At the close of an old year we contemplate in our broadcast today God’s faithfulness. The believer does that as he reflects back across the old year that will soon be gone. There have been many events that have taken place in this year gone by. There are events that will be recorded in secular history books—the decisions of our government and the politics that often leave the average citizen frustrated. There are events in the realm of the church—a few for the better and many for the worse. 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, that we are not so pleased with. This may have been a good year for us and it may have been a bad year—but one thing is for certain: God is always faithful to His promises to His children.
This is the subject we focus our attention on at the close of this year. We are going to study for a few moments today I Thessalonians 5:24: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” We soon are to say goodbye to 2018. Time like an ever-rolling stream. In this year we have again carried on our war against terrorism. Now there is on the rise instances of mass killing. One thing always leads to the next. We cannot be sure what the new year will hold for us. But what has remained firm and sure in this old year and will in the new too is God’s promise to His people: I will never leave you or forsake you. Such is what we call our attention to in our broadcast today—not to all the distressing things of life, but to God’s faithfulness. Our text is a short one and does not really direct our attention to much else other than that subject. It is a fitting one, therefore.
The apostle Paul in this letter to the Thessalonian church concerns himself with the second coming of Christ. Here too is a concern we all have as we stand at the close of an old year and the onset of a new. Paul reminds the saints that of the day and hour of that coming of Christ no man knows, but that 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.
Our text comes at the conclusion of these admonitions as a fitting conclusion to them all. There is no need to fret and worry as we who believe wait for Christ’s coming—God is faithful who has called us. He will indeed preserve us 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 the verse we consider today correctly we must read it within its context, especially in connection with the verse that precedes it. We read verse 23, together with verse 24: “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. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” At the very end of verse 24 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 refers to when he speaks 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.” The “it” at the close of our text refers to Christ’s work of sanctification and preservation. That is significant, of course. In our text Paul expresses the certainty of what he prays for in verse 23. There he prays that God will preserve these saints. In our text Paul in effect says, “I do not fear that God will indeed preserve you, because God who has called you is faithful and Hewill 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 you and I as believers need to hear at the end of this year. I know most people believe that this wicked world is going to continue to exist for a long time yet. But this letter of Paul teaches us clearly that the end is coming swiftly. We live in the last days. The swift passing of this year should remind 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 seems more and more difficult to be able 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 to 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 that, Christ explains, if it were possible even the elect will be deceived.
This is why Paul’s prayer for the church of Christ is that God will preserve the bodies, souls, and spirits of God’s saints 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 this benefit He has applied to each of us 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. 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. And, 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, 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, fellow saints, 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, even, mind you, causes 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. 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 our 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 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 you and in me too! In this we rejoice.
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. But we are confident at the end of this 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 is an established fact in the hearts of believers as they 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 we be so certain 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. We have noticed already in a couple of our most recent broadcasts that 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, as we well know, goes forth to everyone where God in His providence guides it. The preaching of the gospel goes out in all the earth to many. The church is commanded by Christ to preach the gospel in all the world sincerely and without discrimination. In this sense of that word “calling,” there are many who are called. The gospel is proclaimed to many with its command to repent and believe, together with the promise that those who believe will not be turned away. But though many people are called in this external way, only few receive the internal call of the Spirit in their hearts. 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 to hear the call to come to Jesus Christ and find rest unto their souls. The Holy Spirit powerfully works in their hearts a sorrow over sin. They repent. Then the Holy Spirit likewise works in them faith. He irresistibly draws them to the cross of Christ where they find their salvation.
That is the calling of which Paul speaks in the few words of the verse we consider today: 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 on the other hand they are 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 Paul’s 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—will that God now turn us away? Paul teaches us that God will always preserve His people 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 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 or 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 God’s saints rejoice in that grace God has shown us in our lives.
All of this, everything we have been talking about, culminates in one word, dear listeners: faithful. This term is the first word of the verse we consider today. This is true because it receives all the emphasis. Paul does not write, “He is faithful who is calling us.” Paul writes the term “faithful” first—that is because the whole of the Word of God before us is wrapped up in that one 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 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 has made us His people a promise. It is the promise of His covenant. In His friendship and fellowship with His people in Christ, God promises them that they will be heirs of His eternal kingdom in heaven. He has promised us that. He told Abraham, your seed will inherit the land of Canaan. God has never turned from fulfilling that promise to Abraham.
Even today God is fulfilling that promise to us. 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: I will never leave you or forsake you. That promise to His people and His church is repeated constantly throughout all of Scripture. I am your God. 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. 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 still there forgiving us and leading us back to Him.
Surely, you and I can sing at the close of the year 2018 this: Great is they faithfulness, O God, my Father!