Watchman Nee on Rewards
Let not any reader think that it is enough to be saved and not seek the reward as well. To every truly born-again person, the Lord is calling that one to pursue after spiritual excellence—to win the reward. And it should be a natural thing for him to pursue and win. Yet not for his personal benefit, but to gain the Lord’s heart and pleasure. For whoever is rewarded by the Lord has delighted His heart. Just as a sinner should be saved, so a believer should be rewarded also. Reward to a believer is as important as salvation to a sinner. If a saint fails to achieve the reward, it does not mean that he has sacrificed his profit, it only indicates that his life is not holy and his labor is not faithful and that he has not manifested the Lord Jesus Christ during his pilgrim days.
Recent teachings have swung towards two extremes. Some reckon salvation to be so difficult that it demands people to do a great deal. Thus they nullify the substitutionary death and the work of redemption of our Lord Jesus. Such teaching puts the entire responsibility on man and overlooks what the Bible says about our being saved by grace through faith. Some others think that since all is of grace, then all who believe in the Lord Jesus will not only be saved but also be rewarded with glory and rule in the future with the Lord Jesus. And hence, they lay the entire responsibility on God and neglect what is observed in the Scriptures that some believers—though they be saved—will suffer loss, yet as through fire (1 Cor. 3.15).
Yet there is a most balanced teaching here. Before a sinner believes, the Lord bears His responsibility; after the sinner believes, he must bear the responsibility himself. The work of salvation is totally done by the Lord for him, so it is enough just to believe. But this matter of reward depends wholly on the believer’s works, and therefore to believe alone is not adequate. As a sinner cannot be saved by good works, so a saint cannot be rewarded by only believing. Salvation is based on faith; reward is judged by works. Without faith, there is no salvation; without works, there is no reward. If we carefully study the New Testament, we shall perceive how clearly God separates salvation and reward. Salvation is for sinners, but reward is for saints. Both are divinely ordered: sinners should be saved and saints should be rewarded. Overlooking either of them will incur great loss. Let us therefore not mix salvation and reward together.
What is salvation? It is to not perish but to have eternal life. This is what we all know. Yet this does not decide our positions in glory since those are in fact determined by rewards. What is reward? From the Scriptures we can see that reward is to reign with Christ during the millennial kingdom. Every believer has eternal life; but not every believer will be rewarded by being given the right to reign with Christ. The kingdom of the heavens in the Gospel according to Matthew points to the heavenly part of the millennial kingdom—that is to say, it points to our reigning with Christ. Every careful reader of the Gospel can see the difference between eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens. To have eternal life requires only faith, but to gain the kingdom of the heavens demands violence to oneself (see Matt. 11.12). So that to be saved is to have eternal life, while to be rewarded is to enter into the kingdom of the heavens.
Labels: eternal life