Merrill F. Unger, “Rewards are offered by God to a believer on the basis of faithful service rendered after salvation. It is clear from Scripture that God offers to the lost salvation and for the faithful service of the saved, rewards. Often in theological thinking salvation and rewards are confused. However, these two terms must be carefully distinguished. Salvation is a free gift (John 4:10; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9), while rewards are earned by works (Matthew 10:42; Luke 19:17; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). Rewards will be dispensed at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10). The doctrine of rewards is inseparably connected with God’s grace. A soul being saved on the basis of Divine grace, there is no room for the building up of merit on the part of the believer. Yet, God recognizes an obligation on His part to reward His saved ones for their service to Him. Nothing can be done to merit salvation, but what the believer has achieved for God’s glory God recognizes in His great faithfulness with rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
Really? We get rewards after salvation based on our works? Don Fortner’s sermon here will help clarify the mess.
“Salvation, in its’ entirety, is the work of God’s free grace. That is the foundation upon which we build all our doctrine. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. No part of salvation can be, in any measure, attributed to the will, worth, or works of man (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 11:6). If it is possible to separate heavenly rewards from salvation, then you might talk about degrees of reward; but if heaven and the glorious inheritance of the saints in heaven is only the consummation of salvation, then to talk of degrees of reward in heaven is to teach salvation by works!”
Notes from Don Fortner’s sermons:
Preached February 2, 1993
Preached December 18, 2011
Don Fortner gives us 5 reasons why we should oppose this doctrine:
Why must we be so dogmatically opposed to this doctrine? — 5 Answers!
1. It is without foundation in the Word of God!
· Not one passage referred to in support of this doctrine even hints that some saints will have more and some have less in heaven.
· Not one of the crowns mentioned in the Bible are said to be given only to certain believers. (See Revelation 4:10).
Revelation 4:10 “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.”
2. It is totally contrary to the plain statements of Holy Scripture.
· Matthew 20:1-16; (v. 12).
· Ephesians 1:3
· Romans 8:17
· John 17:5, 22
· Ephesians 5:25-27
· Jude 24
· 1 John 3:2
· Romans 8:29
Matthew 20:1-16 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. (2) And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. (5) Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. (6) And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? (7) They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. (8) So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. (9) And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. (10) But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11) And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, (12) Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. (13) But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14) Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. (15) Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? (16) So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
Romans 8:17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
Ephesians 5:25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
1 John 3:1-2 “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (2) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Jude 1:24 “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”
Can there be degrees of holiness, degrees of perfection, degrees of faultlessness, degrees of glorification?
3. It makes service to Christ a legal, mercenary thing.
· It promotes pride.
· Threatens punishment.
· Inspires by reward.
4. It robs Christ of the glory of His grace and makes room for human flesh to boast before God.
If I have done something that puts God almighty in obligation to reward me, then I have a right to boast in His presence. If I do something by which I merit a higher standing than you in glory, why shouldn’t I boast about it?
5. The doctrine of degrees in glory has the obnoxious odor of works about it; and there is no room for works in the kingdom of grace. — You cannot worship God on an altar of hewn stone. — There is no room for your baggage of works in the strait and narrow way. (Exodus 20:25).
Exodus 20:25 “And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”
Have a listen to hear him flesh out his reasons why we should oppose this doctrine.
Edited to add a video of Don Fortner preaching about the subject.