Rewarded for What We’ve Done?

Rewarded for What We've done

The Bible says that we will be rewarded for what we have done. Not what we have believed, but done-diddley-done-done. So what do we have to do? In this three-part series, we’re going to look at some of the rewarded-for-what-we’ve-done scriptures, beginning with this one:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matt 16:27)

Forget the gospel of grace, you are rewarded for doing stuff! Better get busy for Jesus. But let scripture interpret scripture and you will see that Jesus is not promoting performance-based religion. (You knew that, right?) He’s quoting a psalm:

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (Psa 62:12)

Psalm 62 is a psalm of rest, not labor. “Truly my soul finds rest in God… Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (v.1,5). Underline the doing words in this psalm and you will see that it is exhorting us to trust the Lord:

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken… Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psa 62:6)

According to David, what do we need to do to be rewarded by God? Answer: trust him, rest in him, find refuge in him. Selah.

The work that is rewarded

Here’s a fun Bible fact. When David says “you will reward each person according to what he has done” in Psalm 62 he’s referring to something God said. (See Psalm 62:11.) So in Matthew 16, Jesus is quoting David who is quoting God. Talk about being on the same page!

And just to make things really interesting Jesus is also quoting Jeremiah, who was also quoting God:

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. (Jer 17:10)

What deeds has Jeremiah just described in this famous chapter? What are the activities that are rewarded?

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jer 17:7).

Put them together and you will see that the prophet and the psalm-writer both say we are rewarded for trusting the Lord. Resting is the work that is rewarded.

But what about Jesus? What specific deeds does Jesus refer to in Matthew 16?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24)

Jesus is not calling us to a life of self-sacrifice. He is calling us to follow him and trust in his finished work. When you were baptized into Christ, you were baptized into his death. The person you used to be no longer lives (Gal 2:20).

What does it mean to deny self?

We live in a world that rewards the bright and the beautiful, but in the kingdom of God we are not rewarded for anything we do on our own; we are rewarded on account of Jesus. David, Jeremiah and Jesus all say the same thing:

  • David: Don’t trust in wealth or be envious of the rich; trust the Lord who rewards those who seek him. (Ps 62)
  • Jeremiah: You’re cursed if you trust yourself and your labors, but you’ll be an evergreen tree if you trust the Lord. (Jer 17)
  • Jesus: If you gain the whole world but lose your soul, you’ve lost everything. Follow me. (Matt 16)

To deny self is to quit trusting in your own efforts. It’s saying no to performance-based Christianity and the pitiful self-help messages of dead religion. It’s saying yes to Jesus who is your life and resting in his finished work.

And what is our reward?

Christ gives us nothing less than his very life. His abundant life – free from condemnation and the dog-eat-dog insecurities of worldly ambition – is the life we yearn for.

What’s the takeaway?

This world offers you one kind of reward – the fading, rusting kind – but Jesus offers you something better. So abandon the futile quest for self-improvement – it’s a dead-end street.

But receive Christ and his righteousness and you will reign in life like a king (Rom 5:17)!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

54 Comments on Rewarded for What We’ve Done?

  1. Like, like-iddy, like, like, like! Thanks!

  2. Matthew D Boyum // September 16, 2015 at 12:47 am // Reply

    “Jesus is not calling us to a life of self-sacrifice.” Apparently the Apostle Paul could have saved himself a life of pain and misery if he had just understood the “real” meaning of Jesus’ words.

    • I think the man who said “I have been crucified with Christ” and who drew a big fat line between the sacrifices we make and sacrifice He made understood Christ’s words better than anyone.

  3. Trevor Lancashire // September 16, 2015 at 12:52 am // Reply

    Thanks Paul – It is so good to read the Word of of God so rightly divided – It brings such a wonderful revelation of the Love God has for us! No demands – He just loves us! All it brings is an ever growing love for Him! Magnificient!! Thank you Jesus!

  4. It’s funny… I just had a conversation with my brother about this subject. He spoke about rewards in heaven and doing things (because he wanted to of course) although there was an undertone of obligation in his speech. “God will call us into account…” and “we should be doing things (while being careful to not say ‘works’) because we love Jesus and we have to reach people for the kingdom…” We debated briefly. I have found that I don’t have a good enough understanding and acceptance of this new-to-me Grace Gospel.

    I’m struggling to accept that ‘rest’ is what we are to do. In my mind, resting is doing nothing. And how can doing nothing be ok? How can there be a reward for resting?
    Is resting talking about my spirit as in, ‘there is nothing I can do to earn or receive more or lose because I am in Christ”?
    When I think of resting I automatically think of physical rest.

    • When we strive in the flesh, we will feel busy but accomplish little. But when we rest in the Lord, we accomplish much. It’s hard for the natural mind to understand, but more gets done when we rest.

      • Thank you for the reply and the link Paul. I feel like the deeper I dive the less I understand. But then again, maybe that’s what ‘faith like a child’ means.

    • Rest assured; Faith and works go together. Its like inhaling and exhaling. Faith is taking the gospel in and works is taking the gospel out. One without the other is death. Works wont get us to heaven but sure prove our faith to a dying world.

  5. “Jesus is not calling us to a life of self-sacrifice. He is calling us to follow him and trust in his finished work. “
    True, but why would John say, 1 John 3:7, “He that does righteousness is righteous (walks the walk) even as he (Jesus) is righteous “ here is the same verse in the MSG, ” … don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah.” Doesn’t sound like just trusting, more like, also, doing.
    Christians who walk in the flesh are not “spiritual” as that is why Paul wrote Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk (keep in step) in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” We have to ‘live it out’ as Christ did, as He is our example 1 Peter 2:21,22…

    • I’m sorry Tom, but I don’t see what you’re getting at. These scriptures make perfect sense to me. When we strive in the power of the flesh – lean on our own understanding and judgment – we sabotage what the Lord desires to do in our life. That’s the way of self-righteousness. It’s what the King James calls evildoing. (Some of the nicest people you meet are evildoers in King Jimmy vernacular!)

    • Romans 4:3 “What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” Righteousness is simply believing Him and believing in Him. “He that does righteousness (believes) is righteous.” Perhaps your verse is also suggesting the result of our faith will affect the way we live, but not vice a versa. Acting righteous will never make your righteous.

    • You stated… “”Christians who walk in the flesh are not “spiritual” as that is why Paul wrote Galatians 5:16″” First of all Paul’s whole reason for the entire book of Galatians is Law vs Grace, and Faith vs Works. We can easily see which one he prefers, as he also states in Ephesians 2:8-9. He called the Galatians stupid as well for disregarding that very truth in ch3.

      Walking in the Spirit simply means we are walking in the first 4 chapters of Paul’s correction to the Galatians. We are under the covenant of Grace and not of Law. To walk in the Spirit, is to continue to believe that you are righteous not by what you do, but by what Christ has done.

      English Standard Version (Gal 5:24)
      And those who BELONG to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

      After Paul names all these sins of the flesh (self effort) before this verse he ends with the scripture above ^ , and what is the condition of this verse?

      We need to simply BELONG to Him. We are His SEED and therefore we had no effort in the matter (hence the phrase “born again” 1 Pet 1:23). The next verse says we live in the Spirit so lets walk in that same truth. We definitely are not in the flesh but in the Spirit…

    • Your 1 Pet 2:21-22 reference is one and the same, it ends with the finished work…

      Aramaic Bible in Plain English (1 Pet 2:24)
      And he took all of our sins and lifted them in his body to the cross, for as we are dead to sin, we shall live in his righteousness, for by his scars you have been healed.

      GOD’S WORD® Translation (1 Pet 2:24)
      Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God’s approval. His wounds have healed you.

      Righteousness is a noun in the Greek for that scripture as well, not a verb (action). We are what we are and that is Christ’s. Nothing will ever change that. It is walking in the Spirit, believing that we are righteous by faith alone in Christ and not by our works. Jesus causes us to walk in the fruit of the Spirit effortlessly, even self control in Gal 5:23 is not by our effort, but a Fruit of the Spirit.

      Continuing to believe in the finished work of Christ is what causes that fruit to spring forth. Works of the flesh so to speak is walking in self effort, which is the cause of the very sins talked about in ch5 of Galatians.

      God invites us to rest, and that is walking in the Spirit.

    • Tom I think you are talking about a grace driven effort versus a self-effort. We do,do,do now…..not because we have to …..but because we want to and that comes from the Holy Spirit. Now we “get to” instead of “I have to”. Paul E. was only talking about self-effort and people trying to “do” themselves to get it “done” when Jesus has already done it for us.

  6. Well presented, the bible explaining the bible. Thanks Paul

  7. Hi Paul! Thank you for writing. I had never thought of this passage from this perspective.
    Are you going to analyse Matthew 25:25-46 and 1Corinthians 3:-15? In the former it looks like a works-based salvation, which I know is not the case, but how should we interpret?) In the latter it looks like the quality of the work determines the rewards in heaven, but not salvation itself. God bless you!

    • Looks like, but isn’t. Please check out the Archives > Scripture Index.

    • We may think of it as pain, misery and self-sacrifice, but Paul thought of it as merely a flesh-wound (Romans 8:18). In fact, forget the future reward- to be able to live the kind of lives that the Apostles had even here on earth would any day be worth being killed for. I do not think God calls us to self-sacrifice and death so much as open up our eyes to the fact that so many of us live in fear of suffering and death precisely because we have nothing in our lives worth dying for. But He is. So when we have Him, there really is nothing to sacrifice anymore, because even death is gain at that point.

  8. Interesting take, although I never equated Heaven, eternal life, etc., as a reward to be earned or a prize to be won. I always thought of it as a gift. I’d like to see where this goes and how it ends.

  9. Paul, thank you for explaining that verse. I recently read that verse and prayed for clarification. Your explanation was the answer to my prayer. : )

  10. I’m trying so hard to understand grace. I read your stuff and am like, yes, yes!! Then I’ll open up the bible and I see things like in Matthew 7, where MANY will say “Lord, Lord… And He responds with I never knew you.” I’m trying to wrap my head around how if He doesn’t want to condemn people, why this is. And 2 Cor. 13:5, where we’re supposed to test ourselves to see if we’re “real Christians.” Again, huh? All over I John and doing, and specific sins listed throughout Scripture. Why point out certain sins if unbelief is the biggie? I’m so trying to understand all of that under grace. Can anyone help me?

    • I understand what you are feeling. Before I was persuaded about my Father’s love, there were many scriptures that bothered me. I used to file them in the too-hard basket. Not any more! Now I am drawn to them because I love to read the whole Bible through the lens of grace. Christ’s words in Matthew 7 should not frighten the Christian. Notice he is speaking to people he never knew. He is not talking about believers.

      “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor 13:5). This isn’t like the annual test your car must pass to stay road-legal. Paul is NOT saying, “Examine yourselves periodically to make sure you’re still saved.” This examination is about reinforcing what they should already know. “Don’t you know that Christ is in you?” (Paul did this a lot. See Rom 6:3,16, 7:1, 1 Cor 6:15,16,19, etc.) In context Paul is saying, “Stop testing me, and test yourselves. Be who you are in Christ.” The Corinthians were being a bit judgmental and Paul called them out on it.

      “Unless, of course, you fail the test.” Of course, if you’re not a Christian, then you need to get saved.

      For other scriptures I encourage you to check out the Archives > Scripture Index.

      • Thank you. I feel honoured to get a response from you personally! That’s all my walk is boiling down to lately, is really dying out for a revelation of the Father’s love for me. I “know” it in my head but really need to experience it totally in my inner being. I really need to just start believing the good things God says about me and who I am in Christ. As I grow in this process after having believed Jesus as munSaviour and have turned from myself, this means I’m saved, right? Because I keep learning things and it’s like I’m like, oh no, does this mean I wasn’t before? Or is this what sanctification is maybe? Trying to stay on track with article because it’s so good. I’m realizing how much I have a “do” mentality

      • Warren (South Carolina, USA) // September 17, 2015 at 5:07 am //

        Awesome reply Paul (9-16-16 at 12:53 pm). Whole post is awesome in fact. Like how you explain entering His (and our) rest.
        Blessings,
        Warren (South Carolina, USA)

    • The Matthew 7 group show that they are not believers when they list their criteria for acceptance: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” Their criteria are all based on their own performance, with not a word breathed about His. All the glory goes to them, none to Jesus’ work on the cross. If only they had said, “Lord, Lord, did you not receive the stripes for us, did you not hang on the cross for us, shed your blood for us?” Amazing that Jesus calls those who base their right standing on their own works and not on His as “those who practice lawlessness.” It’s a blow to human pride, that’s for diddley-done-sure.

      • Lisa Jane!
        Wow! Copied and pasted your explanation. Saving to share and remind myself! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

  11. Do you think there is also a bit of irony in this verse? You will be rewarded according to what you’ve “done.” Except the only thing you’ve “done” is believe what He has done. And even that, strictly speaking, isn’t something you actually did. It was always there. He brought you to it. He pointed it out. He helped you understand it. He waited until you finally agreed that it was actually there.

  12. Thank you Paul! I’m on my way to work in a metro & you just light up my day. What a blessing!

  13. Sorry about the long post earlier, for some reason when posting from my phone it doesn’t tell me the limit, but getting on my computer I can see now that I went way over the limit, lol. Thanks Paul, and sorry about that.

  14. Mr. Ellis, never let the naysayers get you down. You are literally saving lives here, mine included.

  15. Paul, kindly shed some light on how to interpret 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 especially verse 10…

    • I’ll probably write a post on that passage and include it in this series.

    • 2 Cor 5:10, the word “judgement” there is probably one of the worst translations in the entire bible. The word there is not “judgement” or “seat”.

      It is one word (not two) in the Greek and it’s “Bematos”, a bematos is a elevated platform or step.

      In the 1st century A.D. a bematos was where the victor in a race or other contest was awarded a crown (wreath) by the judge who sat on the bema seat. A bematos was always used as a place to hand out awards.

      The word “bad” in the Greek is “worthless” and “of no value”, and it’s by the perspective of the recipient.

      We will be so unaware of our good works, and Christ will be the one to remind us. (Matt 25:33-40)

      He will not be bringing up our sins or short comings (PS 103:10, 12), at the “Bematos of Christ”, there will be things that we were unaware of that may even seem of ” no value to us” but they will be special to Him.

      We should always remember that our identity has changed since we believed (2 Cor 5:17). We can have confidence and boldness in the day if judgment, because as Jesus is so are we in this world, and WE are well known by Him. (1 John 4:17 & 2 Cor 5:11)

  16. justice senyo kota // September 21, 2015 at 10:32 am // Reply

    Wow! So refreshing. More grace to you.

  17. The judgment seat of Christ. No matter how you slice it, it’s a judgment. Who is at this judgment ?

    I believe the judgment seat of Christ is the one and final judgment of all humanity where all will stand before the Lord and the sheep and goats will be separated. This verse is not pointed to Christians only, it is a verse to spoken to whoever is reading it. You’re either a goat or a sheep.

    We already know the outcome, this is not the OJ trial……….

  18. May God bless the good work.

  19. Excellent message!

  20. I have always appreciated the clarity in which you write. You keep it simple, but it’s still profound when it hits the reader. Great work Paul. Never give up using this gift of yours.🙂

  21. Anson Thomas // April 23, 2016 at 5:46 pm // Reply

    This subject was a bit confusing. I was in need of better clarity and this is indeed a good reward from you. Thanks Paul. Praise Jesus.

  22. Anson Thomas // April 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm // Reply

    This subject was a bit confusing for me and needed better understanding. Thank you Paul. This is indeed a good reward. Praise Jesus.

  23. 1 Corinthians 3 : 11
    For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

    This sounds like the person is saved whether their work burns up or not when tested by the Lord, but if the work survives due to its ‘quality’ they receive a reward. How do we explain this away?

  24. 1 Corinthians 15:58
    Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

    This sounds like we are to “give ourselves fully” to the Lord’s work. I’m no scholar but this sounds like sacrifice…there’s some doing being encouraged here…..

    • Yes, definitely. But I wouldn’t read it through the lens of sacrifice. It’s an exhortation to live the abundant and richly-rewarded life. It’s an exhortation to make the better choice.

    • Steve,

      Maybe you are viewing awards incorrectly. On earth awards are used to build up, praise, and glorify the winner. Yet, all the gospel we see how the gift of love from God is our greatest reward. We need no other.

      Maybe, just maybe, the awards we will receive are about others. Maybe, just maybe, when you are walking down the streets if heaven, someone will walk up to you, with eyes filled with joy and give you the biggest hug!! and tell you that they found Jesus through something you said or did (without being motivated by some future award. Yet the reward is right there. It didn’t burn up, it will shine for all eternity.

      Just imagine ….. Now that, my friend, would be a reward!!

      Jimmi

      • Rewards = hugs. Nice picture, Jimmi. I love it. And for those rolling their eyes, think about this a little more. In a place where there is no need and the streets are paved with gold, what greater reward could there be than a connection with another person that you helped point to Jesus. In eternity we will value people as they truly are and outside of the Lord himself nothing will appear so precious.

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