God's Reward System

"In Him we also obtained an inheritance" 

Ephesians 1:11 

Under construction. Expected completion - February 2024

Click on a topic below to go straight to that item, or scroll past and start reading from Part 1

Part 1 - Everything We Do Has a Value

One of the biggest blessings while teaching at Angaza Bible College near Kamukuywa in Western Kenya was the presence of a good old fashioned blackboard, some chalk and a duster! I had forgotten how useful these devices are in explaining potentially tricky concepts.

Part of teaching “The Equality of Men and Women” involves teaching about God’s reward system, which comes into effect on Judgment Day.

We do this as an incentive to change behaviour now.

There’s a deeply ingrained belief in many parts of the world that God’s forgiveness cancels out wrong-doing permanently. Well, it does until death, anyway, but because there is no sin in Heaven there is no forgiveness there, either. Jesus pointed out that on Judgment Day we would have to answer for even the foolish words that we spoke on Earth. (Matthew 12:36)

In 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 Paul explains how God’s reward system plays out on Judgment Day.

This is on top of salvation!

He describes our works, the things of value that we do on Earth, as being equivalent to gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and straw. 

Everything good we do has a value according to this scale; handing a bottle of water to a thirsty person in a hot, dry place might have the value of wood, but in a moist, cool place that same act of kindness might have the value of straw.

I remember a brilliant, engaging young worship leader, a man, who told me some years ago that he was so far out of his comfort zone that he would vomit in fear in the toilet before he would go on stage. He would surely earn gold for the time that he served, whereas someone else to whom this was first nature might only receive wood for the same service. And so on.

In verse 13 Paul points out that each person’s work will be tested by fire on Judgment Day. Fire and sin go together, so the testing will pit our misdeeds against our good deeds and the fire, fueled by the things we have done wrong over the years, will consume the good works that were of lesser value (hay and straw), and perhaps, if the fire of misdeeds is big enough, even some of the wood-value good works will go as well.

While the verses have been there forever (well, nearly 2000 years!) this teaching is new in the areas of East Africa where I minister and, it seems, in much of the West as well. Mind you, at Bethel Church’s (Redding) Prophetic Conference in 2018 one of the speakers spoke of a church in Brazil which had grown from 5,000 to 25,000 in the space of 5 years by teaching God’s reward system.

My audience was not quite that big on Saturday morning - we had started with five students, and the number had doubled over the following hour. It was time to reveal Paul’s explanation to God’s reward system.

Part 2 - Can You Sin Your Way Out of Eternal Life?

Paul sums up God’s reward system in 1 Corinthians 3 like this:

“This verse is an absolute,” I explained to the students, “it leaves no doubt that we cannot lose our salvation through what we do wrong. There are some people whose works, the things they did as ministry while alive, will not survive against the things they did wrong. They will lose everything that was meant to be their reward for Eternity, but Paul makes it very clear that no matter what, no matter how bad their actions were, they will not lose their salvation!

“This life,” I went on, “is a seed bed for Eternity. The sixty, seventy, ninety years that we live here on Earth are our one opportunity to set us up to do well In Eternity. There are people who have amazing ministries now, who are wealthy and have position, who will lose everything on Judgment Day because of the things they are doing wrong, but they won’t lose their salvation. Paul says that very clearly.

“There are others who have nothing in this lifetime, who are the poorest of the poor but who are doing the things God has set before them, who will be leaders in Eternity.”

One of the students at Aganza Bible College was a well dressed, precisely spoken man in his forties. Over time he had moved from the second row to the first row of chairs. To me that suggested that he was getting more interested and involved. He now spoke up.

“What about what Paul writes in Galatians 5:19-21?” And he read the verses:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Holy Spirit sets up these moments.

That phrase, ‘inherit the kingdom of God,’ has caused more strife, confusion and misunderstanding than almost any other concept in Scripture. Could I easily explain what it meant with some chalk and a blackboard?

Part 3 - Saved by Grace, but Unsaved by Bad Works??

“This idea is widespread in many parts of Christianity around the world,” I started to respond, “and is based on not understanding the difference between two similar but completely different expressions in the New Testament.

“The two expressions are figures of speech, words used to represent an idea, a truth. If we do a study of where and how these two expressions are used, rather than just taking a verse out of context from here or there,” I said, “we will see that they refer to two quite different things.

“‘Enter the kingdom’ represents getting saved or being born again, while ‘inherit the kingdom’ refers to the reward we receive on Judgment Day based on the things we did, good and bad, while we were still ‘in the body’, to use another of Paul’s expressions.”

The chalk and blackboard made it so much easier to block out the matching concepts.

“But before we look at these two expressions let’s look at salvation, being saved or ‘getting’ born again.

“Ephesians 2:8-9 is an absolute, unconditional definition of salvation: ‘For by grace are you saved through faith…’ Grace is a totally free gift from God that we have not earned, that we have not worked for. Faith is the act of believing something that you cannot see or have not experienced, where 'believing' includes the idea that there is a matching action.”

I had demonstrated grace right at the beginning of the week by randomly handing out a water bottle or two to students.

“‘It is the gift of God’, there’s that grace again, ‘not of works’, it’s not earned, it’s not based on what we do, ‘so that no one can boast.’” (To demonstrate works as distinct from grace I had required one or two people to answer a question before they could receive a water bottle as a reward.)

“What did Jesus say about getting saved? 

“In John 6:37 Jesus says, ‘Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.’ In other words, once we are saved there is nothing we can do after the event to lose that salvation. This is an absolute, unconditional statement - other, conditional statements have to be understood in this light. He is not saying, ‘Whoever comes to Me I will not reject.’ To reject means to never accept someone in the first place, but Jesus shows that He accepts all who come to Him, and from that time on they will never be cast out, either. Not ever, no matter what.

“Or we can look at Romans 11:29, another unconditional statement:

‘For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." The Amplified Bible adds, ‘He never withdraws them once they have been given.’ That's what 'irrevocable' means - 

But what is this salvation thing, whereby Jesus said that we ‘enter the kingdom’?

And how is that different from ‘inherit the kingdom’?

Part 4 - ”Only Flesh and Blood Can Enter The Kingdom”

Jesus used parables for a good reason: since the physical world resembles the spiritual world, and vice versa, in order to understand the invisible, spirit world, we can view the visible, physical world around us.

“Jesus explained salvation to Nicodemus like this: ‘Unless one is born again he cannot see (or experience) the kingdom of God.’ 

“In answer, then, to Nicodemus’ question as to how this could be, Jesus explains by describing the first and second births. Once again, this part is misunderstood by many denominations who think that verse 5 is referring to baptism in water - it isn’t. Instead, Jesus is describing the first, natural, human birth and then the second, spiritual birth through Holy Spirit.

“Here is the literal reading from the original Greek text, as found in The Concordant Literal New Testament: 

“‘Unless one is born out of water (the first, natural human birth) and of spirit (the second birth, by Holy Spirit) he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’ Notice how He didn’t say, ‘Unless one is born again (out) of water and of spirit.’

“If you have ever witnessed a human birth (unfortunately in East Africa men are not normally permitted at the birth of their child) you know that the baby lives in amniotic fluid (like water) inside the womb, and before the baby is born the fluid is released, hence the expression that Jesus used to describe the first birth, ‘out of water’.

“In contrast, the second birth is just described as ‘of spirit’.”

We had some men who farmed animals and they could certainly testify that they now understood the use of the expression ‘born out of water’. The women present also knew what it meant.

“Jesus confirmed this meaning in the next verse when, still referring to the topic of being born again, He said, “What is born from the flesh (or ‘out of water’) is flesh; and what is born of the spirit (being ‘born again’) is spirit.” John 3:6. In other words, while human birth affects our body, the new birth, being born again, is not performed on our body but in our spirit. There was no need to “go back into the womb’ to do this as Nicodemus suggested

“And so, for someone to enter the kingdom of God they must be ‘flesh and blood’; that is, they must be human and alive in order to enter the kingdom.”

But there was one more aspect of being ‘born’ that we still had to cover.

Part 5 - Can a Person Get ‘Unborn’?

“Even if a baby only survives for a day or an hour in the womb, from the moment that the sperm fertilises the egg a new life is created and nothing, not even death, can undo that new creation - it exists before God. Just like the first creation in Eden, when God breathed into that first person and they became a living being, so that tiny, fertilised egg becomes a living being before God.

“If we have a child who doesn’t perform the way we would like or expect, can we send it back or ‘unbirth’ that child? 

“No, of course not. It exists, and if we don’t like the way it performs in life the only thing we can do is disown or disinherit that child. That means to cut it off and not pass on any inheritance that we might have for it, but it still always remains our child and a part of our family.

“No matter what actions we take against that unruly or wayward child there is no way for us to break the genetic connection that permanently joins us to them through human conception and birth. It’s the same with the new, spiritual birth - there are instructions for how we can enter the kingdom through being born again, but there are no instructions on how to exit the kingdom. It simply isn’t possible. 

“God Himself has said, ‘I will not, not, not leave you or forsake you,’ as recounted in Hebrews 13:5 (see The Amplified Bible, pre 1987).

“The act of being born again means that we are permanently adopted into the family of God (see Ephesians 1:5), and we actually become an entirely new creation in that process.That’s 2 Corinthians 5:17.”

Ephesians 1 shows the pattern of God’s salvation:

Before we could deal with ‘inheritance’, though, I had to cover ‘holy’.

Part 6 - What Is ‘Holy’, And How Do We Get There?

Ephesians 1 points out what God has done for us; it is not a recipe for what we have to do to earn salvation.

It would be great if we could be blameless before God (see verse 4b) in our own right, but no one in a human body except Jesus has achieved that. Instead, God has made us to be effectively blameless because we have chosen to be set apart (‘holy’) to Him. Thus ‘holy’, meaning to be ‘set apart’, is referring to our attitude rather than our behaviour.

Just like Abraham, who “believed God, and this was credited as righteousness with God,” we make many mistakes, but instead of having righteousness credited to us, we who first put our hope in Jesus (Ephesians 1:12) have now actually been made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Instead of having to work to be set apart and flawless in the sight of God, those two things are applied to us by God because of our relationship with Jesus.

I started to explain to the students.

“‘Holy’ is a word, much like  ‘grace’ and ‘righteousness’, which has had a lot of extra meaning attached to it over the years. A lot of people think that ‘holy’ is a word or concept that refers to our actions or the way we live, or perhaps it means ‘the presence of God’ or ‘the absence of sin’, but does it?

“Instead, ‘holy’, in both the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and in our Scriptures, the New Testament, basically means ‘set apart’. It refers to the fact that a person, place or object has been ‘set apart’ for some special purpose. ‘Holy’ also refers to our attitude, rather than our behaviour.

“This water bottle that I am using is ‘holy’ or set apart to me by removing the label. That makes it easier for me to find because while I am teaching I could put it down anywhere. Please don’t remove the label from your water bottle!”

(At one conference a pastor in the fourth row saw me remove the label from my water bottle and did the same to his. I guess he thought there was some spiritual significance in the action and wanted ‘my’ blessing for himself.  ;-)  It gave me a chance to explain ‘holy’ to the people there.)

“I want to take you now to the side of a mountain to the south of modern day Israel and east of Egypt. Here the man Moses, who had fled the royal household of Egypt 40 years earlier, was minding his father-in-law’s sheep.

“As he travelled along he noticed something unusual; off to one side a bush appeared to be on fire, but without being consumed. Moses decided to approach and investigate ‘this great sight’. 

“As he turned he heard the voice of God say, “Moses, Moses, do not come near; put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is ‘set apart’. Note that all translations use the word ‘holy’ where I have used ‘set apart’.

Part 7 - “Take Off Your Shoes, for the Place on Which You Stand is Holy”

While I am explaining what happened to Moses on the side of the mountain I am bending down, undoing my laces and removing the shoe and sock from my right foot so that I can mingle it with the dirt. In this case the floor had been swept immaculately clean.

“Why was this particular spot ‘holy’, and what was it set apart for?

“Was the ground ‘holy’ because there was no sin there?

“Was it set apart because of the presence of God? A lot of good people think so, but God appeared in the presence of other people, sinful and wicked people such as Cain, Abraham and Jacob, without asking them to remove their shoes.

“Where was Moses standing, what was the name of the mountain?”

Some people correctly say, “Mt Horeb,” but when I ask, “What is another name for Mt Horeb?” very few have the correct answer, Mt Sinai. In this location, though, they did answer correctly.

“What was going to happen at this very mountain in just a few months' time? 

“Moses was going to lead the descendants of Israel out of Egypt, back to this very spot, to receive God’s new covenant for them, what we now know as ‘The Old Covenant’. Here in this place God was going to start to make a great nation of them.

“But why remove his shoes?

“To make a spiritual connection in the physical realm, with the soil of the place to which he was meant to return. That connection was going to bring him back to this very same location.

“How do we know that this is true?

“Jesus taught this same truth when He sent out, first the twelve, then the seventy, to do ministry like He did, in Luke 9 and 10. He finished His instructions to them by saying, ‘And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet.’ (Luke 9:5) This breaks the spiritual connection with that physical place and is a way of saying, ‘I won’t be back.’

“It’s really very simple: dust on feet? I’m coming back to this place. No dust on feet? I won’t be back.”

 “It’s not a curse, as some people think: it’s God’s way for us to sever our connection with a place that fails to connect to God during our ministry there. That is a very unusual thing to happen, though.”

Part 8 - Jesus Taught About Reward and Loss on Judgment Day

If ‘enter the kingdom’ is a metaphor for ‘getting saved’ or ‘being born again’, then ‘inherit the kingdom’ must be about something else. 

The easiest way to find out what it refers to is to look at how the expression is used in the New Testament. Most people, even leaders of denominations, don’t seem to do this; instead, they seem to seize on one or two verses and use them to clout people over the head with whom they do not agree, or whose actions they find offensive.

But first, let’s look at the Greek word which is translated as the verb ‘to inherit’ - kleronomeo.

The literal meaning of this word is ‘to have the use or enjoyment of something because of or by means of an allotment’.

The best way to describe an allotment, which is a word not used very much today, is as a variable portion of something which is given out as a payment or benefit, like wages earned, to each individual in a group of people.

Jesus explained how this reward system would work in The Parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:14-30. The essential explanation of this parable as it stands in Matthew is this:

God gives everyone ‘talents’ or opportunities to make good with what they have been given. Note that in this case a ‘talent’ is not a natural skill or ability, but generally represents the opportunity to do things that don’t come naturally to us, but rely on us working in, with and according to the power and presence of God.  In this case, in Matthew, in Jesus’ day, it was a considerable amount of money. 

In the kingdom of God a talent is an opportunity to do something for which we do not have a natural skill or ability; that is why even the third man, who was only given one ‘talent’, did not readily, in his mind at least, have an easy way to convert that ‘talent’ into something profitable. He did not have a faith-connection or friendship with the master.

The first two used their talents to double what had been given to them. They were well rewarded when the master returned. This is a picture of the reward time at the end of the age, which operates in conjunction with Judgment Day. Jesus was establishing that there will be a reward system in operation, an ‘inheritance’ that is paid out as wages earned for what we do in life. This also ties in and agrees with Paul’s explanation in 1 Corinthians 3 of God’s reward system.

But what about the third person in the parable?

This third person is a symbol of someone who does not know God, because he saw the master as harsh and unjust, dishonest, even. That is the same way that many mistakenly view God today. 

And so, because he didn’t take the opportunities that God gave to him to bless others, he was not permitted to stay in the master’s presence but was sent away into outer darkness. That’s not a picture of someone losing their salvation - this person did not have salvation in the first place. 

Nonetheless, just like everyone else who has ever lived on Earth, he was still given opportunities to respond to the goodness of God. Paul covers this in Romans 2:10-16.

Luke’s version, in Luke 19:12-28, is slightly different - I’m sure that Jesus taught on this reward system more than once, and used different illustrations - but the thrust, the result is the same. 

Both versions have the same result for those who don’t work the opportunities that God gives them: what they already have will be taken away and given to those who achieved the most. 

Because in both versions this last person doesn’t even recognise God as the source of goodness and integrity this person presents as an unbeliever, one who never had salvation and who is sent out of the presence of God as a result.

For the believer, though, even those whom we might regard as low achievers in the kingdom, those who did not seem to take many or maybe even any of the opportunities God presented for them to minister to others, it seems that there is nothing for them to fear in the final judgment.

Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his due commendation (that’s not condemnation!) from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5

Part 9 - What Does It Mean to ‘Inherit’ The Kingdom?

If ‘inherit the kingdom’ means to get saved or to earn a place in eternity, which is what many people think, what does ‘inherit the earth’ mean?

We find this expression in Matthew 5:5, in the early stages of what is now known as ‘The Sermon on the Mount’.

‘Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: v2

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” v5

The way those words stand doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know of any way that meek, or any other people, can inherit land, or inherit the earth itself, as most Bibles translate it. If we take the literal meaning of the Greek word - kleronomeo - used here, ‘to enjoy the allotment’, that doesn’t make a lot more sense.

We need to add a preposition, in this case the English word ‘on’, to get the sense of what Jesus is saying.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall enjoy on the earth (or in their land) what has been given out (allotted) to them.” In other words, this refers to a blessing that is stored up on Earth for those who are not fighting for position.

In the same way, when we understand God’s reward system, when we are promised a future inheritance it is an inheritance in the kingdom, rather than the kingdom itself. Here is an example:

“Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  Colossians 3:23-24

That’s wages paid out for Godly effort by us.  

That’s not salvation, which is a free gift, not based on anything we do or have done, but based on God’s generosity (grace) and our faith (believing what we cannot see) in what Jesus has done for us.

But there is a negative side to reward, as Paul also points out in Colossians 3:5.

“For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

This agrees with 1 Corinthians 3:15, where Paul explains in more detail how God’s reward system operates where people have made mistakes. We looked at these verses, (see verses 13-15 especially), back in Part 1 & Part 2.

Inheritance, receiving an allotment from God based on what we have done on Earth, is shown as something on top of or a benefit accruing from salvation, according to Ephesians 1:11. After listing at least 6 things that had happened in, during and as a result of getting saved, Paul sums up the salvation event like this:

“In Him we also obtained an inheritance (the opportunity to enjoy an allotment).”

Peter also points out that ‘inheritance’ is a result of what we do on Earth:

“Never return evil for evil or insult for insult; but on the contrary blessing. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

Part 10 - Eternal Life is the ‘Container’ for Salvation and Eternal Reward

As so often happens with questions of Scriptural understanding, if we just look far enough, rather than taking some prominent verses out of context, Holy Spirit can lead us into all truth. A lot of people don’t even get part-way there because they believe that their stance already is ‘all truth’, so that limits what Holy Spirit can do in them.

Jesus defined the act or moment of salvation as being ‘born again’ or ‘to enter the kingdom’. He went on to emphasise the permanency of this new birth relationship soon after His encounter with Nicodemus recorded in John 3.

“I solemnly assure you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  John 5:24

That means that once we are born again, once we surrender to Jesus and cast our lot in with Him, once we are saved, there is no further judgment upon our actions in regard to our salvation. When we are ‘born again’ we are permanently connected genealogically to God the Father - that is why He is called ‘Father’. We are also permanently connected to His first-born, the Son, Jesus, who becomes our older brother.

For the christian, the person who receives Jesus as flesh and blood (that is, while they are still alive), there is no judgment in eternity regarding salvation - their salvation is secure. Jesus guaranteed it. 

Our salvation is secured in Him, because we have believed what we cannot see or perceive or apprehend (that’s called ‘faith’), and this gift of salvation (some call it ‘eternal security’) is a free gift, not based on anything good we have done, but based solely on the generosity and love of God. That is what we call ‘grace’. (And that is recorded clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9.)

Salvation is the key, if you like, to unlock eternal life, which opens up to us and begins at the point of salvation. Salvation is the point at which we enter the kingdom.

Eternal life, then, is the container for two components: salvation, and eternal reward. The eternal reward is assessed and paid out on Judgment Day; that is the point at which we inherit the kingdom. Actually, we really inherit in the kingdom.

There is a judgment for christians which will determine our eternal reward, as described earlier in Part 1 and Part 2. This judgment determines the size or magnitude of our inheritance. Paul describes how this judgment works, in 1 Corinthians 3:

“If anyone builds upon the foundation (of Jesus Christ), whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw, the work of each will become known; for the (judgment) day of Christ will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the character of the work each person has done.” v11-13

Fire is associated with misdeeds, or sin. Obviously, that sin component will produce a certain amount of flame which will consume the lesser works, such as straw and hay, maybe even the wood. But when the fire comes to the better ‘works’, the things we did that required a step of faith, or placing ourselves in danger, or teaching truth against the mainstream of public opinion, then those things could have the value of precious stones, which are not affected by fire. Better still, when the fire comes to good works, the value of which is represented by gold and silver, those precious metals are actually refined by fire.

It is this eternal reward on top of salvation which is called our ‘inheritance’, and becoming eligible to receive it is described in Scripture as to ‘inherit the kingdom’. The criteria for ‘inheriting the kingdom’ are our actions, on Earth, while we are still alive. This judgment to assess the size and content of our eternal reward takes place in the time period known as Judgment Day

Part 11 - The End-time Judgment for Believers is NOT for Salvation

God warns about the judgment to come for believers, but many Christians who take an interest in this think that this judgment is a final determinant about salvation. It isn’t.

There is no judgment for a believer in regards to their salvation, which is fixed and eternal from the time that they are born again. Jesus said so. (See John 3:17-18 and John 5:24.)

Instead, it is our actions on Earth which are judged in order to determine the size, and perhaps the content of our eternal reward.

God always wants only the best for us, and so events and circumstances are arranged to give us opportunities to do good to others, as well as to accept and complete ministry opportunities. They are not just for designated ‘ministers’ but for every believer!

Paul explains how this judgment system of opportunities and reminders works, in Romans 2, beginning with verse 4:

Are you unmindful that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent?”

It’s important to remember that repentance (‘repent’ means to change your mind, not your actions, according to the Greek word used, metanoia,) is not just for salvation, but also for eternal reward, and other things as well. In this case Paul is appealing, not to sinners, not to unsaved people, but to believers, to change their mind about their actions so that their reward is greater. He goes on:

“But by your callous stubbornness you are storing up wrath for yourself when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” v5.

We tend to think that it is God’s wrath that will be on display, but our mistakes don’t affect God, they only affect us. We are the ones who will be annoyed, if anyone is annoyed on Judgment Day, when we see how easily we could have done much better in the good works department.

‘God’s righteous judgment’ is not referring to righteousness itself, being ‘right’ with God, (otherwise known as ‘being saved’), but is referring to the fairness with which God will examine our works on Earth.

“For He will render to every man according to his works.” v6. That is surely talking about reward, generally called our ‘inheritance’,  or described as ‘inherit the kingdom’ elsewhere in the New Testament.

“To those who by patient persistence in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, He will give eternal life.” v7.

What?? Salvation can come by good works?

If we take this verse by itself it could appear that that is what Paul is claiming. However, Paul categorically states the opposite in the next chapter.

“But now the righteousness of God has been revealed…” Romans 3:21a.

Righteousness is the state of being ‘right’ with God. We naturally seem to think that is connected with ‘doing the right thing’, but oddly enough, that’s not what God has in mind!

“Namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing on Jesus Christ…” v22.  There we have it again - we become ‘right’ with God by believing Their message, by believing on the One who brought the message to us.

“It was to demonstrate that He Himself is righteous and that He accepts as righteous he who has faith in Jesus.” v26.

“For we hold that a man is justified by faith (believing on Jesus) quite apart from good deeds.” v28.  

That’s it - nothing could be simpler, but this message is too simple for some, who want to complicate it by adding ‘works’ into the salvation equation. I don’t think they do it with bad motives or a bad ‘heart’ - they just think that God’s system is too simple, too easy.

It comes from misunderstanding God, from seeing God through Old Testament, Old Covenant eyes and circumstances. But we have a new covenant which is based on much better promises, according to the writer of Hebrews.

So what is the purpose of ‘works’ or good deeds?

To bless others, to glorify God the Father, and to build up our reward in Heaven.

Part 12 - Jesus Taught About Eternal Reward

Jesus taught extensively about eternal reward, frequently connecting it with temporal reward (here and now, in this lifetime). He also used the expression ‘treasure in Heaven’.

Perhaps the best summary of what He taught is in Matthew 16:27.

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He will reward every man according to what he has done.

Here are some of His sayings - do they get lost in the overall view?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:10

In verses 11-12 Jesus explains what “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” really means:

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account. Be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”

But there’s another purpose other than getting a reward in Eternity, the second purpose for doing things that bless people:

Let your light (your reputation and example of doing good things for other people) so shine before men that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

When people see Christians in action their good deeds are meant to bring glory to God, rather than the person doing them.

That advice from Jesus to let our good deeds be seen by others has to be balanced against something else He said:

Take care not to do your good deeds before men in order to be seen by them; otherwise you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven…. Truly I tell you, they have their reward in full already.”  Matthew 6:1-2

But when you do acts of kindness, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (in other words, don’t tell anyone, not even your closest friend), so that your deeds of kindness may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:3-4

The Father’s reward mentioned here might not appear while we are on Earth, it might be reserved for Judgment Day in Eternity - it will be far more valuable there than here!

Jesus went on:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but heap up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and thieves do not break through and steal;” Matthew 6:19-20

What sort of things become ‘treasure in Heaven’?

More to come - February 2024