SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT
A. An appropriate or inappropriate response to God is based on one's level of knowledge. The less knowledge one has, the less responsible one is. The opposite is also true (cf. Luke 12:45).
B. Knowledge of God comes in two basic ways
1. creation (cf. Psalm 19; Romans 1-2)
2. Scripture (cf. Psalm 19; 119; Jesus, as revealed in the NT)
C. OT evidence
a. Gen. 15:1 (usually associated with earthly reward, land and sons)
b. Lev. 26:1-13; Deut. 28:1-14,58-68 (covenant obedience brings blessing)
c. Dan. 12:3
2. punishments – Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 27:15-26; 28:15-37 (covenant disobedience brings cursing)
3. The OT pattern of reward for personal, covenantal righteousness is modified because of human sin. This modification is seen in Job and Psalm 73 (i.e., "the two ways," cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1). The NT intensifies the focus from the act to the thought (cf. the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
D. NT evidence
1. rewards (beyond salvation)
a. Mark 9:41
b. Matt. 5:12,46; 6:1-4,5-6,6-18; 10:41-42; 16:27; 25:14-23
c. Luke 6:23,35; 19:11-19,25-26
a. Mark 12:38-40
b. Luke 10:12; 12:47-48; 19:20-24; 20:47
c. Matthew 5:22,29,30; 7:19; 10:15,28; 11:22-24; 13:49-50; 18:6; 25:14-30
d. James 3:1
E. For me the only analogy that makes sense is from the opera. I do not attend opera presentations so I do not understand them. The more I knew of the difficulty and intricateness of the plot, music, and dance, the more I would appreciate the performance. I believe heaven will fill our cups, but I think our earthly service determines the size of the cup.
Therefore, knowledge and a response to that knowledge results in rewards and punishments (cf. Matt. 16:7; Luke 12:48; 1 Cor. 3:8,14; 9:17,18; Gal. 6:7; 2 Tim. 4:14). There is a spiritual principle—we reap what we sow! Some sow more and reap more (cf. Matt. 13:8,23).
F. "The crown of righteousness" is ours in the finished work of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:8), but notice that "the crown of life" is connected to perseverance under trial (cf. James 1:12; Rev. 2:10; 3:10-11). The "crown of glory" for Christian leaders is connected to their lifestyle (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-4). Paul knows he has an imperishable crown, but he exercises extreme self-control (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).
The mystery of the Christian life is that the gospel is absolutely free in the finished work of Christ, but as we must respond to God's offer in Christ, we must also respond to God's empowerment for Christian living. The Christian life is as supernatural as is salvation, yet we must receive it and hold on to it. The free-but-cost-everything paradox is the mystery of rewards and sowing/reaping.
We are not saved by good works, but for good works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). Good works are the evidence that we have met Him (cf. Matthew 7). Human merit in the area of salvation leads to destruction, but godly living is rewarded.
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