of the blessing of walking with God.
E. This principle can be seen in other places where the concept of our worthiness is in view. Consider our text in Ephesians 4:1– I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. We defined the calling as the gospel itself – God summons all men to come to Him through the gospel. Paul begs us to walk worthy of this calling. This does not mean we become good enough to be called, or that we merit God’s calling. But rather that we value the calling (gospel) above all else, and walk in such a way that exhibits it.
Conclusion: There is a manner of life (walking) that shows the worth of the gospel. We walk worthy of the calling when we choose lowliness over pride; gentleness over harshness, longsuffering over impatience, love over apathy. We walk worthy of the calling we strive to keep the unity the Spirit has revealed in the Words of God.