By J. G. Morrison, D.D.
FAITH AND REWARDS
Some devout students of the Bible do not believe that the faithful Christian is to come into judgment. They base their contention on John 5: 24, which says: “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” In the Greek, the word “condemnation” is “judgment,” and basing their ideas on this statement, they deny that the Christian shall be summoned to God’s great Judgment Day, to have his life reviewed.
We disagree with this. It seems to us that the King James translators have come nearer to the actual meaning of the term “judgment” in this statement of the Apostle John, than these modern commentators. It means rather, that they will not come to the Judgment Day to have the sin matter investigated. The sin question, thank God, can be settled, and settled completely here in this life. In so far as the judgment might refer to a consideration of the sin problem in the human soul, we fully agree that no real Christian will ever come into judgment. But, there is an abundance of scripture that amply proves that every Christian is coming to judgment, not, as we understand it, to have his relation to the sin problem considered, but rather to have the works of his Christian life examined, and the extent and nature of his rewards decided upon.
Read Romans 14: 10, beginning at the last clause: “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Also read 2 Corinthians 5: 10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he bath done, whether it be good or bad.” Then again, in Revelation we read: “And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20: 12).
Here, we are clearly taught, that all are to come to Christ’s judgment seat. That we are there each to give account of himself. The verdict rendered is not to deal with the matter of salvation, but is to concern itself with the works that Christian soul has been performing.
We can readily see then, that the judgment day is coming for the Christian as for every one else. God has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world. Every one’s life shall be reviewed by the all-discerning eye of the living Christ. From each lip shall be retold the life that we have lived. All the sinful life up to the time that we became a real child of God, will be graciously pardoned through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and hidden away in the forgiveness of God. For that portion, we will not have to give an account. Only the portion that we have lived since getting converted, will be thus reviewed. But for that part there is a record. Every deed, every thought, every aspiration, every ambition, every love, every hate, every fear, every longing, every coming, every going, every downsitting, every uprising, all our speech, all our talk, all of our life, inward, outward, public, private, hidden and open, must be accounted for to Him. He is the investigator. He is the reviewer. He is the judge. He will give sentence.
There seems to be little doubt that the Scriptures teach a great judgment day for the Church. This is to be followed, of course, by the judgment of all other classes, but it is concerning this judgment of the Church that we are now exercised. This judgment will not deal with the sin question, because for the real Christian, that has been forever settled in this life. There is not a real follower of Jesus on the earth, but who knows whether he is this moment saved, or whether he is lost. The witness of the Spirit makes that very clear. Either this moment the Spirit witnesses to every child of God that he is saved, or else he is devoid of that witness, and realizes that he is lost. The same thing can be stated concerning the unbelievers of this earth. Down deep in the heart of the sinful soul is the consciousness that he is lost. The judgment day does not have to take these matters up at all. They have been settled right here in this world. Every man knows, when he leaves this earth, whether he is acceptable with God, or whether he is not on speaking terms with the Most High. It has been a very popular teaching for years that the judgment day was to decide who was saved and who was lost, but we insist that no such teaching obtains in the Word.
The great day of God shall be for the estimation of rewards. The standing, position, promotion, or preferment, that shall be meted out to one of God’s children shall be there decided upon. If there is any sin left on him, when he passes through the portals of death, he will, of course, not be in the judgment of the church. He will then be included in the judgment of the classes outside the real church of Christ.
Many people feel that salvation is a reward. It is not so stated in the Bible. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” No reward is ever accorded a man for the possession of a gift. A gift involves responsibility, but does not call for any reward. Rewards are based on works. Salvation is based on faith. Repentance and faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, brings the gift of salvation. When carried through to full salvation on account of the Holy Ghost’s baptism, this marvelous gift of God, that is, salvation from all sin through Jesus Christ, settles and solves the sin problem. Then the question of what a person does, how he works, at what he employs his time, how faithful he is, how devoted, what degree of eagerness he develops in the work of the kingdom, how much enthusiasm he displays, how much sacrifice, how much suffering, how many souls he endeavors to win, how many burdens he carries, and how willingly he carries them, his ease, his comforts, his pleasures, in short everything pertaining to his life as a Christian, in other words, “his works,” shall all be passed in review before the penetrating eyes of Jesus Christ, now become his judge, and then, the degree of reward that he shall have, is to be decided upon.
In the Bible description of the judgment, it is mentioned -that “the books were opened.” Consequently, there is some sort of a record being kept by the powers above. It further states that out of those things written there, men were judged “according to their works.” Hence the deeds, the doings, the achievements of mankind, shall furnish the basis of the estimation of rewards. Is it not thinkable that God has a great mechanism of the skies, resembling somewhat the combination of a dictaphone and a motion picture machine, and that it is in operation all the time recording our deeds, thoughts, aspirations and feelings? Is it not possible that the judgment day may consist of, at least in part, a reproduction of that record? If, as the Lord Jesus stated, “for every idle word we must give account in the day of judgment,” then surely all those words are recorded, and will be reproduced. What could be more startling, not to say horrifying, than to have all the record of one’s past Christian life turned loose upon one, from the “loud speaker” of the judgment day, and to see one’s own acts, and thoughts, reproduced on the screen, and for one to stand by, and witness his own life enacted out before himself and Jesus Christ! And what additional horror might be involved, if that reproduction is to take place before others, whether the company be great or small, selected or promiscuous. Yet, readers, some such disclosures will have to take place, in order to fulfill the requirements of that great day.
How will the record (and mind you, we mean the Christian record, devoid of all sin) of the best among us look, in the light of the flaming face of the Son of God? Have not many among us just skimmed the sin line, weeks and even months at a time. We are granting now that you did not step over that line into actual transgression, but you edged along so very closely to it that you were almost under condemnation more times than you care to admit. Instead of taking steps to get as far from the sin line as we could, in-stead of resolutely cultivating “all the fulness of God,” were we not satisfied to be free from actual transgression, and to be able to say, without reproof from the Spirit, that we were “saved and sanctified”! This continued for months and in some cases, years! Well, we insist that you will see that record at the judgment day! How will you feel, when His eyes and your eyes are both fixed upon that record?
Has there been anything approaching stinginess among us? Of course, we do not mean enough to shut the gates of glory in our faces, but just a bit of squirming, and wriggling, and arguing back, when the Lord asked for money? Have we all, always, given as much as the Spirit prompted us to give, in the needy cause of the kingdom? Have we ever talked back, and held up the needs of the family, or told the Holy Ghost that we had to have a new tire for that car, or a new Buick in place of that old Ford, or that we had to put an addition on the house, or refurnish the place, or get new clothes for ourselves, and take a trip for our healthy or a multitude of other things, when the pressure from God was put on us for giving? Oh, dear, no, reader, we did not say that you were a backslider for doing this, and that you would not appear at the Church’s judgment at all! . All we are alleging is that you will see every stingy spell, that you ever had, reproduced by the mighty kaleidoscope of the heavens, and we are just asking you how you will feel when the pale radiance of the wounds of Jesus shall light up that excuse that you offered, and which let you off by paying five dollars, when He desired you so badly to pay fifty, at the great investigation over there?
What have we done about sacrificing? Has any reader shed a drop of blood for Jesus? Has any one been whipped for His sake? Who has suffered persecution, so that property or life has been endangered, or confiscated? Are we not, largely speaking, almost devoid of that element in Christianity that made it shine most resplendently in its primitive days? Have we not almost universally evaded inconveniences, and side-stepped any sort of hardships? What pastor has not known that a wet night, or a cold day, would almost deprive him of an audience, and that among the holiness churches? All this hesitation, vacillation, fear of facing hardships, hesitation over inconveniences, all, all, will be on record there! And when the worthies in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, who “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, received their dead raised to life again, suffered cruel mockings and scourgings, were in bonds and imprisonments, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, wandered in sheep-skins and goatskins, were afflicted, destitute and tormented and of whom the world was not worthy,” come marching down the streets of gold, and approach the judgment throne, how are we, the twentieth century holiness people, going to feel, when we can show nothing but ease, and comfort, and convenience, and softness and self-indulgence, and good homes, and plenty of food, and automobiles, and clothes, and when we never shed a drop of blood, nor suffered a stripe, or an imprisonment, or were beaten, ‘or whipped, or even went out to prayermeeting on a wet night, or attended church on a cold day, or went out of our way to call on a sick person, or to visit a prisoner, or to seek a soul, or anything else, much, except to get up in meeting, and say that we were “saved and sanctified”! Reader, reader, all this is on record! “The day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire!”
What sort of a service have we given the Lord? Have we ever testified perfunctorily, prayed without any unction, just because we had done it so many times that we could do it without really touching the fire of the Lord? Have we preached in a stereotyped manner, just because we had preached so much, that we were able to do it, without agonizing before the Lord? Have we said the same grace for ten years, just because we had so little of the sense of the immediate presence of the Holy Ghost, that our appetites overshadowed the consciousness of gratitude to God? Well, all that we affirm is, that if you are not actually a backslider, you are sure to face all that stereotyped perfunctoriness when the awful day of God’s judgment comes!
In the light of our record, reader, when “the day” has thoroughly revealed and declared our “works,” what do you think our rewards will be? If we have not, in the midst of our indolence, stinginess, and ease, totally broken with God, and backslidden from the salvation of Jesus, there can be no doubt but that we will get into heaven. The admission to heaven, is, we feel sure, based on the solution of the sin question, and the salvation of Jesus Christ, settled that. But after we get into heaven, what, rewards will we have? Have we almost generally builded “wood, hay and stubble,” and will our works be declared to be so few, and so faulty, as to merit the flames of judgment? Will we be among the ones who have our works all burned up, and ourselves just barely getting in “so as by fire,” or as a recent translation puts it, “scarcely escaping through the flames”? This is a solemn thought. This ought to stir every truly sanctified heart.
There are some among us who assert that if one believes in and trusts the atoning blood of Jesus, that all the wondrous possessions of heaven are to be handed him, gratis, on the merits of that blood. We dissent from this view. We assert that the Bible does not teach this, but that rather it teaches that only sin and carnality are forgiven and cleansed by the blood. That after forgiveness and cleansing, then everything that occurs is to be judged at that great day. That our position, standing, preferment, place in heaven, will depend on the record that we put up, after we have been converted and sanctified. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, and if it begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? (1 Peter 4: 17, 18).
At this point the matter of achieving faith comes into this chapter. What a sorry record almost all of us have offered to Him, in the matter of faith. Though it has been reasonably good for our own salvation, yet all will admit that when it comes to the matter of accomplishing things, we have lamentably fallen down. With the scriptural disclosures as to what faith is (that we have endeavored to set forth in this little book) before us, we can see that the faith for achievement is within our reach. Though we may be surrounded by a civilization that does not permit of that degree of personal sacrifice that was characteristic of the apostolic period, nevertheless we can emulate their examples. By faith, we can enter into a larger and better Christian experience than we have ever heretofore known. By faith, we can pray down a blessed revival onto the church of which we are members. By faith, we can enter the neighbor’s home, even when he doesn’t want us to do so, and precipitate our spiritualized personalities upon him. By faith, we can cross the water and release God onto the foreign fields, and mightily help the missionary cause. By faith, we can ask for money (assuming that we have honestly given all we can ourselves) and hand it over to God’s cause. By faith, we can grapple with that wayward boy, and bring conviction down on him. By faith, we can enter into the sufferings of Jesus, and help a little to carry the cross that He still bears, though He is at the throne of God. By faith, we can block the roads to hell with prayers, entreaties, meetings, longings, yearnings, “and strong crying and tears!” By faith, we can refuse to spend another cent more than we feel is our just due, for reasonable care of ourselves, and family, and in such amounts as we will be glad to give God an account for at the judgment, and then put these means at the disposal of the church to spread the gospel. By faith, we can pray against sin. By faith, we can utter our protest against the worldliness of our day, both by conforming to the demands of the church in dress, and in exhorting others to do the same. By faith, we can pray revivals onto distant cities. By faith, we can war with Satan till we weep over India, grieve our hearts out over Africa, bear the burden of South America, hold our own dear country of America up before God, and carry a heartache for it in our bosoms, like we would carry a sick child, and cry and BELIEVE till God precipitates the shower of latter rain onto us in a blessed and world-wide revival.
Let all these be written down in the record of the skies, and it will be seen that the soul that believes, and believes, and BELIEVES, will bring things to pass till the “works” that are up there will be “gold, silver and precious stones.”