Thursday, May 25, 2023

Rewards in Heaven (1 Corinthians 3)

"Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8).

Nothing rubs against the grain of the American mindset more than a system of class distinction. Yet, in our pursuit of equality, we have slipped into egalitarianism. In maintaining the equal value of every person, our country has tried to make people equal in every aspect of life. Yet, people are not equal because they are different. They are equal in value, but to try to equalize every person is to strip them of the unique mold into which God has providentially cast them.

Some theologians maintain that this unique mold extends to heaven. Scripture says that each person will be rewarded according to what he has done. In this way, those in hell will receive differing degrees of punishment, and those in heaven will receive varying rewards. This does not mean that some will be less righteous than others, but it does mean that some will hold higher places of honor than others.

Heavenly rewards are commonly referred to as “rewards of grace.” Having been redeemed by the free grace of God, we do not suddenly enter a system of works in which we earn future rewards. The rewards we are given are bestowed on account of our works, but these works are, in themselves, the fruit of God’s grace. God in a sense rewards His own works.

Rewards do not mean that some people will be unhappy or only partially filled with glory in heaven. Edwards puts it this way, “The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled. But after all tis left to God’s sovereign pleasure, tis His prerogative to determine the largeness of the vessel.… Christ’s death and righteousness meddled not with this but left it in God’s prerogative.”

In the heavenly Jerusalem, the elders will hold particular places of honor. We see this even in the church today; God has created some to be the hands, others the feet. We are all not the same in the church of Christ, but we are all equal in our relation to Him. No one will be unhappy in heaven, but each will be “rewarded for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12; Matt. 16:27; Eph. 6:8).

Do you think heavenly reward is a legitimate motivation to do good works? When Jesus exhorted his followers to do good works, He did shy away from using their heavenly reward as a motivation (Matt. 5:11–12). What should your ultimate motivation be in doing good works (1 Cor. 10:31)?