Message theme: God’s Faithfulness, 1 Thessalonians 5:24
December 29, 2019 (No. 4017)
Radio pastor: Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma
Dear Radio Friends,
Today we contemplate God's faithfulness. Such contemplation is always before the consciousness of God’s people. But especially they enjoy reflecting on the faithfulness of God with the passing of another year. There have been many events that have taken place in this year gone by. There are the events that will be recorded in the history books. There are events that have gone on in the realm of the church—some for the good of the church, others not so good. There are events that have transpired in our families—some we rejoice in, and others have caused grief and sorrow. There are events that have taken place in our own individual lives—again some we rejoice in, and others, such as our battle with sin, that we are not so pleased with. This may have been a good year for us or it may have been a bad year. But one thing is certain: God is always faithful to His promises.
This is why we focus our attention on that subject at the close of another year. We soon will say goodbye to the year 2019—time like an ever-rolling stream. It seems like yesterday that the world was waiting with bated breath to see what would happen with the coming of the new millennium. Now we are 20 years past that time. Some of us listening today perhaps do not even know of or remember that first day of the year 2000. Now, 2020 is upon us. The passing of time changes everything. But what has remained firm and sure is God's promise to the church of Jesus Christ: I will never leave you or forsake you. To such we call our attention today—not to all the distressing things of life, but to God's faithfulness. The Word of God we consider is a short one and does not really direct our attention to much else other than that subject. We read in I Thessalonians 5:24, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
In his letter to the Thessalonian church the apostle Paul concerns himself with the second coming of Christ. Here too is a concern we all have as we stand at the beginning of a new year. Paul reminds the saints that no man knows the day and hour of Christ’s coming. It comes as a thief in the night. In these closing verses of this chapter and of this letter, Paul gives a number of short exhortations. All these were meant to admonish the Thessalonian believers in the way they ought to live as they waited for that coming of Christ. The verse we study today comes at the conclusion of these admonitions—and that as a fitting conclusion to it all too.
Paul explains to the church that there is no need to fret and worry as we wait for Christ's coming. God is faithful who has called you. He will indeed preserve you blameless unto the coming of Christ. There is no need for the church, or God's people, to fear. With that assurance we usher out the old year.
To understand what Paul teaches us in the short verse of our text we must read it within its context—especially in connection with the verse that precedes our text. We read in verse 23, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And now the verse we consider, verse 24: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
At the end of our text we read the phrase “who also will do it” or, more literally, “who also will complete it.” The question is, of course, what is this “it” that God will do or complete? What is it that Paul specifically refers to when speaking of God's faithfulness? The answer lies in verse 23, where Paul prays that God will preserve the Thessalonian believers “blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That work of sanctification and preservation is what is referred to by the “it” at the close of our text. That is significant of course. In verse 24 Paul expresses the certainty of what he prays for in verse 23. In verse 23 he prays that God will preserve His saints. In the verse we consider, Paul in effect says, “I do not doubt that God will indeed preserve you, because God is faithful who has called you and God will do it.” This is a statement of fact—a certain, undeniable fact: God, who has sanctified His people, will preserve them in that life of sanctification unto the very coming of Jesus Christ.
That expression of certainty is what believers need to hear at the end of another year. We live in the last days. The passing of an old year reminds us of that. Christ is coming. And that means we live in perilous days. We live in days when Satan and this wicked world have intensified their battle against the church. It is becoming more and more difficult to withstand the wiles of the devil. As the coming of Christ approaches, the temptations to stray from Him and His kingdom will increase. The pressures upon the church will become stronger. Christ Himself asks, “Will there be faith left in the earth?” So many have departed and continue to depart from the truth of God's Word and walk in the ways of the wicked. Is it even possible that God will preserve His elect? I mean, there will be so many temptations in this world, Christ tells us, that if it were possible even the elect will be deceived.
This is why it is Paul's prayer for the church that God will preserve our bodies, souls, and spirits blameless. You see, God has sanctified His people wholly. He has, through the work of Christ on the cross, cleansed us of our sin and delivered us from corruption. This benefit He earned for us through His all-powerful work on the cross. And He has applied this benefit to each of His people through the work of the Spirit in our hearts. The Spirit of Christ was sent forth to dwell within us and to work in us the holiness that Christ has earned on the cross. The Spirit cleanses us in that blood of Christ so that our thoughts, affections, and intentions are delivered from corruption and are now pure. We are those who through the work of Christ within us have become dedicated and consecrated unto the service of God in this world. We seek God’s will, and we desire that God's kingdom come. Viewed in the blood of Christ, we are without sin in God's sight.
Paul reassures us in our text that God who has sanctified us will not now give us over into sin. God will not—and has not in this year gone by—allowed His people to fall away from Him. He has preserved them. After sanctifying His people, God does not turn them loose, so to speak, so that now they are on their own. He does not perform a work of salvation and then say to us, “Ok, the rest is up to you. You have to do the rest.” Salvation is of the Lord—all of it is, from beginning to the end. That work of salvation does not cease until every saint of God is glorified. Our assurance as believers as we stand at the close of another year is this: God completes the work of sanctification. He cleanses us in the blood of Christ and He preserves us in that sanctification and even, mind you, causes us to grow in the sanctification unto the very coming of Jesus Christ!
Notice the word of certainty in that last phrase of our text: God will do it. I like how short and concise that is. As we mentioned, actually this literally means, “who also will complete it.” But nothing is lost and everything is gained in the translation that we have here in the KJV, “who also will do it.” I like that. Plain and simple is the fact that Paul relates to us: God has sanctified you, and God will preserve you in that sanctification. Never fear: God will do it! We know He will, because God has done it in our lives. Think of the many times we have strayed into sin. Think of the many times in this past year when, if we were left on our own, we would have forsaken all and left. Think of the times of despair when we asked ourselves, is all of this worth it? Think of the times when we felt like running away and simply following after our sin. Think of the times when the temptations were so great that we would like to have walked in sin? Yet, here we are at the end of this year and, though we have stumbled and faltered along the way, God has done it. He has preserved His saints, has He not? Not because we have been so faithful to Him. Not because we in some way have been able to make it on our own, in our own strength, but because God has done it. We give credit where credit is due. God is faithful to complete the work that He has begun in us! He who began a work in you has been faithful to complete that work. In this, believers, rejoice at the end of another year.
As we rejoice, we do so in this fact too—God will do it. God will preserve us in His grace. He has. We experience that in our lives, and we are confident on this last day of the year that God will in the days to come preserve us blameless unto the coming of Jesus Christ. We do not fear. We do not waver. God has preserved us and God will preserve us. He will be our guide even unto death. That must be an established fact in the heart of every believer as we stand on the brink of a new year and face such an uncertain future. We say that even in the face of the difficulties we will experience in our lives in this new year to come. We say that in the face of all our struggles, in the face of all the temptations that will confront us, in the face of our own sinfulness: He who has begun a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We know He will.
How can every child of God be so certain of that? Paul gives us two reasons in our text today. Number 1, God has called us. Number 2, God is faithful. First of all, God will indeed complete the work He has begun in us because it is God, after all, who has called us. There are many passages of the Bible that speak of the calling. This calling of God must be distinguished as the external call of the gospel and the internal call of the Spirit. The external call goes forth through the preaching to everyone where God in His providence guides it. The gospel must be proclaimed by the church to all the earth without prejudice or distinction. The call of the gospel to repent and believe must be preached to all nations, all races, all languages, and all classes of people. In this sense of the word, there are many who are called. The command of the gospel goes out to as many as the Lord our God shall call. But though many of these are called in the external way, only few receive the internal call of the Spirit in their hearts that meshes with the external call. Jesus teaches us that many are called but few are chosen.
Those who are called internally by the work of the Spirit in their hearts are irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ. The Spirit works in them a knowledge of their sin and their guilt. They become acutely aware that they deserve the punishment of hell. They then, in the weariness and burden of their sin, respond to the call to come to Jesus Christ and find rest unto their souls. The Holy Spirit powerfully works in their hearts and irresistibly draws them to the cross of Christ, where they find their salvation. That is the calling of which Paul speaks in our text: the calling that God uses effectually to save His people.
But we must also understand what God accomplishes in this calling. Believers have been called out of something, but, on the other hand, they have also been called into something as well. We have been called out of the darkness of sin and unbelief and into the light of Christ's kingdom. We have been called out of darkness, where we were alienated from God and His Son and into the fellowship of God and Christ. We have been called out of those cast away in God’s wrath and into the very family of God Himself. We are become the sons and daughters of the living God. God has adopted us in the blood of Christ. He loves us and establishes us in His household and family.
Now the point is here: will God, once He has adopted us to be His very own children, cast us away? Will God, who has called us out of this present world and through the gracious work of salvation made us into His children, will that God now turn us away? Paul says that God will also do it, that is, preserve us blameless because we are His children whom He will never forsake. If He were to forsake His people, it would militate against the very work of salvation itself. God will indeed complete the work of salvation in His saints because we are His children. We have been chosen from eternity in God's counsel and for that reason are called out of this world of sin and unbelief. God has for the sake of Christ adopted us as His children. And once a child of God, always a child of God. God says to us: You need never fear, little child of mine: I will never leave you or forsake you. You are called according to My purpose. I will not allow anyone to pluck you out of My hand! I will be your guide even unto death! Do not worry, I have begun a good work in you and I will indeed complete it. How we rejoice in that grace God has shown us in our lives!
All of this, everything we have been talking about, culminates in one word, saints of God, “faithful.” The term “faithful” is the first word of the verse we consider. For that reason it receives all the emphasis. Paul does not write, “He is faithful who is calling us.” Paul writes, “Faithful is he who calls us.” The whole verse focuses on that word. When one is faithful, he keeps his promises. He does not waver one way or the next. He is a man of his word. One who is faithful is one who does not change his mind, but is one who is constant and sure. God is faithful in the highest sense of the word. That is because God does not change. He is immutable. God has made us a promise, fellow believers. It is the promise of His covenant. God has in His fellowship with us promised us that we will be heirs of His eternal kingdom in heaven. He has promised us that. He told Abraham that his seed would inherit the land of Canaan. God has never turned from fulfilling that promise to Abraham. Even today God is fulfilling that promise. He still says to us, I will give you the heavenly land of Canaan. Even as God continues to call us into the kingdom of His dear Son, God continues to fulfill exactly what He has promised. This is why He has added to this promise another promise to His people: I will never leave you or forsake you. That promise is repeated constantly throughout all of Scripture. I will be a God unto you and I will never forsake you! God promises us that because, if He were to leave us, even for a moment, we would fall and never return. But God upholds us by His Spirit and grace. In those hours of sorest temptation and trial, He directs us. In the adversities of life, He is there upholding us! Even in our failures to remain faithful to Him, He is there forgiving us for the sake of Christ’s death on the cross and leading us back to Him. Surely, every believing child of God can sing at the close of this year, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father!” If not for the grace of God, we would be lost! But God changes not, and therefore, for the sake of Christ, we are not consumed in his wrath. God is faithful who calls us and continues to call us.
With this word we end the year of our Lord 2019: God is faithful. God has been our help in ages past and He is our hope for years to come.
But let me emphasize one more truth that we must not overlook. It is implied in everything we have said this far. We have even mentioned it repeatedly. But permit me to emphasize it. I would be neglectful if I did not. God is faithful to His people only for the sake of His Son, our Savior. God’s faithfulness is revealed and maintained only in Christ Jesus. Without Christ we would be lost. Without Him there is no salvation. Neither would the holy God of heaven and earth share His love and fellowship with us. We are not worthy in ourselves of enjoying the joys of heaven. But God is faithful in providing us with a Savior who delivers us from our sin and guilt. He has paid the price of sin in order to bring God’s people back to God. It is in Christ that God’s promises to us are yea and amen. If it were not for the meritorious work of Christ on the cross, God would not be faithful to us either. God preserves us only on the basis of the righteousness Christ has earned for His people at the cross.
With that thought in mind, we can now end this year. We begin a year with praise to God for our salvation. We end our year the same way. We give thanks to God that He has been faithful for Christ’s sake. Praise God for His faithfulness!
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
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