When God Says “Well Done!”: Running to Win the Prize. By R.T. Kendall. Scotland, U. K.: Christian Focus Publications, 1993. 224 pp. Paper, $9.99.
In his preface Kendall writes, “This book will hopefully show us at least two things: (1) How to know we are going to Heaven not Hell; and (2) how we might ensure we will receive a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (p. 9). He also writes, “This book is presented to the reader with the hope that you will abandon any effort to clear your name in this life. But there is more. This book comes to you with the prayer that you will live the rest of your life in the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ” (p. 15).
How does the author achieve this lofty aim? By delivering a thought-provoking exegesis of 1 Cor 3:6-15; 4:3-5; 5:3-5; and 9:24-10:5. This study goes to great lengths to reveal Kendall’s understanding of the doctrine of rewards. After reading his careful analysis, this reviewer believes Kendall has succeeded at both of his objectives. Not only has he succeeded in his exegesis, he has done so in a very simple and practical fashion.
Kendall makes several significant points in this book worth mentioning. First, he boldly tackles what he calls “The problem of reward” (pp. 123-28). By problem, he is referring to Christians who are “put off by the very idea of a reward. It is almost beneath them” (p. 123). The following objections should ring a bell: “I do not care about rewards. I will be glad if I just make it to heaven. After all, being saved is all that really matters.” Fortunately, Kendall capably demolishes this objection: “The one who says, ‘I don’t care about that sort of thing’ [rewards] either is not being honest and has become very self-righteous, or is so deeply hurt that he or she is no longer in touch with his true feelings” (p. 121). Next he goes on to write about whether sanctification is ground for assurance or for reward. Although, Kendall once held to the former, after thorough study, he is now convinced of the latter. He shares three dangers of his former belief: (1) Sooner or later, one will look to his good words for assurance; (2) if a person is very conscientious about it, he will always have some doubt whether he is really saved; (3) one who subscribes to this view is one step away from salvation by works (p. 124).
A second significant point this reviewer appreciated is the author’s practical approach to the doctrine of rewards. Few writers have gone to the lengths that Kendall does to demonstrate the true relevancy of rewards. He discusses, for example, how we can persevere through trials, overcome temptation, tame the tongue, and remain humble. He tackles these topics with great humility and transparency, and then demonstrates how each of these relate to our rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema).
A third point Kendall makes concerns the interpretation of 1 Cor 3:10-15. The vast majority of commentaries insist that the “foundation” that Paul mentions refers to the work of Apollos and various other teachers. Contextually, this does seem to be true. Yet, Kendall argues that Paul deliberately and carefully changes metaphors, from watering to building (3:8-9). Why? To ensure that his readers understood that he was making a transition from talking about Paul and Apollos to challenging their own individual responsibilities as believers (p. 48). This is particularly helpful since this passage has been applied by many writers to individual believers at the Bema, yet with seemingly little or no justification as to how this view fits the context.
Finally, because Kendall is Reformed and an Amillennialist, some of his exegesis may provide a different slant for many GES readers (e.g. “For believers are the true Israel of God,” p. 217). However, it can be both challenging and productive to read from a different theological perspective. In this case, it proved quite refreshing to find an author, pastor, and scholar with a Reformed perspective who is also rewards (and grace) oriented.
Every GES member would do well to purchase a copy of this book.
Keith R. Krell