Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
– Phil 1.27
This verse has been nagging on my mind this week. When we understand the Gospel and salvation, we have to come to the complete realization and sorrow that we are fully, utterly unworthy of it. We have to realize our sin, the punishment it deserves and it is only then that we can grasp the weight of the salvation that was bought by Jesus’ death and resurrection!
I am not worthy.
So how, then, do I live “in a manner worthy of the Gospel”?
The distinction here is that worthy does not mean deserving. Often times the terms are used interchangeably or as synonyms. But in this context it is reactionary. It is not definitive. We do not deserve the Gospel. The whole point of grace is that God gives unmerited favor. We do not deserve it.
John Piper paints this picture. Suppose the Queen of England decided to come visit you. She is the one who has the royal blood, the dignity and the honor. The moment that you heard she would be coming to your house, you would get on preparing her room. You would want to make her room worthy of her visit. The room itself is not worthy. She is not coming to stay with you because of the splendor of the room. But once her decision is made to come, you will do everything that you can to prepare and make appropriate her board.
We do not deserve salvation or grace. The Gospel is given to us apart from our worth. But once we have received it, once we know the calling encompassed in salvation, we respond in righteous living. We are transformed and live lives that reflect that which has come.
So what does that look like? Thankfully Paul uses this theme in many of the letters he wrote. In the book of Ephesians he expounds on the actions that define living a life “worthy of the calling”:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
– Eph 4.1-3
When we understand our wickedness and the grace shown us, the response should be humility, gentleness, patience and tolerance. The more you have been forgiven the more you love. When God gives you victory over a sin in your life, you know the time, the effort and the pain that it took to conquer said sin. You can then offer grace and compassion to your brother who is working out his own sin with God. We unify. We encourage one another to fight sin and we welcome the accountability of the brethren to do so.
To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
– 2 Thess 1.11-12
Here, in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul expounds even more. It is God alone who can count us worthy of the calling. And not only that, but it is He who enables us to live lives that are worthy. The Spirit abiding in us helps us to both desire and to fulfill goodness and works of the faith. We do not and ought not do good deeds begrudgingly or out of obligation, but out of desire and conviction. God is not concerned primarily about what we do, He is concerned about how we do it. He does not need us for anything. But He does desire our obedience and love. He want our hearts to be fully His. And He enables us and empowers us to fulfill these desires of goodness. And that, all to the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Thess 1.12).