Good Works And Rewards

Ephesians 2: 8,9 “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

These verses make it obvious salvation can’t be earned by good works. Any religious system that suggests salvation can be earned, merited, or deserved by any human effort is a bogus religion. No sacrament, ritual, or self-sacrificing good work can garner forgiveness of sin. None!

Revelation 20:11 makes it clear that at the Great White Throne Judgment it will be the very works people have depended upon, rather than the work of Christ, to save them that will condemn them. It is the work of Christ only not our good works that saves.

God’s unmerited favor, grace, is given the moment a person responds submissively to the Lord Jesus Christ. His sacrificial work on the cross is “the good work” enabling the forgiveness of sin. Faith is the human response to that good work that results in salvation.

The verse following Ephesians 2: 8, 9 needs to be understood in light of that. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

If salvation is depicted as a tree good works are the fruit not the root of the tree. This is in keeping with the model Christ revealed in John 15:5,8: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing … By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Even the fruit of the tree is noted: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22, 23).

Our earthly purpose for being saved is to perform good works. God has work to be done on earth and for that reason He leaves us here after we are saved.

Those who experience the forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ, salvation, become His creative product. We are His “workmanship.” This translated the Greek word “poiema.” This word is the equivalent of the English word poem. It denotes that which is made, His workmanship. As a poem comes from the mind of the poet so we are the product of the creative mind of God. To quote an old axiom: “God don’t make no junk.” You are special.

In Christ we are created to perform good works. We are not made, that is saved, by good works we do but by the good work Christ did on the cross. As a result of gratitude for Christ’s good work on our behalf we are to serve Him. It is a natural.

We do not work to be saved but because we have been saved. It is the natural product of love and gratitude. We should “walk in them.” The expression “walk” as used in Scripture is often a summary expression meaning “lifestyle.” Serving our Lord should be our lifestyle.

Good works are non-meritorious, yet they are so important God provides them for us to do. We are His handiwork, that which He made. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” That is our purpose for being. Failure to do that for which we are created results in frustration, futility, and anxiety. Serving Him consequence in a sense of fulfillment, peace, and joy.

Good works are non-meritorious, yet God rewards them. We should live “with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord…” (Ephesians 6: 8,9).

It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10) believers must appear and have their works examined and rewards given (I Cor. 3: 10 – 4:5).

Our temporal understanding of rewards does not give us a very good basis for understanding eternal rewards. Suffice it to say there will be (1) degrees of rewards in heaven, (2) they will be given appropriately by the Lord, (3) we can trust Him for what they will be, and (4) there will no jealousy among those receiving them. They are garnered for Christ’s glory. Therefore we should work for and aspire to the greatest possible rewards in order to please and honor Him.

It should be noted that in referring to rewards the Scripture often calls them “great” rewards. (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6: 35 & 23:41; II John 8 calls them “full.”

Our curiosity as to the nature of our rewards and how many “points” we have to have to get a certain one should pale in comparison to our reason for desiring them —- to glorify Christ.

The goal to which Jesus directs us is not self-aggrandizement, but self-forgetful service in God’s kingdom, which is ours, not by merit, but by the grace of God.

The ultimate reward should be realized to be “the free gift of God (which) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Even then God has delightful surprises in store for His children. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).