God’s Rewards Are Not Totally Undeserved Covenantal Consequences

There are two unbiblical extreme views which we must avoid in our understanding of God-given rewards. The first view teaches that the rewards God actually gives believers are totally deserved. Only Jesus Christ has fully merited all of God’s rewards (see Matthew 5:17, John 15:13, Philippians 2:8, Revelation 5:2-4 and 5:8-9). This false view is covered in Chapter “Rewards 1”.

The second opposite view suggests that God-given rewards are merely the totally undeserved consequences of believers under a covenant of God fulfilling the terms stated in any conditional promises found in the relevant covenant.

In the Mosaic and New Covenants, God promises to give blessings as rewards on the basis of believers fulfilling various stated conditions. In Hebrew and Greek, the Biblical words for these blessings literally mean and are translated as “reward”, “recompense”, requite”, “render”, “repay” and “wages” in English. But this second false view teaches that none of these Hebrew and Greek words should be taken as having their normal meanings. Instead, these words are said to mean just the “totally unmerited consequences” or “totally undeserved results” of fulfilling various covenantal conditions.

If the New Testament writers believed these specific blessings were only totally undeserved results and were not partially deserved rewards for believers, these leaders could have left out the Greek words for “reward”, “recompense” and so on and instead used expressions like those found in the verses listed in the section “The unmerited results of fulfilling conditions under God’s grace” in Chapter          “Grace”. Or they could have used the numerous Greek words which in various contexts mean “result” or “consequence” or “outcome”. [1]

In Hebrew, there is also at least one word which refers in some contexts to the results or consequences of various things. This word is “lema‘an”. [2]

The fact that the God-inspired Old Testament writers could have used “lema‘an” instead of the Hebrew words for “reward”, “recompense”, requite”, “render”, and “repay” can be seen in Jeremiah 42:6: “Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” Here the word “that” is “lema‘an” and is used in the sense of the results – the receiving of the Mosaic Covenant rewards – which are conditioned on obedience to the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law.

If the rewards of the Mosaic Covenant were just totally undeserved consequences of people under this covenant fulfilling its conditions, then this means the Old Testament writers had little concern about leading their readers into great errors about such matters. This is especially since these writers so frequently used words which literally mean “repay”, “reward”, “recompense” and so on. But this is a ridiculous charge to make against so many Holy Spirit-inspired Old Testament authors.

If all God-given rewards are merely totally undeserved covenantal consequences, this means God-given punishments are the same. But it is completely unbiblical to say that His punishments are totally undeserved and are just covenantal consequences. Those who suffer forever in the Lake of Fire will totally deserve this.

Some may argue, “The Old and New Testament usages of the Hebrew and Greek words for ‘rewards’, ‘recompense’, ‘repay’ and so on, do not carry any notion of meriting or earning. The words are used in all contexts in the Bible in ways which leave out their normal relation to merit.” But this is a false argument. The Hebrew and Greek words for “rewards”, “recompense” and so on are used in Ruth 2:12, Job 34:11, Proverbs 12:14, Matthew 16:27, Acts 1:18, 1 Corinthians 3:8, 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Timothy 4:14, James 5:4 and 2 John 8 in contexts with relate to merit or earning or paying.


Bible Study Question


1. Explain why God’s rewards are not just totally undeserved covenantal consequences.



[1] These words are “arobaino” (Luke 21:13 and Philippians 1:19), “pros” (John 11:4 and 1 John 5:16), “apa” (Acts 17:27 and Galatians 2:21), “dio” (Matthew 27:8 and Acts 15:19), “dioper” (1 Corinthians 8:13 and 14:13), “eis” (Romans 1:20), “oun” (John 6:13, Romans 5:1 and 6:4), “oste” (Matthew 8:24 and Mark 10:8), “ek” (Revelation 8:11) and “karpos” (translated as “fruits” in Matthew 7:16, 7:20, 21:43 and Philippians 1:11 and “fruit” in Ephesians 5:9 and James 3:18).

[2] See Genesis 12:13, 27:25, Exodus 4:5, 8:22, 9:29, Deuteronomy 27:3, Joshua 3:4, 2 Samuel 13:5, Psalm 30:12, Isaiah 5:19 and other verses – Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 775.



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