Christians Trying To Merit Earthly Blessings

 

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In the history of the Church, a classic example of confusing merited rewards with unmerited grace under the New Covenant relates to praying for earthly blessings. There have been various wrong views held by multitudes of sincere New Covenant believers who imagined they could merit miraculous answers to their prayers.

For example, on the basis of misinterpretations of Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8, one false view suggested we can earn “Yes” responses from God by continually praying for very lengthy periods. Jesus corrected this wrong idea in Matthew 6:7: “But, when you pray, go do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For  they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Also note Luke 11:5-8 is intimately related to Luke 11:9-13 which refers to God giving free gifts and not merited rewards. Luke 11:13 mentions God giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Acts 2:38 and 10:45 call the Holy Spirit a “gift”. In Greek, the word “gift” in Acts 10:45 is “dorea” and in Acts 2:38 is a form of “dorea”. “Dorea” means “a gift, a free gift”[1] or “‘ a free gift’, stressing its gratuitous character”. [2] Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-18 refer not to merited rewards but to the unmerited grace consequences of New Covenant believers fulfilling the God-stated conditions recorded in these verses.

Another similar false view relates to James 5:15-18. This view claims this verse teaches we can merit earthly blessings as rewards for the degree of fervency in our prayers. Fervency in prayer is important but it does not merit earthly blessings as rewards for New Covenant believers. Verses 17-18 use Elijah as an example of a righteous man. Elijah was righteous by God’s unmerited grace through faith. Elijah did not merit righteousness by perfect good works. 1 Kings 19:4 records that at one time, Elijah was depressed and lacking in faith.

James 5:15-18 teaches that the effective fervent prayer of a person who is righteous by grace through faith and which is based on God’s will (see 1 Kings 18:1), will be granted by God. Such answers are the unmerited grace results of our fulfilling God’s stated conditions.

 

 


 

[1] Perschbacher, page 109.

[2] Vine, page 264.


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