God "will repay each one according to his deeds."
I. THE RECOMPENSE WILL BE PROPORTIONED TO MEN'S DEEDS. Not their professions, but their acts, will determine their destiny. And the character and number of their acts will be reckoned. There is no conflict between this statement and other Scripture passages which speak of the reward as one of grace, not of merit, and as a gift bestowed on all Christians. For the reward will be immensely greater than men's deeds deserve, and will not be earned by them, but conditioned by their conduct. The gospel comes not as a substitute for, but as a help to realizing, practical righteousness; and whilst every justified believer will be saved, each will have the praise that is his, according to his works of faith and labours of love.
II. THE JUDGMENT WILL TAKE ACCOUNT OF MEN'S AIMS IN LIFE, The one class seek "glory, honour, and incorruption," and also "peace." Their choice does them credit; they selected what is fair and lovely and permanent, what is opposed to the rule of the flesh, and is unaffected by the ravages of time. Their goal is not the "vain pomp and glory of the world;" not simply success, but to reach a position of pure, lasting excellence. And they shall receive in fullest measure what they desire. "Eternal life' comprehends all blessedness - deliverance from the thraldom of sin; no need to gather up the skirts lest defilement ensue, for the very streets of their city shall be of pure gold; enwrapment with the Divine splendour; walking in the light of God; manifested as his sons by the likeness they wear; elevated to princely employments and regal dignities. The objects for which the other class strive are not definitely stated, but may be gathered from antithesis and from the unrighteousness to which they yield themselves. They seek not "peace" and "truth," and their harvest likewise is the multiplied outcome of the seeds they have sown. No description of hell can transcend the awful picture of" wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish," resting upon the soul; that, clasping unrighteousness to its bosom as a prize on earth, finds it sting like a serpent and burn with fiercest remorse when allowed full sway in its "own place."
III. THE AWARD WILL BEAR RELATION TO THE METHODS BY WHICH THE OBJECTS OF EARTHLY ENDEAVOUR HAVE BEEN PURSUED. A righteous aim can be permanently attained only in righteous ways. The recognition of this stamps the government of the universe as moral. The "patient continuance" of the one class could only be practised by the well-doing. It includes passive endurance and active perseverance; the stationary posture of the caryatides, and the carrying of a burden in the face of wind and storm. The other class are described as "factious," quarrelling with their lot, coveting pleasure and notoriety, "working evil." Refusing to bow to the yoke of truth, they become the slaves of unrighteousness; and a hard master and terrible paymaster does unrighteousness prove. The judgment of God will proceed on easily intelligible principles. It is not difficult for men to decide whether they are working good or working evil. It is not reaching a conclusion after abstract speculation, nor holding a creed with multitudinous details. Only an omniscient Judge, however, could bring to light the hidden deeds of darkness, the secret thing, good or bad.
IV. THE JUDGE WILL OBSERVE RIGOROUS IMPARTIALITY. With him "is no respect of persons." Jew and Greek shall be tried with due regard to the presence or absence of religious light (cf. Acts 10:35 in the history of Cornelius). It is impossible to bribe the almighty Arbiter or to overawe his tribunal. The anticipation of a Divine judgment has been a comfort to the oppressed, remembering that "One higher than the high regardeth;" and it will be a terror to the worker of iniquity, and an incentive to all noble deeds. "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." None can complain that their condition makes it impossible to be patient in well-doing. Christ, our Pattern and our Power, offers his "very present help" to all who find the stress and strain of life too severe for mortal strength. - S.R.A.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds.
I. ETERNAL LIFE CANNOT, IN ANY STRICT SENSE, BE SAID TO BE THE REWARD OF ANY WELL-DOING OR MERIT OF OUR OWN. For who is there that can look for anything at the hands of God, or even hope to stand in peace before Him, on the simple ground of his own character? Even the best parts of the very holiest of lives in this world cannot bear His rule of retribution. It is only of infinite grace that anyone, even when he has done his utmost, can enter into the joy of the Lord. Eternal life is not wages, it is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
II. WHILE THE WORK OF OUR SAVIOUR ACCOUNTS FOR THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE AS ENJOYED IN COMMON BY ALL THE SAINTS, IT LEAVES UNEXPLAINED THOSE DIVERSITIES BY WHICH THEIR LIFE IN HEAVEN IS CHARACTERISED. The ground on which the gift of life is given, is the meritorious work done by Christ in our behalf — a righteousness that is made ours by faith, and that comes up to all that the holy law of God can require of us. This righteousness is not only perfect in its nature, but also infinite in measure; so rich in merit that it can extend to any number of souls, and secure for us any degree, however high, in the joys of heaven. Its virtue is no wise dependent on the strength of the faith by which we embrace it, but is entirely inherent in itself, as the work of One in whom the Divine and the human are alike combined in all their fulness. Hence, if there is no other consideration to come into view, the honours and the enjoyments of heaven must be the same to all; there can be no degrees of blessedness; one saint cannot have a higher place in glory than another. But does this agree with what we are taught concerning the heavenly world? We read of diversities of gifts in the early Church, all proceeding from the same Spirit — some more, and some less honourable — some more, and some less profitable: diversities of somewhat the same kind prevail at this day. May we not expect that these distinctions in the Church on earth will give rise to corresponding distinctions in the Church in heaven, and that the various degrees of blessedness among the saints in light will have their root in those varieties of character and services by which Christians are distinguished in the present world?
1. As the believer is accepted in Christ, so all that is good in him, whether in heart or life, is accepted also, and not only accepted but rewarded. An illustration may be used, in the light of which eternal life as a free gift may be seen to be in perfect harmony with the idea of recompense. Take the case of some institution in this world, the inmates of which are received into it not on the ground of anything meritorious in themselves, but simply by virtue of the free gift of some generous benefactor who procures the right of admission for them. Side by side with this, may there not be room in the internal arrangements of such an institution for various measures of benefit and various degrees of enjoyment, arising from diversities of character among those who have found a home in it?
2. Another reason why heaven will be richer in blessing to some than to others is, that many of the works in which they engage on earth are of such a kind that their results will meet them there, and thus prove a source of joy to them. The landscape glowing on the canvas is an object of pleasant interest to everyone, but to none so much as to the artist whose taste, and skill, and patient labour have produced it. When a tract of waste and barren land has been reclaimed and brought under cultivation — when golden harvests and pleasant homes are seen to spread over a whole district where but lately there was nothing to meet the eye but crags and marshes — the contemplation of a scene like this will be a source of peculiar pleasure to the man to whose enterprise the change is due. One who spends his time and his means in civilising some rude and degraded tribe, secures for himself a pleasure of a higher kind. But of a still higher and more lasting nature must the pleasure be that is enjoyed by the man who is instrumental, under God, in reclaiming lost souls, and to whom it is given to behold peace and holiness where there was nothing but disorder and sin. For what is the utmost that a mere earthly civilisation can do for mankind, in comparison with those blessings to which they may be raised through the gospel — blessings imperishable as the soul and lasting as eternity?
3. A further reason why some will stand higher than others in the joy of heaven, is to be found in the larger capacity for spiritual enjoyment to which they have attained in their course on earth. The new man of the heart is capable of increase in knowledge, and power, and love, and holiness, and consequently in the capacity for happiness. This increase depends partly on the use we make of the means of grace, but also on the faithfulness with which we employ the powers we already have, both natural and spiritual, in doing the work that God has given us to do. Exercise is one of the indispensable conditions of the soul's growth: there must be a "patient continuance in well-doing." And the more we abound in those things by which man is blessed and God glorified, the more do we grow in sympathy with the Divine character, the purer is the joy we are capable of receiving, and the more meet do we become for the employments and the pleasures of a higher world; so that on this principle well-doing has a part in working out its own recompense.
(G. Hutchison, D. D.)
I. ESSENTIAL — proved a priori by —
1. To the good, glory, etc. (ver. 7).
2. To the wicked, wrath (ver. 8).
III. IMPARTIAL. To the Jews, etc., for there is no respect of persons with God (vers. 9-12).
(J. Lyth, D. D.)I.
II. III. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (Prof. Godet.) I. II. III. IV. V. (T. Robinson, D. D.) (T. Robinson, D. D.)
III. (J. Lyth, D. D.) (Prof. Godet.) I. II. III. IV. V. (T. Robinson, D. D.) (T. Robinson, D. D.)
(J. Lyth, D. D.)entrance into salvation through the free pardon of sin, but not to the time of judgment. When God of free grace receives the sinner at the time of his conversion, He asks nothing of him except faith; but from that moment the believer enters on a wholly new responsibility; God demands from him, as the recipient of grace, the fruits of grace. This is obvious from the parable of the talents. The Lord commits His gifts to His servants freely; but from the moment when that extraordinary grace has been shown, He expects something from their labour. Compare also the parable of the wicked debtor, where the pardoned sinner who refuses to forgive his brother is replaced under the rule of justice, and consequently under the burden of debt. The reason is that faith is not the dismal prerogative of being able to sin with impunity; it is, on the contrary, the means of overcoming sin and acting holily, and if this life fruit is not produced it is dead, and will be declared vain (Matthew 3:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 6:7).
I. II. III. IV. V. (T. Robinson, D. D.) (T. Robinson, D. D.)
(T. Robinson, D. D.) (T. Robinson, D. D.)
(T. Robinson, D. D.)Matthew 25:34, 35; Hebrews 6:10); their evil ones though pardoned in Christ are visited with chastisements here.
(T. Robinson, D. D.)