P.M. asks a great question, though he seems to be more mocking than sincere:
I was listening to your comments on John Macarthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, where you took him to task about equal rewards.i
I often think you preach a salvation by works/rewards gospel when I hear you say there are degrees of rewards.
So, if I want more rewards, should I quit my job and enter the ministry?
And if I get more rewards for being a professional God botherer (paid minister), then why not join a Catholic Monastic order?
They believe they’re saved, and are glorifying God, and they too have a heaven of hierarchy.
I get you are not earning your salvation, but hell’s bells, it’s sounding like we should all take up street evangelism, or we get second-class seats in heaven.
I’m with MacArthur on that one unless you help me out with a better explanation.
If P.M. believes in Lordship Salvation, he won’t merely miss out on eternal rewards. He will miss the kingdom entirely. (Unless he believed in the promise of everlasting life by faith alone in the past.)
According to MacArthur and other Lordship Salvation teachers, if you aren’t fully committed to Christ now, then you aren’t going to be in the kingdom. Forget about special rewards.
P.M. was being facetious when talking about quitting his job and becoming a monk or street preacher. But others are serious about that.
About twenty-five years ago, the husband of one of Sharon’s friends, we will call him Greg, heard a sermon in his SBC church. The pastor favorably mentioned the book The Cost of Discipleship by the late Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Greg bought the book and read it carefully. He became convinced that to go to heaven, he had to be totally committed to Christ. Greg told me he planned on quitting his job and becoming a street preacher. He had a wife and three kids. Fortunately, I convinced Greg of what he had believed before—that everlasting life is a free gift received by faith alone in Christ alone. He kept his job and kept supporting his family.
Here are five responses to P.M.’s question:
First, Lordship Salvation is a false gospel. Do not believe it. Do not promote it. According to Lordship Salvation, you must do your best for Christ your whole life to get into Christ’s kingdom. There is no certainty of where you are going until you die.
Second, everlasting life is a free gift to all who simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for it. If you are not sure you are eternally secure by faith alone, pray about it and read John’s Gospel until you are sure.
Third, we should be fully committed to glorifying God with our lives. But the normal way to do that is by being a plumber, lawyer, landscaper, housewife, architect, waiter, manager, or doctor.
Full-time Christian ministry is not an option for most of us. In order for a church to exist, its members must all be earning a living to support it. The same is true for a parachurch ministry to exist. All of the following need financial assistance from donors: senior pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors, children’s ministers, missionaries, seminary and Bible college professors, seminary and Bible college administrators and staff, those who work in campus evangelism and discipleship, and even street preachers.
Only some in the Body of Christ are gifted and predisposed toward full-time ministry. But we all are called to glorify God in whatever we do:
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ (Col 3:23-24).
Notice that Paul speaks there of eternal rewards: “the reward of the inheritance.”
Fourth, God has built into humans a desire for rewards. Pay, bonuses, raises, and awards at work motivate our best effort. Grades in school challenge students to do their best. Scholarships are appealing. Rank, medals, and pay in the military are highly motivating. Trophies and medals in sports are why many participate.
When in my first class with Zane Hodges—Exegesis of Hebrews—I noted that he saw references to eternal rewards all over the Book of Hebrews. I raised my hand and suggested there are only two major rewards passages in the NT: 1 Cor 3:10-15 and 1 Cor 9:24-27. He responded by saying that there are scores of major passages on rewards in the NT. He then said, “The concept of eternal rewards is on nearly every page of the New Testament.” At the time, I was not convinced. Forty years later, I am convinced. I’ve seen for myself that rewards are everywhere in the NT.
Fifth, if you do not believe in eternal rewards, you won’t know your destiny until you die. For you, all the Bible’s eternal rewards passages, including Col 3:23-24, will be eternal destiny passages.