Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
This is possibly one of the most ignored truths and yet is one of the most important teachings in the whole of the Bible, and I would never say such a thing lightly.
The NIV says ‘God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”‘. There is no escaping what this verse is saying: you and I are going to be rewarded based on our actions.
Now at first this seems incongruent with the rest of the New Testament. Anyone who knows anything about the Bible knows that you cannot be saved according to your actions: salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The entire Reformation of the church revolved around this key issue: you CANNOT be saved by works, you can only be saved by believing in the sacrificial and redemptive death and resurrection of the Lord Christ Jesus. And I believe that, and the Bible teaches that: salvation is by grace alone. And most churches that have come from the Reformation: evangelical and Protestant churches will teach and believe this wonderful Biblical truth.
In addition, if you read Galatians 3, you will find that we are baptised in the Holy Spirit by grace alone. You cannot deserve the filling of the Holy Spirit, but you can believe for it. Galatians goes on to say that you cannot deserve miracles, but you can believe for them and work miracles by faith.
It seems that the entire Christian life is grace, but then in Romans 2 we find this short little verse that says “God will reward us for what we have done” (CEV). Is this verse wrong? Clearly not! But how do we fit it into the idea that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone?
The answer is remarkably simple. You enter heaven only by the grace of God – you are not good enough to enter heaven because you have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23). However, on the cross Jesus Christ became sin for you so that you could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5.21).
Only by believing in Jesus can you be born again – made righteous – and enter heaven (John 3.16, Romans 5.1). The Bible says that as far as the east is from the west, that is how far God has removed our sins from us (Psalm 103.2).
However – and this is a wonderful truth that has been much neglected – when we enter heaven God will render to us according to what we have done. There are rewards in heaven, and those of us who work hard on earth will be given greater rewards than those on earth.
I want to make this clear: getting into heaven – only by the free grace of God and because of what Jesus did. Mark 16.16 says if you believe you are saved and if you believe not you are damned. Nothing to do with actions at all. Rewards in heaven – based on what you have done on this earth.
Let’s look a little bit at the Greek to get a deeper understanding of this verse. The Greek word for render here is apodidōmi which means to give what is due or to give exact compensation. I love that – God is just and fair. In heaven what you receive as your reward will be totally fair to your life. There will no injustice in heaven. That is beautiful and one of the things that makes heaven heavenly in my mind. Where the KJV says “every man”, the Greek means every individual. You are not going to rewarded for what I have done or not rewarded because I held you back. This is a personal, individual reward for your work from heaven.
So what are we rewarded for? Is it our good lifes, our judging others, our church attendance? Well, the verse says that we are rendered according to our deeds. The word deeds is the Greek word ergon which means either employment or productivity.
Employment is about doing the right job. If you are employed to clean the floor by a company, it does not matter how clean you get the windows, you cannot say that your employment was successful. It would take too much time to discuss how to find out God’s will for your life, but I tell you the truth: you need to find out what God has called you to do and do it – otherwise you will get to heaven with no reward! This is also very freeing – if God has called you to clean the floor then you will given a full reward if the floor is clean, and you do not have to worry about the windows – remember, this reward is personal to your employment. Do you know your employment contract with the Lord? What has He called – indeed crafted – you to do?
Productivity is about what you create and generate. Although part of this reward is personal and due to your calling and destiny, all Christians are supposed to be fruitful Christians. You should be reproducing what you are. If you are Spirit filled and a tongue talker, who have you led into the baptism in the Holy Spirit ever? If you are a teacher of God’s Word who have you fed into so much that now they can teach? And most importantly of all – if you are a born again Christian redeemed by the grace of the Lord Jesus, how many people have you led into that grace and into the new birth?
Your punishment is not going to happen – your sins and you are separate and that will not change. If you are born again, no hell for you. However, you now have the rest of your life to build a reward in heaven. Find out what you are called to do, find out how to be more fruitful. Your eternal destiny depends on it.