I am teaching a hermeneutics class at my Bible college alma mater for a group of pastors and other ministers. During our discussion on interpretation of parables I found it necessary to teach quite extensively on many of Christ’s parables, for the author of the hermeneutics text that we are using seems to have failed to employ the principles that he had taught in the earlier chapters, namely the grammatical, historical, literal, and rhetorical interpretation of the text, when making reference to these parables.
I have not taken a tally, but I am convinced that many of Christ’s parables have much to do with eternal rewards. This led to a discussion on motivations to serving Christ.
As a simple and quick project I assigned my class to speak to at least 3 Christians and ask them their motivations for service to God. I have done the same.
1) Bring God glory
2) To have a better relationship with Him
3) To learn more about Him
1) Love for God
2) Personal benefit (temporal?)
3) Family benefits from it
1) Love of Christ
2) Joy and satisfaction
3) God’s glory
This third person added this element:
I would NOT say gratitude!
I think it is VERY unbiblical
Many people say that we are to serve Christ because He did this or that for us.
Paul says here serve out of Joy
I was asked by this third person what my greatest motivations are. I could not pick three:
1) for God's glory
2) out of gratitude for eternally saving me
3) eternal rewards
4) fear of temporal chastening and rebuke at the judgment seat of Christ (the bema)
5) The meaning and purpose that it gives
Many people in the Traditionalist camp would say that we must work for Jesus without any self-concerned motivations whatsoever, but merely for "God’s glory". First I would say that they are being much more humble then the apostle Paul was:
1 Cor 9:24-27
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Next I would say that they have a very narrow view on what it means to glorify God. Any motivations that God gives us for Christian service ought to be considered as God-glorifying! When Jesus says:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
He is giving a grand and God-ordained motivation for Christian service! God knows what motivates a man, and He put such a motivation in his heart when He created man. What is the reasoning that Jesus gives?
For where our treasures are, there our heart will be also.
Eternal rewards, the opportunities for the conditional honors, glories, and inheritance in the kingdom of God, are motivations par excellence. God knows how to command the affections of His people!
Being self-concerned and motivated in this arena is glorifying to God, and it is a shame that the Traditionalist does not see things this way. He is so busy trying to guard his conception of God, that he throws away the commands of Christ to lay up rewards for ourselves in heaven; for he, the Traditionalist, with false humility, regards the conscious pursuing of rewards as inherently (and sinfully?) selfish.
This mindset pervades Traditionalist theology!
The gospel of John consistently and constantly pictures eternal life as an absolutely free gift to be desired, and offers this gift as the motivation for faith in Christ! It would only take someone reading the gospel of John with his eyes open to come to the conclusion that the supreme motivation for faith in Christ is to appropriate for oneself the absolutely free gift of eternal life!
But for the Traditionalist, the motivation for faith in Christ as the reception of eternal life, eternal well-being, is sinfully anthropocentric. Thus with their skewed and narrow views on God’s glory, they “reject the commandment of God, that [they] may keep [their] tradition.” (Mark 7:9).
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
Jesus in essence is saying “Men and women! You have a need, you thirst! Quench your eternal thirst by believing in Me!”
Whatever God, in His word, puts forth as motivations for faith and actions glorifies Him, and are beautiful and legitimate incentives that should not be spurned, rejected, or impugned.
The Traditionalist has long used his argument and charges of "anthropocentricism" to sully and disparage both Free Grace theology and Christ's commands. When Jesus says be concerned about laying up rewards in heaven; when Jesus says be motivated to trust Me by the guaranteed prospect of receiving the grand and absolutely free gift of eternal life, He means what He says. The New Testament is streaming and cohesed by the theme of eternal rewards! This is a huge motivation for Christian living and ought to be heralded as such far and wide from our pulpits!
For an interesting discussion, go to Rewards and Selfishness, an excerpt from Zane Hodges on my personal blog.
Antonio da Rosa