Made worthy of God’s Kingdom

Here is yet another passage that the Protestant paradigm of sola fide chokes on.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God. (2Th 1:5)

What is this evidence of which St. Paul speaks? It is found in verse 4:

your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.

Based on sola fide, there is no coherent way to understand these verses. In the first place, the Protestant denies that anyone is “made worthy” of heaven, but rather says that he is declared worthy of it on the basis of Christ’s atonement. There is no need for him to be made worthy of heaven at all because he attains it not on the basis of his personal worthiness but rather on the basis of sola fide reliance upon being declared justified.

I know of no rational way to make sola fide “fit” with what St. Paul says in 2 Th. 1:5. If a man must be made worthy of God’s kingdom, then mere reliance on justification sola fide will never be sufficient. We do not enter God’s presence on the basis of a legal fiction (being declared righteous when we really aren’t); we enter God’s presence because He makes us genuinely righteous through Christ. In this way what St. Paul says makes some sense (though more could undoubtedly be said) because we truly must be made worthy to enter into the kingdom of God.

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Posted in Apologetics, Calvinism, Justification
4 comments on “Made worthy of God’s Kingdom
  1. Except that the Greek word “kataxioō” means “to count worthy”, rather than “to make worthy”. We are not justified by our works; rather, our works declare that we have been justified. Christ often compared believers and their works to trees/vines and fruit. The fruit does not make the tree good; the fruit proves that the tree is good already.

  2. lotharson says:

    I am a non-denominational Christian (formerly a lukewarm Evangelical) and I completely agree with you.
    I have ceased singling out the Bible as being more inspired than other writings of the Church and think it is obvious that there are tensions and even contradictions in the verses.

    The Evangelical assertion that salvation is only by grace and faith is clearly contradicted by countless other passages.

    By the way, you would be most welcome to participate in my series of post on Calvinism for bringing an insightful catholic perspective to the conversations.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

  3. aquinasetc says:

    Hello Cathy and/or Tom,

    You wrote:

    Except that the Greek word “kataxioō” means “to count worthy”, rather than “to make worthy”.

    The translation I used is the RSV—a Protestant translation. Furthermore, the specific rendering here was retained in the NRSV, which tells me that the translators did not consider the original rendering to be a mistake. Is there some reason why I should prefer your opinion to that of the Greek experts who produced this translation?

    I have no particular quarrel with the rest of your comment, except to observe that the atonement (on Protestant terms) does not make men holy. It declares them to be holy. As I said in the post, it is a legal fiction. Consequently there can be no possible necessary connection between justification and holy living on Protestant terms. Of course, that very claim is disputed among Protestants (cf. the “Lordship salvation” debate between Zane Hodges and John MacArthur, way back when). But it seems to me that this only affirms the challenge I made in my first post at Called to Communion: if you say X about doctrine A and the Church (however you want to define it) says Y about it, who is right? And how do you know?

    Lastly, I suppose I ought to point out that another non-Catholic commenter here disagrees with your view of this passage. Why should I accept your view rather than his? :-)



  4. aquinasetc says:

    Hello lotharson,

    Thank you for stopping by and thank you for your comments. :-) I can’t promise much as to my participation (since I have difficulty already trying to find time for writing here and at Called to Communion), but I will certainly take a look. Thank you very much for the invitation.



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