Chapter 19

The Distinction Between Salvation And Rewards

Chart:  Judgment—Not One But Four Separate Events

Unless the distinction which exists between salvation and rewards is clearly defined, much confusion results. So it becomes necessary at the beginning of this discussion to analyze very clearly the Scriptural teaching on both these subjects.

Salvation: Men are saved by the grace of God through faith upon the basis of the merits of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which He poured out at the Cross for the redemption of sinners. This teaching is clearly set forth in such passages as these:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life (John 5:24). For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Rom. 5:10,11). For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens (Col. 1:19,20).

A close study of these passages reveals that man is saved by the grace of God through faith and that he takes hold of God's favor by simple, unswerving trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The faith that procures salvation is one that neither falters nor hesitates but steps out upon the promises of God, walking in the path of obedience. One who has such a faith cries out with Saul of Tarsus: "What shall I do, Lord?" (see Acts 22:2-21).

Notwithstanding the clear teachings of these and other passages which could be cited, many good brethren think they see in other verses that salvation is predicated on works. For instance, Phil. 2:12,13 is interpreted as proof of this position:

So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.

The proper understanding of these cases causes this delusion to vanish. A glance at them shows that Paul urged the brethren to continue during his absence just as they had done in his presence and exhorted them saying, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This appeal to "work out your own salvation" is considered as positive proof that man must work in order to obtain his salvation. When one takes only part of a sentence, he can frequently prove almost any doctrine. This procedure is contrary to logic and good reasoning. To understand this passage we must recognize that Paul wrote his letter to people who were already saved, to those in whose lives God had already begun "a good work" (Phil. 1:6).

We arrive at the real teaching of this passage when we read vs. 13 in connection with 12. We see that Paul urged the Philippians to work out their salvation, "for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure." In other words, Paul was exhorting them to work out in their own lives that which God had worked into them. The Greek is explicit on this point. Our translators in vs. 13 could have given a little better rendering. Instead of saying "to will and to work," which is a slavish adherence to the English infinitive, they should have rendered the Greek this way: "For it is God who inworks in you both the willing and the doing." Though, as a rule, to introduces an infinitive, yet this is not always the case, as every high school student knows--or should know. The Greek infinitive is a verbal noun and frequently carries the article. The thought is that since God works into the heart of the Christian both the desire and the power to carry out the aspiration, he is to work it out in his own life. In other words, what God works into our hearts and lives we are to work out in action.

This principle may be illustrated by one who is, by nature, a musician. God has worked into his very soul the ability to sing and to play. Regardless of the amount of talent that is thus God-given, he will not become a musician unless he works out in practice that which God has worked into his very soul at birth.

At the new birth God works into man's nature a new creation. The Spirit of God regenerates the heart of the believer and dwells in it. He is constantly endeavoring to put into the heart the desire to do good work and to give power to carry out this God-inspired yearning; if the Christian will not yield himself to the Spirit of God but goes his own way, these spiritual endowments will never manifest themselves in his life. Therefore Paul urged the brethren to full consecration and surrender so that they might be responsive to spiritual influences and to work out in their lives what God has already worked into their souls.

Rewards: God will reward the believer according to his works. This truth is set forth by our Lord in Matt. 16:27:

"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds." In 2 Cor. 5:10 Paul stated that the Lord will reward each person according to the things done in the body: "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad."

One must not confound this "judgment seat" of Christ with the judgment of the "great white throne" which is found in Rev. 20:11-15. The judgment of the great white throne follows the Millennial Age and is the tribunal before which the wicked are brought for judgment and condemnation. That Christians will never come before it is clear from John 5:24 which declares emphatically that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ shall not come into the judgment but have passed out of death into life: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life." Since the judgment of the believer occurred at the Cross, there is no necessity for his coming into judgment.

However, we come before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our rewards for service rendered. This fact is declared in Rom. 14:11. A glance at the context of this passage shows us that in the church at Rome there were two classes: the weak and the strong. The weak brethren, being uninformed with reference to the great Scriptural truths, were judging and condemning all whose ideas and lives did not coincide with their standards. On the other hand, the stronger brethren, the better educated and informed ones, were despising and setting at naught the less fortunate believers. Both classes were in error and failed to manifest the Christian spirit, so Paul reprimanded them.

In doing so he addressed the weaker brethren with the following question: "But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother?" (vs. 10). You are judging him by your own narrow, limited and imperfect standard. On the other hand, he addressed the stronger brethren by asking them a similar question: "Or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother?" These brethren gave the less fortunate ones no consideration whatsoever. It seemed they were absolutely ignored in all matters and frowned upon by the stronger brethren. This unfortunate condition was sharply reproved by the Apostle Paul who showed them that they were not appointed by the Lord to sit in judgment of others, For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:10b-12).

Here Paul declared that all Christians must appear before the judgment seat of God. In the Corinthian passage referred to above he stated that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Do these two passages refer to the same judgment seat? In my opinion they do, although I will not be dogmatic on this point. Christ was God in human form. To these brethren sitting in judgment on others--one human judging another--Paul showed their inconsistency by stating that we are not to be brought before a human tribunal but rather before God's judgment seat. When one comes before the judgment seat of Christ referred to in 2 Cor. 5:10, he is appearing before the judgment seat of God.

When we appear before Christ's judgment seat, we shall receive the things done in the body--our rewards. From a reading of the fourteenth chapter of Romans we see that these brethren were sitting in judgment on other brethren and passing sentence upon their daily conduct, life and walk. In other words, they were assuming to themselves the functions and prerogatives which belong to God alone; therefore in reprimanding them Paul declared that they were arrogating to themselves an office which belongs to no human, but to God only. Since we know that by mutual agreement in the Holy Trinity all judgment has been delivered unto the Son ("For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son"--John 5:22), we can be certain that this judgment seat of God referred to by Paul in Rom. 14 is the judgment seat of Christ mentioned in 2 Cor. 5:10.