Earthly Service and Heavenly Rewards
He That Does Well Shall Receive a Reward (3:23-24a)
A. The Exhortation: Work Heartily in Spite of Injustice
1. Work heartily (Vs. 23)
a. Whatever you DO, DO heartily…
b. The first do is the normal word for “do.”
c. The second “do” is the word for “work” – energeo – to exert energy…
d. Whatever we DO (whatever the Lord leads us to do; whatever lot in life we find ourselves in) put energy into that job… into that career…
e. And do it from the soul…
f. It is a present imperative indicating an ongoing command.
g. We are to continually be putting our energies into performing the tasks at hand at our job…
h. This means without slacking off… do it wholeheartedly…
2. This was addressed to SLAVES.
a. The system of slavery was built upon injustice.
b. There really wasn’t anything “fair” about slavery.
c. Some people happened to be born into slavery; others were taken into slavery when their country was defeated by a stronger nation; others were kidnapped and made slaves.
d. It is the way the world operates: the strong and powerful take advantage of the weak.
e. And Paul never told the slaves to revolt against their masters. Instead, he told them to obey.
f. And not only obey, but in whatever chores they were given to do, to do them with all their might… to put their heart and soul into the job… no matter how menial… and not to slack off…
g. Some of the work slaves were expected to do was demeaning and degrading… insulting… humiliating.
h. Yet Paul’s instruction to them was to DO what their master said, and to do the job heartily…
i. Even though it wasn’t fair! They were being taken advantage of… treated with injustice… and cruelly at times.
3. This principle transcends the immediate context.
a. We noted last week that Paul couches his words in language appropriate to the social and economic system of his day: the master/slave relationship.
b. But this is certainly applicable to the economic system of our day too: capitalism.
c. There is a lot of injustice in capitalism too. (The best system on earth… BUT… it isn’t perfect.)
d. There are a lot of things that just aren’t fair in this country.
e. When it comes to privilege and opportunity, all men are NOT created equal… and that’s not fair. It is our ideal, but not exactly a reality.
f. Welcome to the real world. Of course things aren’t fair in a world run by fallen, sinful creatures. Satan is the god of this world. What did you expect?
g. But in spite of the injustices we may be called to endure, God wants us to accept our lot in life… and to do our best wherever He has planted us!
h. Think of the context in Col. 3
• Slaves were expected to obey their masters… even when slavery was built on injustice and many of the masters were cruel, ungodly men!
• Wives were told to submit to their husbands. There are many husbands who treat their wives cruelly… they are creeps who take advantage of the weaker vessel… and trample over them just because they can. The Bible tells the wife to “submit” — even when it isn’t fair! Some wives suffer much abuse in their relationship to their husband.
• Children are told to obey their parents… and sometimes parents aren’t fair to their kids either. Sometimes parents are childish and selfish… cruel… abusive. Yet God tells the children to obey…Stop and think about the thousands of children growing up in homes where their parents are drug addicts… alcoholics… care only for themselves… that’s not fair either!
• And maybe at YOUR job today things aren’t fair. Maybe the raises and promotions are given to those with connections rather than to those who do the best job… maybe there is racial bias… or reverse racial bias… maybe there you are being taken advantage of because you work hard… so they keep on piling it up on your plate while others slack off…
• Who ever said that life in this world was fair?
• Yet the Bible exhortation stands: “obey, and do your job with all your might…”
• That is often a bitter pill to swallow for those experiencing injustice and cruelty in this life.
• Knowing how difficult these words would be to those who suffered in this life, Paul encourages such believers to take their eyes off themselves and to focus on things above.
B. The Motivation # 1: Ye Serve Christ
1. The reason was given too: FOR they were really serving the Lord… not men.
2. The earthly master may not be worthy of loyalty… but do it for the Lord. He is worthy. Keep your eyes upon Him.
3. Paul seeks to raise the Christian slave ABOVE his earthly circumstances. You are serving Christ… who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
a. You are NOT a servant of men.
b. The eyes of the Christian slave were not to be on the earthly master, but on the Lord.
c. Col. 3:1, 4 – That’s our real life!
d. Our earthly condition is just a temporary sojourn… life here is but a vapor… and often unfair.
e. Dwelling on our earthly condition causes us to focus on self… and that often produces bitterness, resentment, anger, frustration, depression, and even rebellion. “Poor me!”
f. DWELL on your heavenly position in Christ… that’s glorious… That results in joy, fulfillment, and contentment with whatever lot we find ourselves in down here.
g. Attitude is everything. Dwell ABOVE the earthly… abide above where Christ is. That is our true home… our true abiding place… This world is not our home.
h. It is possible to have the joy of the Lord in our hearts even if our earthly condition is cruel and unjust.
4. This ELEVATES one’s service from the mundane routine and drudgery of everyday life… to a heavenly ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. The Christian slave is not serving his earthly master… but is serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
b. The wife with a cruel husband is not really serving him, but the Lord. (vs. 18)
c. The worker is not really serving his foreman or manager.
d. Being conscious of our real PURPOSE for being elevates our earthly routines into heavenly service.
e. “I am not digging this ditch for my foreman… who is constantly using the Lord’s name in vain. I am digging this ditch… or teaching this class… or crunching these numbers… or caring for these kids… FOR the Lord Jesus! I am serving Him! Therefore, I will do my best!”
C. The Motivation # 2: Ye Shall Receive a Reward (vs. 24)
1. And not only are we serving the Lord Jesus, but we shall be rewarded by the Lord Jesus one day!
2. The second motivating factor given is the Bema Seat…
a. There we shall one day in the future be rewarded for being FAITHFUL and DILIGENT in whatever lot in life we find ourselves today.
b. Our eyes should be on the Lord Jesus… and our attention should be drawn to the Bema Seat… where all the wrongs of this life will be dealt with in perfect JUSTICE, once and for all!
c. Every believer in Christ is enrolled in God’s university and this life is a test. Our tests will be corrected at the Bema Seat. There it will be exposed what we did right and what we did wrong…
d. Whatever we do, we are to do it heartily as UNTO the LORD… because it is the LORD who will give all their just deserts.
e. We should consider our earthly lives as a time of preparation for the day when we stand before the Lord…
f. In that day, our lives, attitudes, motives, intentions, and deeds will be examined by the Lord.
g. Eternal rewards will be given to those who were selfless, sacrificial, and dedicated to Christ and His Body, the local church.
h. A loss of rewards will be the lot of those believers who were selfish, worldly, carnal, and squandered their spiritual gifts and talents on themselves and their own families… and had but a casual relationship to Christ and His Body…
Description of the Bema Seat
A. What the Bema Seat Is:
1. II Cor. 5:10 – we must ALL stand before the Bema seat.
a. Bema = a raised place mounted by steps; a platform; a tribune; the official seat of a judge; a structure resembling a throne which Herod built in the theatre at Caesarea, and from which he used to view the games and make speeches to the people. (Thayer)
b. In the Grecian games, the old arena contained a raised platform on which the umpire or judge sat. From that platform, he rewarded all the winners. (Olympics – gold, silver, bronze stand together.)
c. The Bema is the place every Christian will one day stand before the Lord… and our performance as a believer is going to be judged.
2. The Bema Seat is to be distinguished from the Great White Throne.
a. Neither judgment has as its purpose to determine one’s destiny. That has already been determined.
b. The judgment seat of Christ takes place IN Heaven. It is for believers only.
c. The Great White Throne is for unbelievers only. EVERYONE who stands before the Great White Throne is cast into the Lake of Fire.
d. Both judgment seats are to determine rewards: a level of glory in heaven or a level of punishment in the Lake of Fire.
e. JUSTICE is meted out at the judgment seats.
3. The Christian will receive a reward at the Bema Seat.
a. Col. 3:24 – the faithful believer will receive the reward of the inheritance.
b. The Christian is an heir to eternal rewards… and those rewards are according to our works.
c. Rev. 22:12 – “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
d. Salvation is according to grace.
e. Rewards are according to our works… whatever we have done… whether it is good or bad… right or wrong… for God or self… in the flesh or in the Spirit.
f. It will all be made manifest one day.
4. The Bema Seat occurs when Christ returns.
a. I Cor. 4:5 – when the Lord comes, He will judge our hearts…
• When Christ returns, He returns to the clouds and we are caught up to heaven with Him.
• There in heaven, we stand before the Bema Seat… and when we return with Him at the Second Coming… we are already crowned and rewarded for service in the Millennium.
• While there will be some sadness and regret associated with the Bema, it is primarily a day of rejoicing!
» It is sort of like a graduation day…
» Everyone in this class graduates… but some did better than others.
» Every man is praised for the good that he did… good works done in the power of the HOLY SPIRIT and with a good attitude… for God’s glory.
• Some lived a carnal life and will not receive much praise… there will be some reward.
• Others lived a spirit filled life and will receive many rewards… crowns…
• This occurs at the coming of Christ for the church.
b. Rev. 22:12 – Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me!
c. II Tim.4:8 – “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
• Paul knew that he had a reward coming to him… a crown.
• He would receive that reward “in that day”… the day of His coming.
5. At the Bema Seat, Christ judges more than our works
a. I Cor. 3:13 – What SORT it is the kind or quality of the work.
b. Even good works can be graded… good, better, best!
c. Was it wood, hay, and stubble? Or gold, silver, and precious stones? (Withstand fire or not?)
• Some of our works will NOT stand up to the fire in that day. Some will be burned up as useless chaff.
• It may not be EVIL, but a waste of God’s time.
• The saints gather together for prayer every Wednesday. The Lord may just ask you, “Why weren’t you there?”
• The saints gather to study the Bible for Sunday school. The Lord may ask you, “Was a little extra sleep really necessary?”
• The Bible says that we ought to be sharing the gospel with those around us. If we are not, the Lord may ask you WHY in that day.
• God gave you spiritual gifts and talents to be used to edify the Body of Christ. Read I Cor. 12. If you are not serving and functioning in the Body of Christ, the Lord is going to demand an explanation from you in that day.
• God gave us His precious Word. He told us it is more valuable than fine gold… more to be desired then honey… more necessary than physical food. If you are not reading it each day, How will you respond to the Lord when He asks, “Were you faithful in reading my Word? Did you demonstrate your love for Me by spending time with Me in My Word?” Why not?
• As a pastor I can’t MAKE anybody do anything. But I am duty bound before the Lord to WARN you that you will have to give an account of EVERYTHING you have done… and the things you did not do but SHOULD have…
• And the Risen Lord to whom we give an account is not the meek and mild carpenter of Galilee. He is the Lord of glory… read about Him in Rev. 1 – when John fell as a dead man before Him.
• I am not trying to scare anyone… but I am trying to shake us up out of spiritual apathy and laziness… and indifference to the things of the Lord… and to remind us that the Lord is COMING… and we must give an account to Him…
• I John 2:28 – Get ready NOW so that we will have confidence at His coming and not be ashamed! Some of our petty little excuses will cause a lot of shame in that day.
d. God gives us liberty to make choices in this life.
• We are free to make good choices. We are also free to make bad choices.
• God gives us the liberty to make choices in life, but He doesn’t give us the liberty to choose the consequences of those choices. Those consequences we will have to live with forever and ever.
• At the Bema seat Christ will examine and expose the QUALITY of the choices we made in this life… whether they be good or bad… what SORT of work!
• At the Bema Seat Christ will also judge the motives and intentions of our hearts behind all those choices.
• He will determine whether they were made for God or for self… whether it was in harmony with His Word or our own invention… whether they arose from a yielded heart or a heart full of self will… whether it was done as a sweet-smelling savor to Christ or done grudgingly and with a murmuring spirit…
• I Cor. 3:14-15 – The wood, hay, and stubble is burned up and there will be a loss of reward. (not of salvation)
• We can’t lose eternal life, but we sure can waste it… squander it on earth… and what a pity!
• Have you ever known a talented, gifted, intelligent young person who graduated from high school and COULD have gone on to do great things… but instead chose to hang around the street corner and waste his life away?
• It’s such a pity, because he had the brains to get into MIT or Harvard, but chose to waste his life… and will suffer the consequences of it later in life.
• Instead of being a doctor or a scientist… he ends up flipping hamburgers.
• This is sad in the earthly realm. It is an infinitely sad in the spiritual realm… when a believer squanders his Christian life… and wastes his life on foolish things with no eternal value. What a pity!
The Bema Seat and Justice
1. Heb. 6:10 – God is faithful and just… fair…
a. The Christian slaves of the first century had to deal with injustice every day. So do some of us.
b. God’s message (very loosely paraphrased) was “bloom wherever you are planted”… in spite of the injustice.
c. Remember that God will NEVER forget the works that we do in His name… even those works that went unnoticed on earth.
d. The fact that He is faithful and just is a two edged sword.
e. Nor does He forget the evil works that we have done in the flesh… even those evil thoughts, words, attitudes, intentions, motives, and deeds that no one knew about.
f. All will be dealt with in perfect, divine justice… and nothing escapes His notice.
2. At the Bema Seat, all shall get their just deserts—both the good servants and the bad.
a. All the cries of men throughout the ages like: ‘It’s not fair’ or “Why didn’t God DO something about my situation?”… will one day be put to rest forever.
b. ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’ God’s final judgment will settle that issue once and for all!
c. It’s not fair that I served the Lord faithfully all my life… I swept the floors at church… I shoveled the driveway… I taught Sunday school… I never missed a prayer meeting… and this other brother barely did anything for the Lord all these years… and he gets to go to the same heaven as I do? That’s not fair!
d. It’s not fair: I read my Bible every day, was faithful to the local church, witnessed whenever I had a chance, and walked the straight and narrow road… and this other brother lived a carnal life in the world… and seemed to do whatever he wanted… and he makes it to heaven too?!
e. It’s not fair! I preached Christ out of love… and this other brother preached Christ out of contention! It’s not fair that he makes it to heaven just like me!
f. It’s not fair that I break my back slaving away at my job and seem to have nothing to show for it… while the ungodly prosper in the world… they are healthy, wealthy, popular, glamorous, they seem happy, carefree, they seem to have it all…. while many believers have to struggle with poverty and even blindness or sickness! It’s not fair!
• Well, the carnal believer received his rewards in this life: earthly toys and trinkets which will all be burned up one day
• He was not willing to sacrifice himself in the service of the Lord in this life… But he suffers a loss of reward that he could have had in the life to come!
• He receives earthly laurels that soon fade away.
• You will receive a crown that fadeth NOT away! That’s the reward you will inherit!
g. Yes even Christians can get caught up in the “It’s not fair” attitude.
h. When we start thinking that way, it’s time for a serious attitude adjustment.
3. In one sense… from earth’s perspective, they ARE right. It isn’t fair!
a. If this world is all there is, then it really isn’t fair!
b. In fact, if this life is all there is, then dedicated, Christ centered Christians are of all men most miserable!
c. Why would any disciple want to pick up a cross and follow Christ if this life is all there is?!?!
d. BUT this life is NOT all there is! The resurrection proved that. And Christ is coming… and His reward is with Him!
e. From heaven’s perspective… in light of the Bema seat and the future rewards awaiting us, the suffering and injustices of this life are not even worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us!
f. One day, at the final judgment, all wrongs will be righted…. all the crooked things made straight… all the temporal, earthly injustices will be eternally rectified… once and for all!
g. So in the meantime, trust God in the meantime!
h. He is faithful AND just. He is faithful (He keeps His promises of future glory) and He is just (justice will prevail in that day!)
i. God’s justice and fairness on this issue is crystal clear: ‘Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap’. (Gal. 6:7) There are no exceptions to this rule. This is perfect justice… and even if our “reaping” doesn’t seem to match our sowing in this life, it will one day.
4. At the Bema Seat the FAITHFUL stewards will be given eternal rewards… and UNFAITHFUL stewards will receive a loss of rewards.
a. Those who endured injustice and cruelty in this life, and did so willingly, rejoicing in the Lord will be greatly rewarded.
b. It WILL be worth it all, when we see Jesus…
c. Rev. 4:10 – the rewards we receive for sacrificing self in this life are crowns that we cast at Jesus’ feet.
d. These crowns represent our capacity to serve and worship God… which will be our ETERNAL occupation!
e. Every believer will have SOME capacity to serve and worship God in heaven forever… but those who were faithful, diligent, Spirit filled, loving, gracious, used their gifts in the Body of Christ, witnessed to the lost, encouraged the brethren, and were Christlike will have a greater capacity… to honor, serve, worship, and glorify God forever.
f. Every star in the heavens shines… but some more brightly than others… and this will be the eternal condition of believers in glory!
g. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).
5. TODAY is the day to make things right. The Lord is coming… it could be today. I want us all to have confidence before Him at His coming.
a. Are we satisfied with a mediocre Christian life? Or are we sold out to Christ?
b. It is simple to slide by and fool men. To be content to be a churchgoer… a Bible reader… and to be content just to be saved.
c. But one day the Lord is coming to reward His servants. NOW is the time to get ready for that day.
d. If there is some besetting sin in your life that needs to go… get rid of it! If there are changes in your life that the Lord has been convicting you to make, then make them! If there is an area of service the Lord has been leading you in, then follow His leading! If God is calling you into full time Christian service… then don’t put it off any longer. Say, “Yes Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
e. The Lord is coming. I want me and all of us to have confidence at His coming, and not to be ashamed!