No one stresses reward more than
the Lord Jesus. †"Be careful not
to do your Ďacts of righteousnessí before men, to be seen by them. †If you do, you will have no reward from your
Father in heaven" (Matt. 6: 1).
If Ďrewardsí are not purely the result of work
accomplished, but are given simply in Ďgrace,í
we reach a reductio ad absurdum, and
words have ceased to have any meaning: whereas the point of vital interest is
simply what are the rewards for which the wise believer longs and
strives. It is too often assumed, without inquiry, that rapture before
the Tribulation (Luke 21: 36), a share in
the First Resurrection (Phil. 3: 11), and
reigning with Christ in the Millennium (Rev. 3: 21)
are all gifts of grace included in eternal salvation; but the single Scriptures
we have quoted are sufficient to prove that they are rewards dependent on
service. Far too often
evangelical believers force grace into the sphere of works exactly as
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"If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." You see there is a saved soul with a lost life. That is a possibility - a saved soul, because he came to Jesus Christ in faith and found pardon through the grace of God and the death of his Saviour; and a lost life, because he came to the judgment seat of Christ, and had not used for Him the life that He saved. That is solemn possibility; and when the Lord Jesus comes to award His servants the praise or the blame, they will meet Him with joy or shame. That will be marked out by the life they have lived, and the service they have rendered for Him. You find then, that He is going to give rewards for service. Look at 1 Cor. 15: 58. What does that mean? That every, may we say, pennyworth of labour spent on the Lord is going to have an exact recompense of reward. That is what He does. He is going to reward the service of His children, and He will decide whether you ran straight or not at all, whether you shirked the race or ran it, whether you ran fairly or foully, whether you came in so as to earn the prize or lose the prize. The Lord is the One who is going to decide that, and give to everyone according as he has deserved.
What child of God would not desire to win a crown? But crowns are not for mere show but for merit, as the King has been pleased to promise to those who have been faithful in service. Eternal life comes through faith in Jesus Christ, but rewards are for faithfulness. †The man in the parable who faithfully used his ten talents was rewarded with rule over ten cities. Yet the talents were given him and the opportunity was a gift from God. All rewards will be by grace in the end, yet the measure of each reward, the glory conferred on each of His redeemed, will be according to diligence and faithfulness in the use of the talents bestowed. One there was who said, "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He went about doing good and gave His life for the lost, and later it was written of Him, "A crown of gold on His head" (Rev. 14: 14), and later still, "And on His head are many crowns" (Rev. 19: 12). He won His Kingdom and his crowns by supreme merit, by obedience even unto death. He was born a King, yet had to win His Kingdom by toil and sacrifice. Are we better than he?
What a call Christ gives to men to be diligent and faithful in such days as these! The world is unspeakably needy. Hearts are weary and worn and full of unutterable longing. Darkness deepens over the face of the nations and men grow hopeless in their helplessness. †Philosophers and statesmen know not how to relieve the gathering gloom. One conference of the nations after another only stresses more grimly the vanity of human counsel. Through the darkness and across the ages comes a voice, "Trade till I come back" (Gk. Luke 19: 13). He who was diligent unto the end and faithful in the very hour of death speaks in thunder tones to His chosen "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2: 10).
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Is there just a possibility that for some who are Christís the assurance that their sins are under the blood, blotted out forever, has made the subject of the judgment seat of Christ seem a matter remote, a subject which has no personal application for them? If so, the truth is calculated to remind us all that Jeremiahís God is now, as always, "the Lord God of recompenses." Who shall "surely requite"; that the priceless assurance that there is now no condemnation does not obviate the fact that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive, every one, those things done in the flesh, be they good or evil. This truth will make many an experienced Christian think soberly of the urgent need for buying up those precious opportunities that still remain. †And that feeling which we may have regarded as worthy humility, which has made us loath to dwell upon the thought of reward, may have been a mistaken impulse. Moses had respect unto the recompense of the reward; the joy that was set before enabled our Lord to despise the shame of the cross.
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Note particularly: The promise to overcomers, is a promise to saved people, to the churches. This is not a promise that God will give eternal life to those in the churches who finally "overcome." That conception does violence to Scripture. We receive eternal life as a Ďgift,í Romans 6: 23, and have eternal life as a present possession, John 5: 24, and can never lose it, John 10: 28, 29. The promise to overcomers, here, is a promise of special privilege to the overcomers among Christian people. Those who attain and maintain a certain spiritual victory in Christ will be privileged to eat of the tree of life. This tree is not eternal life, but a real tree in the kingdom, bearing real fruit. See Rev. 22: 3. In the interest of sound Biblical interpretation we repeat: the tree is not eternal life, for God gives eternal life a gift to those who accept His Son, John 1: 12, and is not a reward for overcoming; this tree is a special reward in the Kingdom to those who overcome in Christian experience.
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"If we deny Him, He will also deny us" (2 Tim. 2: 12b). This passage is comprehensive in its teaching. The context clearly indicates that it has to do with studying the Word of Truth and imparting it to others. †It also carries us forward to the Bema - the judgment seat of Christ where every believer shall be rewarded according to his deeds (Romans 2: 6). Those who have been faithful to the trust committed to them shall be rewarded by reigning with Christ in His [millennial] Kingdom. †Those who have been unfaithful and recreant to the divine trust committed to them shall be denied reigning with Christ and consequently shall lose the reward which might have been theirs. †Dear believer, does this appeal from Godís Book awaken you to your responsibility to tell the "Good News," or are you content to go on indifferently until you stand at the Bema "ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2: 28)?
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"This spring of action," says Dr. Maclaren, (the desire to obtain an incorruptible crown) "is not as strong in the Christians of this day as it used to be, and as it should be. I believe for my part that we suffer terribly by the comparative neglect into which this side of Christian truth has fallen. Do you not think that it would make a difference to you if you really believed, and carried away with you in your thoughts the thrilling consequences that every act of the present was registered, and would tell on the far side beyond?" "If I can be thus crowned," says Prebendary Webb-Peploe, "can I be otherwise than a fool if I am not prepared to sacrifice all to win it?" †The running may shorten life, but it will sweeten eternity: happy the scarred soul which grows not altogether unlike the Lamb as it had been slain. The work is earnest - therefore donít trifle; the opportunity is short - therefore donít delay; the path is narrow - therefore donít wander; the task is difficult - therefore donít relax; the prize is glorious - therefore donít faint. "I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown."
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Two young preachers were sent to shepherd flocks in a western city. †For a time all went beautifully; their Churches were crowded and souls were saved. But grievous wolves entered, and trouble began, so they both decided to resign - such an easy thing to do! One sent his letter of resignation, and soon the sheep and young lambs scattered, the church doors closed, the souls who were coming into the Light turned back into darkness without a leader. The other went to his study, and wrote out his resignation to present to the Official Board. It was winter, and an oak log burned on the earth. †Being wearied, he sank into a large easy chair by the fire and fell asleep; but something out of the ordinary happened. †As he dozed, he dreamed that an angel entered his study, carrying a heavy cross and a crown set with priceless gems. He said to the young preacher, "To whom shall I give your cross and your crown?" He reached out to take the crown from the angelís hand, but the angel drew it back, saying, "No crown without a cross."
Awakening from his sleep, he cried out, "Give me back my cross, and no man shall have my crown!" The letter of resignation was thrown into the fire, and the old oak log seemed to sing a song of praise as the letter went up in flames. That night the Official Board met, and the pastor said to them, "Let us ask God to send a revival." †And God did send a revival that shook the country. Later on, the young minister was sent by his Conference to a city charge, and one night during a great revival in his church, a man wearing a tattered suit came weeping to the altar, and this is what he said to the worker: "O, if I had only known how to Ďsit stillí in my tunnel!" †Wasted years! †Blasted hopes! †No crown! †It was the young minister who had forsaken his flock.
All around us the things which can be shaken are tottering: even concerning the physical world a seismographer announcing a recent earthquake told us that "the quivering, which was felt probably over the whole earth, after the actual quake, resembled the movements of a jelly after it had been violently placed down upon a table." We rejoice in having received "a kingdom which cannot be moved" and in the knowledge of that "those things which cannot be shaken" remain. Clearly, living on the eve of our Lordís Return, we are being tested to see if we will be steadfast unto the end and rank among the overcomers who will receive the crown.
- E. C. Cowman.
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"Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me" (Rev. 22: 12). †There will be rewards enough and to spare; you will never exhaust them: rewards to be won and possessed and rejoiced in; or rewards to be missed and lost and mourned for, surely, throughout eternity. †Am I right in thinking that the thought of these rewards which God prepares for His people is an almost absent factor from most Christian lives? Think. Has the thought of Godís reward attached to faithful witness stirred you up to witness for Him? Has Godís promised reward for souls that are brought to Him, made you eager to bring souls to Him? Has Godís promised reward made you patient in trial and under suffering? Has the promised reward made you bold to confess Him in face of those who denied Him?