He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
“…. If you too struggle to understand or explain Reformed Theology, let me offer you one verse to sum up the basics: 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
“He who calls you…”
God initiates relationship with sinners. This is contrary to every other religion that tells you how to seek God. The fallacy of seeking God is that sin has made man incapable and unwilling of seeking God. It is the farthest thing from fallen man’s desire. That is not to say that fallen men and women do not seek gods. They seek, find, and make gods–idols–everywhere. But they want no part of the true God. He is utterly unlovely and undesirable to the fallen mind.
No, God must and does seek sinners. The story of the Bible is of a holy God calling sinful men and women into relationship with himself. His call, made efficacious by the Holy Spirit, changes a man’s nature. That change, made possible by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, makes God utterly beautiful and worthy of worship. But make no mistake, relationship with God is initiated by God.
Good relationships die without faithfulness. Whether friendship, business relationship, marriage, or divine covenant, faithfulness must be present. Every other religion touts man’s faithfulness to God as the basis of divine relationship. Man performs; God rewards.
Only this runs contrary to all that we know about ourselves. Humans live in relational carnage. The best and deepest of human relationships are scarred by failed expectations. The experiment of fallen humanity has produced one law: man is unfaithful.
This is the glory of the gospel–of the Reformed variety. It is God who is faithful for both himself and man. Jesus Christ took up man’s place in his incarnation and lived an utterly faithful life to God even unto death. This faithfulness is imputed to Christians by God’s free grace through faith. Man is made faithful in Christ. God–unchangeable by nature–roots the promise of redemption in his own faithful character. True relationship with God is built on God’s faithfulness alone.
“…he will surely do it.”
The “it” of this statement is the completed salvation mentioned in the previous verse. Many Christians will claim God’s sovereignty in salvation but vacillate when it comes to God’s sovereignty in Christian living. They end up advocating a “justified by God, sanctified by self” view of Christian life.
What does this look like? The litmus test is easy. Self-sanctification is motivated by guilt. God-sanctification is motivated by grace.
Self-sanctification looks at soul depravity and says, “I’m a failure I must do better. I need to read my Bible more, pray more, evangelize more, give more, attend church more. I will surely do it.”
God-sanctification looks at soul depravity and says, “I’m a failure I must find repent of my sins and find Jesus Christ to be my perfect righteousness. Out of thankfulness for free grace and through God’s power, I want to read my Bible more, pray more, evangelize more, give more, attend church more. God will surely do it.”
Do you see the difference?
It is God who works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure. God’s sovereign grace justifies us. God’s sovereign grace sanctifies us. Jesus Christ is for us our righteousness and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).
This is the essence of Reformed Theology, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” It stands in contrast to man-centered Theology which says, “I who call upon God am faithful; I will surely do it.”
- It is God who initiates through his gracious call.
- It is God who alone is faithful for himself by his nature and for us through Christ.
- It is God who accomplishes our salvation through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It is for these reasons that Biblical/Reformed theology always exalts one great theme: the glory of God. What a glorious God who loves us enough to display his sovereing grace in fallen men through the redemption only to be found in Jesus Christ!
This is Reformed Theology. But more importantly, this is the Bible’s theology.