Saturday, November 24, 2007

# 228: A Ticket to Heaven

There is a teaching among much of mainstream Christianity which needs serious Biblical examination. The teaching is this: After our initial conversion, the good we do or don't do cannot adversely affect our eternal destiny. To believe and live that way is an extremely deadly teaching, which this Biblical post will unequivocally refute.

It concerns six words in New Testament Scripture: “prize,” “crown,” and “reward,” which essentially mean the same thing; and “works” or “good works,” “fruit,” and “deeds,” which all basically are synonymous with each other. This post will examine these words to be certain we understand them in the context in which they are used.

Kindergarten knowledge says that a person’s works, fruit and deeds are what a person’s life produces: good, evil, or doing nothing good (the omission of doing good is evil in God’s sight). The last is the most prevalent.

There are several verses in the New Testament, using the aforementioned three words, that when taken without regards to other verses using the same words, imply something totally erroneous—namely, that a person who claims to be a Christian can have a lesser place in heaven if they don’t engage in Christian-type good works, fruit or deeds. That statement is a lie. There is not one verse in the New Testament to back that false belief. And if they were actively engaging in all good works, they would receive a prize, crown or reward and thus receive a greater place in heaven. According to Scripture, this last sentence is true but somewhat misunderstood.

Mark 10:43. "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." Also, Luke 6: 35. "But love your enemy, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High . . ." The reward spoken in this verse explicitly says greatness is the reward of becoming sons of the Most High. By the way, the word “reward” is always used in the singular, and never in the plural. What does that tell you?

Guess what the vast majority of those who believe in this way choose: to do nothing actively to promote the works of Christ and thus take a lesser place in heaven. This is one reason why most church-going, one-hour-a- week "christians" are spiritually lethargic. This type of false teaching caught on like wildfire, and has been burning out of control ever since.

There are so many verses which contradict that belief, that if all of them were mentioned, it would take 6 or more full pages and bore us all. But anyone who desires to be the best Christian possible, which should be all of us who are indwelt by God's Holy Spirit, will understand that any “do little or nothing” teaching is a gigantic heresy.

Romans 2:6-7. "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." In this verse the good a person does is not for rewards, a crown or a prize. Our persistence in doing good is required for eternal life, even though that good we do does not justify us, but is only proof to all that we have already been justified by Christ’s blood.

3rd John 11. "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." Again, doing good is a display of our connection with God, which all of us must actively engage in.

1st Peter 4:19. "So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their Creator and continue to do good." Again, it is necessary to do good.

1st Peter 2:12. "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." This verse says good deeds are mandatory.

James 3:17. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is . . . full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."

1st Timothy 6:18. "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

2nd Timothy 3:17. ". . . so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I believe it is evident with these 7 verses that good fruit, deeds and works are an essential part of the Christian life. There are many, many more verses—over a hundred—that essentially tell the same story.

1st Corinthians 3:8 and 3:14-15. "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. . . .if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escapes through the flames." These verses are a good example of what some rewards are: When someone is saved by another’s efforts, the one who is saved will be that person’s reward. Evidentially, there are heavenly rewards which are things other than just eternity with God.

Matthew 5:11-12. "Blessed are you when people insult you, and persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. . . . " And what will be our reward in heaven? Eternal life with God and Jesus Christ.

1st Corinthians 10:27. "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Let us throw in a few more similar verses that Paul is talking about to be certain the prize is eternal life.

Philippians 3:14. "I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Colossians 2:18. "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize."

Along with several more verses, the above all use the term “the prize,” which is also used to mean just one prize: eternal life.

1st Corinthians 9:18 "What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my right in preaching it." In this verse, Paul’s reward is preaching the gospel free of charge without being compensated for it.

Colossians 3:23-24. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." The inheritance is eternal life.

The following verses using the word “crown” will show that the word “crown” is an eternal blessing.

1st Corinthians 9:25. "They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." Eternity with God and Christ.

2nd Timothy 4:8. "Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

James 1:12. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those that love him."

1st Peter 5:4. "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade."

Revelation 2:10. "Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Revelation 3:11. "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

In ending, this last verse will summarize the controversy between being slackers, which is in contrast to being like those who make every effort and do all in their power to live as is required in New Testament Scripture. And when we believe we are doing everything possible, there is still room for more. There is no ceiling to doing good works, deeds and producing good fruit.

Never forget, as previously mentioned, that all this good we do is no more than evidence that we believe Christ as our Lord and Savior, love God and our fellow man/woman, and obey all Christ’s commands, and not for justification. We continually do all this good because we have already received God’s free gift of grace: eternal life. As Christ said in Luke 13:24, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, [slackers], I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." Living the Christian life could not be made more obvious. Everyone has to decide for themselves if the words in this post are true and correct. If anyone believes Scripture says otherwise, please let us know.

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