Christian Suffering to Gain Rewards and Benefits?

June 6, 2015 at 1:08 PM

That is an excellent question!

That is an excellent question!

More than once the apostle Paul speaks about suffering for Christ. In fact, he actually seemed to relish the idea because it would allow him to share in Christ’s sufferings, not as being equal to Messiah – there is only ONE Messiah/Savior – but as a true believer who wants to be able to fully identify with his Master as much as possible.

To this end, Paul states the following in Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

In Romans 5:3-10, Paul takes the time to explain just how important suffering is in the life of the Christian.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

But please note that just prior to the above verses, Paul states the following in Romans 5:1-2.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 NIV)

Paul states that we have been justified (a once for all act accomplished by God on our behalf), through faith and because of that, we have absolute peace with God because of the propitiation provided by Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection. Salvation gives us access to grace that literally props us up. We should be eternally grateful to Jesus for this.

Then we read verses 3 through 10 and there, Paul tells us about our sufferings, tribulations, and persecutions because of our union with Jesus in His Body. We are identified with Jesus and because of that, the world hates us. Satan hates us and will whatever he is allowed to do by God to rattle us, persecute us, and bring us down in defeat. Satan is after our perpetual defeat in this life. He wants our salvation to have no effect on us or the world, though he knows he cannot remove our salvation (and neither can we).

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of obtaining the “prize of the high calling” of Jesus Christ. But wasn’t Paul already saved? Yes, he was and even those who believe that salvation can be lost will affirm that they believe Paul was saved at this juncture. What then is he striving to obtain? What is this “prize” of the high calling of Jesus? Let’s look at Philippians 3:13-15.

“13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you…”

When Paul made this statement, he was already saved, yet he did not believe that he had obtained something because he states in verse 14 that he continued to “press on” toward the goal that is fond in Jesus. Again, those who believe salvation can be fully lost will argue that Paul says this to point out that salvation is only really temporary because keeping it depends upon the individual and his/her attitude of belief or unbelief toward God.

I honestly believe it is difficult to maintain this doctrinal position if we allow all of Scripture to interpret all of Scripture. The saints of the Old Testament were not in danger of losing their salvation. As a matter of fact, Hebrews 11 tells us of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others were all counted righteous because of their belief in God. While God insisted that He was to be approached in specific ways (through sacrifices, etc.) that came to be known as the Mosaic Law, the Law cannot and did not save anyone. It merely pointed out sin. The only thing that has ever saved anyone either from Old Testament times or New (including us) is the faith that is exhibited toward God.

But Paul, one who – under the law – would have been completely justified by human standards – rejected all that he was because of the supremacy of Jesus. He counted all of his so-called qualifications as “dung.” Yet, here he is after gaining salvation, encouraging all of us to “press onward” to our high calling in Christ. You mean there is something higher than merely gaining salvation? Really? There is nothing in the text that would indicate he was fearful of losing salvation. He was clearly fearful of something though and what might that be?

Paul was fearful of falling short, by not finishing the race or running halfheartedly. When a person qualifies to enter the Boston Marathon, that can never be taken away from them. They are qualified and they have gained access to and entrance in that particular race. If they decide to line up on the starting line and either not run at all or run only for a while then stop, that’s completely up to them. They will always be able to say the were a legitimate entrant into the Boston Marathon. That will always be true for them.

Paul does not simply want us to enter the race (salvation). He wants us to go well beyond just entering. He wants us to run, run hard, and finish the race. Why? So that we will reign with Jesus. It is one thing to HAVE salvation. It is quite another thing to REIGN with Jesus!

In fact, Paul talks about the suffering that will occur as Christians and many “fall away” or “depart” from the faith because they grow tired of it all. Paul also says that our endurance in the race that prompts us to finish it will grant us the privilege of reigning with Jesus Christ in the future!

If you are one who believes that salvation can be lost, I am aware that these concepts to you are anathema. Take it to the Lord then. Go back to His Word and try to do it with an unbiased, preconceived idea of eternal security.

I’ll be back with more next time. We’ll look at why Paul seems to yearn to suffer so much for Jesus and why he believes that endurance is the key to reigning with Jesus, not simply gaining salvation in the first place.

Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: .

Believing Faith vs. Evil, Unbelieving Heart for the Christian Salvation is By Faith; Rewards Gained are by Faith AND Effort

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