Friday, February 22, 2008

238: “Reward,” “Prize” and “Crown”

The way those three little words are used in the New Testament (NT) must be diligently examined so we don’t deceive ourselves into believing we have something which may be the result of our wishful thinking, and which some churches joyfully encourage.

Those words are used in at least 3 different ways. The first way is to say the word means an inheritance (eternal life in heaven), and is always used in the singular. Another way is to say the word implies the brownie points one is accumulating in heaven for all the good one has done while here on earth, which will give that person a higher standing/greatness among her/his peers. And the last way is when a disciple of Christ is responsible for another person or persons gaining eternal life. That disciple’s reward/s will be the joy received in knowing that others will enjoy eternity with God because of his/her efforts in doing good.

Whenever the words “works,” “fruit” and “deeds,” which are synonymous, are used in Scripture, to keep matters simple, I will most often use only the phrase “doing good.”

I will now quote the relevant verses in the NT using the words “reward,” “prize” and “crown”; some times these words seem to have multiple meanings.

1) “Prize”: 1st Corinthians 9:24. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

1st Corinthians 9:27. "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."

Philippians 3:14. "I press on 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."

2) “Crown”: 1st Corinthians 9:25: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They will get a crown that will not last; but we get a crown that will last forever."

2nd Timothy 2:4-5: "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he completes according to the rules."

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 me, but also to all who long 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 who love him."

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

Revelation 2:10. ". . . be faithful, even 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."

Without a doubt, these aforementioned verses using the words “prize” and “crown” are referring to eternal life in heaven.

---------------------------------------------------------------- Philippians 4:1: "Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends."

1st Thessalonians 2:19: "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."

----------------------------------------------------- 3) “Reward”: Colossians 3:24. ". . . since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward."

Except for Colossians 3:24 above, which emphatically teaches that our inheritance will be our reward, when it comes to another 13 verses that use the word “reward,” they are ambiguous: i.e., they could be taken either way, as if they are specific individual rewards for the good we do, or as eternal life. There is not one verse in the entire New Testament that emphatically, without any ambiguities, says that a certain person will receive a certain reward in heaven for a specific good thing he/she has done on earth, even though the following 13 verses can be, and have been, taken that way by many who don’t know what is taught in Scripture.

Here are the 13 verses for those interested in checking them out: Matthew 5:16.--Matthew 6:1--Matthew 6:4--Matthew 10:41. Again, Matthew 10:41.-- Matthew 10:42.--Matthew 16:27.--Mark 9:41.-- Luke 6:23.--Luke 6:35.--Ephesians 6:8.--Hebrews 10:35.--and Hebrews 11:6.

There is one verse below—1st Corinthians 3:14-15—which says that those who were saved by the effort of another, if they survive and don’t fall away, the person responsible for their conversion will be rewarded; if they are burned up (fall away to follow Satan), the person initially responsible for their salvation will suffer loss, but he/she will still be saved.

1st Corinthians 3:14-15. "If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. But if it burns up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

-------------------------------------------------------- The moral of this post is this: There are several large denominations that teach how anyone can go to heaven without doing anything good since their salvation relies only on accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and not on good works. For example, they take those ambiguous verses as only having one meaning, which is that doing good works is only to gain rewards (a higher statue in Heaven), and without doing good, a person can still get to heaven if they are content to receive a lower status. Because of that false belief, many say to themselves, "I don’t really need any rewards; all I want is to get to heaven." Therefore, they go through life without producing fruit or deeds or doing any good works, since they believe it is only an option given to those who are ambitious.

That form of belief is a pleasant heresy when taught with convincing words that many millions have accepted without diligently examining New Testament Scripture. This blog displays more than ample Biblical evidence of how destructive it has been. The end result is a big bunch of "christian" do-nothings. This false teaching, in a hush-hush manner, implies in a subtle silent meaning: "Eat, drink and be merry; fear not, you are destined for heaven; leave the work of winning souls to us (the clergy and other qualified persons). Just keep coming to church on Sunday, and of course, don’t forget to bring your tithe since God loves a cheerful giver. You will be rewarded generously by God with a hundred- fold.”

To expose this heresy is a fairly new or seminal teaching by this post; therefore, it might be necessary to read this post a second time to get the full meaning of the deadly and demonic damage it has done and is still doing to the work of Christ.

What saddens me greatly is that many church people and others who claim to be Christians are only concerned about their own salvation. They are like a fig tree that bears no fruit. See Luke 13:6-8 in the next paragraph. That tree is worthless to its owner since the only reason for that fig tree is to bear fruit. That tree will be cut down.

Luke 13:6-8. "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years I have been looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I will dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine. If not, then cut it down.’"

The logic behind bearing fruit is this: The fruit guarantees that the species (Christianity) will continue. No one is exempt from producing fruit. Also, as I have written many times, that is doing what one is supposed to do: bearing fruit, doing good work and doing good deeds—which, as I previously mentioned, are synonymous—and is evidence to God and others that one truly has faith in Christ and loves God and their neighbor. No one can have faith, love God and others while caring only for their own salvation or family. Everyone is a spiritual fig tree or a vine; they are worthless if they don’t produce, and will be cut down and thrown in the fire. John, Chapter 15 will tell more than most desire to read.

Genuine Christianity is not a passive religion, but one of action and growth. We are saved not only as a personal passage to eternal life, but just as importantly, to guide others by our life of faith, love and obedience. Those holy virtues must be displayed by our lives.

Therefore, if anyone thinks they can gain an inheritance from the Lord while ignoring their eternal duty, I pray this post will make them start shaking in their boots and change their ways. This is like telling people—who thought they have been saved all their lives without obedience to Scripture—that they have been wrong and must bear fruit. Their answer will most certainly be, "Works, fruit and deeds will not give a person salvation." True. And yet they are essential and the very things that will be the result of anyone’s salvation. No results, no salvation, regardless of how much the clergy and others will attempt to convince whoever that this post is a lot of satanic hogwash.

One more thing: Going to church on Sunday, paying one’s 10% tax, saying one's daily prayers and not doing anything evil the remainder of the week is not going to cut it with the standard set by Jesus Christ in NT Scripture. Not doing anything evil is a passive form of neutrality, which will not teach others what it is to love God and others in need. Even shut-ins, the bedridden and the financially needy are not exempt from having an active form of bearing fruit, be what it may. To put it in a few words: Authentic Christianity is religion through faith, love and obedience that produces active results. No action, no life.

If anyone can find anything unbiblical, unreasonable or illogical in this post, I will be looking forward to your rebuttals on the comment section. Do yourself a favor: Bring this Biblical principle, which teaches that it is essential to bear fruit, to your church leader or others who are in the know; or better yet, give your Christian friends or church leader/s the address of this Biblical blog.

I pray that many will believe what is written in the Bible and in this post and change their beliefs, thus changing their lives.

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