Index by Subject

Worthy to Obtain

Every believer should be familiar with the words of Christ as they touch on the sentencing phase of Judgment Day. Where the wicked will hear, “Depart me from me all you workers of iniquity,” the faithful hope to be told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joys of your lord.”

Perhaps, we are sometimes led to believe it doesn’t matter what we do at all, even in regard to our soul’s salvation, but the sentence of Christ surely emphasizes it is more blessed to do well than to work iniquity. There are many spiritual blessings to be found in Jesus, but those that are eternal are the ones that only the worthy obtain–not by worth of personal merit, but by the interaction of faith and grace. Heaven is a prize, a gift, a reward, an inheritance and a a treasure. Thus it is an objective worth striving after and one which only the faithful and few will attain.

While God has not given to us every material thing we may want and while we may never attain the earthly prosperity of our neighbors, God has blessed us with access to every kind of spiritual blessing that exists, and that is true, lasting wealth (Ephesians 1:3-6). As his elect, we are adopted children enjoying the good pleasure of his grace and acceptance, and nothing that would elevate our spirits is withheld from us. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (First John 3:1)!

We are richly blessed with the greatest gifts:

  • With salvation, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
  • With forgiveness, for “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
  • With guidance through “the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
  • With fellowship, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
  • With burden-sharing, “For [his] yoke is easy and [his] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

All these blessings are to be found in and only in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29); in science, philosophy, atheism, carnality, there is no such blessing and no such promise, so that entrance into the body of Christ through faithful baptism gives our lives eternal purpose–an objective. We mean to gain heaven, understanding our sins make it impossible to earn our way there, but that God’s grace invites us to become worthy of eternal life through obedient, trusting faith and forgiveness.

When asked about the resurrection, Jesus replied that some would be “counted worthy” to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead to life, becoming equal to angels and sons of God (see Luke 20:35-36). Although we comprehend that humility requires us to understand our own personal unworthiness, the extension of the gospel invitation gives us the opportunity to become worthy by grace through faith when we obey the call and submit to Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 6:11).

That is what justification is all about and it is nothing about which we should be ashamed, nor should we deceive ourselves into thinking that our lifestyle and decisions about sin have no effect upon it (see Galatians 2:17).

Eternal Spiritual Blessing Is A Prize

Even in the technologically advanced twenty-first century, rural counties still have fairs in which people submit their produce or crafts with the hope of winning a prize–usually a blue ribbon or some other sign of victory. And believe it or not, eternal life is designated a prize in the New Testament:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)

Paul is using the footrace as an illustration for what the Christian is trying to accomplish in his rededicated life–to run the course of human experience with endurance in order to enjoy the ultimate prize (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

When he wrote the Philippians, he did not yet imagine himself to have reached the finish line and so he was deeply focused upon his training, self-discipline, and even the rules of setting aside sin and pressing forward. Paul was not bashful about encouraging other Christians to run in such a way that they might win rather than lose (First Corinthians 9:24-27). Salvation is a prize–it is the only prize that matters in life and we should never be any more ashamed than the Holy Spirit about presenting it in those terms. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (First Corinthians 9:24 ESV)!

Eternal Life Is A Gift

Yet not only is salvation a prize, but it is also a gift, which implies different things, for even with all our effort, eternal life is the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, something we could never earn by virtue of personal merit: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).

This gift of God is like a supply of running water that is never exhausted (see John 4:10)–a stream of mercy that washes away the iniquities of the past and which provides mercy for the sins we repent of in the future (see Acts 2:38). It is an indescribable gift of righteousness (see First Corinthians 9:15, Romans 5:17), because, on our own, we could never attain self-rightness or legal justification (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Some may imagine a conflict in the images of salvation variously as a prize or a gift, for one seems to be based on merit, while the other is not, but there is no conflict, especially in light of the last verse read.

Salvation is a prize after which we strive, all the while understanding that we could never attain it on our own–seizing that victory is wholly dependent upon the gift of God’s merciful assistance. That is where God strikes the balance between his grace and our faith.

Eternal Life Is A Reward

More often than any other image, eternal life is described as a reward. Great is the reward in heaven for those saints who are persecuted like the prophets (see Matthew 5:12), but that reward is forfeited by those who fast, pray and donate just to be seen of men (see 6:1-18). Jesus promised that showing hospitality to a prophet or righteous man would bring reward (see Matthew 10:41-42), a reward, then, obviously connected to our behavior (Matthew 16:24-27).

It cannot be denied that judgment is according to works, nor that God intends to reward the faithful on this basis (Colossians 3:23-25). Just as the prize was yet to be obtained fully, so this reward can be forfeited; “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35). “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Colossians 2:18).

As Moses looked to the reward, we gain ours the same way–by esteeming even the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Earth (see Hebrews 11:26). We want a full reward and not to lose the things we have worked for (see Second John 8), for when Jesus comes again, it will be to reward every one according to his work (see Revelation 22:12).

Eternal Life Is An Inheritance

The notion of a heavenly reward is even balanced when we realize our reward is an inheritance–wealth created by someone else and willed to us as his beneficiaries. It is God “who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12 ESV).

We are heirs according to the same promise made so long ago to Abraham, and the estate of our benefactor is beyond comparison (First Peter 1:3-5). Our reward is an eternal inheritance which cannot be used up or stolen away; it is wealth that we could never accumulate on our own because sin precludes it (see Hebrews 9:15).

Eternal Life Is A Treasure

It is truly a treasure which we store up in heaven when we decide to invest our hearts and lives with God and when we submit our will and ambitions to his (see Matthew 6:19-21, 19:21). Heaven is a spiritual place, described for us in terms we can understand so that its worth becomes clear–streets of gold, gates of pearl, walls of precious stones.

Every faithful deed is an investment in the extra-real estate in which Jesus has gone to make our reservations among the many rooms of his father’s house (see John 14:1-6). Eternal life in that kingdom is a pearl itself of great price, for which we ought to be willing to save and sacrifice.

Worthiness

There is a reason the Holy Spirit used such disparate terminology to describe eternal life in Heaven. It is important to our motivation and humility that we maintain the balance of divine grace and human faith, so that we do not become spiritually slothful or excessively self-reliant.

We must never forget that all men sin and the wages of sin is death and because of the first sin we commit, we are forever incapable of self-righteousness and independent justification (see Romans 3:23, 6:23). We learn to lean on God for grace and mercy, but never do we throw up our hands and slip into spiritual complacency, for we were recreated by God to be his workmanship and to prove his will in the Earth (see Ephesians 2:10).

Thus we are saved by grace through faith–God shows the grace and we respond by faith, for no man is justified by faith only or by personal perfection, but by a faithful and daily response to the gospel call (see Ephesians 1:18).

Personal unworthiness understood, we can be counted worthy of Christ when our faith becomes active and obedient. When we love him enough to take up his cross and follow (see Matthew 10:37-38). When we heed his invitation rather than dismiss it or make excuses (see Matthew 22:8). As in the parable of the prodigal son, it is when we acknowledge our own unworthiness to be God’s son that he embraces us and grants us reconciliation (see Luke 15:21).

That is the reason that Paul beseeches “you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1), to strive together for the faith of the gospel in a way that is worthy of it (see Philippians 1:27) and pleasing to God (see Colossians 1:10) who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (see 1 Thessalonians 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:5).

That is the delicate balance between prize and gift, reward and inheritance. We seek treasure in heaven which we do not deserve on our merit, but which requires us to exert the effort of faith. We strive after God so that we can walk with Jesus in white, having become worthy on his terms and by his blood (see Revelation 3:5). At the end of the day, even when we have walked worthy and done well, we are but unprofitable servants who have merely done what was our duty, but that is all that God expects of us (see Luke 17:7-10).

Conclusion

There are so many spiritual blessings in Christ, but those that are eternal are the ones that only the worthy obtain–not by worth of personal merit, but by the cooperation of faith and grace. Heaven is a prize, a gift, a reward, an inheritance and a a treasure. It is an objective worth striving after and one which only the faithful few will enjoy (see Matthew 7:21-27).