WHAT DO YOU MEAN
"Rewarded According to Works"?
— even professing "Christians" — understand some of this
Biblical terminology. Few understand the difference between being
"saved by GRACE," and "rewarded according to WORKS." Here is a
surprising sequel to the article, "What Do You Mean . . .
Salvation?" in the December (1966) issue — on eye-opening article.
religionists, who talk much about "salvation" and "grace" accuse me of
proclaiming "a salvation by works." The
accusation is false !
The answer to these false accusations is something few people comprehend — including the world's religious leaders!
So let's understand! For this is VITAL to YOUR LIFE!
There's a Vast Difference!
is a great difference between being "saved by grace," and "rewarded
according to works." To understand, you need to know what "salvation"
is, and what "reward" means.
The Bible tells us what are "the
spiritual consequences of sin." But "salvation" means, also,
"preservation." In this case, preservation of life. One verse in the
Bible explains both: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of
God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"
The "wages" you earn by the "works" of SIN is
eternal death. It is eternal punishment — and since the punishment is
death, and not life, it is eternal death. You now have only a chemical,
temporary, physical existence, sustained by breathing, eating,
drinking, and your physical heart continuing to beat and circulate your
blood. Stop breathing, stop your heart beating, you die — you cease to
live —almost instantly. Stop eating and drinking, and you'll die in
45 or 50 days.
So, to preserve life means the gift of eternal life — spirit life — self-sustaining, inherent life.
then, means to preserve you from eternal death, the "wages" or
consequences of sin, and to GIVE you inherent eternal life.
then, eternal life is something you do not now have. It is something
you have no power to supply, or give to yourself. You can't earn it by
"works." It comes as God's free gift. Neither can you erase the penalty
of sin — that is, prevent eternal death. For "all have sinned" (Rom.
3:23). That includes you ! You have brought on yourself the eternal
death sentence, as a penalty!
The Bible teaches nothing about an
"immortal soul." On the contrary, it teaches, twice, that "the soul
that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4, 20). Jesus said the "soul" can
be destroyed in gehenna fire (Mat. 10:28).
What your own "works" have earned for you is the "wages" of eternal death. You see, everyone has "works"
either good, or bad! And your bad works have earned the wages of
eternal death. Good works can earn something, too — which I will
explain later— but it is not "Salvation" or eternal life!
God only has immortality. He has it inherent. He has it to give. You do NOT have it! You must go to God to get it!
your sins have cut you off from God! (Isa. 59:1-2.) You are so cut off
that you cannot reach Him! There is an impassable barrier between you
and Him, brought on by your sins!
How, then, can you gain access
to Almighty God (the Father), to receive from Him eternal life and
salvation — as His gift? Well, Isaiah says, "let the wicked forsake his
way" (Isa. 55:6-8)—the way of SIN. And, further, "God so loved the
world [of sinners], that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in Him should NOT perish, but have everlasting life"
Yes, but how?
The answer is in Romans
5:8-10: "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were
yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being justified now
by His blood..." Get this! "Being now justified"-—how? — by "works"?
No, by Christ's death — by His blood. He shed His blood and died.
— IF you repent of sinning — that is, turn around to go the other way —
forsake your way — the way contrary to God's Law, and turn to God's way
— the way of His Law — if you have thus repented of sinning, and have
accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour —
accepted His DEATH as PAYMENT IN FULL for
YOUR sins — accepted Him as personal Saviour
not only from the penalty of past
sins, but as living Saviour to save you from sinning (now and in the
future) then you are NOW forgiven past guilt — you are now justified of
your guilty past.
But "justified" refers to the guilty past, not to the future!
continue this Scripture: "... Much more, then, being now justified by
His blood, we shall be saved by Him...." Notice, being "saved" is yet
in the future. We are now "justified," by God's grace — by Jesus' death
and shall be (future) "saved." But, continue, verse 10 of Romans 5:
"... For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of His Son ..." here, you see, being justified by Christ's death
is also being reconciled to God by His death. In other words, we have
at last, through Christ's death established contact with God.
Now continue, same sentence: "... much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his LIFE."
already "saved." But "shall be saved." And how? Saved by the "blood of
Christ"? — by His death? NO!!! By His LIFE! We are justified of past
guilt, which had cut us off from access to God, by Christ's death
— but shall be, in the future, saved by His LIFE. He rose from the dead. He is a living Christ!
HOW Eternal Life Comes
with the sentence of eternal death paid for us — our past sins which
put a barrier between us and God justified — we are now reconciled to
God — given access. And He has eternal life inherent — self-containing
life — to GIVE.
How, then, do we receive it from Him?
a couple of pivotal Scriptures: "For as the Father hath life in
Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself" (John
5:26). God has imparted inherent eternal life to the living Jesus
Christ. Now, further: "And this is the record, that God hath given to
us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath
the Son hath life
[eternal]; and he that hath not the Son of God
hath not life" (I John 5:11, 12).
Yes, we are to be saved
by the living Christ — saved by His LIFE! That is, given eternal life
as a gift, through His life — not
through His death!
specifically, how? Let the apostle Peter explain: "Repent, and be
baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
On real repentance of sinning — a turning around to go the other way —
to quit sinning — and on faith in Jesus expressed by water baptism
(Acts 8:35-37) God has promised we shall receive His Holy Spirit as a
gift. Not by our "works" — but by grace!
But how does this give us eternal life — salvation ?
the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He
that raised up Christ from the dead shall also [by a resurrection]
quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom.
Well is, then, the receiving of the Holy Spirit
salvation? Is one already "saved" when he
receives this Spirit?
God's Word says NO! It is the
presence of eternal life conditionally — provisionally. The Scripture
above quoted spoke of God's Spirit dwelling in you. If this Spirit is
dwelling in you until death (the first), or at the time of the
resurrection—at Christ's coming — then you shall be either resurrected
immortal, or, if still alive changed from mortal to immortal
instantaneously (I Cor. 15:50 and I Thes. 4:13-17).
receiving of the Holy Spirit, now, is the token payment — or the
earnest payment from God on the gift of eternal life. Notice: "...
Christ ... in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with
that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance,
until the redemption of the purchased possession . . ." (Eph. 1:12-14).
The Moffatt translation renders it in more understandable English, ". .
. the long-promised Holy Spirit, which is the pledge and installment of
our common heritage, that we may [in future] obtain our divine
Those who have received God's Holy Spirit are
now not yet inheritors or possessors of this eternal life — of this
salvation. They are NOW HEIRS of God — co-heirs with Christ (Gal.
3:29). They are now still mortal, not immortal. They are now begotten
sons of God — not yet born of God. They are now in the Church of God —
not yet in the Kingdom of God.
May We Go on Sinning?
now what of that Scripture that says: "...ye are not under the law,
but under grace" (Rom.
Now that you are under grace — does this mean you are given license to disobey God's Law?
to God's answer: "What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin,
that grace may abound ? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin,
live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:1-2.) Later, verse 12: "Let not sin
[transgressing God's Law] therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye
should obey it in the lusts thereof."
Once again, verse 14: "For
sin [transgressing the Law] shall not have dominion over you: for ye
are not under the Law, but under grace." The very next words show
plainly this does not mean you are free to break God's Law — to disobey
God. "What then? Shall we sin [break the Law], because we are not under
the Law, but under grace? God forbid! Know ye not, that to whom ye
yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey;
whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness."
does not mean license to sin. And the Bible definition of sin is: "Sin
is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4).
were under the law, when the law stood over you, claiming its penalty.
When Christ paid the penalty, and satisfied the claims of the law, you
were no longer under the law, but under grace.
It is the false
prophets of our day who try to deceive you into believing "grace" means
permission to break God's law! We are being saved FROM sinning (now and
in the future) as well
as from past sins.
Christ came to save us from sinning — not to save us in sin.
WHY the Holy Spirit?
have been showing you, step by step, the way of "salvation." Where are
you, now? You have been reconciled to God — your past forgiven — and
you have received God's Holy Spirit. But WHY?
Spirit, first of all, is His very own life injected into you — the
begettal of eternal life. You are now an heir of God — a joint-heir — a
coheir with Christ. Not yet an inheritor. The Holy Spirit injects into
you also the characteristics of God. First of these is love — not
carnal or human love, but divine
love — God's love.
And why? In order to keep God's law —
that's why! How is God's Law fulfilled? "Love is the fulfilling of the
Law" (Rom. 13:8). But carnal human love cannot fulfill it. Why ?
Because the Law of God is a spiritual Law (Rom. 7:14). It can be
fulfilled only by a spiritual love, which is the gift of God. It is
"the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom.
5:5). And, again, God gives His Holy Spirit only to "them that obey
Him" (Acts 5:32).
Also it requires faith to keep God's
Commandments. And your faith is not strong enough. It requires Christ's
faith — the same faith He exercised and lived by during His human
lifetime. God also gives you this very same faith, by the Holy Spirit.
God's Spirit also imparts to you, spiritual comprehension — power to
understand spiritual truth; and wisdom, and patience, and spiritual
power ! AH these are imparted to you from God, by the Holy Spirit — as
His gift! But these are given to you to live by — to use, in order to
grow spiritually in knowledge and grace, and to overcome.
MUST There Be "WORKS"?
I have tried to make it plain that we cannot earn salvation by "works."
everyone does produce "works" — either good or bad. Your evil "works" —
disobedience of the Commandments — will earn you the penalty
of death. But what
about good works? Do they
earn you anything?
Indeed they do!
Are good "works" required?
Indeed they are!
But what, then, do they earn?
They do NOT earn "salvation." They do NOT earn eternal life. They will not get you into the Kingdom of God!
Well, then! What DO they earn?
Ah — that is the point of this article!
are not justified by "works," nor "saved" by "works," but you are to be
judged by your "works," and "rewarded" according to your "works."
thing called "works"—meaning deeds, good or bad — cannot put you into
God's Kingdom of immortals. You get in by grace! But, once in, your
"works" during this present life — during your Christian life after
being "converted" and receiving God's Holy Spirit — do determine what
office, or position, or rank, or degree of glory, you shall have!
This is what almost no one seems to have understood!
notice what Jesus said — after His resurrection — inspired after the
year 90 A.D.: "To him that over-Cometh will I grant to sit with me in
my throne..." (Rev. 3:21). Further: "And he that Overcometh, and
keepelh my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the
nations: and he shall rule them . . ." (Rev. 2:26-27).
Notice again, "... hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).
what is said of those in the first resurrection, at Christ's coming: ".
. . and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . . .
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on
such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God
and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years"
(Rev. 20:4, 6).
Notice, in these
Scriptures, the "saved" are to reign with Christ in the coming world
government, the Kingdom of God. And notice the requirement of
overcoming, and keeping Christ's works
and also of enduring to the end! Notice! Jesus
said "he that . . . keepeth my works unto the end."
notice further: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His
Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to
his WORKS" (Mat. 16:27). Nowhere does the Bible teach being "saved" by
our "works," but it does teach the degree of reward according to
"works." Alexander the coppersmith did great evil to the apostle Paul,
and Paul says: "... the Lord reward him according to his works" (II
Tim. 4:14). Notice this distinction! This man did evil works. He won't
get salvation at Christ's coming. He will be rewarded — that is, paid
wages according to his works — and the wages of sin is death — eternal
punishment. "Works" means the wages you earn — or the reward to be
given — either good or bad. Evil works (sin) can earn eternal
punishment, but good works can earn a better position or office in
God's Kingdom IF you get there — but it cannot earn salvation!
notice Romans 4:4: "Now to him that worketh is the reward NOT reckoned
of grace, but of debt." Salvation is not paid as a debt, but is given
by grace — undeserved gift. But "works" earn wages, paid as a debt. So
what we want is not grace or _ works, but grace and works. The "grace"
will get us into God's Kingdom— give us immortality as God's gift. The
"works" will earn us — that is, qualify us for a better office
an opportunity for bigger service—
for doing more good, once we are born into God's Kingdom.
Degree of Reward
Notice, now, Jesus' parable of the "pounds."
disciples wrongly supposed the Kingdom of God was to appear in their
lifetime. To correct this error, Jesus spoke this parable.
because they thought the Kingdom of God should immediately appear He
said therefore, 'A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive
for Himself a Kingdom, and to return' " (Luke 19:11-12). That is, Jesus
Himself was going to heaven to receive for Himself the Kingdom of God,
and to return to earth. Now continue:
"And He called His ten
servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, 'Occupy
till I come.' But His citizens hated Him, and sent a message after Him,
saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us' " (verses 13-14).
Jesus had come "to His own," the Jews — the remnant of the Kingdom of
Judah—and "they received Him not" (John 1:1-1), so Jesus turned to "the
lost sheep of the House of Israel," (Mat. 15:24), and sent His twelve
Apostles to them (Mat. 10:6). That is, to the so-called "lost Ten
Tribes" of Israel. They were then, most of them, in northwestern Europe
and the British Isles (see free booklet, The United States and the
British Commonwealth in Prophecy).
But continue Jesus' parable:
it came to pass, that when He was returned," — now speaking of what
shall happen at Christ's return — "having received the Kingdom, then He
commanded these servants to be called unto Him, to whom He had given
the money, that He might know how much every man had gained by
trading" (Luke 19:15).
This is speaking
of every converted true Christian, to whom God has given of His Holy
Spirit, and spiritual gifts. Every one, now entering God's Kingdom as
an INHERITOR — as a possessor, no longer just an heir — actually now
"saved" — will be called to an accounting—judged, to determine what
position in God's Kingdom he has qualified for. And notice that this
"reward" will be according to his "works" in this present mortal
life. Continue, verses 16-19:
the first, saying, 'Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.' And He
said unto him, 'Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been
faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.' And
the second came, saying, 'Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.' And
He said likewise to him, 'Be thou also over five cities.' "
carefully! They got into God's Kingdom by grace (as numerous other
Scriptures make plain). But they are rewarded — that is, given
authority, or rule, or position, according to their "works" — according
to how well they did with what they had to do with while Christ
was in heaven— that is, during their Christian lives. Continue
Beginning verse 20— read it in your Bible — the one who
gained nothing in this present mortal life — the one who had no good
"works" — not only was not given any position — but even had taken away
from him even the spiritual gift he had been given! In this parable,
the English pound, the main English unit of money
— worth approximately $2.80 United States money — is used as a symbol of spiritual value.
parable teaches what has been shown by other Scriptures in this article
— that the Christian must over-comer; he must grow spiritually — grow
in grace and in the knowledge of Christ (II Pet. 3:18). We are being
saved to SERVE — and if we do not qualify to serve, we may have taken
away even the salvation we thought we had!
The parable of the
talents (Matthew 25:14-30) shows the same thing, showing that each is
judged by what he has to do with. But the one who makes no spiritual
progress after his initial "conversion" is cast as an "unprofitable
servant into outer darkness" (Mat. 25:30).
Life Is a Race
see where all this leads us. Man is mortal, without inherent life,
possessing in himself only a transitory physical, chemical existence.
Eternal life comes as God's gift. It comes through the gift of God's
Holy Spirit, given after the prior conditions of real repentance, and
faith in Christ.
But, once receiving the gift of the Holy
Spirit, entering upon the Christian life, this Christian life is
pictured as a race in a stadium, or in a contest. We must turn from sin
(and the Bible definition of sin is: transgression of God's Law — I
John 3:4). Notice: "Wherefore... let us lay aside every weight, and the
sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the
race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).
Further: Paul wrote:
"And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof
with you. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one
receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that
striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [those
unconverted] do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we [Christians]
an incorruptible. I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I.
. . lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself
should be rejected" (I Cor. 9:23-27).
We must strive to
overcome. We must fight temptation and sin. The Christian life was
pictured by Jesus as the hard, rutty, difficult way — NOT the easy way
that leads to destruction.
So, salvation — being born into God's
Kingdom — depends not only on once receiving the Holy Spirit, but BEING
LED by God's Spirit through life (Rom. 8:14), and God's Spirit dwelling
in us, at the end of life's race! That is, at the time of death, or of
Christ's coming, whichever comes first.
God's impregnating Holy
Spirit is received by grace, as God's gift, not as a debt or
compensation earned; not by "works." But, once we receive the Holy
Spirit, it does not remain bottled up; it does not stagnate; it is not
static — it flows in outgoing concern (love) to fellowman, and in
worship, reverence, obedience to God. It flows into us from God. We can
love God only because He first loved us — our love toward God is only a
return of His love, which He gives to us.
This spiritual love —
the Holy Spirit — must be kept on that return circuit — fulfilling
God's Law — flowing back to God by fulfilling the first four
Commandments, and out to neighbor fulfilling the last six.
parable of the sower and the seed illustrates this. There were four
classes. The first heard the Gospel Message, but it never conceived —
they never were converted. They may still have a chance — later. A
second class was converted, with great joy, but simply had no spiritual
depth of character, and endured only for
a while, but yielded to temptations until they fell away — that
is, continually, till they QUIT trying. A third was converted, received
God's Spirit, but let the cares of this material life — earning a
living — or former unconverted associates — keeping one foot in the
world — seeking the pleasures of this world's materialism — and they
"brought forth no fruit to perfection." So they lost out! You must
bring forth fruit — make spiritual progress — develop spiritual
character ! Too many, today, are preaching a false salvation of "no
works." Your "works" won't get you converted — won't earn
you God's Spirit— as I have made plain in this article. But
the lack of good works can GET YOU LOST,
if persisted in!
The fourth class of the
parable are they, "which in an honest and good heart, having heard the
Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). In
Matthew's account of this same parable, those finally saved, enduring
to the end of life's race, brought forth fruit — some thirty-fold, some
sixty, some a hundred. All of these were saved! All of these go into
But those who bring forth a hundred-fold, during
their Christian lives, will receive a higher reward, or position in the
Kingdom, than those who produce only thirty-fold!
Salvation comes as God's free gift, by grace.
the degree of office, once in the Kingdom — once made immortal— the
rank, the position, the degree of glory — this is not by grace — this
is NOT God's gift — this is what you must QUALIFY for, by the fruits
you bear in this life.
That is the teaching of God !
We Must Produce "Fruit"
I repeat again and again, is God's free gift — not something you can
earn. But, once you have received God's Holy Spirit — by grace— that
Spirit, in you, must produce FRUIT!
The Bible explains this this
way: Jesus says He is the Vine — we are the branches. (John 15:1, 5.)
Here we are likened to
a grapevine and its branches. The
branches did not get themselves joined on to the main Vine by their own
efforts. We did not become joined to Christ — receiving His Holy Spirit
by our "works," but it was His doing — His gift — it came by grace.
— once joined on, with the sap flowing from the Vine into the branch (a
picture of God's Holy Spirit flowing from Him into us), we must produce
fruit. If we don't — then what?
Notice this whole picture, in
John 15. God the Father is the Husbandman — the Vine-dresser — the
chief Gardener, who prunes the branches. Now notice verse 2: "Every
branch in me that beareth NOT fruit He taketh away." If, once having
received the Holy Spirit, we do not produce spiritual fruit, we shall
be cut off from Christ — and, (verse 6) shall be cast into the fire and
burned up—referring to the final Gehenna or hellfire!
Spirit is given to us — we didn't deserve or earn it — but given to
produce fruit. HOW? Jesus pictured the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39) as
rivers of "living water" — flowing from Him into us, and on out of us.
How will it flow on out of us? A "river" flows down a riverbed. The
spiritual riverbed down which God's Spirit flows is God's law. This
"living water" of God's Spirit is the love that fulfills the Law. The
fruits, then, are simply the WAY of righteousness — keeping God's Law.
one will vehemently object, that's "works." No — it's righteousness.
But it is not OUR righteousness! God's Spirit gives us the faith that
makes obedience possible. This is the faith that saves! It is God's
gift. And the love that fulfills God's Law is His love, flowing into
and out of us — not our love ! It is not SELF-righteousness — it is
God's righteousness, given to us.
What KIND of Works?
One further passage of Scripture should complete the picture.
It is in the third chapter of I Corinthians. Notice carefully:
of these Gentile converts at Corinth wanted to be followers of Paul,
others of Peter, others of Apollos. Paul was pointing them to Christ,
and showing what human "nothingness" was he and Apollos.
then is Apollos?" he asked (verse 5). "What is Paul?" And he answered,
"Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I
planted, Apollos watered, but GOD gave the growth." Paul was showing
them that he and Apollos, mere humans, were as nothing compared to God.
The spiritual growth — the fruit borne — came through God's
Holy Spirit. The
"So neither he who plants nor he
who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." Notice —
God gives the spiritual growth — the fruits borne. It is God's
righteousness. "He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each
shall receive his wages according to his labor" (verse 8). Once again,
our works do earn wages — either good or bad. Evil works earn eternal
DEATH. Good works earn a better position or reward in God's Kingdom —
if you get there by grace. Now continue:
"For we are fellow
workmen for God, you are God's field, God's building" (verse 9). Apply
that to this very Work of God today. Today God is using me, Garner Ted
Armstrong, our active staff of several hundred, and our growing family
of Co-Workers — all fellow-workmen for God. Our work in carrying out
Christ's Great commission — proclaiming His Gospel around the world by
radio and printing press — our ministers counseling with and baptizing
those being converted — the prayers and financial support of other
FELLOW - WORKMEN — will
EARN a better position — a higher glory — IF we
make it into God's Kingdom. But we shall be saved only by grace,
undeserved — as God's gift. Yet our work, as instruments in God's
hands, which HE uses in His work, is the most important Work or
activity on earth today! And it contributes greatly to our individual
and personal spiritual growth !
further, "According to the commission of God given to me, like a
skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building
upon it" (verse 10). He now pictures the church as a building being
built. Continue: "Let each man take care how he builds upon it." Now
referring to each individual member as well as the Body of Christ — the
Church, as a whole.
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (verse 11).
"Now if anyone builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious
stones, wood, hay, stubble — each man's work will become manifest; for
the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and
the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work
which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a
reward" (verses 12-14).
Christ Does the Works "in Us"
foundation did not come by our works! That was God's doing. He gave us
the foundation to build upon. That foundation is Christ — and it is
"Christ IN us" (II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; 4:19; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27),
by I he Holy Spirit! God's Spirit — Christ in you — was given by grace,
not produced by your WORKS. BUT you must continue to build upon that
"Foundation." We must overcome. We must grow spiritually (II Pet. 3:18).
notice the materials mentioned in building the superstructure of the
building. The most valuable is mentioned first — gold. Second in value
and quality of building materials is mentioned next, silver. Next,
precious stones; next, wood — far less valuable. But now we come down
to cheapness, and inferior quality — hay! Hay might be used in covering
a tropical-zone hut — but it is very inferior building material. Yet, a
horse could eat it — it has some little value. But, lastly, we come to
stubble! You couldn't even build a hut with stubble. A horse wouldn't
eat it. Its value is about NIL. It's fit only to be burned!
Must Build Character
In this Scriptural passage, we are primarily concerned with building character.
now Paul speaks of testing the quality of a man's building by FIRE.
Let's tinder stand it! Continue: "If any man's work is burned up, he
will suffer loss, though ,he himself will be saved, but only as through
fire" (verse 15). What is that "fire"?
To understand this, we
need to turn to the 3rd chapter of Malachi. It speaks of Christ as the
Messenger of the (new) Covenant, suddenly coming to His Temple. This,
like so many prophecies, is dual in application. It refers only
typically to Christ's first coming — primarily to His Second Coming!
. . and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even
the Messenger of the Covenant, . . . But who may abide the day of His
coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth ? for He is like a
refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap; and He shall sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge
them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Eternal an
offering in righteousness" (Malachi 3:1-3).
this is speaking of Christ's second coming as King of
kings, to Set Up WORLD
GOVERNMENT over ALL nations. Then we who have
received God's grace — in whom is the Holy Spirit, then made immortal —
shall stand before Him for judgment as to what reward, or position, we
have qualified for. Christ Himself is that refiner's fire, that will
burn up the dross. But the pure gold, silver, or precious stones we
have built on the foundation of Christ will then be manifest — it will
come through the test. But the wood, hay and straw will be burned up.
of those who, by grace, do receive salvation, and are born im-mortal
into God's Kingdom at Christ's appearing, Christ says He will bring
them "through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and
will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will
hear them: I will say, 'It is my people:' and they shall say, 'The
Eternal is my God' " (Zech. 13:9).
Now back to I Corinthians 3:13-15. It ought to be plain, now!
is speaking of begotten
children of God, who have received God's Holy Spirit — that is, Christ
in them, in Spirit—as the foundation. Some people, once converted and
receiving God's Spirit, do begin to live by every word of the Bible, as
Jesus said we must (Luke 4:4). They have had their hearts in God's WORK
for our time. They have sought, and found, the TRUE values of life.
They have striven to overcome. They have studied to know God's WAY — to
show themselves approved unto God. They have kept close to God, by
daily Bible study and prayer. They have
built righteous, SPIRITUAL,
STERLING CHARACTER! In
words, they have built on the foundation with gold, silver, and
precious stones. These have survived the test. They came through the
fire. These are the ones who "brought forth fruit" — whose "pound"
gained "ten pounds" — who will be given authority over much.
there are many — and I personally know of many such — who with JOY have
received God's Holy Spirit — their conversion as Christians — and have
remained in a GOOD attitude, but whose "works" have been of inferior
quality, pictured by the wood, hay, and stubble. Most of their "works"
of their Christian lives will be burned up, when the final examination
comes. Their reward — status in the Kingdom — position qualified for —
is very small, yet they', themselves, will be saved by God's grace!
They suffer the loss of higher position — greater authority for service
and doing good — but they themselves will be saved.
We are saved
by GRACE, through Christ's faith — given as God's GIFT. But whatever
"reward" - status, rank, position, degree of glory — is conferred, once
we are changed to immortality in God's Kingdom, will be according to
our "works" in this present mortal life — and according to the
character and quality of those works.
WHY the Christian Life?
do most of those who claim to be the very clergy of Jesus Christ say
there are "no works whatever" in the Christian life?
of their false pagan and unscriptural doctrine about "going to heaven"
when you die. Their conception of "heaven" seems to be an eternity of
idleness and ease — with nothing to do. The development of the very
character of the living God — preparing for rulership — qualifying for
service — have no place in their false pagan theology.
times I have asked, over the air, and in The Plain Truth, "why, if
'heaven' is the reward of the saved, and if there are 'no works' to the
Christian life, is not one taken immediately, upon first accepting
Christ, to his 'reward' ? Why must the converted Christian — if he is
'already saved' — if he has been already 'born again' — go on suffering
in this life? Why does the Bible say, 'Many are the afflictions of the
righteous,' and 'All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution?' Why not avoid all this suffering? Why doesn't God take
new converts immediately to 'glory' in 'heaven'?"
The answer is
that God put humans on this earth for a PURPOSE! That purpose is stated
in Genesis 1:26 — God is actually reproducing Himself! God is the
Supreme Spiritual character — holy, righteous, perfect. We, to be
actually born of Him —r born into His family as His divine children —
must be changed, not only from mortal to immortal — not only from human
to divine — but from our human nature and sinning character, into His
divine nature (II Pet. 1:4) and into His holiness and perfection of
character (I Pet. 1:16; Mat. 5:48). And that must be developed, through
the Christian life! It means overcoming, growing in
knowledge and character!
We are to become a new
creation (Gal. 6:15, margin). God's SPIRITUAL creation is still going
on, in us! We are now mere clay — made of the dust of the ground. God
is the Potter — we are the clay (Isa. 64:8). We must, on our own
decision, with our own complete submission, and even with our own
effort accompanying, yield so that the Master Potter may completely
remake, re-fashion, re-shape our vile characters into the holy,
righteous, spiritual and perfect character of God.
Your Part in GOD'S WORK
my forty years' intensive, rich, active experience, since God changed
my direction into His way, I have observed that the very first need of
every Christian, who is to GROW and develop this spiritual character,
is to have his heart completely in the Work of God, which the living
Christ has called His servants to do, as His instruments!
who are self-centered, caring nothing for the Work of God, having not
enough outgoing concern to want to help get Christ's message out to
this blinded, deceived, dying world, fall away. Those who center their
whole "Christian" life and activity on developing their own selves
spiritually, whose hearts are not in or concerned about this great
outgoing worldwide Work of God, actually directed by the living Christ,
develop only inwardly, until they shrivel up spiritually and fall by
the wayside! Those whose hearts, their active, constant, earnest,
fervent prayers, and their tithes and offerings are in God's Work
continue to expand spiritually— they become happier — they become
greatly blessed — their lives become richer and fuller — and their
faces beam in smiles. They radiate ! They prosper!
Testament is literally filled with instruction on Christian living —
leading a new, different, sparkling, joyous life — or, perhaps more
correctly, allowing Jesus Christ to live such a life — God's way — in
How wonderful is God's Way!
Salvation comes — if we are willing, as God's free gift — by grace ! But we must be changed. There is
not hearing only (Rom. 2:13). There is development of a new righteous
character. Yet, even that is Christ IN you actually doing it! Actually,
even the "works" are primarily done by Him ! But how wonderful that
there are righteous "works" in the true Christian life — opportunity
for more than salvation, priceless though that be — opportunity for
higher position, rank, opportunity to serve, higher glory!
by Herbert W. Armstrong The PLAIN TRUTH February, 1967