English blog

the X-factor

10-10-2014 - Posted by Andre Piet

images.12 It was during the forum discussion at the RevaGo Conference that a question from the audience was raised about the relationship between grace and wages. These are two concepts that are at great odds with each other, because grace means: gratuitous favor, while wage maintains an  integral relationship to work (Rom.4:4). If it is true that salvation is a matter of grace, how can Scripture then say that for believers is reserved a wreath, as an award for what has been performed by them? Did Paul, himself, not race to get that wreath (1Cor.9:24,25)? Does faith begin with grace and end in performances? But was that not exactly Paul’s criticism of the Galatians: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal.3:3). In short, is it now grace alone, or not? The surprising answer to this question is that believers will, indeed, be rewarded for good works… which God prepared beforehand, as Ephesians 2:10 says. Not our works will be rewarded, but His works which He does through us. He works and believers are His tools. It looks as if the believers themselves do good works. With the eye or with a camera, it cannot be seen that God is working in them. But it is God who works in them to will and do what pleases Him (Phil.2:12,13). He motivates them (= to will) and He also gives them the power to accomplish (=to be effective). Two texts in 1 Corinthians 15 perfectly illustrate this principle. In verse 58:

So that, my beloved brethren, become settled, unmovable, superabounding in the work of the Lord always, being aware that your toil is not for naught in the Lord.

The Lord works abundantly through those who are unswerving in the message of the victory of Christ (:57). Please note: that it is the work of the Lord. But right after this, it is called “your toil”. Is that a contradiction? No. When a carpenter, with a hammer, drives a nail into the wood, is that the work of the hammer or of the carpenter? Everyone senses that in such a question a non-existing contradiction is created. The carpenter does the work and the hammer is his tool. Earlier in this chapter, Paul wrote (:10):

Yet, in the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace, which is in me, did not come to be for naught, but more exceedingly than all of them toil I – yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

Paul has toiled more than his fellow apostles. To the eye, that was true. But no more than that. This is why Paul hastens to add: “but not I, but the grace of God that is with me”. That is the decisive and crucial X-factor. Paul willed and could not, but pass-on to others the Evangel (9:16). The Good News message was his drive. He did so “gratuitously”. It was not his choice, he could not do otherwise; as it also is no accomplishment of a hammer to drive a nail into the wood. In the hand of the carpenter, the hammer cannot do otherwise. What at the bema (the honor podium; 2Cor.5:10) will be rewarded are not the works of man. By definition, they fall into the category of “wood, hay and straw” (1Cor.3:13).No, what will be awarded is the work that the Lord has been able to do through us. That is why we read of the twenty-four elders, in Revelation 4:10-11, that the crowns (laurel wreaths) they had received, they will cast them before the throne and say: “You, our Lord and God, are worthy to receive glory… “. The conclusion must be that the crowns, granted as a reward for what is performed by believers, is consistent and in harmony with the message of God’s grace. God rewards the work that He does through us.