Wow, I have no idea how I did not see this before in Scripture, but it is incredibly freeing and am so grateful for Brandon’s question in the video below that I woke up to this morning. This is an example of how the Bible, the Word of God, is truly “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12), always teaching us and changing our thinking if we let it.
I’ve always rightly understood that it is the gospel that sustains us, saved by grace, and that the Bible still tells us what God expects of us, how we are to live and the good works we are to do; that is the third function of the Law, to instruct the Christian in holiness and conduct (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 2:10). I’ve also rightly understood that good works don’t cancel sin, that we cannot work our way to heaven, that being the second function of the Law (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7-11; Galatians 3:19-24). However, for some reason, I had it in my head, I think from a misreading of First Corinthians chapter 3, that sin cancels a believer’s good works. Of course, I knew that sin does not cause a true believer to lose his or her salvation, but I thought of a believer’s sin in the sense of causing a loss of rewards, so 4 sins and 5 good works result in one more crown. Now, however, it is crystal clear how that kind of thinking is a non sequitur and I have no idea how I did not see it beforehand. If an unbeliever’s good works cannot cancel sin, how can a believer’s sin cancel good works?
As the end of the video below explains, the fire of First Corinthians 3 is not an accountant, burning up good works according to how many sins correspond to them. If one Thanksgiving dinner, you invite some international students from the local college or university along with some older folks who have no family nearby and perhaps a homeless man you met on the street and you share your bounty joyfully with them in the name of Jesus, then you will be repaid with an eternal reward one day at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:13-14). That is true even if the next Thanksgiving you are in a bad place spiritually, selfishly letting the opportunities go by: Thanksgiving number 2 will be burned up, Thanksgiving number 1 will be rewarded, though neither will save an unbeliever. Number 2 does not cancel out number 1; and thus, the believer will be rewarded for Number 1 while suffering the loss of the reward he or she would have received for Number 2.
Incidentally, after watching the short video, I began the story of Samson in the book of Judges in my devotion this morning and I was struck with the parallels surrounding Samson’s birth with the later birth of Samuel. Samson seems to have been given the opportunity by God to be what Samuel ultimately became, but ended up losing considerable rewards because of his sins. Yet, even Samson will be rewarded for what good he did do, few as they may be, still listed in the Hebrews Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:32). Pastor John explains it much better than I can, laying out the Scriptures that pertain to the Bible’s “reward system.” I hope the short video below is just as freeing for you as it was for me this morning. I am so very thankful that Brandon asked this question.