“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”
Of two things the apostle reminds the Church at Thessalonica in the preceding context. The first is, how he had been entrusted with and how he had preached the gospel unto them. He had been approved and appointed of God for this ministry. And this he had done with much contention and considerable suffering. Not only had the congregation there been witness as to how he preached, but also as to how he lived. Of his conduct in the ministry he was sure not only that the church had been witness, but more importantly he was confident that God Who had called him had observed how faithfully he had served.
Secondly, he reminds the church how he had charged them of Thessalonica to walk faithfully according to the gospel. As a father exhorts his children how they should conduct themselves, so he had constantly exhorted them. Reflecting on this charge to the congregation, the apostle in verse eleven uses three participles: exhorting, comforting, charging, all of which go with the purpose clause in our text, namely, “that ye would walk worthy of God. . . .” So that really the apostle is saying: We have admonished, encouraged, and testified that you walk worthy of God, the One calling you into His kingdom and glory.
Walking worthy of God!
That is the main thrust in our text.
One’s walk embraces his whole manner of life, with the emphasis here particularly on the outward manifestation of that life, that is, how we conduct ourselves in the world in relation to others. Our walk, therefore, is our manner of living as we appear to God and man.
However, we must remember that our outward manifestation of life is always motivated spiritually from within. Our walk must not only reveal what we do, but who we are. And who we are always comes from the heart, from the spiritual qualities within us. As the Scriptures so abundantly testify, as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he; and again, out of the heart are all the issues of life.
Moreover, when the Word of God speaks of the manner of life, as it also does here in the text, it does so with respect to life in all its departments. The Bible never allows for life to be departmentalized. To our shame, this is often what we do. We make separation between our religious life and our secular life. We even have certain days in which we conduct ourselves more piously than we do in others. With many of us this distinction began very early in life. We remember as children how the Sabbath was impressed upon us as a very special day. Fact of the matter was my parents bought me a suit of clothes which was called a Sunday suit. When the Sabbath was over the suit went into a closet where it remained until the next Sabbath. On that day we were not allowed to conduct ourselves as we did in the other days of the week. We still believe that training was proper, for the Sabbath is indeed a very special day; but it is easy to see how that it was not sufficient, for it did not impress on us as it should that the Sabbath is eternal, and this negative training could and did lead us to a legalistic and phariseeistic conception of the Sabbath. As the ancient Pharisees, we end up putting life into departments. We put the Sabbath into a suit of clothes and the pious conduct of a day, while we failed to understand that as we served God on the special day, so we are called to serve Him all the days of our lives.
Let no one conclude from what we have written so far that we have no respect for the Sabbath Day. What our parents taught us concerning the day was quite correct. It is the special day God singled out from all the days of the week in which in a unique manner we with our children serve the Lord in His sanctuary as often as opportunity is given us. And when we are not in the sanctuary on that day we are to use the day in contemplation of the works of God, particularly the work of salvation, of recreation—not in taking naps, watching television, reading the trash that so often comes into our homes from the novel market. This is the entering into rest for the children of God! What we have been stressing and criticizing is the wrong conception which would put our religious life into a suit of clothes, and service only for a day—so that one day in seven we live piously, seeking the things which are above, while the rest of the week we live rather impiously, seeking the things which are below. God never meant with giving us the Sabbath that we should live that way. Life is not intended by God to be segmental, differentiated into parts, nor is our walk to be segregated into religious and secular compartments. What hypocrites would we be if on Sunday we worshipped the true and living God, and on Monday through Saturday we would serve Mammon! Our walk must always be the same, whether momentarily we move in the church, or presently in the world.
Always our walk is to be worthy of God!
God is to be the Judge, not man!
Man, unless he has grace, makes a very poor judge. Without grace man always judges wrongly. He honors an ungodly walk and encourages it; while he condemns a godly walk and persecutes those who so walk.
This cannot mean, however, nor would we have you infer that our walk before men and their judgment of us is unimportant. Consider that Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” He evidently wanted us to see that the purpose of so revealing ourselves to men was that our Father in heaven would be glorified when men see and acknowledge that the light in us is of Him. Indeed, therefore, our calling with respect to all men is a very serious one, and extremely important. However, though our walk is to take us into the midst of the world, and in it we will pass under the judgment of men, all kinds of men, good and bad, righteous and wicked, the apostle does not say in the text that we are to walk worthy of men, but worthy of God.
When the apostle therefore exhorts us to walk worthy of God, this implies, first of all, that God judges our walk. And, need we remind you, He always judges. Not only does He observe and judge our outward conduct, but He weighs also the motivating principles of the heart within. He knows not only what we do, but also why we do it. The apostle therefore stresses the truth that our concern must be with what God thinks and judges of us.
Secondly, in close connection to the foregoing, the apostle stresses the point that our walk should conform to what God expects of us. He is the God Who is calling us into His kingdom and glory.
That calling is of God and is efficacious!
It is not an impotent invitation whereby He proffers you a place in His kingdom and glory if you will but accept His offer. Not so is it that God offers you and all men a place in His kingdom and is desirous that all men accept His invitation, and that He waits to see what men will do with His gracious offer. Such a presentation of God is totally unworthy of Him. The god of the Arminian is an idol—not the Almighty God of the Scriptures. Such a presentation of God exalts man to a position higher than God. If God must wait to see what man will do, He is not the Almighty; for man, not God, would then determine who shall enter His kingdom. What kind of a god is that who is dependent on the will of the creature? You must see it—He is not the God of your salvation!
Indeed, the calling wherewith God calls us is an effectual calling. It belongs to the order of our salvation. As the apostle so beautifully expresses it in Romans 8:30—the calling follows predestination, and precedes our justification, sanctification, and glorification. This calling may be distinguished twofold, the initial (inner) calling by the Word of God which takes place below our consciousness, whereby God translates the elect but in himself dead sinner from darkness into light; and the outward calling, which comes to him through the preaching of the gospel, as that Word is, applied to his heart by the Spirit of Christ. Only those so called, inwardly and outwardly, come to Him and enter His kingdom. And we hasten to add, that all this takes place within the kingdom of God, never outside.
That calling is an ever-present reality. The apostle says: “walk worthy of God Who is calling you.” And that means that He is calling us now as we dwell in the sphere of gospel preaching, and that He continues to do so. That calling will not cease until we have entered into the final perfection of His kingdom. In principle, of course, we enter His kingdom when we are called out of darkness into His marvelous light—that kingdom which is heavenly in nature, and in no sense to be identified with the present world. It is true that the kingdom of God is being realized in the present world, but that realization is nevertheless in the spiritual operations in the hearts of God’s people. For Jesus, speaking of the kingdom, declared that it is within us, it cometh not with outward observation. It is the kingdom which comes down from heaven and is realized in its perfection also in heaven. That this is the viewpoint of the apostle, is plain from the fact that he adds: “and glory.”
The glory belongs with the kingdom. It is the kingdom in which the glory of God is the controlling principle—the kingdom in which the glory of God shall shine forth in all its aspects. God’s glory is the radiation and sum-total of all His virtues. In God’s kingdom, particularly in its final perfection, nothing but the virtues of God will be seen.
Into that kingdom where God will reveal Himself in all His glory we are being called when we come under the preaching of the gospel, and as we walk worthy of God. And, as we stressed earlier, it lies in the nature of the heavenly calling that it does not rest until we are brought into the perfection of that kingdom and glory. Just as God continues to say: light, as He spoke it in the beginning, or the light would not continue to be, so He calls and continues to call until we are forever in the glory of His own kingdom.
Since such is the nature of the calling of God that it purposes to bring us into the glory of His heavenly kingdom, we can now understand why the apostle considered it so urgent to impress upon his readers that they walk worthy of God.
As we already called to your attention, the apostle uses a triad of participles expressing this urgency. The translation puts them in verse eleven, but the original text includes them in verse 12. As we said, they belong with the purpose clause in our text. You know, the apostle means to say, how we were exhorting, comforting, and charging everyone of you as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God: The term “exhorting” comes from a word which means literally: to call beside one. When the apostle therefore is exhorting his readers, he calls them to stand with him, and to walk as he walked, namely, worthy of God. The word “comforting” indicates gentle pleading, and it fits with the last part of verse eleven, “as a father doth his children.” Here the apostle is cheering his readers on, so that in spite of the fact that they may be required, as he was, to suffer difficulty which must be endured, they might walk worthy of God. And the word “charging” or “testifying,” as it may also be translated, indicates solemn appeal. As a faithful witness of the gospel he neglected not to tell all—and all that the gospel tells us to be and to do, is—walk worthy of God!
All together the apostle impresses on his readers and us the urgency that we be heavenly-minded in our walk, that as redeemed in Christ we be not afraid to appear in the judgment of God, that we now in principle consciously enter His kingdom and glory, and that we live as expecting presently to enter into the eternal perfection of the glory in Father’s kingdom.
Indeed, how significant then is this Word of God for the church, also today. On every side we are tempted to walk worthy of the world. World conformity takes its toll also in the sphere of the church today. Apostasy in doctrine and life is in evidence on every hand. Shall we dwell forever in God’s kingdom and glory it is necessary that we heed the apostle’s urging: that we walk worthy of God. You and I expect to bathe eternally in His glory; then it is incumbent now that we walk worthy of God.