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16 May, 2014

REWARDS by Arthur Pink Part 2 - (Eternal Life & Grace)

"Be not deceived, God is not mocked—for whatever a man sows, that shall he unto Christ in this life and the joys of the life to come. This relation is just as real as that between sowing to the flesh and reaping corruption, despising and defying Christ and the torments of Hell, though it is not in all respects the same.also reap. For he who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption—but he who sows to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal 6:7,8). 

The sorrows and joys of the future life, bear a similar relation to what is wrought in this life—as the harvest does to the sowing, one being the consequence, the fruit, or reward of the other. There is a definite relation existing between sowing to the Spirit and reaping everlasting life, between what is done

The joys and sorrows of the future life, bear the same relation to what is wrought in this—as the harvest does to the sowing, one being the consequence, the fruit or reward of the other. There is a definite relation existing between sowing to the Spirit—and reaping life everlasting; between what is done unto Christ in this life—and the crowning in the life to come. This relation is just as real as that between sowing to the flesh—and reaping corruption; despising and defying Christ—and the torments of Hell; though it is not in all respects the same. The portion allotted the wicked is that of due and personal desert—but that bestowed on the righteous is not so, it being entirely of grace, a matter of magnanimity, for it is impossible to lay God under obligation to us or make Him our Debtor. Eternal life is bestowed upon the believer as the reward of Christ's undertaking, because of what He wrought in his stead and on his behalf. Yet that is not the only angle from which the bestowal of eternal life is viewed in Scripture—it is also represented as the end or outcome of our bearing "fruit unto holiness" in the service of God (Romans 6:22).

Before amplifying the last sentence, let us point out the fundamental difference between the "sowing" of the wicked—and that of the righteous. All the works of the wicked are essentially their own, having no higher rise than their corrupt nature—issuing from their evil hearts produced of themselves; and as bitter waters can only proceed from a bitter fountain, so their own works are polluted and sinful. But it is quite otherwise with the good works of the righteous—they proceed not, from the depraved principle of the flesh—but from the "spirit" or new nature which was communicated to them at regeneration. They are the product of God's working in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and therefore does He aver "from Me is your fruit" (Hosea 14:8). Even the water of the purest fountain is no longer pure when it flows through an impure channel, and because the flesh in the Christian defiles those good works he performs—but of which God is the Author and Spring—they could not be accepted and rewarded by Him were they not also cleansed by the blood of Christ and perfumed with His merits. Thus we have no ground for boasting, or self congratulation.

Whenever we think or speak of the grace of God, we must bear in mind that it reigns "through righteousness" (Romans 5:21). Grace does not override any of the other attributes of God—but is always exercised in perfect harmony therewith, and also in full accord with His governmental ways. Therein we behold the "manifold wisdom of God" by displaying in the same act both His mercy and justice, His bounty and His holiness. Therefore we find the Word expressly affirming "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which you have showed toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister" (Heb. 6:10). It is indeed an act of infinite condescension upon His part—that He should even deign to take notice of our trifling performances. It is equally an act of pure grace that He should be pleased to reward the same, for no matter how self-sacrificing or arduous those performances, they were nothing but the bare discharge of our bounden duty. Nevertheless it is also an act of righteousness, when He approves of our services and richly recompenses the same—both in this life and the life to come.

It is no more erroneous or inconsistent to affirm that the future reward will be bestowed upon the Christian both for Christ's sake (primarily and meritoriously) and because of his own obedience (according to the terms of the new covenant and the governmental principles of God), than it is to say that our present peace and joy flow directly from the mediation of Christ, and subordinately yet truly so from our own obedience and fidelity. "Great peace have they who love Your Law" (Psalm 119:165 and Isaiah 58:13,14). 

Those who deny themselves for Christ's sake and the Gospel's—are assured of a rich recompense, "a hundredfold now in this time" as well as "in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:30). "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is—and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). Though our obedience is not meritorious—yet God deems it (as the fruit of His Spirit) virtuous and amiable and fit for His approbation, and as a Being of perfect rectitude and benevolence—it befits Him to cordially own the same. If future rewards clashed either with Divine grace, or the merits of Christ—then present ones must do the same, for a difference in place or time can make no difference as to the nature of things themselves.

In a recent article on the Perseverance of the Saints we pointed out that the subject of rewards needs to be given its due place in connection with that doctrine. And this for a twofold reason.

First, to arouse the careless and expose the formalist. This is one of the many safeguards by which God has hedged about the precious truth of the everlasting bliss of His people. That bliss is not awaiting triflers and sluggards. If there be no sowing to the spirit in this life—there will be no reaping of the spirit in the life to come. This requires to be pressed upon all who claim to be Christians—never more so than in this day of vain pretensions, when hollow professors abound on every side. A faith which produces no good works—is a worthless faith. A branch in the Vine which bears no fruit—is doomed to be burned (John 15:6). The man who hides his talent, instead of improving the same, is cast into "outer darkness" (Matthew 25:24-30). If the cross be avoided—there will be no crown. "If we suffer [for Christ's sake] we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2 Tim. 2:12).

Second, this subject of rewards should be set before God's people as an incentive to perseverance, as an encouragement to fidelity. How often have we heard one and another say, The more I try to do that which is right—the worse things seem to become; the harder I endeavor to please God—the more circumstances appear to combine against me. Ah, that may be for thetesting of your faith. But whether it is for that end or not—seek grace to lay hold of that word "And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9). Here is the very application which the apostle made of what he had said in the previous verses upon sowing and reaping, as the opening "And" shows. Here is part of that Bread which God has provided for His children when they are dejected and enervated by the difficulties and discouragements of the way. God has provided a bountiful recompense for our labors—and this should stimulate us in the performance of duty.

Not only is the promise of reward set before the saints as an incentive to activity—but also as consolation in sorrow—to enable them to endure the oppositions encountered. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:10-12). This is the manner in which Christ offers comfort to His sorely-pressed servants—by assuring them of the grand compensation awaiting them on High. Then let us not pretend to a wisdom superior to His, and withhold from His children this part of their Bread because, forsooth, we imagine that to act thus is to impugn the grace of God. As Matthew Henry rightly says upon Matthew 5:12 "Heaven, at last, will be an abundant recompense for all the difficulties we meet with in our way. This is that which has borne up the suffering saints in all ages."

"You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions" (Heb. 10:34). Here is a pertinent example of the powerful and beneficial influence which a believing view of the promised recompense exerts upon sorely-pressed Christians. These Hebrews had been cruelly despoiled of their earthly possession, and most remarkable had been their deportment under such a trial. So far from giving way to bitter lamentations and revilings, which is the ordinary thing with worldlings on such occasions, or even enduring their loss fatalistically and stoically—they took it cheerfully and gladly. And why? how was such victory over the flesh made possible? Because their faith and hope were in lively exercise; they viewed the promised reward, their inheritance on High; with their bodily eyes they beheld their temporal affliction—but with the eyes of their souls the eternal glory prepared for them. That recompense is here called an "lasting possessions" as elsewhere "an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17), in contrast from everything down here which is but a shadow, a mirage which vanishes away.

This was the motive which inspired Abraham, "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tents [not erecting a castle or palace] with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb. 11:9,10). That was the grand inducement which made him keep on conducting himself as a stranger and pilgrim in this transient scene. That was what braced him to endure all the hardships of the way—his heart was occupied not with Canaan—but with Heaven; he looked beyond the toilsome sowing to the blissful reaping.

In like manner this was the motive which actuated Moses; "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward" (Heb. 11:24-26). His great renunciation in the present—was prompted by faith's laying hold of the grand remuneration in the future.

But a far greater than Abraham or Moses is presented as our Exemplar in this, as in all things else. Of none less than the Redeemer is it recorded "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). A variety of motives moved the Savior to endure the cross—love for His Father (John 14:31), the glory of His Father (John 12:27,28), love for His Church (Eph. 5:25), but among them was the prospect of future recompense. In the previous verse we are exhorted to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us—and run with patience the race that is set before us, and the supreme inducement so to do is, "looking unto Jesuswho for the joy that was set before Him endured." Whether that "joy" consisted in the answer to His prayer in (John 17:5), the exaltation of Him above all creatures (Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9), or His seeing of the travail of His soul and being satisfied (Isaiah 53:11) when He shall present the Church to Himself a glorious Church (Eph. 5:27), or all three—yet the fact remains, that this was an essential motive or reason which prompted the Lord Jesus to do and suffer—that future "joy" was ever before the eye of the Captain of our salvation as He ran His race and finished His course—the prize was kept steadily in view.

It should be pointed out, that promises of reward are not restricted to those engaged in the public service of God—but are also made to the rank and file of His people. We call attention to this, lest humble saints should allow Satan to deprive them of their legitimate portion on the ground—that they are "not worthy" to appropriate the same. Personal worthiness or unworthiness does not at all enter into the question, as the greatest of the apostles has made quite evident (1 Cor. 15:9,10). It is true there are distinctive promises made unto, and rewards reserved, for the ministers of the Gospel (1 Peter 5:1-4), nevertheless, there are many promises made unto the whole family of God—Ephesians 6:8 etc. Note how jealously Paul guarded this very point, for after declaring he had fought a good fight, finished his course and kept the faith, he said, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day," he immediately added, "and not to me only—but unto all those who love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8).

Said Paul, "Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended—but this one thing I do—forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14). Here we behold the saint running for the "prize"—that is what inspired his self-disciple and strenuous endeavors, that was the inducement or incentive. But the prize will not be accorded him for the merit of his running—but because of the worthiness of Christ—yet without such pressing onward, the prize would not be secured. It is sovereign grace which has appointed this prize for the runner—yet unless the "mark" or goal be actually reached—it is not obtained. The prize or "reward" or "glory" is set before us in the Word for faith—to lay hold of and for hope to enjoy in confident (not doubtful) expectation, as a motive to stir us unto the use of those means leading thereunto, and to make us more fervent in those duties without the performance of which it cannot be reached.

We will close by briefly considering two OBJECTIONS. There will probably be those ready to charge us with inculcating creature deserts, that what we have written is nothing else than an adoption of the Romish heresy of human merits. Our reply is that we have advanced nothing but what is clearly taught in Holy Writ itself. If due attention is paid to the connections in which the term "reward" is found this at once rules out of court the Papish conceit.

Take its first occurrence—God said to Abraham "I am your exceeding great Reward" (Gen. 15:1). What had the patriarch done to entitle him to such a Portion? Where the question of desert is raised, justice requires a due ratio between the performance and the remuneration—but there is no proportion between the works and sufferings of the Christian—and the "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" promised him. Mark the use of the term in Matthew 6:8 and then ask, On what ground does God recompense our prayers? Certainly it is not for any worth which is in them. There cannot possibly be any merit in begging at the Throne of Grace!

Again—it is objected that to present rewards as an inducement unto fidelity—is to foster a mercenary spirit, to reduce the Christian unto a mere hireling, performing his labors for the sake of gain. This is quite an unwarrantable conclusion. Sordidness lies not in aiming at a reward in general—but in subordinating piety to self-interests, as they who followed Christ for the loaves and fishes (John 6:26). A mercenary spirit actuates him who performs duty solely for the sake of remuneration, or at least, principally for it. We are to view the reward not as a debt due us—but as that which the grace of God has promised, and which His bounty deems suited unto our obedience. Rewards are presented to us as an incitement to gracious activity, to cheer us under self-denials, to strengthen our hearts when meeting opposition. It is the minister's task not only to urge believers unto the performance of duty—but also to hold before them the promised recompenses. That eyeing of the reward in no way signifies a lack of love for God—is clear from the case of Christ Himself (Heb. 12:2).



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