Rewarded for Doing Good?

Jesus and Paul both said we would be rewarded for doing good, which sounds like a punch in the face to the gospel of grace. In the previous post we looked at the words of Jesus (in John 5:28-29) and saw that “doing good” means trusting him.

But what about Paul who said this:

God will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Rom 2:6-8)

Read the preceding verses and you will see that Paul is addressing judgmental people. He’s not speaking to saints but religious hypocrites: “When you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Rom 2:3). He is talking to people who “show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness,” and have stubborn and unrepentant hearts (verses 2-5).

So when Paul talks about divine payback in verse 6, he is referring to the payback that comes for rejecting God’s kindness. He’s talking about the fruit of unbelief. He’s saying, “If you won’t accept grace (undeserved favor) then you will reap what you sow (deserved unfavor).”

Put Jesus and Paul together and you will find, as you often do, a lovely symmetry. Jesus tells us what we should do (hear and believe) and Paul tells us what we shouldn’t (be stubborn and unrepentant). The rewards for getting it right are the same in both cases, and it’s eternal life:

Jesus: “Those who have done good will rise to live.”
Paul: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”

Isn’t Paul preaching works?

Some have twisted Paul’s words into a mixed message of faith and works. “You gotta believe but you also have to persist in doing good every day until you die.” Fall for this and you will fall from grace! Paul plainly says we are saved by grace, “and if by grace, it cannot be works for if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11:6).

Paul does not say “work hard and you’ll be rewarded with eternal life,” because that would contradict what he’s just said about the righteous life being “by faith from first to last” (Rom 1:17). And if eternal life is a reward for good works, then it can’t be the gift of God (Rom 6:23).

So why does Paul say, “persist in good works and you’ll get eternal life?”

Remember, he’s not addressing saints but religious hypocrites who think they are doing good even though they are not (because they are showing contempt for God’s kindness and grace). When Paul says, “You have to be persistently good” he’s setting them up for a law-smackdown because they are not persistently good. Indeed, in God’s eyes “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom 3:12)!

So these hypocrites are getting blasted from both barrels. First, they’re showing contempt for God’s kindness (by refusing to believe in Jesus). Second, they’re falling short of the lofty stands of God’s law. They may think they are good people, but Paul says they are kidding themselves. “No one is righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10).

The Christmas Epistle

This is bad news for the do-gooder who is working hard to please God. But it’s bad news that should lead you to the good news which is this:

  • Righteousness is a gift (Rom 5:17)
  • Eternal life is a gift (Rom 6:23, 8:11)
  • God’s favor is a gift (Rom 5:16)

Romans might be called the Christmas Epistle because it’s full of gifts. You need righteousness? It’s a gift! You need life? It’s a gift! Indeed, everything you will ever need your Father generously provides:

Christmas EpistleHe who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32)

In this world we talk about work and wages but in the kingdom it’s all grace and gifts.

In this world you have to work for everything, but in the kingdom Jesus has done the work and your part is to receive the reward!

49 Comments on Rewarded for Doing Good?

  1. Trevor Lancashire // October 1, 2015 at 1:13 am // Reply

    Thanks Paul – What a beautiful way of clarifying the choice we have – ‘religion’ (man) or ‘reality’ (Jesus) – Religon (man) = ‘works and wages’ – Reality (Jesus) = ‘grace and gifts’.
    The choice is ours, I know which one I’ve chosen! Thank you Jesus for having made this choice available through your death on Calvary’s Cross!! Amen!

  2. Troy kidwell // October 1, 2015 at 1:23 am // Reply

    Brilliant teaching Paul!

  3. As a believer in salvation only by God’s grace, I am still bothered by Paul’s statement. If you are correct about Paul talking about religious hypocrites, I think his statement about them receiving eternal life would go right over their heads.They would see themselves as persisting in good works and be assured of eternal life. He seems to contrasting those who will and who will not have eternal life. The self-seekers who reject the truth and follow evil, those who persist in doing good have eternal life. He doesn’t seem to be saying what he means. I am still perplexed.

    • I’m sure you are looking for a response from Paul, which would be better then what I can say but for if no other reason I will make an attempt.The message the religious hypocrites were giving was one of law and control, which Christ had already said he filled by his coming which already place those hypocrites in the wrong regardless of what they may think, their “law” records the prophesies of Christ’s entering into the world so it is either their ignorance of the truth they demand of others or sheer hypocrosy, knowing they are wrong. John 5:28,29 explains what the doing of good is. I don’t know if that helps or not but I took a stab at it. Blessings bro.

  4. Awesome Paul, thanks for the encouraging word. 🙂

  5. keep up the good work Paul

  6. typo here?: “It’s a gift?” (you put a question mark)

  7. It occurred to me while reading your last two posts that “doing good” can mean different things to different folks.

    To the hypocrites Paul addressed, this meant following the law (according to the way they deemed best).

    But God, who knows self-righteousness is no good always tied doing good with trusting Him and the One He sent.

    Habakkuk wrote the just shall live by faith but way before that, man was told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., the law).

    Good fruit comes from the one true Vine. That is what I believe God is referring to when He said, through Jesus, that the onest who did good will be raised to life.

    • That’s it. Funny you should mention Habakkuk. I’ve been feeding off Hab 2 all week. Such a meaty chapter.

    • I’ve never heard the tree of the knowledge of good and evil called the law before! That makes a lot of sense! Thank you, John Long!

      • You’re welcome! It’s very interesting to read Romans 7 with that in mind (that the law correlates with the tree of knowledge).

        It is basically the tree of independent living. The law was about trying to meet requirements through the fallen nature we received through that tree.

      • Thank you, John, and all of you commenters who spend time patiently and graciously explaining the grace of God in scripture to people who are having a hard time understanding and/or accepting it. It took me about 2 years before I could start viewing a lot of these scriptures through the lens of grace. The joy of trusting God’s grace is incredible.

  8. Good works after salvation are only in the power of Christ’s help … hence via grace. Crowns will be thrown at his feet period. No ‘hyper-shmyper-grace baloney questions. This is just gentile mangling of the Gospel. …. get back to the original Messianic Jewish faith and get to ‘work’ like those Jewish believers did. Salvation via grace through faith only plus nothing else otherwise you aren’t saved at all and are candidates for Matthew 7 (Lord, Lord did we not … etc) …. works after salvation are via grace through faith too. Case closed. Start witnessing out in the street, first to your family, then to next door neighbors, then to friends, then to strangers. Get off the PC and dispense with questions which are useless … if you are truly saved … get to work … by grace through faith (smile). Harpazo is at the doors … get moving… there isn’t much time. Go!

    • You’ve got it backwards. the Matthew 7 folks were doing tons of stuff for God but Jesus did not know them. They were not rejected for lack of deeds but for a lack of relationship with the Savior. “I do not know you not you did not do enough for me” Stop making scripture say what it plainly does not.
      Titus 3 says we are fully saved so that we can then do good deeds. Good deeds have nothing to do with being or staying saved. They are simply the by product of having been saved. Messianic Jewish faith has very little need for Jesus except as a replacement of animal temple sacrifice. I suggest checking out Hebrews 8:8-13, Deuteronomy 4:13 & 9:9 before you promote Messianic Judaism.

      • All the Jewish disciples of Jesus were ‘Messianic Jews’.
        The anti-thesis of this is replacement theology.
        Maranatha

      • We’ll quote it again from the post:

        Salvation via grace through faith only plus nothing else otherwise you aren’t saved at all and are candidates for Matthew 7 (Lord, Lord did we not … etc) …. works after salvation are via grace through faith too.

        Not talking about works to be saved, but being saved to do good works. Those in Matthew 7 were not saved by grace. Plainly stated above. As for good works ….. the ultimate scripture is:

        For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath BEFORE ORDAINED that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

        Those in Matthew 7 have nothing to do with this, which was plainly stated, and not
        backwards at all. The Lake of Fire is prepared for those not saved by grace alone through faith, along with the fallen hordes.

      • Colleen G // October 3, 2015 at 3:24 am //

        Yet the gentile Christians in the new testament only had the rules for avoiding fornication and abstaining from blood laid upon them from the Holy Spirit.(Acts 15) If you are of Jewish decent feel free to be a Messianic Jew and partake of the traditions/practices of both. However to lay Messianic Judaism upon those of gentile descent is to go beyond the requirements of the Holy Spirit. Other than that it appears we mostly agree. I am a gentile and have no urge to participate in practices that are not needful. Any further wrangling about Messianic Judaism is quite off topic for this post and we should probably just rest on it.

    • Christians should engage in Holy Spirit directed witnessing and activity. Not just going out on the streets and witnessing like a chicken without its head. And before a believer ‘witnesses’ to someone they need to understand what the Gospel of Grace is, otherwise you will be completely ineffective or you’ll turn people off to Christ. I see it all the time with Christians out there doing street preaching and telling everyone they’re going to hell and not once preaching the Gospel of Grace to people.

      • There is a saying: Those who can do, those who can’t, teach. Same with witnessing.

        ” And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. ” Mark 16:15

        Acts 1:8
        But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

        Colossians 1:23
        if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

        Bottom line … don’t talk about witnessing …. witness.

        Matthew 28:19
        Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

      • Seems to me your should heed your own advice.🙂

      • Robbie,
        Note to self: No… chi… cken… with … out… head… wit… ness… ing… only… chi… cken… WITH… head… wit… ness… ing.

        OK GOT IT THANKS

  9. It’s all a gift. I can’t think of any good reason to argue with that.🙂 Thanks

  10. I wish this would have been available to me at a younger age as I have been saved most of my life but it has taken a long time to come to the place I am today with grace. I was lost in churches mixing law and grace which creates nothing but confusion and a “religious” frame of mind turning people off.

  11. Paul, how do I defend hyper-grace when I try to explain it because others tell me that I’m just telling myself what I want to hear? They say that hyper-grace is just a message I use to make myself feel better. However, I have gotten closer to God than ever before since I discovered hyper-grace.

    • The love of God doesn’t need defending. You can end up wasting your whole day dealing with argumentative people. It awesome that you have experienced God’s over-the-top grace!

  12. Great explanation of this. I’ve always shaken my head at preachers when they say “fight the good fight of faith” or “run your race for the prize” – trying to convince people that they would be rewarded in heaven with “stuff” like a mansion, and things to fill up the mansion. It never made any sense to me.

    Even before grace, I wondered, “Why would God set up a system where people would be ‘storing up treasures in heaven’?” If all people are equal in the beyond, then it makes no sense for some people to have more than others. Again, your explanation was the best on this topic I’ve ever heard. Thanks, Paul.

  13. Paul thanks so much for preaching true gospel. I ll share my testimony after your next post

  14. I really feel that doing good IS the reward.I think we will be very surprised by future rewards…it will mostly consist of things we did that we gave no thought to and just did naturally,barely knowing we are there.If we are expecting a “thatta boy”,note of appreciation,a crown,praise and honor,(even from God)…then maybe “self” has got in the way.I think when we are genuinely doing good,it is just a “joy” thing or love flowing from us,like the things good mothers do for their babies. Just the knowledge that God chose me,created me,bringing me into existence,blows me away.He has blessed us so much! Any reward in heaven will just be grace upon grace…not grace upon “our works”.

  15. I think far too many people are just “going” and “preaching” the gospel or “witnessing” to others when they don’t have the correct understanding of the gospel. What will result is a big turn off once the listeners realize it’s the same old message of you better or else…..

    So my advice is not go but “STOP” ….take a breather …. and make sure you understand what you believe before you open your mouth and cause eternal damage.

    Naz

  16. Great post !

    The “wages” of sin is death and the “gift” of God is eternal life !

    What a perfect verse to sum up this post. If anyone thinks they’re going to work for their salvation, prepare to meet your Maker….. and receive your reward.

    Naz

    • Brian Midmore // October 3, 2015 at 7:23 am // Reply

      The gift of God is eternal life and he gives this gift to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory honour and immortality and these people are Christians who believe in Jesus and on whose heart is written Gods law. Jews on the inside and therefore doers of the law from in the inside out.

      • So it’s a conditional gift then?

      • Colleen G // October 4, 2015 at 5:19 am //

        I isn’t the Mt Saini laws that God wrote on our hearts. It was a far greater law. Matthew 22:37-40, John 13:34, 1 john 3:22-24 Take Galatians 4 & 5 to heart and do not become tangled up in the ties of bondage any more! Jesus set you free why would you purposefully choose bondage?

  17. You said “your part is to receive the reward”. Reminds me of when Jesus said we “inherit” eternal life even though the rich young ruler wanted to know what he must do to “earn” eternal life.

  18. Brian Midmore // October 3, 2015 at 7:25 pm // Reply

    Yes LJP God’s gift is conditional since eternal life is given to those who believe in Jesus who produce the fruit of righteousness. It is not given to unbelievers who are self seeking.

    • Brian, if we add conditions such as “those who do good”, it is no longer a gift; it is something earned. A gift is merely accepted, so I agree with you that believing is receiving. There are those who have received the gift, but do not enjoy the benefits.

    • Brian ever read Romans chapter 4? We are given righteousness as an unearned gift simply for believing on Jesus. Jesus said in John 3 that we have eternal life for believing on Him. If you say that acts of righteousness gain eternal life you are saying that Jesus lied there or at best hid the full truth from Nicodemus. Romans 6:22 says that we have our fruit of righteousness because we died with Christ in verse 3.

      • Brian Midmore // October 4, 2015 at 7:20 pm //

        I disagree. The gift is both unearned and given to those who do good and believe in Jesus. Those who do good are just unprotitable servants.

      • Brian Midmore // October 4, 2015 at 7:27 pm //

        The point is surely that throughout the Bible works and faith are closely linked. Faith without works is dead. So when Paul speaks of doing good he is talking about works that spring from faith and when he talks about believing he sees this as faith that must bring works. The faith that brings eternal life will also bring works, and the works that lead to life spring from faith. Is this mixing grace and law? Some say so.

      • Colleen G // October 5, 2015 at 2:51 am //

        Brian- Time to let the bible get in the way of your theology. Faith without works is dead is only said 1 time in the whole new testament. If you look at the context in James you see that it is speaking of how others see our faith. If others cannot see our faith in action to them it is as good as dead. For it to be otherwise would contradict so many other plain scriptures about faith. Yes true faith produces works but not everyone can be out doing the worky-boogey ever single second of the day. God Himself rested from work and has given us times and places for rest. Seasons, ebbs and flow of tides of work and of rest. Does this resting, waiting and renewal mean unsaved, unfaithful? Works do not lead to life they come from life. Dead people and dead souls cannot do works until they have been purchased, sealed and given life abundantly and eternally everlasting. You demand that the dead work so that they may have life. What you ask is physically and spiritually impossible if you go by the whole of scripture. You also ask that people earn and merit their free gift through their deeds the whole the gospel denies that sentiment.

  19. Brian Midmore // October 5, 2015 at 7:20 pm // Reply

    Coleen you have almost persuaded me to become an Lutheran.

    • Is that what they believe? I’ve never looked into the Lutheran denomination. I am just going by what I see in scripture. The worky-boogie for salvation is of human origin because the flesh rebels at not being able to contribute to it’s salvation. Pride detests that Jesus did it all and cannot accept the scriptural fact of an unearned, unmerited, free-gift eternal life. Behavior is important but it is not eternal-everlasting life.
      Romans 3:22-26 4:5, 11:6 but most important of all is John 3:15-18 and Romans 10:9-10. To say that behavior contributes to salvation is to call all of those passage lies because to say otherwise is a 100% contradiction of what they say.

      • Brian Midmore // October 6, 2015 at 7:49 pm //

        But of course to say that behaviour is irrelevant to salvation means that a verse like Rom 8.13 is also lie. ‘If you live according to the flesh you will die but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live’ . Life and death are dependent on how we live. Now if we are true Christians we will have the holy spirit and so we will walk in the spirit (v9). But what happens if we chose to sin in an egregious way as the the man did in 1 Cor 5? Well now we have stopped living according to the spirit and have started to live by the flesh and we are on the road to death. This is why the man needed to be disciplined and brought back into the straight and narrow. It was his actions that threatened his salvation not his faith.

      • Colleen G // October 7, 2015 at 8:38 am //

        (sigh) Romans chapter 8 is all about how we are already in the Spirit and adopted and that state gives us life and power over sin that is if you take it as a whole message.1 Corinthians 3 says that as long as Jesus is our foundation we will be saved even if our works are lousy. Titus 3 says that we are saved NOT through works of righteousness but because God is merciful. The sequence there says we are saved first so we can then do good things. The good and right things come after salvation not for salvation.
        Why do you desire to add works “not of works lest anyone should boast”? Why do you want to buy the gift that Jesus suffered, bled and died to obtain for you? Do you really think that God needs you to add an additional payment to what Jesus paid for your eternal life? I am going to let this rest after this as no amount of scripture is going to convince you that Jesus did not lie in John 3:18 or the many other places that promise eternal life for only faith.

  20. I think this argument is a mute point if a person is “born” again. You cannot become “unborn” once you are born. As for the works, a good tree CANNOT produce bad fruit. So in other words, all of our works are deemed good by God if we have His righteousness. As for the not so good works of the flesh that all of us we tend to produce…they are burned up but we are still saved according to Paul in 1 Corinthians……

    The works will be there but I’m not going to get caught up with my performance, because if I do, then I am living by Law and have fallen from grace putting Jesus to open shame.

    Naz

  21. justice senyo kota // October 18, 2015 at 10:33 pm // Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful revelation. After reading it, I wasn’t very much convinced when you said Paul was talking to religious hypocrites. However, during my study of the book of Psalm which I just began, the spirit led me to chapter 28:4-5. It was stated clearly just as you explained. Thank you once again.

  22. Being mindful of Law results in being mindful of works, like the minds of those who Jesus said He did not know in Math 7. Being mindful of Jesus, trusting in Him alone results in a mind trusting Him and not being aware of works. Jesus in us, the hope of glory. It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us and this life we now live, we live by faith/trust in Him. Him doing the works He ordained before the foundations of the world, Him leading us into their steps, unaware. Yes unaware. If we are so mindful or aware of works, we will hopefully realise that this is the aroma of self-righteousnesds that abounds from the knowledge of these works. Just like the works, the people unknown to Jesus, made Him aware of in Math 7. Dead works have a stench of death which cause the lost to shy away….. How to remedy? Just beleive Jesus, trust Him, ask Him, talk to Him……..as you would a good Friend. Similarly, he will become you best Friend (even though He is a King). He will dwell in you and become your only hope of glorifying His and our Good Father. He will become your life, He will do what He wants through you and He will glorify our Father. Whose works will they BE?, His crowns, His glory forever.

  23. God could essentially promise unbelievers and works based people anything: riches, power, glory, life… Because no one will ever be worthy enough to collect! It’s the Divine Bait and Switch.
    But like you said, it is all available to anyone who trusts Jesus as Savior and Lord as a free gift.
    I totally love God’s sense of truth and humor 🤗

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