Every year in the springtime, members of the Church of God take part in a solemn ceremony that commemorates the sacrifice and death of our Savior Jesus Christ. This ceremony is known as the Passover. It is critical for every baptized member in God’s Church to take part in this yearly ceremony. But mere participation in the Passover does not mean that one is participating in an acceptable way. As we read in 1 Cor. 11:27-29, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” The importance of partaking of the Passover in a worthy manner cannot be overemphasized. It is clearly a salvational issue.
Being worthy is no small matter. Physical protection from the calamities to occur in the future also hinges on our being worthy. With regard to the Great Tribulation to occur in the “latter days”, Christ stated: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). Our protection during the Great Tribulation is not a foregone conclusion. We will not be protected because we are following a man or an organizational structure. We will all have to personally answer to God for our behavior (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). We must individually be accounted worthy. Since biblical examples are for our learning and admonition (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11), it is paramount for us to search the Scriptures for examples to gain a better understanding of this important topic.
Christ – the Perfect Example
Observing the Passover properly and being protected during a time of great duress are important considerations for God-fearing Christians. It would be helpful for those seeking to be worthy to follow the example of One who was worthy. It should come as no surprise that the perfect example is Jesus Christ. In describing Jesus Christ, the author of the book of Hebrews states:
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. (Heb 3:3)
This comparison should not be minimized. Moses was, after all, one of the most pivotal figures in the Old Testament. His list of accomplishments was numerous, his trust in God noteworthy. And yet, Jesus was counted worthy of more glory than Moses.
Christ came into this world with the most humble beginning. Most, if not all, kings are born into great opulence and splendor, with servants administering to them day and night. Much fanfare and celebration surrounds the birth of kings. Contrast that with the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. How many kings are born in a manger? (Luke 2:7) Christ demonstrated the perfect example of worthiness throughout his life. From His earliest days as an infant to His last days as an adult He was worthy.
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4:11)
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Rev 5:9)
As Creator of all things, Christ’s life was worth more than the sum total of all that He created! For without Him, the Creation would not have existed. And without Him living a perfect, sinless life, making Himself a substitutionary sacrifice for us, we could not be reconciled to God. Our salvation and entry into God’s Family would be an impossibility.
Regarding future end-time events, we see that Christ’s worthiness is pivotal:
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Rev 5:2-12)
No one else is worthy of performing the above task. We should always be thankful for all that Christ has done for us. He set the example, and we should live by His example. A true Christian will seek to emulate Christ, following His examples on how to behave, how to act, how to pray, how to obey. This is no easy task. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can gradually overcome the natural pulls and tendencies that are inherent within us, and begin manifesting a Christ-like attitude. That attitude is reflected in the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Our demeanor and attitude should be changing as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.
We Are Not Worthy When Compared to Christ
Our worthiness pales in comparison to Christ’s. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ’s first coming, certainly realized this. Notice the following verses:
John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy [Spirit] and with fire. (Luke 3:16)
He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. (John 1:27)
And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. (Acts 13:25)
Here we see John’s attitude toward Christ. John did not even consider himself qualified to be a lowly servant, given the task of removing his Master’s dirty sandals. It was a thankless job. Even the most simple could do this. Yet, John felt that this was a responsibility above his qualifications. What is most interesting is that Christ, during the Passover service, demonstrated His humility by washing the feet of the apostles! If John the Baptist did not feel worthy when compared with Christ, where does that leave us?
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear . . . O God, beside thee . . . behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned . . . But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isa 64:4-6)
What about one unconverted Roman soldier? Surely, one would think he would consider himself to be a worthy individual. However, we read quite the opposite in the following account:
And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. (Matt. 8:5-13)
What a startling response from a military officer! And this was not just an average military man, but a centurion, which “denotes a military officer commanding from 50 to 100 men, according to the size of the legion which it was a part” (An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine). Here was a man who bore authority in the Roman Empire. This individual was admired and respected in Roman society. He not only commanded men, but he commanded respect and obedience from men. Nevertheless, he recognized his place in relation to Jesus Christ, an individual who did not outrank him as a soldier nor was high in the governing councils of the Roman Empire.
The pre-Passover examination process is a period of time where we can take a look at ourselves and reflect upon where we have been in the past year. Are we growing, stagnating, or regressing? To realize that we are not worthy when compared to Christ, and that this realization does not take a prolonged period of time, is amply demonstrated in the above Scriptural examples.
We Must Be Worthy to Be in The Kingdom of God
As stated earlier, we must indeed pray that we are accounted worthy to escape the terrifying events that will occur during the Great Tribulation. But, even more importantly, we must be worthy to enter into God’s Kingdom, for that is the ultimate goal of the Christian (Matt. 6:33). Bear in mind that protection during the Great Tribulation is best described as a benefit, while entering into the Kingdom of God is best described as the reward.
Prior to our baptism, we should count the cost. We must recognize that, if we want to be worthy of Christ, we must put Him first in our lives. He takes precedence over our own family. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38). If we want to be a part of God’s Kingdom, we must be accounted worthy (Luke 20:35). It is not an easy task, as we may be required to endure suffering and persecution (2 Thess. 1:5). Our prayer should be that God would count us worthy of our calling, and see us through to the end (v. 11).
On the other hand, there are clearly some who are not worthy. Christ instructed His disciples what their responsibilities would be (Matt. 10:1-8). They were commanded to preach the gospel. Of the masses, some would hear and respond to the message preached and be considered worthy. Some would hear and reject the message and be considered unworthy.
And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matt. 10:11-15)
Later, Paul and Barnabas were sent to preach the same gospel message that Christ had given to the twelve apostles. They initially preached to both the Jew and the Gentile. By their actions, many Jews in the areas in which Paul and Barnabas preached were considered unworthy. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles.
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you [the Jews]: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46)
Entering into God’s Kingdom is comparable to a wedding supper (Matt. 22:2). If God is calling us, we need to be careful to respond accordingly and to take that call seriously, else we may be judged unworthy to enter into the Kingdom of God. “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy” (Matt. 22:8). Clearly, we must be worthy to enter into God’s Kingdom.
Becoming Worthy – A Lifelong Process
Though we may be worthy at times, we fall far short of the continual level of worthiness that Christ displayed. We should recognize that in the true spiritual sense we are not naturally worthy to take Passover. But we must partake of it in a worthy manner. Herein lies the challenge. Our ways, thoughts, and actions are naturally in opposition to God’s way (Rom. 8:7; Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle Paul certainly experienced this struggle:
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom. 7:15-24)
Being worthy is not a guaranteed, continual state-of-being. Just like we realize the falsity behind the “once saved, always saved” point-of-view, we should also realize that we are not “once worthy, always worthy.” We will never be as worthy as Jesus Christ. Which one of us can claim to have lived a sinless life, thus qualifying as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for all humanity? As flesh and blood, we will never achieve the total and complete sinlessness of Christ. Therefore, we cannot be accounted worthy all of the time. This is why we ask for forgiveness from our sins on a daily basis. This is also why we should ask to be accounted worthy on a daily basis.
Yes, the scriptures are quite clear that being in a worthy state is something that we should strive for. Notice the following (emphasis added):
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:10)
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. (Eph. 4:1)
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:12)
Obviously, action on our part is required. It is described as a “walk.” In what manner are we expected to walk? In a worthy manner! Bear in mind that accepting Christ does not automatically impute worthiness to us. There is something that we must do. Contrary to the views of most today, it takes more than mere belief in Christ. We should daily be striving to walk worthy of our calling, bearing the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. Our mannerisms should be reflect those of Christ. As we encounter various trials and circumstances, do we react in a way that is befitting of a follower of Christ? Or do we allow our human nature to influence us and prevail?
Consider the Following
Do we enjoy obeying God (Ps. 119:97, 113, 163, 165), or do we find His ways too burdensome? (1 John 5:3) When we have a problem with a brother or sister in the faith, are we willing to forgive? (Matt. 5:22-24; 18:21-22) Are we willing to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:28-29), or do we seek vengeance? (Rom. 12:19) What is our attitude when we give? (2 Cor. 9:6-7) Are we being wise stewards of that which God has given us? (Luke 19:12-26) Do we properly budget and plan for the future (Prov. 13:22; 27:23-27), or are we constantly in debt? (Prov. 22:7) Do we take the time to help out those in need (Jas. 1:27), or are we too caught up in the pleasures that this world has to offer? (1 John 2:15-16) Do we play favorites? (1 Cor. 1:12-13, 3:4) Are we living the Truth (Matt. 5:16), or are we hypocrites? (Matt. 7:3-5) Are we contending for the faith once delivered (Jude 3), or being contentious about it? (Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:6) Do we have a zeal for God’s Truth (Matt. 5:6), or have we grown weary? (Gal. 6:9; Rev. 2:4; 3:15-16) Are we manifesting the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), or the fruits of the flesh? (Gal. 5:19-21) These are just a few questions to consider in our personal self-examination. Many more could be added. Our worthiness has a lot to do with the correct responses to the preceding questions.
As we partake of the bread and wine at the Passover service, we should do so with awe and respect for what these emblems represent. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). Being in a worthy state begins with an examination process. But it does not begin with the examination of others; it is a self-examination. And while we should at all times throughout the year be examining the self, it is especially important just prior to the Passover. We should examine ourselves, so that we partake of the bread and wine in a worthy manner.
As we consider this topic, we should not be concerned whether or not other individuals are worthy. For this involves a matter of judging others, and we are not capable of always correctly evaluating hearts and minds. Rather, the question that each one of us needs to consider is: “Am I worthy?”