Does the Blood of Jesus Make Us Worthy?

Every so often I come across an idea that is held by most professing Christians, myself included, that turns out not to be supported by scripture. I am not referring to silly sayings such as, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, or, “God helps those who help themselves.” I’m talking about theological positions that have been repeated for so long that they have become a part of our mindset. One such idea is the belief that we are made worthy by the blood of Jesus. Recently I felt prompted to investigate this claim, and what I found was both humbling and illuminating.

I have been taught that the blood of Jesus makes us worthy for as long as I can remember. And sure enough, a quick search of the Internet reveals a plethora of results that echo this idea of being made worthy. There are both gospel singing groups and gospel songs named “Made Worthy” as well as numerous articles and blog entries that assure the reader that God has indeed made them worthy. Maybe you will be shocked, as I was, to discover that this doctrine is not taught in scripture! If you don’t believe it, look up ‘made worthy’ in a good concordance- you won’t find a single verse of scripture that promises worthiness to believers by the blood of Jesus. Even worse, what you will discover is that the Apostles place the emphasis for worthiness on our own shoulders! Blasphemy!

As I searched this out, I found that we have confused two biblical terms with each other. We have substituted one for the other in a dangerous way that has paved the road for the false grace message that has permeated the western church. These two terms are righteousness and worthiness. Beloved, the blood of Jesus does not make us worthy, it makes us righteous. You might be tempted to say, “Whew, glad we cleared that up! I have been made righteous, it’s all good.” If the truth is known, most of us stop there in our hearts because we believe that righteousness and worthiness is mostly the same thing, and God is responsible for imparting them to us. This is one of the important areas of doctrine where the modern church has deviated from the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. God has given us the free gift of righteousness, but He calls us to appropriate His grace to walk worthy as a result of the free gift. These are two very different things and misunderstanding either of them will rob us of power, intimacy with the Lord, and will cause us to live with a lukewarm, dull spirit.

To be righteous means to be just, lawful, innocent, or holy. Since man became inherently unjust, guilty, a lawbreaker, and defiled by his very nature after the fall, it is not possible for any of us to attain righteousness by our own effort. The best of humanity comes far short. No one, from the apostle Paul to Mother Theresa, is righteous. But thanks be to God, He gave us His righteousness as a free gift through the sacrifice of Jesus! The unrighteous must pay for their evil deeds; Christ paid our penalty Himself on the cross and His innocent blood satisfied the requirement of our own death sentence. We have been made righteous through no effort of our own, but we have been made the very righteousness of God.

For if, by the trespass of the one (Adam), death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

Do you realize that Jesus is not more righteous than you are? Or to state it another way, you are no less righteous than the Son of God? If your mind bristles at this statement, you have confused righteousness with worthiness. Claiming the very righteousness of God is offensive to the religious mind but it is the teaching of scripture:

…even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and on all them that believe… (Romans 3:22 )

We have been given the righteousness of God Himself. No lesser justification would allow us access to His holy presence. We know instinctively that we are guilty and that a price must be paid. Our minds and our flesh are constantly trying to come up with a way to earn God’s favor and to pay for our own guilt. When we humble ourselves and finally come broken to the cross (and to the free gift of righteousness that was paid for on that cross) we are able to enter into a new place of intimacy with the Lord. This is part of what Jesus meant when He taught us that the portal of entry into spiritual blessing was to become poor in spirit. (Matt. 5: 3) When the proud human spirit comes to the cross and admits that it is powerless to pay its own debt, the impartation of God’s own righteousness takes place.

Worthiness is a completely different matter. The biblical definition of worthiness means to be competent, fit, able, suitable, or appropriate. As stated earlier, we have combined and confused worthiness with righteousness resulting in the assumption that God makes us worthy. He does not. In fact, many Christians would reject as bad doctrine any teaching that says we must make ourselves worthy, believing that such a doctrine is in conflict with the free gift of God’s grace. The irony is that God’s grace is given to us so that we might choose to walk worthy of our calling; nowhere does the scripture state that we are “made worthy.” In fact as we study the scriptures we find that we are told that the issue of worthiness falls upon us! This certainly takes the grace of God to accomplish over a lifetime, but it is a perversion of grace to claim that God does it all for us and all we have to do is receive it. We cannot do God’s part, but He will not do our part.

Grace is the gift of God to press into a deeper knowledge of Him, greater obedience, prayer, fasting, and boldness… grace is not an excuse to live with a lukewarm spirit while God winks at us. We speak of a “grace period” where we might, for example, pay a bill late with no penalty. We have corrupted the beauty of God’s grace by adopting a definition of grace that means we don’t have to press hard after Jesus, walking in a worthy manner of His calling, taking up our cross, partaking in the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death. We go about our lives with a dull spirit, lukewarm about God’s Word, and we excuse ourselves by saying that we are under grace. Brethren, this is not what the apostles taught the early church!

That you might walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10)

As you know how we exhorted and encouraged and charged every one of you, as a father does his children, that you would walk worthy of God, who has called you unto his kingdom and glory. (I Thes. 2:11-12)

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation by which you are called (Eph. 4:1)

According to Paul, the responsibility for being found worthy in God’s sight is on us and the daily decisions we make. The ultimate expression of this idea of worthiness is seen toward the end of the book of Revelation. The brief period of seven years known as The Tribulation will accomplish something that two thousand years’ worth of church programs and man-centered leadership could not do: The Bride will have made herself ready.

Let us rejoice, be glad, and give him glory, because the marriage of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)

Note that the sacred text does not say that God has made her ready; she made herself ready! This is synonymous with saying that the Bride began walking with God in a manner worthy of her calling. Can you imagine the folly of a bride who showed up at her wedding looking a mess, unprepared, and who claimed that as soon as the bridegroom appeared she would be transformed into a beautiful bride? Such a one would be well-advised to go back and GET READY! So it is with the Bride of Christ; those who are not making themselves ready but who expect to simply be changed when He appears are in for a surprise.

There are degrees of worthiness. We will never be as worthy as the Lord Jesus because we are weak and broken vessels and we fail often. It is important that we strive for 100% obedience to the Lord as we endeavor to walk in a manner worthy of Him. But only Jesus is ultimately found worthy:

And no man in heaven, or in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the scroll, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the scroll, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll, and to loose the seven seals thereof. (Rev. 5: 3-5)

In conclusion, we must embrace both righteousness and worthiness with right understanding. If we do not understand the free gift of righteousness, we will have a guilty spirit before the Father that blocks intimacy and our enjoyment of His presence. We will be robbed of the grace and understanding to pursue worthiness. And if we lack understanding about our responsibility to pursue a worthy walk, we will assume that everything is cool and that God understands. Jesus referred to such an attitude as being lukewarm and declared that it would make Him vomit.

Righteousness is free; worthiness is on us.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Looking diligently lest any man fall short of the grace of God… (Heb. 12: 14-15)