WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter 5-1 (contd.)

BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH (Unmerited; not conditioned by works on man’s part)

The gift of eternal salvation is by grace through faith. Grace tells us that this salvation is freely given out of God’s goodness, not because of our doing. Faith is simply the way we receive this gift of salvation.

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

ACCORDING TO WORKS (Man’s cooperation with God. The reward is conditioned upon man’s works.)

All men are responsible to God for their actions and will be judged and recompensed according to those actions. "Who will render to EVERY man according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:6). A believer’s eternal salvation with God is not affected by his deeds, but a believer’s deeds will affect him directly. The believer is responsible before God to live a righteous and holy life, producing proper works. If the believer does not fulfill this calling, he will suffer. Paul was a master builder laying a foundation of Jesus Christ among the Corinthian believers (1 Cor. 3:10). Yet he warned the Corinthians (and us) to be careful how we build upon this initial foundation.

But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

Contrary to what many believe and teach, Christians do not automatically produce good works or fruit. Christians may or may not cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Those in Corinth were true believers (1 Cor. 1:2), yet they were fleshly, behaving as natural, unregenerated men (1 Cor. 3:1,3-4). There was immorality among the believers (1 Cor. 5:1), lawsuits (1 Cor. 6:7), and divisions (1 Cor. 1:12-13; 11:18). To these believers Paul wrote: "become sober-minded as you ought and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame" (1 Cor. 15:34).

We are now in a great period of testing. Christians can avail themselves of God’s power and thus obey Him, but whether or not they actually do so is up to the individual (Phil. 2:12-14). We may fall from our steadfastness (2 Pet. 3:17), be sinful like the Corinthians, abandon God’s call to work (2 Tim. 4:10), be a slothful servant (Matt. 25:26), or even leave the soundness of the faith (1 Tim. 1:19 cf. 2 Tim. 2:17-18). Be warned, dear Christian, and be sober. God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7). One day, God will render to you according to your works. The issue here is not eternal salvation, so please do not plead "grace". At the Judgment Seat, about which we will say more later, we will be faced with God’s justice, not His grace.

However, we can take comfort from the truth that when we do fail, God can cleanse us from our unrighteousness through confession (1 Jn. 1:9). Sins that have been confessed will not be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Although God can and does chastise us during our lifetime (Heb. 12:4-14), the real recompense according to our deeds comes from the Lord Jesus at His return. "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Rev. 22:12; see also Matt. 16:27).

SALVATION FROM ETERNAL DEATH TO ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD

The salvation that is by grace through faith is defined here.

"For God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [eternally], but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment [final condemnation], but has passed out of death into life" (Jn. 5:24).

SALVATION FROM LOSS AND RUIN DURING THE MILLENNIUM TO THE ENJOYMENT OF CHRIST’S MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

We have already discussed the Greek verb sozo (to save) from which the word salvation is derived. Salvation means deliverance from a negative state or peril, such as disease or death, to a positive state, such as safety, health or prosperity. The salvation by grace we dealt with in the previous "related matter" is for the unbeliever. It is offered to the unbeliever so that by grace through faith he can escape God’s condemnation and be given eternal life. The salvation about to be discussed is for the believer. It deals with the believer’s state during the coming 1,000 year Kingdom age.

The New Testament contains many warnings to believers. Some indeed seem quite intense and frightening. Because these warnings seem so strong, many teachers feel they have to do with an eternal condemnation, or being lost. Thus, two main schools of thought have arisen to explain these verses. One school that we could generally call the Arminian school (from Jacobus Arminius, 1559-1609), feels that the serious warnings are indeed addressed to real believers and the issue at risk is eternal salvation. In other words, this school teaches that believers can lose their salvation.

The other school, which we will call the Calvinist school (after John Calvin, 1509-64), contends that such a view would compromise a salvation by grace, not of works. Therefore, they explain these warnings by saying that the verses are not addressed to true believers, but to "professing", nominal Christians only, religious people who are not genuine "possessors" of the new life in Christ. The problem of these warning passages is resolved by applying them to the right principle. Both schools wrongly tried to relate the passages to the matter of eternal salvation.

These warning sections in Scripture in fact deal with a recompense to the believer that can involve great loss and even punishment, but not the loss of the believer’s eternal salvation. The salvation cited in this related matter involves deliverance from negatives that do not equal eternal condemnation, and the ushering in of positives that are realized in the coming Kingdom age (1,000 years), not life in eternity.

As we begin to touch the future negative possibilities for Christians, some readers may react: "If He paid it all, then why should I have to ‘pay’ for my failure?" The matter of our sins before and after conversion will be touched upon more in a later chapter. However, please take note of a couple of Scriptural facts now. Since we have been redeemed, God rightly feels that we should be the most responsible persons, obedient to His will. "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’" (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

God’s grace is never a license to sin (Rom. 6:1-2). God’s great principle of rendering to every man according to his deeds is not erased because we have been redeemed (Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 2:23; 22:12). In this judgment, there is no partiality with God; believers are not exempted (Rom. 2:11; 1 Pet. 1:17).

We will not now look at all the verses cited under this related matter, but let’s examine the parable of the talents of money in Matthew 25:14-30.

14 For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, "Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents." 21 His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master." 22 The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, "Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents." 23 His master said to him "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master." 24 And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you do not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours." 26 But his master answered and said to him, "You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did no sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents." 29 For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall gave an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Surely this parable speaks of the responsibility of Christian stewardship. The "man...called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them" (v.14). The only difference in the slaves was their ability, which was reflected in the amount of money entrusted to them. There is no hint that they had different relationships to the master, such as two being real slaves and the third one a pretender.

"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them" (v.19). This verse speaks of Christ’s return and the Judgment Seat from where He evaluates the believer’s deeds. The first two slaves were "good and faithful" in using what was entrusted to them by the master. Thus, the master (the Lord) rewarded them: "I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master" (vs. 21,23). However, the slave who had the one talent of money did nothing to multiply it for the Lord. Consequently, "his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave’" (v.26).

The way Jesus related the story makes it impossible to logically and honestly view this servant as anything other than what he is explicitly defined as being--a servant of the master. There is no latitude in the parable for a false servant or pretender. The rebuke was for slothfulness, which the master considered as wickedness. Beyond the rebuke, the master also took away the entrusted possession from that point on (v.28), and then he commanded, "and cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (v.30). The slave was worthless; he gained nothing for the Lord.

Faithful service to Christ is the qualification for sharing authority in Christ’s coming Kingdom. The parallel passage in Luke 19:12-27 portrays the faithful servant being given authority over ten cities or over five cities. (See also 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21.) Also, it seems reasonable that the coming Kingdom in which Christ finally rules and where God’s intention for man is realized (see Chapter Four), is the "joy" of the master (Matt. 25:21,23). The faithful slaves receive an entry into this joyful realm as well as a stewardship to reign with Christ there.

Thus we see that both types of slaves (which represent believers), the good ones and the wicked ones, will be recompensed according to their works. This recompense takes place when the Lord returns and calls us to His Judgment Seat. There is a positive reward for the faithful Christian, which involves a real deliverance or salvation from potential loss into a very wonderful and joyful situation.

On the other hand, there is a negative recompense to the "worthless" believer, an absence of deliverance or salvation from loss and ruin. The "worthless" believer experiences weeping and gnashing of teeth. Both the positive and negative recompenses relate to the coming Kingdom of Christ. The penalty of "outer darkness" is not "hell for eternity". Escape from an eternity in the lake of fire is not based upon the works principle; escape from eternal damnation is by grace through faith.

Dare we say that Christ has only faithful and profitable slaves and that the wicked, lazy slave represents a false believer, a mere "professor" but not a "possessor"? The words of the parable do not support such a notion. Also, if Jesus wanted us to recognize our falseness, our unreal profession, He would have designed the parable differently, so as to stimulate us to have genuine faith in Him, whereas the parable stimulates us to diligence in works. As it stands, the parable is a rebuke to the worthless slave because of his laziness, not because of his lack of genuine trust in the Lord. This portion of Scripture (as well as its parallel in Luke 19) is designed to deal with our lack of diligence in using our spiritual gifts to gain some profit for the Lord. Do we not all know genuine Christians, perhaps ourselves, who have buried their responsibilities in the ground?

Comments on other verses under this related matter will be held for later. The reader is encouraged, however, to eventually study the other verses, considering them in light of the governing principle.

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)