Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Treasure in Heaven

The Bible says that we are saved by grace, based on what Christ has done apart from what we do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; 1 Peter 2:24,25). But it also speaks of rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:11,12; 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:8). How are these compatible?

We could try to explain the rewards away, which might seem more in accordance with salvation by grace. I have tried this, but it is hard to fit it in with the verses as read in a simple, straightforward way. But others would  so magnify the importance of rewards that we are given the impression heaven will be a dull and barren place without some rewards. But Scripture makes what Christ did the important thing (Ephesians 2:1-9; John 3:16-18; Romans 8:31-39) and our works a response to that (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Ephesians 2:10). Nor are we ever given the idea that the future hope of God's people is dull and barren for any of them (Revelation 21:3-7; Isaiah 35:10; Psalms 16:11). Nonetheless, we are told that while God will not take into account our sins (Hebrews 8:12; Micah 7:19; Psalms 103:11,12), He will not forget the good things we do but reward them (Hebrews 6:10; 11:6; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15), though we are still far from perfect (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:14-23). God accepts our deeds because He accepts us in Christ.

We are told there that there will be rewards. Further, they are put forth as significant and as a motivation for obedience. (I believe we will ultimately lay our rewards at Jesus' feet, but the passage involved is too symbolic to be dogmatic about: Revelation 4:10). Therefore, rewards should not be simply cast aside and ignored. Now it is clear that our motivation here should not be pride and ambition (Proverbs 16:18; 1 John 2:16; James 3:14). Rather, our motivation should be love of Christ and desire to please Him (Luke 19:17; John 14:21; Romans 8:15). One idea I find helpful here is an idea I stole from C. S. Lewis, though I am using it in a somewhat different way, as we have different understandings of salvation. Lewis says there are rewards that fit the real goal of an activity and there are those that are inappropriate. It is inappropriate to marry for money, because money is not the appropriate goal of marriage. But it is right to marry for love, as love is the appropriate goal of marriage.  I have wondered if the rewards involved in obeying God are the natural results of such an obedience: deeper relationships with God and others. But whatever they are, they grow naturally out of the love relationship that is produced by what Christ has done for us.

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