When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven? I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done. And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation. But is it the only motivation?
The New Testament writings suggest it is not. For those who faithfully endure persecution, Jesus makes it clear, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Paul states it plainly, “But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8). The author of Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was motivated by rewards, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb 11:26).
But, if rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits? I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter. While we are rightly told that only Christ’s obedience can secure our justification, and that he has kept the law perfectly for us, our own obedience receives far less attention in the pulpit. Justification is center stage, and sanctification is peripheral.
No doubt, the downplaying of Christian obedience is borne out of good motives—some think Christ is glorified the most when we disparage our own obedience. Our good works are just “filthy rags” (Is 64:6), we are reminded.
But, this whole line of thought misses the distinction between an unbeliever’s attempts at law-keeping and that of regenerated believer. Granted, neither can merit salvation or justification. Both fall woefully short of God’s perfect standards. But, that does not mean that the believer’s obedience doesn’t matter. God can still be pleased with it, even though it is imperfect. Consider John Piper’s comments on this point:
It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags…[But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect. Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags” (Future Grace, 151-152).
It is only when we recognize that the obedience of the believer really does matter, and that we really can please our Father, that the rewards passages in the Bible will make any sense. And that can be a tremendous encouragement to those of us who labor heavily in ministry. When we toil for the cause of Christ, we want to hear, and are bolstered by hearing, the encouraging words of Paul: “Your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Megan Gay says
“We have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter.” That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks, a true ton of bricks! In following this justification-sanctification discussion over the past year, I have never realized how true that is. The “sanctification is mainly looking back on/remembering/believing in our justification” stance implicitly communicates that obedience does not matter, often simply by amount of content written on remembering Christ’s finished work. I believe those folks who hold such a stance would never say when pressed that they believe obedience doesn’t matter. Yet I wonder if they realize that much of their writing communicates that, just less explicitly so. Thank you for yet another great contribution to this discussion, Dr. Kruger!
John J Sandt says
So true Doctor. Many Christians seem to treat salvation and everlasting life as an event that you either have a ticket for, or don’t have a ticket for, i.e. the new birth. Salvation which includes everlasting life is a gift given by grace. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
However the kind of everlasting life a Christian will live and the position they’ll have in Christ’s Kingdom is largely up to them. 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
A good book that delves into this is “The Christian’s Hope, The Anchor of the Soul” by John W Schoenheit. The title is based on the first part of Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…
Because this subject is rarely taught, many don’t value the importance of obedience as they should and (pardon my pun) may miss the boat when it comes to rewards.
Sitting in church over the years trying to piece together sermons & their structure has meant much inward questioning & prayer wanting to grow in my understanding of God & His Word. Some of the best things I found helpful was context, justification & sanctification. Verses such as work out your salvation with fear & trembling(Phil 2:12) for instance doesnt mean there is a lightening bolt above my head for motivation. Its amazing biblical wisdom that lays down 2 tracks side by side creating a pathway(justification & sanctification). The heidlebergh catechism Q&A’s 86 & 115 reflects the grace & good works relationship. To know that God looks on me with affection & love because of Christs merits as an adult is humbling, God rewarding also. The father, mother & managerial likeness of God.
Good things to consider, the church needs good teaching to help us understand Salvation in its entirety
Dr. Kruger, thank you so much for this article!
This article is the first from your blog I have ever read. A close friend sent the link over to me in regards to an ongoing theological discussion that we are having regarding Justification and Sanctification and the perspectives that seem to be coming out of the more public pulpits and more prominent publishing houses.
The perspective here really seems to encapsulate the pitfalls of misinterpreting Christ’s work in our justification as His accomplishment for our sanctification. Beyond that, though, I was wondering if you could do another post, or even respond in the comments about what the “rewards” are.
I have read several authors who reference scripture passages about “crowns” but I am not fully convinced from the text that God is in heaven doling out literal crowns. If our aim is His glory, then what are we achieving eternally for ourselves through obedience?
Thank you for your time.
Richard L says
Being that we are New Creatures, New Creations and Born Again with transformed lives and hearts and minds this article makes perfect sense.
Perhaps the modern churches discussion of rewards, or lack there of, is often couched more in their specific belief of the nature of the rewards as opposed to their existence.
As far as I remember Kevin DeYoung deals with similar issues in his book ‘The Hole in Our Holiness’. A good book for those wanting to read more into this discussion.
For a more thorough (albeit older) treatment, see J.C. Ryle’s ‘Holiness’. He does a fine job in demonstrating how although our works (fruit of the Spirit, imparted righteousness) will never save us, there is absolutely no salvation without them. True faith works.
Finally! It’s good to see someone making the point that obedience does matter for the believer! Which of course means that some degree of obedience and doing good is actually possible. The notions that “Christians aren’t different, just forgiven” and that we’re always only sinners who cannot truly do good is part of the reason why the salt has lost it’s saltiness and the light is hidden under a bushel
Thanks for your blog. I think that our obedience does matter, but I don’t think that this the reason why we shy from preaching on rewards as a motivation for obedience. Our concern as preachers is that our people will base there relationship with God on performance, like if I don’t do my part God won’t come through for me, He will not bless me.
Rich C says
Of course our obedience matters, it is proof that we are truly saved.
But suggesting, as one comment above states, “the kind of everlasting life a Christian will live and the position they’ll have in Christ’s Kingdom is largely up to them. 2 Corinthians 5:10”, is a misunderstanding of what Paul is stating in the context of 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is appealing to ALL men to be reconciled to God, because ALL men will stand before the judment seat of Christ. This is the Great White throne judgment, not a separate judgment for believers. The believer will be acquitted based on Christ’s work in them, the unbeliever will experience the fear and realization of judgment. That chapter 5 is also speaking to unbelievers is evident in that Paul begs men to be reconciled to God (v20). The believer is already reconciled to God. The context is for believers to evangelize. “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” (vs 11). To infer that believers will have different “positions” in heaven is a gross distortion of the gospel. Even the Apostle Paul would hang his head at the suggestion that he would somehow have a greater position than the seemingly least believer, such as the thief on the cross.
John J Sandt says
Respectfully, I disagree. The book of 2 Corinthians was written to the church, believers, not to “all men.” 2 Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: “
The reconciling to God in v. 20 I believe refers Christian believers, as 2 Corinthians is an epistle of reproof. It reproves believers not unbelievers.
If there will be no differences of positions, why didn’t Jesus say that when disputes arose from his apostles about who will sit on His left hand and who would sit on His right, in Matt 20 and Mark 10?
Finally, Paul did not seem to hang his head, but said in 2 TIM 4:7-8 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. That certainly sounds like Paul thought there was a future reward for obedience, which by necessity means a lack of reward for disobedience. Admittedly my own understanding of the crowns referred to in the New Testament is rather vague and not clear, but learning continues to be an exciting adventure.
I do not have all the answers or claim any superior wisdom or understanding, but if there are no real rewards or if disobedience won’t have any consequences for the saved Christian, why are we urged to resist the devil, fight the good fight, etc.?
Thank you for the post, I need reminded of this truth., It goes to show the amazing love of our Father. A Father that would not only give up His Son to save us, but also give gifts and rewards to His children.
I think that part of the problem for me is not knowing exactly what the rewards are and what exactly the pleasure is to be had from them. Obviously Christ Himself is the greatest reward in a sense, but I don’t think that’s what the Scripture is often referring to. It does mention crowns at numerous times. To be blunt, I guess that part of me just thinks, “Yeah, I suppose it’d be great to have a crown (or extra crown?) and all for being a good Christian, but it’s not really a big deal to me as long as I’m saved. I’m not an antinomian, and I do think it’s important to strive for excellence in order to glorify Christ and in consideration of what Christ has done for us. I just don’t quite get the big attraction of a crown or some other nebulous “reward” that I don’t understand. I’m not saying that this line of thinking is a good thing, as the Bible must use rewards as a big motivation for a reason.
Where did you source Piper’s quote from? Thanks
Michael Kruger says
Thanks for the reminder, Stuart. I added it into the article.
Steve Prost says
Your opinion is not shared by the majority of bible belieiving/evangelical theological tradition. Some who immediately come to mind who believe in different degrees of reward (not merit) based upon works done by Christ in with and thru us include just as a small representative sample including many systematic theologians (this is a systematic theological question) known to many include John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Louis Berkhof, Millard Erickson, John Frame, John MacArthur, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and R.C. Sproul, admittedly leaning heavily toward the Reformed evangelical view.
More importantly, I believe Scripture is clear both in Jesus’ teaching and Paul’s not only of the fact of reward, but using it as a motivation in many texts. I strongly disagree with, but respect, the minority of evangelical scholars who disagree on this matter like Craig Blomberg, and would think in light of this tradition you may want to respect my opinion and those named rather than state it as a “gross distortion of the gospel”.
Richard Cronin says
My understanding of the corinthians passage that speaks of rewards is that the good deeds we do here during this life will somehow continue in the next. In that sense there is a reward. If i love well here that love doesnt vanish into thin air but affects the next life. Am i off base here?
I would not say that theology is focused on justification more than sanctification, but rather is focused on new birth instead of law-filled religion. With an emphasis like that you can sometimes downplay the importance of obedience. But in my own opinion I think a lot of churches get the balance right.
Actually I would say that the reason heavenly rewards aren’t taught is because it seems like another form of materialism. Rather than storing “stuff” here I’m being smart and storing “stuff” up there. Kinda sounds like the focus is on getting lots of good things rather than anything to do with Christ. At least that would be my guess.
John J Sandt says
Balance is a good way of looking at it. We can be obedient, enjoy the work Christ’s given to us and also get rewarded for it later. You can love to sing in the choir, be blessed and fulfilled by it and store up future rewards. 1 Cor. 3:9-15 talks of rewards based upon works, and the possibility of losing them, yet still being saved, which is perhaps another reason to teach on the subject of rewards. You can watch an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon or go visit a prisoner, help a widow or comfort someone who’s ill. I don’t think watching an NFL game is sinful, but I doubt we’ll be rewarded for it.
Rich C says
I think we recognize that all of the bible is written to believers, but sometimes it addresses unbelievers, as is the case in the 2 Corinthian passage. The reconciling in this passage is an act of God towards us; God reconciles God (through Christ). This is not an act of ours that we negotiate with God or add anything, it is a one time act of God. As ambassadors of this reconciliation, we persuade others to acknowledge God’s act.
As to Matt 20 – Jesus simply responded they didn’t know what they were asking, which is not an affirmation of positions in heaven.
As to Mark 10 – Jesus responds in vs 40 that it is for those whom it has been prepared, which limits the seating arrangement to two others or, in my opinion, symbolic for those who will reign with Him (all believers).
As to the crown in 2 Tim 4 – Paul clearly states that it is not for himself only, but for all who love Christ’s appearing (all believers). Before you respond that not all believers love His appearing, James 1:12 states the crown of righteousness is promised to all who love Him. You cannot claim to be a believer and not claim to love Him (in spite of our indwelling sin which we struggle with).
Finally – we are told to resist the devil and fight sin because it proves to us and others that we are saved. But even this struggle is an act of God on our behalf. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).
I would take a bullet for all of those men you mentioned (the ones still alive at least). But look at John MacArthur’s position on charismatic gifts vs those of Piper and Gruden, not to mention those mentioned who differ on dispensational views, or baptism, etc. My point is that we are all men, and must constantly examine everything and hold fast to that which is good. While I do believe the teaching of rewards can be a gross distortion of the gospel, I meant the teaching and did not mean you were teaching heresy. I sincerely apologize. Craig Blomberg is good reading on the opposite view, as you suggested.
As to 1 Cor. 3 passage – the passage is making a distinction around three positions of those who “build” i.e., the teachers of doctrine. That of the CAREFUL teacher, the CARELESS teacher, and the teacher who is OUT TO DESTROY. We should all be careful teachers. Sometimes we believers teach things that we are ignorant of, and Paul writes that while those teachings are burnt up, he himself will be saved (thank heavens I am included in this). The teacher who is out to destroy the temple of God is the false teacher (an unbeliever).
I do not believe any of this discussion is from those who are out to destroy the church. I am simply trying to present a point of view from decades of personal study and observation.
The wrong teaching of rewards leads to three results.
1. Pride – we think we have attained our proper reward.
2. Frustration – we struggle to somehow please God by our actions (and fail because of our indwelling sin).
3. Failure – we give up as we realize we can never live up to our hopes and expectations.
It is only as we discover that God Himself is our exceedingly great reward that we rest in His work and not our own.
I’m not mad at anybody and am willing to discuss but don’t want to monopolize. It is obviously important to me. Thanks for listening.
Dr. Kruger, I couldn’t agree more with what you have written. Thank you for helping us keep the whole counsel of God’s Word in perspective as we think about sanctification. In light of your post, I’m curious if you have read Thomas Schreiner’s “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Assurance and Perseverance” and if so, what your thoughts on it are. Schreiner puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that salvation itself is often presented as a reward for obedience, arguing that there is a “not yet” component to eternal salvation that in no way negates the fact that it is an already accomplished reality in Christ. Also in dealing with the warning passages he seems willing to say what almost no one else says–that these are real (not hypothetical) threats of judgment written to believers. He holds that they function as a means of grace given to those who are running the race and will, by God’s grace, persevere to the end, rather than theological reflections on those who have dropped out of it. Any thoughts?
Hi Rich C, here are some of my thoughts;
2 Cor 5:20 “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray [you] in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
In the greek there is no term for “you”. What I think the greek is saying could be paraphrased; “We implore the world on Christ’s behalf,” The “be ye reconciled to God” is what “we pray” as ambassadors to the world. This is my interpretation.
To me there is no doubt that the context of at least the first 16 versus of 2 Cor. Ch 5 is speaking to believers in Christ.
verse 2 “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven”
If verse 10 was a warning to all the world and speaking of the Great white throne judgment, (which I don’t think it is) how could verse 8-9 make any sense? It says “For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”
I don’t see how this could be speaking to unbelievers. Unbelievers don’t groan to be clothed with their heavenly habitation. Unbelievers cannot aim to be well pleasing to God. Our greatest works as unbelievers don’t please God at all. I think this passage has to be speaking of a rewards system for the believer. I don’t think it necessitates different “positions” in heaven though. Who knows what the rewards hold, it could just be that we receive a greater inheritance.
Mat 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…
Mat 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mar 9:33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
Mar 9:34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
Mar 9:35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
All these presuppose different rewards. Also take note of the whole sermon on the mount, do you notice that the Gospel is not in there? By these reasons I believe there is an importance to good works but they must be done out of love for God and wanting to reflect his nature. I do agree that doing good works for the sake of the reward only is selfish and those works will be burned. We need to allow the spirit of God to work through us and not on our own. I do understand how many people can confuse this concept with legalism and that’s why it may not be touched upon very much. But it’s not legalism. Thankyou
Rich C says
You make some good points. I don’t want to write a thesis but it is hard to address every nuance in a reply in the comments section. That being said I’ll try.
When I wrote that the bible is accepted to be written to believers, but sometimes is addressed to unbelievers, I did not mean that all of the passage in 2 Cor 5 was written to unbelievers. As you pointed out, much of the passage is written directly to the believer. But Paul contrasts the believer/unbeliever attitude within the passage. Such as v12, “…that you may have an answer for those who take pride in appearance, and not in heart.”
The issue is the heart attitude. It is not that believers at times have sinful attitudes, but believers have a heart of repentance towards God for these sinful attitudes. The unbeliever will continue in his prideful attitude.
The judgment of all men in vs 10 will be according to their deeds, whether good or bad. We see this thought throughout the NT. Romans 2:6 indicates that the judgment of God will “render to every man according to his deeds.” Paul then explains that the one who does good (believers) will inherit eternal life, yet the one who does evil (unbelievers) will obtain wrath and indignation.
The sermon on the mount is a great example of this contrast, within the passage, of a believers heart vs the unbelievers heart. Matthew 6:19-21 says that a person will either lay up treasures on earth, or in heaven, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” and “No man can serve two masters” in vs24.
In Matthew 7:17, Jesus contrasts “every good tree (believers) bears good fruit; but the rotten tree (unbelievers) bears bad fruit. In Matthew 12: 33-37, Jesus goes further to explain that the tree is known by its fruit, “…for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man (believer) out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man (unbeliever) out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment.”
One final contrast in sermon on the mount, Jesus ends by saying you will know them (all men) by their fruit. “Not every one who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he (believer) who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” and the contrast is those who say they have performed good deeds but Jesus declares, “I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness (unbeliever).”
So you can see that Jesus is addressing BOTH believers and unbelievers within the same passage. This is fairly common throughout the NT.
The question is, How do we become good trees bearing good fruit? The answer is, Solely by the work of God through Jesus Christ!
And I disagree with you where you say that “the gospel is not in there.” The gospel message permeates the sermon on the mount. The tree needs to be made GOOD!
One final thing that I didn’t make clear in the previous comment on 1 Cor 3. The passage has nothing to do the bema seat, but as is Paul’s way, he looks at the joy of seeing souls saved (and built up in the faith through careful teaching) as his reward. see 1 Cor 9:1, “…Are you not my work in the Lord?” 1Cor 9:18, “What then is my reward?” fast forward to 9:22,23, “…I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some, and I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a FELLOW-PARTAKER of it.”
and 1 Thess 2:19, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?”
As to your suggestion believers might obtain an inheritance differing from each other, see 1 Peter 1:3-5 or Ephesians 1. A teaching that suggests we do something to somehow gain more favor with God, with all due respect, is not the gospel at all.
1 Cor 4:6-7, “…For who regards you as superior? and what do you have that you did not receive…?
Thanks for your comments.
John J Sandt says
If there really are no differences in inheritances, or specific crowns, or rewards, as your posts seem to infer, why does God mention them, many times, in His word? If there’s one thing I’ve learn from years of Bible study, it’s that God has a reason, and some times several reasons for everything He says.
Also one of your replies said… “we are told to resist the devil and fight sin because it proves to us and others that we are saved.” I don’t understand this. Many people fight against their sin, like alcoholics and drug addicts, and many are not saved. In reality “everyone” to one degree or another fights sin,so it doesn’t prove anyone’s salvation.
Rich C says
It is exactly the words mentioned that I am asking you to examine more carefully in context. Your argument is like a Roman Catholic saying that the word “priest” is mentioned repeatedly in the bible therefore their concept of the priesthood (or “saints” in another instance) must be true. Obviously their concept is far removed from Scripture, but it is only by the grace of God that understanding comes as they read the Word (I speak from experience).
Where do you find an example in the word “inheritance” being used that indicates we have different levels of inheritance? As I mentioned in my previous comment, which I hope you examined, the examples of 1 Peter 1:3-5 and nearly all of Ephesians 1. The inheritance mentioned is not only what we all receive, but we have it reserved for us NOW! Thank God that our inheritance will be completely unlike the battles over earthly inheritances. All believers will receive that which has been reserved for them from the foundation of the world (Eph.1:11).
I have already addressed “crowns” in my previous comments, if you have read them, and would welcome addressing my comments before rehashing. The gist is, the crowns are reserved for all the saints as a symbol of our reigning with Christ.
As to the word “rewards”. It is common to think of the word reward in terms of us receiving something extra for our efforts. But the Scripture does not apply it in that same way. For instance, in 1 Cor 3:14, “If any man’s work which he has built upon remains, he shall receive a reward.”
The “work” is that of a teacher (see context) who is building upon the foundation of what Paul has laid as a master builder (the architect if you will). Paul says to be careful in how you (as a teacher) build (teach).
It is the careful builder who sees the “reward”. But the reward is not something the teacher can put on his own mantle as it were; the reward is seeing souls being saved and edified by careful apostolic teaching. Once you see the distinction, I think the passage will open up to mean much more than we should be motivated to work for personal rewards for our efforts.
I’m not sure why you are having trouble with my comment about why resisting the devil and fighting sin proves we are saved. Of course I am referring to believers. This thought is found throughout the NT. Peter writes that trials prove our faith (1 Pet 1:6,7). James writes that the man who perseveres under trial will receive the crown of life (James 1:12). The epistles of John are all about the proving of our faith and discerning the difference between believers and unbelievers.
There is an obvious difference between a believer’s struggle against sin and an unbelievers struggle against sin. Paul explains that there is a Godly sorrow producing repentance without regret, leading to salvation, versus the sorrow of the world leading to death (2 Cor 7:10).
I remain thankful that you cared enough to respond to my comments.
John J Sandt says
Inheritances are generally not earned, so you’re correct. I see no scripture indicating varying degrees of inheritances. Rewards however are another matter.
Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
This verse is clearly about rewards in the future based upon what people have done.
You may wish to check your Greek in regards to “prove” in 1 Peter 1:7. The word is dokimion “Strong’s #1383” and according to most Greek lexicons it means test not prove.
Regarding James 1:12 what does the man get who doesn’t persevere under trial? Nothing. So the persevering man gets a crown of life (reward) and the non-persevering man does not get one. Or are you saying that only true believers will persevere and therefore all believers will get the crown?
God’s Blessings with Peace.
Rich C says
See the previous verse in Rev 22:11 – the one who does wrong, and the one who is filthy – remain wrong and filthy. The one who is righteous, and the one who is holy – remain righteous and holy. You are either in one batch or the other. I refer you back to my comment on April 9th on Romans 2.
You are slightly wrong about dokimion. While it is variously translated test, try, prove, examine – the meaning is pretty much agreed to mean “to test with the expectation of approving”. For example, I may test (dokimion) a granite slab to hold my weight (in effect, proving it will), or I might test a wooden table to see if it will hold my weight. The word used for the table test would probably be peirazo, which would be a test of not knowing the outcome. Same English word “test” but different meaning in Greek. Not unusual, see the different meanings in Greek for the word “love” for instance.
As believers, we are tested with the expectation that our faith will be proven genuine (as in 1 Peter 1:7). Makes sense since our salvation is an act of God to begin with.
James is contrasting saving faith and unbelief within the same passage (I know, you are having trouble grasping that concept). You can see it easily in chapter 1 as James contrasts the one who asks in faith vs the one who doubts; the brother of humble circumstances vs the rich man in the midst of his pursuits; the one who perseveres in trials and receives the crown of life vs the one who gives in to his lust which brings forth death. So yes, the non-persevering one is an unbeliever as James concludes in Chapter 2:17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
When James says that the crown of life is promised to those who love Him (who persevere), surely you are not suggesting that there are believers who do not love Him? or are you?
With all due respect, it is clear that you see many passages that are speaking to unbelievers as pertaining to some second class believer (the carnal christian belief maybe?). This is causing you to think that some Christians are better (more worthy?) than other Christians. Once you see your hermaneutic is in error, I think you will see more clearly how, in Christ, we all have the same reward, inheritance, crowns, position, glory, eternal life, salvation, wisdom, righteousness, and redemption.
see 1 Cor 1:30-31, “But by HIS DOING you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Not so hard to understand.
John J Sandt says
My last post. The Bible as a whole and in particular the Epistles (Rom-Thess.) are written to believer, not to unbelievers. This is where we differ. Check the beginning of each letter and you will find this is true. Unbelievers may be mentioned in the letters but are not specifically addressed. Similar to the way that the books of the law were written to Israel not Christians, hence we no longer offer animal sacrifices, go to Jerusalem 3 times a year, or have the priests you mentioned earlier, intercede on our behalf. In exegesis, as you know “context” is extremely important. “To whom is it written” is also extremely important. If you receive a letter saying you won a million dollars but it wasn’t addressed to you, would you think you were a million dollars wealthier?
All Christians are God’s children, born again of His spirit, by His grace, not of works. However some are more obedient than others. No, there aren’t believes who do not love Him. The Greek word for love here is agapao. Agapao is not a feeling of love like phileo, but an expression of love through giving. “God so loved the world that he “gave”…That being said, there are some believers who do love (agapao) Him more than others. How do we know this? By their actions of giving, or not giving Him their obedience. FYI, the use of phileo and agapao in the exchange between Jesus and Peter in John chapter 21 is fascinating.
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. (John 14:21 NIV) Of course Jesus said this to the Jews before the start of the Christian church and the age of grace that we live in. However it’s still applicable to us, just as some of the OT laws are.
Of course dokimion mean “to test with the expectation of approving”. However that doesn’t make the words interchangeable. In education, tests are given with a hope or expectation of success. An IQ test is given to obtain a “result”. The test doesn’t “prove” someone is a genius or a moron. The result does.
All the best as we all continue to grow, in Christ.