The Good News - Home
The Reward of the Faithful
By David A. DePra
One of the greatest delusions of the Body of Christ involves the expectation of REWARDS from God. Millions of professing Christian people expect God to REWARD them for how they live. They expect that reward NOW, but they expect it once they die. Indeed, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that many Christian people actually think they are ENTITLED to a reward from God. For many, this expectation of a reward is actually their motivation for following Jesus Christ.
Is there a REWARD? Well, yes – but in order to get to the Truth on this, we have to understand what that term, "reward," means according to God. And we have to understand WHAT determines this reward. The answers may shock some people, and anger others. But the answers are the Truth, and speak of an eternally greater blessing than do any of our shallow expectations of a reward from God.
The word translated, "reward," or, "rewarded," from the NT Greek does not mean quite what the word, "reward," means in the English language. To us, in English, a, "reward," from God is something we receive in return for something we do. We usually always think of this reward as a positive thing – it is a positive pay back that we have earned by our works. Indeed, despite the fact that most Christians realize that we cannot earn salvation from God, many nevertheless believe that we can earn a reward from God. The basis for this claim is usually verses that say that we will be, "rewarded according to our works." What emerges is the notion that we are saved by grace alone, but that once we are saved by grace, we will be rewarded, not according to grace, but according to the works we do as saved people.
The problem with this teaching, aside from the fact that it is contrary to scripture, is that it simply creates another kind of legalism. Rather than base your salvation upon your works, you base everything within salvation upon your works. The life that results from this is the same – one based on your works; one that is under the law. The bondage that results from trying to earn a greater reward from God is just as much bondage as one that is lived trying to earn salvation.
It is a fact that the moment we say we can, or must, earn ANYTHING from God, we are no longer under grace, but under law – under the law that governs our earning. We are also saying that through our earning we MERIT the reward. Sure. If I must earn, then once I do earn, I am entitled. I have met the requirements of earning that reward, and thus, it is no longer by grace that I receive, but merited through my works. Indeed, if I fail to meet the requirements dictated by the law that governs my earning, I do not merit the reward. I have been disqualified by faulty works.
There are many hybrid versions of this legalism in Christianity. Some people simply place a one-on-one relationship between our works and what they are earning. For some reason, it never occurs to such folks that if we must earn our rewards by good works, then by definition, we are going to lose our reward in accordance with our bad works. And in such a case, ALL of our works, both inward and outward – every thought, word, and deed – must be taken into account. Thus, every imperfect work will subtract for our reward. Every perfect work will add to it. But if this is the case, then how much of a reward do you and I think we can earn? I mean, what is a PERFECT work? The moment we start asking these questions we see that something is wrong with this theory. For if God will reward us for our works – does this not then bring into play the degree to which these works are perfect vs. imperfect? Does this not bring into play our motives FOR working?
There are other people who don’t talk so much about a one-on-one relationship between their works and their reward, but they seem to feel that they will be rewarded according to their success in building the character of Christ – in themselves. To them, the Christian life is a race to see how much of the character of Jesus we can develop in ourselves. Thus, they develop and keep, "character principles." They build LISTS that will do this. They have religious systems, such as submission to authority, and the belonging to groups, churches, and leadership. This, they believe, will make us like Jesus. For some reason, these folks seem to think that it is up to them to take what God has given them and somehow use it to work into themselves the character of Christ.
I have known this type of thing to become a terrible legalism. Spiritual growth, as achieved under a system of religion, law, and principles, becomes the goal – and is said to be the condition that God will reward. "We will be rewarded according to our character qualities," they say. But almost always lost is the meaning of true Christ like character, and certainly is lost the means by which we come to manifest Christ. Indeed, these systems that try to build character most often do nothing but produce spiritual arrogance. There is nothing worse than a person who thinks he is full of Christ, but is, in fact, full of himself.
We cannot build the character of Christ into ourselves. Rather, Christ is already IN US. Thus, the key is to have US crucified out of the way so that HE can be seen in and through us. Therefore, what we need are not religious systems. What we need is the personal CROSS.
God is, in fact, not going to reward us according to spiritual character that WE have built into ourselves. Neither is He going to tally up our good works against our bad works, and reward us depending on which side of the ledger has more points. Instead, all rewards – and we need to see the meaning of this word – are found in Jesus Christ. In fact, I submit that Jesus Christ already possesses ALL rewards – He alone is entitled to them. The question is then whether we will fellowship with Him in those things.
The issue here is FELLOWSHIP and ONENESS with Christ. If we remember one Truth regarding rewards it is this one that we must remember -- You can experience no reward apart from experiencing HIM. That is why the Bible says, "His reward is WITH HIM."
The Greek word commonly translated, "reward," in the NT does overlap the English word meaning. But it can be expanded to mean, "recompense, or wages." In short, the REWARD is not simply something I get in return for something I do. Rather, it is the OUTCOME of what I do.
Let’s cut to the quick and see how this applies to our fellowship with Christ. It is one thing to say that because I have DONE this or that, that God is going to reward me. But it quite another to say that that because I am in a fellowship with Christ – which would be inclusive of doing things – it is another thing altogether to say that there is going to be an OUTCOME of that fellowship which will result in my being able to share in Christ – and to share in the purposes of God. In other words, all rewards are the result of being in Christ, and in being at one with Him in His purposes. All blessings from God are the OUTCOME of being with Christ in His purposes.
This Truth eliminates the thought of MERIT. Indeed, it fully secures our motives for God. It is only to the extent that I have given myself over to Christ – only to the extent that I have lost my life to Him – that I am able to find, and share in, HIS LIFE. But in His life are all blessings – in His life are all rewards, if you want to use that word. And yet those rewards are not a PAY BACK for following Christ in the sense of being entitled through earning. Rather, those blessings are the OUTCOME of experiencing the One in whom are all blessings.
If you give yourself to Christ you will be blessed. We might say that this is the wage, or the reward. But can we see that there is no thought of merit or earning? No. For you cannot truly give yourself to Christ if your motive is what you will get from Him. Why can I say that? Because the very definition of giving yourself to Christ means that you must do it UNCONDITIONALLY – without thought of a bargain. If you are doing it for a pay back, you aren’t doing it. Only if you fully LOSE yourself to Him will you find Him.
This really isn’t all that complicated of a thought. We are here talking about unconditional devotion to God. We are talking about the Truth. In fact, the ONLY POSSIBLE OUTCOME of seeing the Truth in Christ is that we will voluntarily give ourselves to Him. The Truth will lead us nowhere else. It won’t be something we do under threat of punishment, or because we are working an angle. No. If you see Christ you will lose your life into His hands. You will WANT to.
Is God the God of all grace? Do we seriously think that God saves us solely by His grace, only to make everything else depend on our works? No. It is all of His grace.
All in Christ
God has wrapped up everything that He has for humankind in His Son. Anyone who questions this does not understand the Word of God, indeed, does not understand God Himself. There is nothing that God has for us that is not found in Jesus Christ, and there is nothing outside of Christ that is the goal of God. Many of the problems of the Christian church arise when this one Truth is distorted.
If there is one epistle in the NT that emphasizes this fact it is Colossians. In this epistle, Paul seeks to bring Christ back to the center. But not just as the center in the sense of being the focal point of conversation or of doctrine. No. Paul brings Christ back as the center of all resource for living and walking with God. Note some of his strong statements to this effect:
(We) do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (Col 1:9)
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18)
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:9-10)
Paul is here proclaiming the Truth. His are not merely words of religion. He is telling us outright that ONLY IN CHRIST are the resources of God. Sure. Jesus Himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He said, "I am the resurrection and the Life." He said, "I am the Truth." Do we think that Jesus was simply being colorful? Do His word, or the words of Paul, mean anything? I submit that God is telling us that only in His Son is found what we need – but all that we need are found in His Son.
But again, I’m not referring to only to the letter of teaching or doctrine. It is easy to make Jesus the center of teaching. Heretics can cleverly do that, too. Rather, when Paul says, "We are complete in Him," this is supposed to make us realize that we ARE – and that in Christ we need to realize and see and live from our completeness IN HIM. Likewise, when Paul says, "IN HIM are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," that he is showing us that it is only to the extent that we know and experience the Living Christ that we possess any wisdom or knowledge of God. This is not about a teaching to memorize. It is about relationship and fellowship with Christ.
Paul is so adamant about what he is teaching that with every Truth about Christ that he gives in this epistle, he attaches a warning. He tells us that unless Christ becomes all of these things for us that we are going to be open to error. Note some of these warnings:
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col 2:4)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:8)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Col 2:16-17)
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. (Col 2:18-19)
Every one of these terrible consequences is the result of NOT personally holding to the Person of Christ, but instead, of being drawn away by something else. And yet before we classify Paul’s warnings to some extreme to which only the most ignorant would fall prey, we need to realize that he is talking to each and every one of us, right now, both personally, and in our churches. For example, what are, "enticing words?" Well, they are words of error, but spoken in such a way, and with such emotion, that they are able to MOVE YOU. Today preachers are presenting great error in a way that plays upon people’s ignorance, fears, and human emotion. Paul says, "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The rest is baloney, no matter how persuasive the package is in which it is presented."
Then we have the warning against philosophy and, "vain deceit." What is, "vain deceit?" It is empty deceit – really, it is deceit that finds an anchor in our pride. The Truth never plays to man’s pride, but to God’s glory. Yet today, people are being told that Jesus Christ came to bring out their greatness. We are told that because, "God loves us," that He would never expect us to confess sin. We are told that Christ died to build us up into a beautiful persons who can feel good about themselves. If we do not see the Truth in Christ, and realize that ONLY in Christ are we complete – if we do not know or experience what that really means – we may buy into such heresy.
I actually had a person directly tell me that I was teaching error because I taught that everything that God has for us is given to us in Jesus Christ. He said, "I cannot believe that you think that could be true." Then I asked, "Well, what do you think God has in addition to Christ?" He replied, "The second blessing – the baptism with the Holy Spirit." This person believed and taught that if Christ is in you, that you are actually NOT complete. You must go on to receive what the charismatic believe is a subsequent blessing – you must receive ALL that God has through the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
I can assure you that I am more than well aware of the teaching of the second blessing as demanded by the charismatics. I was once IN charismatic churches. I know all the verses used, the reason they are used, and I fully understand the premise behind the doctrine. I’ve gone through all the arguments and listened to all of the reasonings. I’ve heard all the testimonies as to things that have happened when people say they did receive this, "second blessing." I have personally BEEN THERE when some of these things have happened. But the doctrine of the second blessing is ERROR. There is NO second blessing necessary. Why? Because we are complete IN CHRIST. Thus, all that is attributed to some second blessing – and I’m talking about any TRUE things – they were always found in Christ. The notion that you can be born again in Christ, and have HIM dwelling in you, and yet continue to be INCOMPLETE is not only error, but it is exactly the error that Paul is warning against in Colossians.
Well, what does any of this have to do with rewards? Plenty. If we are to understand what God means when He mentions rewards, we have to understand that ALL REWARDS are found in His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, whatever I think God has for me in the form of a reward is already found in Christ. In Christ alone dwells the fullness of God. In Christ alone are we complete.
Now, practically speaking, what this means is this: God has NO reward for you and I except that it is the outcome of our fellowship with Christ. There is no reward given OUTSIDE of Christ, and all rewards are found IN CHRIST. Any teaching to the contrary is error. This could not be made more clear in scripture.
If you read through the NT, included in which are the many parables of Jesus, and summarize what is taught about the reward of the redeemed, one issue emerges as being a determinant factor of that reward: Faithfulness. Again and again we are told that God is going to judge our faithfulness to Him. For example, Jesus said, "He that is faithful over little, will be faithful over much." His emphasis is not upon the little or the much, but upon the faithfulness. In another place Jesus said, "Well done good and faithful servant." Faithfulness to God is the key.
So the question is, "What is faithfulness?" Well, first of all, let’s understand that we are talking, not about whether a human being merely possesses a character trait of faithfulness. No. We are talking about real faithfulness TO GOD. You can find people everywhere who are loyal and faithful the cause to which they are devoted. But here we are talking about faithfulness to God Himself.
Earlier I emphasized that rewards have to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Now we begin to see more about that Truth. Faithfulness has to do – not merely with what I DO for God – rather, faithfulness has to do with WHO I AM to God, and with who God is to me. Faithfulness is about RELATIONSHIP. It is about TRUTH. Thus, we now see the tie in between faithfulness and rewards. It is who I am to Christ and who Christ is to me that determines my reward. Or, to put it another way, it is my relationship with Christ that determines the possibilities of reward.
Faithfulness to Jesus Christ is not limited to doing things FOR God. Again, faithfulness is about BEING. And at the top of the list of BEING is the fact that Jesus must be my personal Lord. If Jesus is not Lord of ME then I am not being faithful to Him. Fundamental to my relationship to Christ is His Lordship over me personally. This means that Jesus has ALL of me.
It is entirely possible to DO many things, "for God," and yet for Jesus to NOT be my personal Lord. People easily do things FOR God, expecting a reward in return, but if God were to actually touch them personally, they would back off. Jesus as my personal Lord means that I live for His will, and not mine, and it means that I no longer belong to myself, but to Him.
Ask yourself the question, "Is God free to do whatever He desires with me, in my life?" Before you answer, don’t be so sure that you have covered all the possibilities. Is God free to take everything you own away from you? You might think He would never do this – this is part of faulty sense of entitlement. And indeed, God probably won’t take everything away. But what if He did? Would you still belong to Him? Would you still be faithful to God?
Faithfulness to God is about being devoted and dedicated to God no matter what. But in this we see a great irony – one that is rarely mentioned in most teaching about rewards. If faithfulness means being devoted to Christ no matter what, then faithfulness is never based on whether I will receive a reward. In other words, yes, faithfulness does determine rewards, but real faithfulness is of such a nature that it exists to the disregard of any reward. That’s ironic, but the Truth.
Jesus said, "He that would seek to save his life will lose it, but he that loses his life for My sake will find it." In that word LIFE is included everything – including rewards. Jesus might have just as well said, "He that would be motivated to earn a reward from Me will lose it, but he that would relinquish all of himself, including any reward, for My sake, will find it." In short, to the extent that we give ourselves to Christ to the complete disregard of any reward – it is to that extent that He is free to give us a reward. Why? Because to the degree that we unconditionally give ourselves to Christ we are faithful.
The fact is, if I am serving Christ, or walking with Christ, indeed, even dying for Christ, simply for some reward I think I will receive, I am not being faithful to Christ. Rather, I am being faithful to my own desire for a reward from Christ. Dedication and faithfulness, if they are real, are UNCONDITIONAL. They are not attached to a pay back or reward. They involve no bargain I am making with God. Faithfulness to God means that I absolutely relinquish all of myself into His hands, for His will, and for His purpose – and do so in a voluntary faith – and I do so leaving any rewards to Him. Rewards are not in the picture. This is faithfulness, and a person to whom God can give all the more of His possessions.
Thus, again we see that the concept of REWARD from God cannot be divorced from our true relationship to God. To the degree that I am free from the motive of earning a reward – it is to that degree that God can trust me with a reward. For God will know that I am faithful to Him, for Himself, and fully dedicated to His will, rather than to MYSELF.
God is seeking to expand the Lordship of Jesus Christ into all things. He is going to gather up all things in Jesus Christ. Thus, the more I am faithful to Christ, and an instrument through which His Lordship can live, the more I can be used in His kingdom. My faithfulness to Christ is therefore going to determine the extent to which God can use me to further HIS interests and HIS Lordship. Thus, we have the link between faithfulness and the rewards of God to the faithful.
Now note: This Truth is not merely a religious principle we adopt or follow. No. As I stated earlier, if you see Jesus Christ, and KNOW HIM – if you see the Truth about God – you are NOT GOING TO OBEY GOD FOR A REWARD. You will not be able to do so any longer if you see the Truth. Indeed, the only possible outcome of seeing the Truth and of knowing Jesus Christ is that you will give your whole self to Him voluntarily to the compete disregard of rewards. Seeing Christ will have that affect upon you. You will be set free from all other motives – and you will serve voluntarily in love.
This Truth is fundamental. God’s WILL is that we become those who follow Him for Himself, and not for a reward. Anything less and we are missing the Truth. Anything less and we are presently not rightly related to God. It is just that important.
The REWARD of the redeemed is not some country or planet or position. Rather, the reward of the redeemed is Christ. Or, to put it another way, if I am faithful to give all of myself to Christ, the reward is that He is able to give all of Himself to me. From that will emerge a life, and a responsibility, and an experience of the things of God in Christ. Could there be any greater reward?
Jesus stated this directly:
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev 3:21)
Note that Jesus does not promise to give us our OWN throne. Never. That would be self-rule and independence. Rather, He promises that we will fellowship with Him in HIS throne. Yet we could never sit with Christ in HIS throne unless we have relinquished OUR throne and come under His Lordship. It is only to the degree that we are under the rule of Christ that we rule with Him.
We see in this promise the fact that our fellowship and relationship with Christ – our experience of Christ – is that which results in being able to reign and rule with Him. Thus, there is no such reward as reigning over things FOR Christ. Rather, there is only reigning WITH Christ because He is reigning over me.
All the promises of God to this end are predicated upon OVERCOMING. Well, overcoming means that all obstacles to God’s will and glory have been overcome, and that God is sovereign. That must start with ME.
Today we have more and more people teaching that we are supposed to take this world for God, so that Jesus can come back. We have professing Christians claiming to be end-time apostles and prophets who are appointed for this purpose. We also have teachings that suggest that there is going to be an end-time people; an end-time super church that will bring to this earth the glory of God, paving the way for Jesus’ return. ALL of this is error. ALL of it is serving nothing but the people involved. The will of God and the kingdom of God starts IN ME. Take that for God – give yourself into the hands of God – and this is God’s will. By pass that and try to take the world FOR God and you will be deceived.
The outcome of overcoming is fellowship with Christ because that which is overcome are the hindrances to fellowship with Christ. And if, through the Cross, and the work of God’s Spirit, we do overcome, then we will not only enter into a greater fellowship with Christ, but all that is IN CHRIST will likewise enter into us. This will be our reward. ALL rewards are IN Christ because, in the end, all rewards are Christ – as worked out through the human experience.
Again – never divorce a reward from Christ from Christ Himself. No. The reward IS Christ Himself – a greater experience of Him. Everything else emerges from that – responsibility or possession. These are all in Him, and are kept in Him.
Actually, the whole idea of serving or obeying God for a reward from Him is, if you think about it, utter nonsense. As if we could ever indebt God to us. But really, it is SIN – because it is the very definition of UNFAITHFULNESS. If I am serving God for a reward, I am not being faithful to Him, but to MYSELF – it is all about what I will get FROM God, instead of being about God Himself. In short, I am more devoted to my reward than I am to the God whom I am serving.
The Truth about our motives for following Christ is taught continually in the NT. Read Matthew 7, where Jesus warns against wrong motives for following Him:
Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Mat 7:21-23)
You will note that these people address Jesus as LORD. But words mean little. The question is whether He actually IS their Lord, and in this case, He is not. They have done many things FOR Him, that is, in His name, but Jesus is not LORD OF THEM personally.
You will notice that Jesus says to these people, "I never knew you." In other words, they never had fellowship with Him. Despite what they DID that was supposedly FOR Him, they never gave Him access to themselves. In fact, what we see here are a group of people who are clearly standing before Christ, with their hand outstretched, expecting a reward from Him based on what they did. Everything they say is about themselves, and what they deserve. They are utterly blind to Christ Himself.
Today on Christian TV, blindness of this kind is both taught and affirmed. In many churches, Christians are openly taught to GIVE in order to GET. Such teaching is, however, just another form of serving God for a reward. I think it would be an appalling revelation if we only saw just how much of this motive is in the life we live before the Lord. It takes a real work of God to get us to where we are free from self-interest in the things of God.
But again – the solution here is not mere teaching or the following of religious principles. We have to SEE JESUS – we have to KNOW HIM. I say again, that it is NOT POSSIBLE to see Christ Jesus in Truth and continue to serve Him for a reward. If I see Him, and know Him, I will love Him – and know that He loves me. Love does not serve for the pay back. Love serves God for Himself.
Jesus said, "Freely you have received, so freely give." He said, "Give with no expectation of a return." Despite the many verses in the Bible that are often made to mean that we are supposed to give in order to get, and supposed to obey God expecting a pay back, those meanings we attach to those verses are wrong. The way of God is the way of GRACE and LOVE. This is how He is towards us, and if Christ is in us, it is how we are going to be towards Him.
If you and I cannot obey, serve, and honor God – to the disregard of any reward – then we are NOT faithful to Him. This is fundamental. Indeed, it is why the trials of faith often consist of God removing the benefits of obedience. Our motives for walking with Christ are being tested, adjusted, and built upon the Truth.
There are many places in scripture that teach the Truth about rewards. We could turn to any number of the parables of Jesus. The one that comes to mind is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20. This parable is a direct answer to Peter’s question, "We have left everything to follow you, Jesus, so what will we receive as a reward?" Jesus tells the parable to show that if we serve God for a reward we will never value God Himself, and as a result, will even resent the very reward for which we were serving Him. The point is, WE will be diminished because the reward was our goal, and not Christ Himself.
The passage I want to turn to is found in I Corinthians 3. There Paul directly speaks to this idea of a reward as the outcome of ministry. Especially note verse 8 which reads, "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." The point Paul is making, first of all, is that despite the fact that all in the Body are fellow-laborers, the reward of EACH is based on the, "labor," of EACH – it is based on the individual. There is no reward here by proxy.
According to verses 10-13, the reward is going to be determined by WHAT and HOW a person builds upon the foundation – which is Jesus Christ. The picture given is that of ministry building upon Christ, which results in the house of God – Paul later says that WE are the temple, or house, of God. So the question becomes, "What kind of materials are being used, and what is this structure made of?" In short, what are we building?
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For no other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Cor 3:10-15)
You will note that the whole issue here boils down what the building that is built is MADE OF – what are the materials that were used to build this building. There are, on the one hand, materials that cannot pass through the fire. There are, on the other hand, materials that CAN. Here we see a contrast between what is OF MAN – and temporal – and that which is OF CHRIST – and is eternal. The eternal cannot, "burn," but abides. Everything else is burnt. And the, "reward," is directly based on whether what passes through the fire is of Christ, and abides.
Have we realized that all that is going to remain when God is finished is that which is of Christ? People glory in the big ministries they have built – they even will say God did it – but have we realized that everything that is material and temporal having to do with that ministry is going to pass away? That all that will remain, and all that is of any value at all, is whatever is of Christ?
Now, don’t misunderstand. When I say what will remain is only OF CHRIST, I am not saying that what will remain is what Christ built, or what we built for Him. No. I am saying that all that will remain is that which is Christ Himself – that which is HIS LIFE and HIS TRUTH. Eternal values. If the foundation of the building is Christ Himself, then all that is built upon it must be an extension of Him; a manifestation of Him. You cannot have a building upon a foundation that is contrary to the foundation. No. What is built UPON CHRIST must be Christ – it must be in fellowship and oneness with Him. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
So God is saying that everything that we have built upon Christ is going to pass through a symbolic fire – and it will be exposed for what it really is. That which is of Christ will abide. That which is not will not abide. And the reward will apply only to that which is of Christ and abides. Paul clearly states, "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."
The key here is to understand what it means to BUILD UPON CHRIST. This is obviously not a mechanical or physical labor. It is spiritual. I will build upon Christ based on my personal knowledge, obedience, and fellowship with Christ. My LABOR, if you will, will reflect my relationship with Christ Himself. It can be no other way. If I am, "laboring," in fellowship with Christ, and a building is the outcome, then that building is going to reflect who Christ is to me.
For example, why do false teachers today preach that you do not need to repent of sin in order to be saved? Well, ask: Is it possible to teach that repentance is unnecessary if you have personally repented of sin? No. If you have repented of sin you will preach repentance. You will know the Truth. Thus, here we see an example of a person’s teaching – which is what he is using to BUILD – being a direct reflection of his personal relationship, or lack thereof, with God. In the end, I teach what I am. I build upon Christ with materials that reflect who Christ is to me. Of course, what I teach is more than WORDS -- it is possible to use true words, but to be a lying testimony. Yet this too is who I am, and pours into what I am building.
Another example, there are many who build upon Christ with legalism or license. This is a faulty building that is based on a person who has a faulty faith or knowledge of God. That which is built is the product of the builder. It always is. The two are as one.
When Paul says that EACH MAN will have his reward, he is speaking to the fact that we build, not a THING called, "the house of God" – but we build a body of people called, "the house of God." In short, we contribute to the house of God, not only by our teaching, but we contribute by adding ourselves to the house of God. WE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD, Paul adds, and thus, WE are what is being built. In the end, all teaching either builds people up in Christ, or tears them down.
So what is, "every man’s work," that is to be tried by the fire? Every man’s work is what he has built upon the foundation of Christ – primary to this building is HIMSELF. We are LIVING STONES, Peter says. Thus, the fire is going to try US before it tries anything else. Are we built out of eternal materials? Are we built out of Christ?
Paul says that if, "any man’s work abides through the fire," that this man will receive a reward. Sure. For all that can abide the fire is Christ – and all rewards are found in Him. Thus, if my fellowship with Christ is real, and I am one with Him, this will abide all manner of fire, and the result will be eternal fellowship with Him, and all the blessings that come with Him. If what I have built is NOT of Christ, then nothing will remain, although my salvation will remain.
All rewards are found in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus, only to the degree that we are FOUND IN HIM, and to the degree that we are in real fellowship with Him, can any blessings or rewards be experienced. This is not about PAY BACK or MERITS. It is about the outcome of living in Christ.
The goal of the Christian life is to know and experience Christ, resulting in the glory of God being made manifest in and through us. Is this not faithfulness to God? And is it not likewise the reward – to experience Christ Himself? To the degree that we become vessels for God’s will and glory – this will be the degree to which we will be able to experience Christ and experience all of the spiritual blessings that are found in Him. Thus, our reward is Christ – and all that this means by extension.
The Good News - Home