If someone were to ask me to pick my favorite topic in the Bible to study and teach, I think I would have to choose the doctrine of rewards. In a nutshell, the doctrine of rewards teaches that anyone who believes in Jesus for the free gift of eternal life, has it, and will live forever with the Lord in the kingdom, but those who remain faithful to the Lord here and now, will not only be in the kingdom, they will also reign with Him in the coming Kingdom ( 2 Timothy 2:12).
We know that those who are faithful will receive rewards at the judgment seat of Christ for what they have done ( 2 Cor 5:10). This includes crowns (James 1:12,2 Tim 4:8), treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19), positions of honor (Rev 2:26), and more. It’s an important doctrine, and yet sadly, often misunderstood, or ignored altogether, which has catastrophic results. In fact, we are told in the book of Hebrews that we can not please God, unless we believe that our God is a rewarder (Heb 11:6). That’s a sobering thought and one worthy of our full attention. It’s a topic I am thankful to see addressed on this platform and one worthy of deep discussion.
Which leads me to a little exercise:
I would like you to stop and make a list (in your mind, phone, or on a sheet a paper!). What would you consider to be the top 5 attributes or characteristics of someone who will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ? No cheating and reading ahead!
Knowing our readership, I am certain you all have wonderful examples. Please feel free to add them to the comment section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Perhaps some of you thought of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. In this passage, the Lord gives His list of attributes He considers to be rewardable. They include Humility, Meekness, Merciful, Peacemakers, and Pure of Heart.
How did you do? Did you get any of the answers? I’ll be honest, I’m not sure any of those would have been on my list prior to studying this passage. I think as a general rule, I see rewards as the result of actions and “works” while this list reads a lot more passive.
As I consider this list though, I’m struck by how all of these attributes describe Jesus. A few passages come to mind.
His humility in becoming a man and dying for us (Phil 2:8).
His meekness during His trials before the Sanhedrin and then Pilate (Mark 15:1-5).
His mercy towards us in becoming our High Priest and allowing us access to His throne (Hebrews 4:15-16, Notice “weakness” here as well.).
His peacemaking on the night of His arrest, when Peter cut the soldier’s ear off ( Mark 14:46-48).
His purity of heart towards the arrogance of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21).
One application we can see here is that the attributes the Lord desires to see in us, are those He demonstrated first. In the next few weeks, I would like to unpack these attributes and discuss them individually so we can understand their significance, not just in Matthew, but in the New Testament as a whole. Mostly, I would personally like to dive into these attributes a little more to see exactly what the Lord values in His children, and not my preconceived notions of what I think are eternally valuable traits.
First, it’s important to set the stage for this study. The Beatitudes jump-start the famous “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5. In Matt 5:1 we are told that there is a crowd of people, the multitudes and that the Lord went up on a mountain (hence, the name of this sermon!). It then says, after the Lord was seated, the disciples came and sat down with Him. Matthew makes a distinction here between the crowds and the disciples. This is key to understanding the following passage because in verse 2 we are told that the Lord began to teach “them.”
Who is the “them” in verse 2?
It’s clear, by the fact that Matthew emphasized the disciples at the end of verse one, that the Lord was addressing the disciples primarily. While certainly, the unbelievers in the crowd could learn from the sermon, the Lord's focus is on the believers.
This is also clear from the overall message of the beatitudes. Notice how the passage ends. The Lord's conclusion to the beatitudes is found in vs11-12.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matthew 5:11-12
The passage is dealing with suffering, persecution, and rewards. This is not the language of salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9). His conclusion is that if you experience persecution because of the Lord, you should rejoice because you will be rewarded greatly in the kingdom for any suffering you experience. This is clearly not about how a person receives eternal life. Salvation is freely given to all who believe (John 3:16. 4:10,14, 5:24, 6:40). I do not have to be persecuted in order to be saved. This is a promise of rewards, which undoubtedly brought great comfort to the disciples in later years as they were persecuted heavily for the Lord, most being martyred.
With this context in mind, I hope you join me as I seek to understand these rewardable attributes a little better in the following blogs. My hope is that through this study we may all grow in these characteristics, and hopefully hear “well done” on that day.