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What About Rewards?

Our question this time is lengthy: "What will the judgment seat of Christ mean for the believer? Does the Bible teach that there will be rewards in heaven? I have been loaned a book by a well-known author who states in his preface, 'The preponderant theme of this book … is based upon the apostle Paul's teaching that not all who go to heaven will receive a Reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But all can. We are all without excuse.'" Our correspondent adds, "There is very little mention of grace in the book."

There can be no doubt but that the Bible speaks of rewards, both for the righteous and the unrighteous in the judgment day (Matt. 16:27). What makes the matter the more difficult is the fact that Scripture says that these rewards are given "according to works" even in the case of the righteous. This sounds on first hearing like a denial of salvation by grace alone, and the teaching of meritorious good works.

Now there can be no doubt that the ungodly receive their just due in the judgment day. They receive exactly what they have earned by their evil works and their "reward" is entirely of merit, or more properly, of demerit. With this there can be no difficulty, nor would anyone object to such teaching (II Sam. 3:39; II Tim. 4:14). It is simply justice.

In the case of the righteous, however, the matter is different. It should be noticed, first of all, that they are rewarded according to works but not because of works. There is great difference here. A reward that was givenon account of or because of works would indeed receive a reward that was merited, and would contradict all that Scripture teaches about grace and about the impossibility of man ever meriting anything with God (Lk. 17:10).

There can be no merit in the reward that is given to the righteous, therefore, at least not any merit of their own. If there is any merit involved, it is Christ's and His alone. Thus we say too that their reward is the "reward of grace" (cf. Rom. 4:4). It is grace added to grace, or, to put it differently, God rewarding His own work in us.

The salvation which brings about the good works of the believer is all of grace, and so are the good works themselves. It is God that works in them both the willing and the doing of those works (Phil. 2:13), and so they can claim no merit in the performing of them, and so too, when those works are rewarded, it is grace that they receive anything at all according to those works.

That the reward is according to works, therefore, is not a denial of this. The reward, in the justice of God, will indeed exactly match the good works we have done, that is what "according to" means. Nevertheless, the proportion of good works performed by one person in comparison of another, and his subsequent reward, are to be wholly ascribed to the grace of God (though all the sins and shortcomings are his own fault).

Scripture speaks of this reward, first of all, to draw us on to good works, for though the love of God and heart-felt gratitude for His goodness are the first motives for the good we do, the obtaining of that reward is also a motive (Matt. 5:12; 10:42; II Jn. 8). The promised reward draws us to it.

That this reward is according to works is both a warning and an encouragement. It is warning in that it reminds us that we shall not attain to it without striving with heart and strength to live in all good works for God's glory - and encouragement in that we may know from it that our labors are not in vain in the Lord.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 2
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
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    WA
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    United States
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    360-527-6633

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