Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Will Christians be Judged According to Their Works?

Have you ever read passages like this and wondered how it fits into salvation by grace, through faith alone? Rom 2:6  He will render to each one according to his works: Rom 2:7  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; Rom 2:8  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.  We read something similar in 2Th 1:4  Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 2Th 1:5  This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 
Probably the best known account that is similar to these is in Matthew 25 where Jesus separates the saved and lost according to their works.  Mat 25:33  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Mat 25:34  Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Mat 25:35  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, Mat 25:36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  
It would be easy to see salvation as something we earn if all we had were these verses to go by.  Fortunately we don’t and we know that in a very real sense what matters most at the judgment is whether one is found to be in Christ.  This happens when we believe on him for the forgiveness of sins and that happens solely by the grace of God as he empowers us to believe.  This much we can be sure of.  But it is interesting that every account of the judgment in the Bible always has our works as what separates the saved from the lost and what we are judge by; the aforementioned verses being an example of this.  So do we get into Heaven based on the work of Christ on the cross or based on our works.  I think the answer is both!
Now before you write me off as a heretic, let me explain.  First of all, these verses have to mean something and they are found too often in the Bible to dismiss because they don’t easily fit into our neatly defined Calvinistic position.  Also, I think it is not simply a matter of saying that this is in relationship to our rewards or loss of rewards.  Jesus admits into the kingdom based on this.  Rewards are part of it but I think there is more involved here. 
The work of Christ is the only merit that we can stand on to be accepted by God, but our works or lack thereof, is proof that he has indeed saved us.  What these passages do is offer a safeguard to the idea that once we are saved we can live any way we want to because no matter what we do, we can never be lost.  These passages tell us that when we stand before God, only those who offer proof of the new nature are going to “pass the test”.  Our good works will be proof that we belong in Heaven; for the lost, their works will be proof they deserve and are under the wrath of God.
So God allows us to suffer trial and temptation in order to purify us so that we won’t fall under the same judgment as the lost, Mat 10:22  and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  I am not denying the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as our only hope.  What I am saying is that this is looking at the end or purpose of our justification which is good works or Christlikeness.  God isn’t going to glorify himself only by pointing to the Son’s death as the only difference between the saved and the lost but he will be looking for the change he invoked in his justified ones.  The judgment will be looking for the results established by God or the means in which we prove that knowing God has made a difference in our lives.  No one is getting into Heaven who has found the Lord to be the All Satisfying One.  I truly believe that God would not be honored much if he admits a bunch of people into heaven who loved the world more than the Lord.
We will never be worthy of Heaven but we are called to walk worthy of this calling.  I am not talking about Romish “Infusion” which teaches that God gives us grace so that we can do good works and merit salvation.  I am saying that I believe the Bible makes it very clear that God saves us to glorify him by living for him and we all will evidence this to some degree or we will not be entering the kingdom “prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. 
Why is this an important thing to point out you ask?  I think it shows the fallacy of Easy Beliefism and the Carnal Christian theories that some use to dupe many a soul into thinking they have peace with God when, in fact, they do not.  It was never enough to “just believe” in Jesus in order to be saved.  Salvation comes with a new nature; it is a package deal and if you don’t evidence a new man that loves the Lord by living for him you are not ready to stand before the Lord!  The easy proof is that no one can believe until they have been given this new nature.  This is why Jesus said, “Ye must be born again to see the kingdom of God”.

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