TOGETHER WITH HIM
The Reward of the Inheritance
Being Glorified Together With Him © 2012 Charlie Dines
While this 2013 edition contains some minor word modifications of the original 2012 edition, its overall content and theme remain unchanged.
A large majority of the scriptural excerpts in this writing are eclectic renderings reflecting my understanding of what the passage is intending to say based on carefully reviewing more than one dozen English translations of the Bible (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ASV, RV, ISV, LITV, Webster Bible, Weymouth N.T., YLT, ESV, EMIV, TLB, Darby, NLT, TEV, RecV) and several Greek texts. Being persuaded of their right rendering as they appear herein - and praying that the Lord will not find them to be any wresting of His Word - I have not included any version references throughout this writing. It is left to the reader to consult the Word of God for himself to become satisfied of their correctness.
Within Scripture citations, non-bracketed italics represent words implied or supplied by the translators, or words that appear in a Greek text but not in English translations. Bracketed italics are the author’s added notations; they are no part of Holy Writ. Some words appear in regular, bracketed type: e.g., “[Christ]” where the text says “He,” the textual reference being to Christ; or where “anyone” or “he” within the context means “[a believer]”; or where “You” is replaced by “[we]” in order to make the verse more relevant to the Christian reader.
Despite the copyright, the author imposes no restrictions upon the quotation of material published herein.
Cover design was the cooperative effort of..
Author contact: email@example.com
To all who will pursue the reward of the inheritance.
Table of Contents
An Allegory xv
Chapter 1. “Come Now, Let Us Reason Together”
The Bible is the Very Word of God Page 1
Sin and Law Page 3
The Fear of the Lord Page 8
The Person of Christ Page 10
Forgiveness Page 11
Who Is Like Unto This God?! Page 13
The Great Exchange Page 14
Saved by Grace through Faith Page 14
“What Shall We DO!” Page 16
“It Is Finished!” Page 17
Chapter 2. An Introduction to Believers Page 19
Chapter 3. A Gift Verses A Reward Page 25
A Gift Page 25
A Reward Page 26
Reward According to Works Page 27
The Consequences of Indifference Page 30
An Ignoble End Page 31
Summary Page 32
Chapter 4. Salvation’s Security Page 33
Chapter 5. Justification - Its Two Aspects Page 37
By Faith Page 37
By Works Page 39
Concluding Thoughts Page 45
Chapter 6. Faith - Its Working and Perfecting Page 47
Abraham’s Faith Page 47
Like a Coin Page 56
Working by Faith in Peace Page 56
Chapter 7. Death and Glory Page 59
Chapter 8. The Age to Come - The Millennium Page 69
Premillennialism Page 70
Amillennialism Page 71
Postmillennialism Page 71
Proposition Page 72
Chart 1: Millennialists Divided Page 74
Chapter 9. Worthiness - An Introduction Page 75
Defining Worthiness Page 75
A Matter of Time Page 76
Worthiness - Its N.T. Notice Page 76
Christ - The Worthy One Page 77
Worthiness and a Cross Page 78
Worthiness‑ Christ’s Provision Page 79
The Way Page 80
Chapter 10. Worthiness - That Day Page 81
The Parable of the Talents Page 81
Closing Thoughts Page 85
Chapter 11. Worthiness - Addressing Uncertainties and Misgivings Page 87
Chapter 12. Worthiness - With Respect to the Kingdom Page 95
Inheriting Eternal Life Page 96
An Abundant Entrance Page 100
Chart 2: Entering Into Life Eternal Page 105
Chapter 13. Resurrection and Rapture Page 107
Definition of Terms Page 109
Timing - Its importance to Believers Page 112
To Say A Bit More ... Page 113
The Question of Worthiness With Respect to Rapture Page 113
Another R/R Possibility Page 115
Chart 3: Premillennial R/R Timing Compared Page 117
Chapter 14. Qualified Unto Inheritance Page 119
Inheritance - Its Risks and Reward Page 119
The Out-resurrection Page 123
We Have Been Qualified Page 126
Chapter 15. Conditional Inheritance Page 127
A Testament Page 127
“If indeed” Page 129
Decrees - Unconditional and Conditional Page 129
Inheritance Through Obedience of Faith Page 130
The Inheritance Set Before Us Page 133
Hypocrisy in a Christian’s Life Page 135
Chapter 16. Overcoming Page 137
Precious Promises Page 137
Intimacy With Christ Page 138
Failure Through Indifference Page 139
Hindrances to Overcoming Page 140
How May We Overcome? Page 141
Addendum Page 143
Chapter 17. Neglect Not So Great A Salvation Page 147
Promises and Admonitions Page 147
Warnings! Page 147
Closing Encouragements Page 150
Conclusion Page 151
Appendix A. Concerning Objections to My Views on Death and Glory Page 157
2 Corinthians 12 Page 157
Ephesians 4 Page 158
2 Corinthians 5 Page 160
Appendix B. Concerning the Ages Page 161
Aion Page 161
Ages Past to Present Page 162
This Age Page 163
The End of the Age Page 165
That Age - The Age to Come Page 166
The Ages to Come Page 168
Forever Page 168
Forever and Ever Page 170
Objections Page 171
Conclusions Page 172
Appendix C. A Word of Personal Testimony Page 175
This section is a most important one to me as the writer, for I am well aware of how certain ones have contributed to this book’s ever having been written.
Above all others, I wish to recognize my wife, Ione, who was willing to be left nearly a widow for two years while I was studying, writing, proofreading, and revising these writings. Thank you, my Love. Your patient endurance with me during our many years together must surely await its reward in that Day of His appearing.
For over three decades David Culver has been a mentor to me. Would that every Christian was so blessed to have an older, more spiritually exercised saint in his life to help guide him along the way. I will be forever indebted to you, David.
Every believer needs certain, special companions in faith with whom he can have regular fellowship. In addition to David - and though there have been many others - I must single out a few with whom I have spent countless hours in fellowship at different times. Their names are Craig Rogers, Greg McVay (Gregger, to me), Gary Hipp, and Hulon Champlin. Many of their thoughts and comments, and even their occasionally taking umbrage with certain of my views, have had a most positive influence on my continued musings in the Word of God. Thank you, brethren.
My profound gratitude is extended to Lewis Schoettle for having persevered in publishing and distributing certain doctrinal books into a [xiv] niche market among Christians. The works available through his publishing firm* have been of inestimable value to me. Thank you, Lewis, for your faithful continuance in the work that the Lord has assigned to you.
* Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc. (pronounced “shuttle”), P.O. Box 1246, Hayesville, NC, 28904; web site <www.schoettlepubhshing.com/>; phone contact 706/896-3333.
Finally, I offer what is, in most cases, a posthumous thank you to so many Christian authors, too numerous to record herein. These writers are or were of various doctrinal bents, their works having helped to lead me along into an understanding of the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18: 26).
Thank you all.
Two lads, living in the squalor of a foreign orphanage, are noticed by a certain man who has come to that place looking to acquire sons for himself. From among so many, he takes pity on these two wretched souls - who knows why? He pays the fee required and takes them unto himself, giving them his own name. They are now his heirs.
As it happens, their adoptive father is a man of great means, and these two sons stand to inherit a fortune. But besides his personal treasure, he has created a concern that has worldwide influence. He invites both sons to come to work with him, assuring them that he will provide all of the knowledge and understanding required for them to become successful in his present and future enterprises.
Only one of the brothers seizes upon the opportunity, diligently seeking to be fruitful in his father’s business. The other son goes about life according to his own self-interests, being complacent in the comforts of his new circumstances and in the assuredness of his future inheritance.
In the end of things, this latter son will receive only what was warranted to him from the start, while the other son will ultimately inherit a double portion of wealth and intimacy with his father - plus authority over his father’s affairs.
“Jesus …have mercy on me!”
This was the loud, public pleading of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, nearly two millennia ago. While his pitful cries annoyed Jesus’ disciples, He opened this blind man’s eyes to see Him (Mark 10: 46ff).
Perhaps someone who is not a Christian has happened upon this book and decided to read its first few pages. To him or her I have devoted Chapter 1. I pray that your eyes may be opened to see the wonders of the Lord Jesus, and the salvation from sin and eternal life that are to be found only in Him.
All of the remaining chapters should be of particular interest to believers.
My purposes in writing this book are threefold. First, since my childhood in the ’40s and ’50s I have observed the world changing dramatically. Troubled societies worldwide are advancing quickly into unimaginable financial, political, moral and social chaos; and mankind is destitute of solutions despite any (political) claims to the contrary.
Being now an older man, I have great concern for my children and my children’s children who may well live into those dreadful days ahead. My heartfelt hope is that they may become strong in the faith of Jesus Christ as the days darken. I pray that those future days will find them all numbered among those who will be able to lift their heads and look up as their redemption draws near Luke 21: 28).
Secondly, this writing is intended to bring into view the hope of our calling as Christians. Believers in this present day are being misled concerning this glorious hope. It is a hope about which we hear little of in the preachings and teachings of our day. This was not the case in the early Church.
Thirdly, I intend to support the truth that the means by which men live their lives now will bear irrevocably upon the eternal destiny of each, including Christians. For those who may read this book to its conclusion, I pray that you might come out the other end a changed person, with a clear understanding of God’s high calling in Christ Jesus. May we all put aside any facade, any erroneous teachings, any unfit speech and behaviour, and even the lethargy that may have become the portion of some while wandering in a spiritual desert.
My overall purpose throughout this writing is borrowed from another: “To humble the pride of man, to exalt the grace of God in salvation, and to promote real holiness in heart and life.”*
* This purpose statement has appeared on the cover of quarterly publications of “Free Grace Broadcaster” for many years. These booklets are most profitable to read, and they may be obtained free of charge by contacting Chapel Library’s website: www.mountzion.org.
Excepting some things appearing in the Appendices and certain footnotes, I have made every effort to avoid being too technical, praying that this writing will be comprehensible, convincing, and compelling to every ordinary reader. Many references to Scripture are included throughout this writing to support its teachings.
My intentions in writing echo the remarks made by the apostle Peter in his second epistle.
2 Pet. 1: 12-15 Therefore, I intend to always be ready to remind you of these things... 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus [xix] Christ has made clear to me. 15 Moreover, I will be diligent, so that at any time after my departure you may be able to recall these things.
While I have many nice tools and farm equipment, and some fine fishing gear, and boxes of blessed books to be passed on to others, I have nothing of more value to leave behind than this writing. I pray that it will stir you up.
Perhaps this might be a good time to pause to read my personal testimony in Appendix C (page 175) before moving on, so that you may have the opportunity of becoming better acquainted with me as the author.
May the Lord bless you in the course of your reading this labour of love.
“Come Now, Let Us Reason together” (Isa. 1: 18)
When they unjustifiably nailed Jesus to a cross, why didn’t He exercise His power and save Himself? He had the power, and He had demonstrated it by doing many miracles, even raising the dead.
This question thrust itself upon my consciousness half a lifetime ago. Back then it was one for which I could find no answer. If you are not presently a believer in the good news concerning Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness of sin and salvation to be found in Him, I invite you to inquire of yourself: “Why didn’t Jesus save Himself in order to prove to His enemies who He is?”
In this chapter you will discover the answer.
The Bible is the Very Word of God
Many people protest, “The Bible is just some book written by mere men,” even though they may have never studied one iota of Holy Writ. Others, who may have read portions of it from Genesis through Revelation, claim, “It contains many errors.”
Although apparent inconsistencies can be reconciled through more meticulous study, these critics hold fast to their false assumptions for one reason: to become convinced of the truths of the Bible would [Page 2] cause them to know that they are accountable to their Creator, life-Sustainer, and Judge. They will resist this conclusion at every turn.
Space and purpose will not permit me to argue at length with self-avowed atheists or indifferent agnostics other than to say the following.
The Old Testament (O.T.) records hundreds of prophecies, written many centuries before the coming of Jesus; yet they were precisely fulfilled in Him. This is reason enough to believe that the Bible is the Word of the Omniscient God: the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46: 10).
The New Testament (N.T.) is under-girded by a much greater number of centuries-old documents than any other piece of ancient writing. More than five thousand copies and fragments of the N.T., some dating back as far as the second and third centuries A.D., are still in existence. They are critical confirmations that 99.8 percent of our present N.T. is consistent with its autographs: the original writings of the N.T. authors. No variations within these extant writings alter anything pertaining to the central doctrines of the Christian faith.
The historical fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived, died, and has been bodily raised from the dead is confirmed in the N.T. by many eyewitness accounts. That this man named Jesus was crucified nearly two thousand years ago finds little disputation among critics; but that He has been raised from the dead is yet another matter. Resurrection is the doctrine in dispute.
Why is this so? Because in his or her own heart every person knows intuitively that to be convinced that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead compels solemn attention to the many other declarations made by and about Him in the Bible.
The speculations of uninformed men about the question of what happens after we die promote nonsense. To be awakened to the truth, we must consult someone who has actually died, been buried, and has then been raised from the dead. That Someone is the subject of the historically reliable gospels that open up the N.T.
If anyone will submit to reading the gospels with a sincere and contrite heart, he will discover the truth. God has always been willing to reason with every person who will bow his knee with an ear to hear. He will make Himself known in a personal way to every such person.
The Bible contains news both bad and good, and I will present things in this order.
Sin and Law
The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the message of forgiveness of sin. And while the necessity of forgiveness may be frequently ignored in the ordinary affairs of human life, there are at least two occasions on which sin becomes an issue of considerable importance in the heart of every natural-born man. *
* My frequent use of the term “natural-born man” is with reference to everyone born (only) of the flesh: by the means of nature. Jesus says that we must be “born again,” spiritually (John. 3: 3ff). Have you been born again, dear reader?
1. When one is sinned against, sin becomes a paramount vexation to that person. Even criminals are highly excited by transgressions against themselves.
2. When one is involved in some secret sin, he or she will devote every effort to conceal whatever that sin may be.
We are all out of the seed of our original progenitor, Adam. He and his wife became sinners,* and we have all inherited their sinful nature. For this reason every natural-born person has grown up to become - in [Page 4] varying degrees - proud, self-interested, self-reliant, self-indulgent, and self-righteous, holding fast to a personal sense of autonomy. In most cases men have very little use for God. He is rarely in the thoughts of the naturally-born: those begotten as kind after their own kind. **
* Chapter three of Genesis introduces the first sin of man.
** In the opening chapters of Genesis, the Bible establishes the principle of kind after its own kind: fish from fish, birds from birds, and sinners from sinners.
This testimony of life and Scripture finds men thankless, crediting God with little or nothing in the ordinary days of their lives. Yet in times of calamity some of these same ones will call out to God - One unknown to them - in desperation. From indifference to desperate appeals - how contradictory is the nature of man before his Creator.
But this condition of mankind is not the entirely of his predicament. The prophet Jeremiah asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” Jer. 13: 23). Suffering Job wondered, “How then can a man be righteous before God? Or how can he be clean who is born of a woman?” (Job 25: 4). Isaiah simply declares, “The whole head is sick!” (Isa. 1: 5). Though one’s behaviour may be modified by degree through self-determination, his human nature will remain unchanged; its unchangeableness is the consequence of sin.
We are informed by God’s Word that sin is more than just an outward transgression. Sin is something that dwells within us (Rom. 7: 20). The evidence of this fact is plain to see. No parent has ever had to spend any time teaching his toddler to do the wrong thing; for every child will evidence early on that a sin-nature dwells within him or her.
Sin is defined in the Bible as “the transgression of law” (1 John 3: 4). Whether in thought or in deed, the presence and power of sin is revealed through law. The apostle Paul says, “Where there is no law there is no transgression.”* But whenever a law (a rule or commandment) invades one’s conscience, the sin that is already dwelling within him comes to life and may manifest itself in action.
* Rom. 4: 15; 7: 9; 1 Cor. 15: 56b.
Perhaps an illustration from ordinary life will be helpful here.
A certain man may delight to drive 105 mph down the freeway in a state that has no speed limit. He is, therefore, no transgressor of law.
However, if a 55 mph speed limit is one day enacted as law, suddenly his sinful nature springs to life and exposes itself for what it is. Our man does not like this new regulation. In fact, he hates it. It opposes his personal pleasure and his preference to do as he pleases.
So, he buys a radar detector to help him disobey this statute. Only when his radar detector begins to squeal will fear bring him into instant compliance. On all other occasions he may likely, knowingly disobey this new law.
Sin operates along these same lines in adultery, extortion, deceit, thievery, etc. By nature, a man frequently opposes what is right, preferring what is wrong. He will excuse himself on the one hand; but on the other hand, like our speeder, he will do everything imaginable to keep from being caught in his transgression. What a conflict this is.
Law is an ordinance with a penalty attached for its violation. Different countries have different laws - ignorance of the law being no excuse. God has a moral Law, and ignorance of it is also without excuse. This is so because His Law is at work in the human heart through conscience. All men have been given to know right from wrong, their conscience either excusing or accusing them (Rom. 2: 15).*
Concerning “the work of the law
implanted sense of right and wrong] written in [our] hearts”
Man’s problem is that he is out of sync with God, our judge, as to how He feels about sin. A man may not participate in the grosser sins of life, thinking that by avoiding them he will be acquitted on the day of God’s judgment. However, among the (so called) lesser sins that [Page 6] God abhors and will judge are these: pride of heart (observable in a proud look), mental adultery (lust), deceit, wicked thoughts and plans, evil desires, gossiping, boastfulness, hatred, contentiousness, jealousies, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, strife, envy, covetousness, hypocrisy, etc.* There will be no immunity granted by a holy God in His final prosecution of these matters.
6: 17-19; Matt. 5:
We discover in Scripture that the Lord will not merely judge the outward behaviour of men; for He “searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts [therein]” (1 Chron. 28: 9). God is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and there is no creature hidden from His sight; but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4: 12f).
God will ultimately reckon with men; but “because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8: 11). Despite this delay, our benevolent God sometimes allows the cloak of a man’s sin to be suddenly lifted, bringing sin and its consequences into present and shameful evidence. This allowance is intended to turn a man from darkness to Light in order that he may seek salvation and the forgiveness of sins in Christ before his future and final day of judgment.
Concerning that future day, I pause to take notice of the following misconception. Many people - including myself before I became a Christian - imagine that God’s judgment will be according to His weighing one’s (presumed) good thoughts and deeds against one’s bad thoughts and deeds. Men’s anxious though misguided anticipation is that the good will outweigh the bad, and that they will thereby be saved from condemnation. Yet this ungodly principle is not even according to the laws of society. The most right-living person in town, if he is convicted of murder or extortion, will not be saved from the law’s just punishment. Even if he has done ten thousand good deeds, “Guilty as charged!” will be the verdict.
In his remarks in chapter one of his epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul describes a litany of the (even dreadful) conditions into which a man may descend, concluding that “although [men] know God’s righteous decree - that those who do such things deserve death - they not only continue to do these very things but they also approve of those who practice them” (Rom. 1: 32).
One’s closest companions are frequently of a like mind with him respecting (bad) character and behaviour; but in Num. 32: 23 we are assured that every man’s sin will ultimately find him out. While the totality of his sin and unrighteousness is impossible for any man to recall, the Omniscient One maintains an unfadable record (Heb. 4: 13).
Some may wonder: “Just how exacting are the requirements of God’s moral Law?” The apostle James puts forth the following principle: “Whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he has become guilty of all” (Jas. 2: 10). Worse yet, God’s Law is far stricter than most men think it to be: “Now if a person sins and does anything that the LORD has commanded not to be done, even though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment” (Lev. 5: 17).
It seems unnecessary to provide any lengthy explanations or examples in order to affirm the following three truths.
1. A person’s unbelief and sin do not only bear upon his own personal, eternal destiny; they will also have a direct or an indirect effect upon the destiny of others, and will likely be imitated by his offspring. Even sin that is out of sight - sin that one may think is private and unknown - will, in some way, work its way out to endangering the future of his children.
2. Sin’s activity within a natural-born person is so habitual that it is like breathing; it is so much a part of life that it generally goes without notice.
3. Every man’s sin is ultimately against God and His Law.*
The narrative of King David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba is recorded in Second Samuel, chap. 11. When the king learned that he had impregnated Bathsheba, he undertook a murderous scheme in an attempt to cover up his sin. When he later came to his right mind, David cried out, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight” (Psa. 51: 4).
If this is not so, why will God judge him?
Finally, regarding sin and law: Scripture affirms that God did not intend for His Law to set any person right with Him by his or her keeping the Ten Commandments. The purpose of God’s Law is to reveal sin in every person (Rom. 3: 20b). Until people come to understand that they are sinners, even becoming sick of their sin and having a heartfelt longing to be other than what they actually are, none are truly prepared to receive the good news contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Job. 42: 5).
The Fear of the Lord
“God is love” (1 John 4: 8, 16); this is one of the undeniable affirmations of Scripture concerning His character. Both these sweet words and the declaration in John 3: 16 can be quickly recited from memory by many: even by those who have not come to a living faith in Christ. However, some may not know or may simply ignore something else that is three times recorded in the Bible – “God is a consuming fire.”*
* Deut. 4: 24; 9: 3; Heb. 12: 29.
For half of my life I was an unbeliever and a wanton sinner. I can testify that I was frequently burdened by life’s worries, often feeling hopeless. By midlife I had begun to fear what my end might be if I died in my many sins. What is your circumstance, dear reader?
Whatever is your case, be assured that when the fear of the Lord concerning sin comes upon any of us it is the evidence of God’s intention to enlighten us; for the Bible informs us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. *
* Job 28: 28; Psa. 111: 10; Prov. l: 7; 9: 10.
Consider an example from ordinary life concerning fear.
Following a routine physical examination a man may be informed by his physician: “You have cancer, but more testing will confirm how advanced it is.”
The patient may respond in one of two extremes. If he is a fearless, self-assured but unwise man he may ignore his physician’s warning and refuse further testing, declaring, “I feel fine; this cannot be my case.” He therefore consigns himself to go off and to die of his affliction, denying himself of any possible cure.
On the contrary, if he trusts the judgment of his physician and is in fear of dying (perhaps in spiritual un-preparedness), as a wise man he will undergo further tests and, if they prove positive for cancer, he will anxiously inquire, “Doctor! what must I do to be cured?”
As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Our Creator and Great Physician has rendered His final diagnosis - the natural-born man is mortally infected with a sinful nature. Therefore, the wise man will cry out, “0 God! what must I do to be saved?”
If there is any reader who has not yet truly known the fear of the Lord, I pray that he or she may soon become imbued with it through the wondrous workings of God’s grace. The lyrics of Amazing Grace - perhaps the most famous Christian hymn ever written - say it well: “ ’Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear; and Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.’”*
* This hymn was written by John Newton in 1779.
Being a slave trader,
Fear is according to God’s grace and it is intended to stir a
man up in the midst of his waywardness to recognize his
it is [Page 10] “the
riches of [God’s] kindness
and forbearance and patience” that may ultimately
lead any person to repentance (
For how long has God been kind, forbearing and patient with you, dear reader? Oh, how great is the grace of God.
The Person of Christ
The N.T. opens wide a wonder that was typified though shrouded in the O.T.: the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus identified Himself and is declared throughout the N.T. to be the Son of God. Knowing this, His enemies accused Him of blasphemy; they reviled Him for making Himself equal with God.* Jesus nowhere refutes this accusation; for He who was with God in the beginning was God, and was the same One who became flesh, coming in the likeness of men to dwell among them.**
* John 5: 18; 10: 33; 19: 7. Jesus and the Father are one, in Spirit and by nature: ref. John 10: 30, 38. ** John 1: 1, 14; Phil. 2: 7.
Jesus Christ is the very image of God’s personage, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily.* His words and His working of miracles were an open display of this truth. Nevertheless, one of Jesus’ own disciples petitioned Him: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” To this request Jesus unabashedly replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John. 14: 8f). Matthew’s gospel identifies Jesus Christ as “Immanuel ... God with us” (Matt. 1: 23).
Jesus’ enemies set out to kill Him for His alleged blasphemy. Despite their accomplishment, He arose bodily from the dead the third day and appeared to certain disciples - not including Thomas. He later appeared to the unbelieving Thomas; and upon beholding the resurrected One, Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” Without reproving Thomas’ profession, Jesus replied, “Because you have seen [Page 11] Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed.”*
* John 20: 19, 20, 26-29.
Years later the apostle Paul wrote that the resurrected Christ “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor. 15: 6). Because of the uncompromising confession of those eyewitnesses, many suffered martyrdom for their testimony that Jesus arose from the dead and is Lord of all men.
Knowing this resurrected Christ by faith, and not merely knowing some things about Him, will enable us to see God as He truly is: full of grace and mercy in this day, His righteous wrath being reserved for a future day. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6: 2).
It is sin that separates men from God (Isa. 59: 2). To be reconciled to God a person needs His forgiveness. But one may insist: “There is no way God can forgive my sins; they are too many and too great.”
Really! The apostle Paul - known as Saul in his earlier life - confessed that he was formerly a luster and blasphemer, a violent persecutor of Christians, even consenting to their death.* Who is worse than Saul?
* Rom. 7: 7f; Act. 8: 1; 1 Tim. 1: 13.
The wonderful good news is that God has provided a way unto forgiveness of any and all sin.* This is at the heart of the gospel of Christ.
* There is only one exception to this truth. Jesus’ enemies blasphemed the Holy Spirit when they claimed that He was possessed of the devil and cast out demons by the power of Satan. This one sin finds no forgiveness, neither in this age nor in the age to come; and such a blasphemer is in danger of eternal condemnation (Matt. 12: 24, 31, 32; Mark 3: 22, 28-30).
Let us reason a little further on this subject of forgiveness; for the Word of God can always enlighten us (Psa. 18: 28).
Forgiveness is costly; it always costs somebody something. True forgiveness may be defined as “the willingness of one to absorb, into himself, the consequence (or loss) brought upon him by the transgression of another without requiring any recompense on the part of the transgressor.”
Consider the following ordinary examples of this kind of forgiveness in the natural realm.
Smith steals a chicken from Jones’ barnyard for dinner. Immediately after killing it, he is remorseful, and he goes to Jones, retuning his property and asking for his forgiveness. Jones forgives Smith and requires no compensation from him, willingly suffering the loss - a dead chicken.
Brown has incurred a debt of $10,000, but he is penniless. A benefactor may pay the debt without demanding any repayment. If Brown’s benefactor is a multimillionaire, his benevolence has cost him little. On the other hand, if she is his aged mother, it may have cost her all of her living.
In the opening verses of Mark’s gospel, chapter two, Jesus said to a paralytic man He had never met, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” The enemies of Jesus who were in attendance reasoned that He was blaspheming, thinking, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus replied, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier - to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your bed and walk?’” (Think about this, dear reader. Which saying entails the lesser risk?) ... “‘But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your bed and go home.’” Upon Jesus’ command, the paralytic was immediately healed, picked up his bed and left the scene. (I am certain that the paralytic’s blessing was more than physical.)
This is only one example of Jesus forgiving the sins of strangers; but it raises several questions.
1. How is God found righteous in forgiving sinners?
2. When did God, according to the definition of forgiveness above,
willingly suffer the consequence of our sins unto Himself?
3. How much did it cost Him?
The answer is this: God suffered in Christ,* and forgiveness cost Him everything in the horrific and bloody torture of His body and the excruciating torment of His soul while dying on the cross.
* “God was in Christ” (Col. 1: 19).
Who Is Like Unto This God?
Since the beginning of this age men have honoured and feared an incalculable number of gods. In their efforts to appease those gods they have offered up innumerable sacrifices, even unto the fiery sacrifice of their own children.* Imagine such a thing.
* Lev. 18: 21; Deut. 12: 31; Psa. 106: 37.
But the Bible declares that the LORD God is the God of gods (Deut. 10: 17). What sacrifice does He require to fully appease His righteous wrath? None that a poor sinner can offer aside from what King David affirms in Psa. 51: 17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Many men’s ordinary conceptions of God may include some small imagination of His majesty in glory and His great and fearsome power. But will they ever consider His holiness, because of which sinful men are separated from Him? Will they ever be found in fear and trembling because of His wrath, one day to be unleashed?
But, dear reader, wonder at this: God - who is the Creator of all things seen and unseen - intended from eternity past to come among [Page 14] men in the end of the ages, as a man, to willingly submit Himself to their mockings, scourging, and His own crucifixion, bearing the sins of men in His sinless body on the cross as a sacrifice for their sins, so that they might be reconciled to Him.*
* “Reconciled” - “made right with another”: 2 Cor. 5: 20f; 1 Pet. 2: 24; Heb. 9: 28.
Who can take in a God like this - a God who has provided Himself a sacrifice, in Christ, for sinners? This truth is admittedly too marvellous to be fully comprehended by our natural minds.
The Great Exchange
As an ambassador for Christ, I implore you on His behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” Paul assures men that they can be reconciled to God because “the One who knew no sin was made sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in [Christ]” (2 Cor. 5: 20f). A great exchange indeed.
No man who hopes to be acquitted by God and to be reconciled to Him by doing good and avoiding evil will ever achieve his hoped-for end. Why? Because he does not and cannot keep all the moral Law of God unfalteringly. Furthermore, he lacks any means by which he may cancel his sin-debt to that Law. He remains, therefore, a law-breaker, a transgressor, a guilty sinner, and under a curse.* But the wondrous good news to all who will believe is this: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.”**
* John 3: 36b; Gal. 3:10.
** Gal. 3:10-13. Here, the word “redeemed” means “to exchange for money, goods or something else considered to be of value.” God Himself redeemed His children; He took possession of them by paying the ransom price required under Law. The price was blood - in this case, it was the blood of Jesus. This is the incomparable redemption of the ages.
Saved by Grace through Faith
All natural-born men are living by some kind of faith: faith in money, power, or influence; faith in their good health, talents, or abilities; faith [Page 15] in the assumed fidelity of their spouse; faith in government; etc. And while they may feel some sense of assuredness in these and other like things as they face tomorrow, these frail objects of faith will one day (at least, in their last day) fail to be of any eternal value. But faith in God’s faithfulness to His Word will prove to be everlasting.
The apostle Paul assures us “that a man is justified [made right with God] by faith apart from the deeds of law.”* The Lawgiver has provided this superior provision for all men who are the subjects of condemnation under “the Law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 2). One may be acquitted by faith - faith in God’s Word, which Word is Christ, the Word made flesh (John 1: 14). Paul had said earlier, “Now a righteousness of God apart from law has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets [in the O.T.], even a righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3: 21f).
* Rom. 3: 26b-28.
“Christ is an end of law unto
Dear reader, hear with rejoicing what the Biblical writers say further. When Jesus suffered death in the stead of sinners who will believe in Him, they were “released from the Law” (Rom. 7: 6).* Christ “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against [all who believe]” (Col. 2: 14). Though the Law was “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8: 3), the writer of Hebrews says, “there is a setting aside [a cancelling, a putting away, an abolishing] of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness; for the Law made nothing perfect” (Heb. 7: 18f).
* To be “released from the Law” means that one who believes in Christ has been saved (released) from the eternal curse of the Law of sin and death. It does not mean that one is no longer under any Law; for God’s moral Law has been continually in effect since the beginning, and it will remain in effect forever. It is only the Law’s penalty that we are concerned about here.
Under a law of works we hear God declare this: “Keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them.”* The promise and provision brought in through Christ says: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3: 36a). These are two very different principles.
Lev. 18: 5; Neh. 9: 29c; Ezek. 20: 11.
If I would know the truth about life, death, and the hereafter*, I would be wise to listen to the words of one who has passed through life, into death, and out of it through resurrection (this being no kind of near death experience). Christ is that One. He is the wisdom of God, and God commands all men: “Hear [My Son] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”*
[* Note. Bold lettering and highlightings are not part of the author’s writings.]
* Mark 9: 7 followed by Col. 2: 3.
It is sad to say, but true: most men are unwise, trusting in their own opinions and in the opinions of others more than they trust in the sure Word of God.
Having reasoned with you from the Word of God, I pray that if you were uncertain earlier on, you may now be persuaded concerning the way of salvation out from under the fear of death and condemnation. Scripture assures all of us that whosoever will acknowledge his sinful separation from God; and will yet approach God in prayer, confessing his sin in brokenness, seeking God’s mercy; and will believe in his heart that his sin is put away in the sacrifice of God’s now risen Son; and if he is willing to confess before men that Jesus Christ is Lord ... he shall be saved!
* Prov. 28:
13; John 3: 14f;
“What Shall We Do?”
This was the question asked by those who heard and believed the apostle Peter’s first preaching nearly two thousand years ago. He had concluded his message by testifying that “God has raised up this Jesus, [Page 17] and of that we are all witnesses ... Know for certain, therefore, that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2: 32ff). His message convinced about three thousand people of their complicity in the crucifixion of their long awaited Messiah: the One whom they rejected when He first appeared.
Those who came under conviction upon hearing Peter’s message were anxious in their inquiring, “What shall we do?”
To them Peter gave the answer, and his answer applies to this day. “Repent, and let even, one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ... Be saved from this perverse [corrupt] generation” (Acts 2: 38ff).
Many of those who were convicted by Peter’s message had doubtless been gathered, only weeks earlier, with the ones who had heard Pontius Pilate inquire aloud, “What shall I do with Jesus?” That mob cried out, “Crucify Him! ... Crucify Him!” (Matt. 27: 22).
Some who heard Peter’s message may likely have heard Jesus earlier calling out to them, “Come unto Me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11: 28). His same calling is in effect today, dear reader. Are you heavy-laden with the worries and troubles of life, and the fear of death?
“It Is Finished!”
With His dying breaths Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19: 30). When He expired, reconciliation with God was opened wide for every person who will call upon His Name in faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God’s proof positive that He is Lord of all (Acts 10: 36); that Life comes through faith in this crucified/resurrected One (1 Pet. 1: 3); and that He is the way unto salvation for every person who will truly believe in Him (Acts 4: 12).
What an amazing salvation this is.
During His days of ministry Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”* In another place He gives assurance that He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20: 28). Yet His unabashed declaration is, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14: 6). Will you come to Him today, dear reader, in order that you may have forgiveness of sins and eternal life; or do you remain unwilling (cp. John 5: 40)?
* Luke 5: 32; Matt. 9: 13b; Mark 2: 17b.
While he is alive, a man’s estate is only one of two: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him” (John 3: 36).* The present and future circumstance between him who believes and him who is doubtful or disinterested in salvation is indeed serious.
* This verse appears in the same chapter with John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world....”
A prophet of old declared: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3: 14). “The day of the LORD” is the day of His vengeance.* if you are still in a spiritual “valley of decision,” you remain in danger.
* While this passage from Joel has reference to an actual, future day, it has spiritual application to every unbeliever’s present circumstance in life.
John 8: 24 [Jesus says to the unbelieving] “You shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [God, in human flesh], you shall die in your sins.”
Paul says that anyone who has heard of Jesus but has not come to Him in faith has judged himself unworthy of eternal life (cp. Acts 13: 46); but if you are one who has truly come to Him in faith, you now have eternal life. Confess your faith, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.*
* Mark 16: 16; Rom. 10: 9, 10; Acts 2: 38.
“Who do you say that I am?” This is the question Jesus Christ has put before men. It is a question of life or death.
* * *
An Introduction to Believers
There are believers young and old. If some of the old souls have difficulty with certain views put forth in chapters to follow, their perplexity may be the result of years of complacency in doctrinal assumptions that are not according to Christ. Such assumptions are cherished by men and are hard to be shaken off. I hope that every serious minded believer will search the Scriptures to confirm what is the truth in every matter (Acts 17: 11). This is our individual responsibility.
Our coming to an intimate knowledge of Christ as our resurrection life, and not merely our superior knowledge of doctrine, is far more important than the number of years we have been Christians. In the end, correct doctrine must bring in the death of our old man and new life in Christ. This transition requires a renewing of our mind (Eph. 4: 22ff).
Having been stoned and beaten with whips and rods on numerous occasions, in constant peril of both Jews and Gentiles, and having suffered hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness ... nevertheless the apostle Paul’s daily concern was not only for himself, but for all the churches.* I had often read about Paul’s life since my earliest days as a believer; yet more than a dozen years rolled by before I found myself considering the following thoughts and questions.
* 2 Cor. 11: 23-28; 2 Tim. 2: 10.
1. Paul was originally an avowed enemy and persecutor of Christians, but he was saved one day through a miracu lous encounter with the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 9). I wondered: “Why did Paul gladly and diligently submit himself to such a difficult and perilous life thereafter?”
2. I am a Christian; but my life finds no actual likeness to Paul’s. Therefore, simply based on the fact that I had also been brought to faith in Jesus, I wondered further: “Will there be no distinctions made among believers in the end of things; and are there to be any consequences for Christians if we simply live a lackluster (or worse, a disobedient) life after being saved?”
3. “Is there something in God’s plan of salvation that I have not yet discovered in my early years as a believer?”
Some months after
these thoughts began to intrude upon my mind and heart, my
wife and I were enjoying dinner with a precious couple in
the Lord at the Yum
Yum Tree in
That one statement was instrumental in my beginning to search
the Scriptures and the works of numerous Bible
commentators to see whether it might be true.
Even my early investigations brought me to a new,
unimagined understanding of God’s objective in saving men. I have since
come to see a central theme that permeates the N.T.; that theme is the
This subject win be opened up later in this writing.
The N.T.’s message concerning salvation is so plain that a youngster is able to come to a true and living faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, it is also a deep and mysterious Book containing “some things hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3: 16). So much truth is distributed throughout the Bible that many remarkable and godly men - some having spent their entire adult lifetime studying it - have been forced to admit that there are a number of things recorded therein that have remained a mystery to them. In contrast to these saintly ones, there are some who have given themselves to much Biblical investigation, yet their personal lives do not reflect the things they have studied. This is most unfortunate; for Scripture makes it clear that truth manifested in godly character and conduct is God’s desire for all who are His children.
Matthew’s gospel presents these words of Jesus, spoken to
His disciples: “Seek first
I will consider this question and its answer in chapters to follow.
Over two thousand pages are devoted to the subject of the kingdom of God* in George N. H. Peters’ three-volume work entitled The Theocratic Kingdom (Kregel Publications), and it is my task to summarize the great significance of the kingdom in this short writing.
* While “the
Notwithstanding this difficulty, I will endeavour to confirm that the kingdom into which all believers are being called (1 Thess. 2: 12) is a specific kingdom: one which a believer must be adjudged by Christ to be worthy of inheriting. This kingdom will be thoroughly discussed from Chapter 8 onward; for God’s foremost message to the Church concerns this kingdom and its inheritance.
The world, as a whole, is completely unaware that even now “the LORD reigns.”* Of old it has been declared, “The Most High is the ruler over the kingdom of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes”; “the Heavens do rule.”** They rule to such a degree that world events and even the circumstances of our personal lives are influenced by them, while the Sovereign God of the universe oversees all things. God’s present sovereignty is unimagined, unconsidered, and resisted by most of mankind in these evil days. There is, however, a day ahead when Jesus Christ will be manifested unto all of creation as the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17: 14). It will be a time when “the kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11: 15).
* Psa. 93; 96; 99. ** 2 Chron. 20: 6f; Psa. 83: 18; Jer. 27: 5; Dan. 4: 17, 25c, 26. Even unbelievers and the wicked unwittingly “do whatever [God’s] hand and [His] plan foreordained to take place” (Acts 4: 28) - consider Pharaoh’s plight (Exo. 4: 21).
I wonder if you, dear reader, can recall any time you have ever
heard a specific message concerning
of this coming kingdom.
The answer of many will likely be, “Never.” This seems odd;
for John the Baptist preached the nearness of this kingdom
when he commanded his audiences: “Repent!
for the kingdom of the heavens is
at hand” (Matt.
3: 2). Jesus’ ministry
was inaugurated with exactly the same words (Matt.
4: 17). Nearly two
thousand years ago, while Jesus was ministering in the
presence of His adversaries, He declared, “the
Since Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father the
* Acts 2: 33; 7: 55f; Rev. 5: 6; 7: 17.
Paul, on a return journey to
Acts 20: 24, 25, 27, 31. None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more ... I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God ... for three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
The “whole counsel of God” is not merely the message of Jesus as man’s Saviour. Will one suppose that Paul spent three years preaching the first things of the Gospel to the same (saved) people over and over again?* No. He taught them the whole counsel of God, which includes Christ’s kingdom teachings. These teachings are intended to encourage and build up the saints to eagerly anticipate His future coming; for there is a day approaching when Christ will begin to visibly rule and reign over the world in righteousness with His joint-heirs (Rom. 8: 17b).
* Acts 5: 42; and see 1 Cor. 15: 3f concerning things “of first importance” (- NASB).
There is “another King” (Acts 17: 7), and He is coming. Although the full gospel message is rarely heard in our day - even in assemblies [Page 24] that denominate themselves as “full gospel” - Jesus has assured us that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24: 14).
May the Spirit and the Word help us all to clearly understand what is the high, heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus, in order that we may be watching and ready, established in the hope of being glorified together with Him.
Beloved ones, it is to this end that we have been and are being called.*
* 1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 2: 14; 1 Pet. 5: 10.
* * *
Gift Versus A Reward
Scripture makes a distinction between the “gift” of eternal life (Rom. 6: 23) and the “reward” of the inheritance (Col. 3: 24). Therefore, it is important that we examine the definitional difference between these two words, since they are not synonymous in any language. Understanding their separate meanings will be important as we continue on.
Men do not identify a gift with something earned; in ordinary language we do not equate gifting with entitlement. The disposition and grace of the giver is the only determinant factor in one’s giving a gift to another. Likewise, the gift of God’s salvation from condemnation is not based upon merit. If it was, no man would be found worthy of such a thing. God’s gift cannot be earned; it is free - but one does have to receive it.
Eternal life is God’s gracious gift, not according to works. This gift includes the forgiveness of sins; it is irrevocable and the present possession of all who have been saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; it also includes the promise of resurrection. Only the following few verses from the N.T. should suffice to confirm these fundamental and glorious truths.
John 3: 36a. Whosoever believes in the Son has eternal life.
John 6: 39. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but I should raise it up in the last day.
Rom. 6: 23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rom. 11: 29. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance [i.e., thy are irrevocable].
Eph. 1: 7a. In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins [cp. 1 John 2: 12.]
Eph. 2: 8, 9. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
These verses should be of great assurance to every Christians. Let all who are trusting in Jesus be of the same mind with the apostle Paul who was “persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8: 38f).
Lamentably, there are those who hold that one can lose his salvation: their reference being to the gift of eternal life. This assumption is causing unnecessary strife and uncertainty among and within many who have been born again. The gift of eternal fife cannot be lost. However, there is something to be gained or lost by believers, as we shall discover. However, that something does not pertain to everlasting life in the numberless ages of eternity.
A reward (or, a prize)* is not according to grace alone; it is something merited, something of which one must be deemed worthy to receive.
* In the N.T. Greek texts the words antapodosin* (rendered as “reward” in Col. 3: 24), misthos (“wage,” “reward,” or “hire”) and brabeion (“prize”) are always in the singular number. I am fully persuaded that these words refer to one and the same thing. More on this as we continue.
[*NOTE. Regrettably, some Greek words and their peculiar lettering are not possible for me to reproduce, not having the means on my computer to do so.]
Hear what the apostle Paul has to say to us.
1 Cor. 9: 24-27. Do you not know that those who are running in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who is competing for a prize is temperate in all things. Now they [in the natural realm compete] to obtain a perishable crown, but we [who run in the spiritual realm, aspire to obtain] an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Here, Paul is urging all believers to run in such a way that they might obtain the prize. But his admonition implies that the opposite could prove to be the case: viz., of not winning it through becoming disqualified. Paul said that he was living resolutely, vigorously, and temperately, and he preached the same to others. The reason? In order that none of us should be found disqualified of receiving an imperishable crown from the hand of the Lord at the end of our individual race of faith (cp. 2 Tim: 4: 8). In this place, Paul is not taking any notice of the irrevocable gift of eternal life which he, like every person begotten of God, had already obtained by grace through faith in Christ.
Reward According to Works
The reward of Christ is obtained through being adjudged as worthy to receive it. “According to works” is the overarching principle of God’s righteous judgment and recompense in the case of every man.* No Christian was ever saved from his (otherwise) just deserts by good works; yet he will be judged in the end according to his work of faith since becoming a Christian. Every believer was saved in order that he may do good works following upon his salvation (Eph. 2: 10).
* “According to works” (Matt.
in the case of every Jew, Gentile, and Christian.
See also Job 34:
This is not to imply that the grace of God has no part in the
good deeds of believers.
To the contrary: no believer’s works are esteemed
as worthy by God outside of the Holy Spirit’s working them
within him. No
man, including a Christian, will make his boast before God
in works done in the flesh - at the inclinations of his
Furthermore, such works frequently result in
his writings to believers in Philippi and
Phil. 2: 12, 13. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Col. 1: 28, 29. We proclaim [Christ], admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labour, striving according to His power, which works mightily within me.
While it is God’s working in us that produces what is acceptable to Him, Scripture elsewhere tells us that our doing of righteous deeds is not divorced from our responsibility. John the Revelator writes: “His wife has made herself ready; and it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev. 19: 7f). John the Baptist commanded, “Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3: 8): i.e., we are to bring forth fruit.
Reward is granted according to worthiness. This principle is affirmed by both Jesus and Paul. “The labourer is worthy of his wage.”*
* “… his wage” (Greek, misthos): i.e., “his hire,” “his reward.” See Luke 10: 7; 1 Tim. 5: 18; and cp. Lev. 19: 13.
In another place, Paul makes a clear distinction between God’s gift and His reward when he says, “Now to him who works, his wage [or, reward] is not reckoned according to grace, but as a debt” (Rom. 4: 4).
Now it is surely true that God is not indebted - in our usual understanding of this word - to do anything other than what He pleases. Nevertheless, it has pleased Him to put Himself under this obligation by His own Word; for God has identified Himself as “a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11: 6).
It should be clear that we Christians will not be rewarded simply because we have been saved by grace through faith. Worthiness of reward will be the issue of Christ’s judgment when He examines our work of faith. He will know whether our works were done under the unction of the Holy Spirit. But how many believers are frequently or nearly always quenching this Spirit of grace indwelling them?
God’s grace being freely given, one must nevertheless employ its means and opportunities.
Three principal conclusions on the subject of works are these.
1. No work is sufficient to reconcile* anyone to God.
* Here, “to reconcile” is “to put away the estrangement or the enmity that exists between God and a man, woman or a young person.”
2. Nevertheless, there are good works - works which God has ordained for those reconciled to Him - in which believers are called to walk.
3. The immutable principle of God’s ultimate, righteous judgment, whether good or bad, will be “to every man according to his works.”
I will have more to say on this last point in later chapters.
In closing out this section I would add this little bit. When Paul says he is “pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 14), he is not saying that he is pressing on to receive what he is already in possession of: eternal life.
The reward is an inheritance with Christ in His kingdom, as we shall see.
The Consequences of Indifference
Having discussed the subject of works-based reward with many believers over the years, some have replied: “Well, I’m not concerned about rewards; I’m just grateful that I’m saved.”
In all candidness I must admit that I myself was of a similar persuasion some two decades ago. But I have come to see that to hold and to express such disinterest is actually to despise one’s birthright; for we are being called to attain unto the reward of the inheritance by our Rewarder. If it has pleased God to encourage us unto righteous thinking and righteous living by placing a reward before our spiritual eyes, who is the wise man who will ignore the opportunity of obtaining it?
Many teachers and preachers only make a distinction between receiving or not receiving our reward before the judgment seat of Christ. In so doing they ignore Paul’s mention of the bad that may be awaiting some thereat - see 2 Cor. 5: 10, which verse we will later consider at length. Though all who have been saved will one day enter experientially into eternal life, those found unworthy before His judgment seat may receive things worse than their loss of reward.
Consider three principles from ordinary life that Paul presented as divine, doctrinal illustrations to his disciple, Timothy; and may the Lord grant us a right understanding of these things.
2 Tim. 2: 3-6. You must therefore endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man warring as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, in order that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also, if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first [before others] to partake of the crops.
Concerning Paul’s last mention (v. 6): while the slothful farmer will surely fail of a fruitful crop, he will likely suffer more consequences than this. His slothfulness may find him without any money to pay his [Page 31] debts, or even to buy food or medicine for his family; they may become homeless, hungry, and sickly. Under this same principle, some Christian’s may be discovered at the judgment seat to be not only fruitless, but impoverished; such ones will therefore experience the consequences of their slothfulness.
An Ignoble End
1 Cor. 3: 10-15. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, or precious stones, [versus] wood, hay, or stubble, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, as to what sort it is.
14 If anyone’s work which he has built on endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Even in this warning passage Paul upholds a doctrine of eternal security (v. 15).* Nevertheless, he testifies that some may experience an ignoble and hurtful end when their work is tried by fire on that Day.
* I will deal with the specific issue of salvation’s security in our next chapter.
Wood, hay, and stubble are easily gathered to build a hut, even upon a solid foundation. However, the mining of gold, silver, and precious stones to use in the construction of a glorious abode requires great effort on the part of any person who will so labour. Common metal anodized to appear as precious will be revealed by fire to be what it truly is; likewise, the true worth of a man’s works will be revealed.
Paul warns us: “Let him who thinks he stands [under the New Covenant,] take heed lest he should fall” (1 Cor. 10: 12).
Understanding the difference between a “gift” and a “reward” is important for three reasons.
1. To allow us to know that God’s Word makes a clear distinction between them.
2. To establish the fact that Scripture discloses that this distinction is founded upon differing principles: the gift of eternal life is granted upon faith alone, while reward is based upon our work of faith after having been saved
3. To assure the believer that it is not the wicked and unbelieving only who will come into judgment before the Lord.
Paul writes to Christians - immediately after referring to the judgment seat of Christ in 2 Cor. 5: 10 - “Therefore, [personally] knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men [concerning judgment]” (v. 11).
Beloved, be not deceived! “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3: 25). Christ will be the righteous judge.
A man of the world who walks after the flesh and takes advantage of every opportunity in this fife may one day obtain the benefits of earthly comfort and economic security above his peers. This principle in natural life is plainly observable. And as it is in the natural realm, so it is in the spiritual realm. Paul gives recognition to this truth when he both warns and encourages believers: “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will, of the Spirit, reap everlasting life. So let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6: 8f).
Let us press on, dear Christian, to obtain the prize - the reward of the inheritance - which is set before us.
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