God’s Faithfulness

December 27, 2015 / No. 3808

Dear Radio Friends,
It is the close of the old year. There are many events that have taken place once again in this year gone by. There are political events that have changed the shape of our country. Immorality has become a common and accepted part of society. There are events that have gone on in the realm of the church. Apostasy abounds the more as the false church grows in strength. At the same time, however, the gospel has reached even more parts of this world. There are events that have transpired in our families—some we rejoice in and others cause 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, cause us sorrow.
This may have been a good year for us and it may have been a bad year. But there is one certainty for God’s people: God has been faithful to His promises to them. God’s promise to you and me as believers is sure: I will never leave you or forsake you. Such is what we call our attention to today too—not all the distressing things of life, but to God’s faithfulness. We do that by considering the Word of God in I Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” This verse is a short one and does not really direct our attention to much else.
The apostle Paul in this letter that he writes to the Thessalonian church concerns himself with the second coming of Christ. And again, here is a concern that we all have too, as we stand at the close of an old year and the outset of a new. Paul reminds the saints that the day and hour of the second coming of Christ no man knows. It comes as a thief in the night. In the closing verses of I Thessalonians 5 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 consider today comes at the end of these admonitions—and that as a fitting conclusion to them all. There is no need to fret and worry over the affairs of life, as we wait for Christ’s coming. God is faithful who has called you. We do not close out another year of life with unrest, doubt, fear, and anxiety in our lives. God will indeed preserve you and me 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.
I. Preserved
To understand the verse before us correctly we must read it in connection with the verse that precedes it. I say this because at the end of our text we read the phrase, “who also will do it.” The question is, of course, what is this “it” that God will do? The answer lies in verse 23. There Paul writes, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That preservation is what is referred to by the “it” at the close of our text. In other words, we would read the verse we consider today in this way, “Faithful is God who calls you, who also will of a surety preserve you body, soul, and spirit!” In short, our text today expresses the certainty of what Paul prays for in verse 23. There he prays that God will preserve these saints. In our text Paul says, “I do not fear that God might not preserve you, because God is faithful who has called you and God will do it.” Our text 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 in these perilous times.
We live in the last days. The passing on of an old year reminds of that. Christ is coming. And that means we live in dangerous days. We live in days when Satan and this wicked world have intensified their battle against the church. The unbelieving society in which we live is making it more and more difficult to take a stand on the basis of God’s Word. As the coming of Christ approaches, the temptations to stray from Christ and His kingdom increase. The pressure upon the church becomes stronger. Christ Himself asks concerning these last days, “will there be faith left in the earth?” So many have departed and continue to depart from the truth of God’s Word and to walk in the ways of the wicked. Is it even possible that God will preserve His elect?
I mean, Christ Himself teaches us that the tribulation of the last days will be so great that God will shorten the days of this world for the elect’s sake. Or again, false prophets, that is, heretics will show themselves in the church, deceiving many, in so much that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect! These are dire predictions for the future. What will become of the church of Christ? Will she perish?
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 us wholly, as believers. 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 this benefit He has applied to each of His chosen 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 in our thoughts, affections, and intentions we are delivered from corruption and are now pure. We are those who, through the work of Christ within them, have become dedicated and consecrated unto the service of God in this world. Because of that work of Christ, we have become blameless before God. We are those who seek God’s will and desire that God’s kingdom come.
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 He 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, “Okay, 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. And that work of salvation does not cease until every saint of God is glorified. Our assurance 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, even, mind you, causing us to grow in 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. Literally, the word “do” ought to be translated as “complete.” God is faithful “who also will complete it.” But nothing is lost and everything is gained in the translation that we have here in our KJV, “who also will do it.” I like that. Plain and simple is the fact 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 already done it in our lives. Think of the many times we have stumbled 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, according to our sinful flesh, felt like running away and simply following after the ways of the world as if there was more joy to be found there. Think of the times when the temptations were so great that we would like to have walked in what was right in our own eyes? Yet, here we sit listening today to the Word of God that speaks of God’s faithfulness. Though we have stumbled and faltered along the way, God has done it. He has preserved us, 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 God has done it. We give credit where credit is due. God is faithful to complete that work that he has begun in us! He who began a work in you has been faithful to complete that work. In all of His children, in you and in me too! And it is in this that we rejoice.
We rejoice in this too: God will do it. God will preserve us in His grace. He has. We experienced that in our lives, but we are confident at the end of this year that God will in the days to come preserve His people 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 is 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.
II. Called
How can we be so certain of this at the close of this year? Paul gives us two reasons in our text. Number 1, God has called us. Number 2, God is faithful. Both of these we need to consider yet. 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. Let me try to explain this a little more carefully. The external call of the gospel goes out to everyone where God in His providence guides it. This takes place through the preaching of the gospel by the church. The church of Jesus Christ is given the task to preach the gospel to all nations and peoples. The church fulfills this work by preaching both within the sphere of the instituted church as well as outside of it to others. Christ has commissioned the church to go out and call the nations to faith and repentance. The faithful church of Christ takes this work seriously. She therefore goes out and preaches to all people without distinction or prejudice. In this sense of the word, many are called. But though many are called in the external way, only few receive the internal call of the Spirit in their hearts. Many are called but few are chosen, Christ informs us.
It is the intent of God, of course, by means of this external call to call to Himself only those whom He has elected unto eternal life. The Spirit of Christ works through this external call, irresistibly drawing unto God those whom God has chosen. In other words, the external call will only serve to harden those who are not also called internally by the Spirit of Christ. Those called internally by the Spirit are brought by God’s grace to 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, hear the call to come to Jesus Christ and flee to Him to 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 our text: the calling that God uses effectually to save His people. But we must also understand what God accomplishes in this calling. God’s saints are called out of something and at the same time into something as well. God’s people 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 are 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 very own children, 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 us, it would militate against the very work of salvation itself. God will indeed complete the work of salvation in us because we are His children. We have been chosen from eternity in God’s counsel, and for that reason we are called out of this world of sin and unbelief. God has for the sake of Christ made us into His very own 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 nor forsake you. You are called according to my purpose. You are mine and 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. You notice how this term is the very first word of our text? That is because it is to receive all the emphasis. Paul does not write, “He is faithful who is calling us.” Paul writes the term “faithful” first—that is because everything found in this verse that we consider is wrapped up in that one word. A person who is faithful keeps his promises. He does not waver one way or the next. He is a man of his word. One who is faithful does not change his mind, but is constant and sure. God is faithful in the highest sense of the word. And that because God does not change. He is immutable. God’s immutability or unchangeableness is one of God’s attributes. It is that which makes God, God. It is who He is. That means that when God makes a promise He cannot break it. When God performs a work, He does not turn from it. Now, God has made us a promise, fellow believers. It is the promise of His covenant. God has in His friendship with us and favor toward us promised us that we will be heirs of His eternal kingdom in heaven. He has promised us that. He said to Abraham, Your seed will inherit the land of Canaan. And God has never turned from fulfilling that promise to Abraham. He gave the spiritual seed of Abraham the earthly land of Canaan as an inheritance.
But today, too, God is fulfilling that promise to Abraham. He still says to the believing sons and daughters of Abraham, I will give you the land of Canaan. I will give you that land of which the earthly Canaan was only a picture. I will give you the heavenly land of Canaan. And 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: I will never leave you or forsake you. That is a promise that is repeated constantly, throughout all of Scripture. I will be a God unto you and I will never leave you or forsake you! God promises us that because, if He were to leave us even but 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. When we hurt the most, we can turn to Him and find our comfort. When the temptations of this world are around us, we can flee to God, who is our strong high tower and our defense. When the wicked turn on us in hatred, we can run under the shelter of God’s wings and be safe.
Yes, but what about my sin? We know our sin! The child of God who struggles with his sin hears God say to him, Fear not, little child. I have made you a promise. I told you that I am your God and you are my child. I have sent my only begotten Son into this world and He has taken on Himself your sin and guilt and borne them away. You are made righteous in His blood. I have removed the burden of your sin. Through the precious work of Jesus Christ I have adopted you to be my very own son and daughter. For Christ’s sake I will never abandon you. Do not fear. I am faithful to my children. I will keep my promise. At the end of this year again, we look to Jesus Christ as our only comfort in life and in death. For His sake God is faithful who calls us out of darkness and into His light. God will preserve our going out and coming in for Christ’s sake! God will perform His work in us until the day Jesus comes on the clouds of glory to usher in our final salvation. Then we all will be holy—perfectly holy—completely holy—because there will be no more sin. We give God thanks for His faithfulness! Surely, you and I can sing together at the end of the year 2015: Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father!