Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 2:51 PM

Crowns (1) – Clearing the ground.

It is my personal guess that the concept of “crowns” arose from a different pattern of thought, one that I find to be dangerous to the Christian life. The question of “crowns” and “rewards” in Heaven of course has an answer independent from the question that I'm going to answer today, but it is necessary to clear this away first before tackling the other question.

The underlying issue that I am planning to deal with first is known as the “Lordship-Salvation” controversy. Namely, there are some people speak of accepting “Jesus as Savior” and then later accepting “Jesus as Lord” as two different “conversions” in life. Others reject this, either Jesus is Lord and Savior or Jesus is not. I am of firm belief in the latter view and I see the first one as providing false assurance, which is dangerous to one's soul.

The reason I think it's tied to the concept of “crowns” is that I was first made aware of this concept of “crowns” through someone who was asked “what about those Christians who don't do good works?” He responded that they were saved, but their crowns would be smaller.

Now, once again, it is possible to hold a belief in “crowns” (or, maybe more appropriately, that there are extra rewards in heaven for some) and still reject that it is possible to be “saved” but not “converted.”

But, I will say outright that a conversion that does not bear fruit is not a true conversion at all. Yes, you are saved on the basis of Christ's work and your union with Him through faith and that alone, apart from works. But that conversion, that union with Christ, entails a transformation of heart, so that a true Christian will inevitably bear fruit in the form of good works. They are not justified on the basis of these good works (as they are good works prepared and done by God – Eph. 2:10), but their justification results in these good works.

All other religions have the equation like this:

Faith+Works = Justification (Faith and then some done will save)

Believers in a “Free Grace Theology”(their term, not mine) say this:

Faith = Justification +/- Works (Faith without works will save)

The Bible presents it like this:

Faith = Justification + Works (Saving faith results in works)

To see a biblical the rejection of “Free Grace Theology”, a simple reading of James 2 suffices:

14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

What is James saying here? That if you claim to have faith yet do not have works, it's useless and cannot save you. Faith without works is dead and thus is not real faith at all. He's not saying “Oh, you just need to add works to your faith and you'll be alright,” but rather is pointing out “this person needs to hear the Gospel.”

Now, not everyone has a fully formed theology that rejects works as the natural and necessary fruit of salvation, but there are many (and I will say many), that will say that someone who claims to be a Christian yet does not bear fruit is being disobedient, but will still be saved on the last day. I find this to be giving false assurance to those who have no right to it. Those that say otherwise will be judged for their words (Ezekiel 3). The gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction. A Christianity that does not call you to deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Jesus is no Christianity at all. There isn't three classes of people in this world (those that are saved and are obedient, those that are saved but aren't obedient, and those that aren't saved at all), but rather two (Christians and the rest of the world.) As Jesus says, “You're either for me or against me.”

Yes, the call is “come as you are.” But it most certainly is not “stay as you are.”

Further reading:

Lordship Salvation


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Blogger Jessica said...

i'm not exactly sure what you mean by crowns, so i'm looking forward to seeing what you find; also, i read matthew 5:19 the other day and was wondering if that verse has anything to do with it? note that Jesus still says that these people will be in the kingdom of heaven..

anyway, thoughts?  


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The logic of mathematics shows us:

Faith – Works = Justification (how you represent the Free Grace position) is equivalent to saying Faith = Justification + Works (how you represent your position); just as 4-3=1 is equivalent to saying 4=1+3.

What you are espousing, it would seem, is the idea that without works, a person is not justified. The equation for this idea is faith + works = justification. I’m not sure how you logically get around this conclusion. Any thoughts?  


Blogger mxu said...

On that first point, you're absolutely right. I never noticed it before, but I mislabeled the free grace position. It should be:

Faith = Justification (Works optional)

I've edited the post.

I am espousing that without works, people cannot get saved. But I'm not basing justification upon those works, but rather upon Christ's work. Once we have faith and are justified by God, that naturally leads us to good works.

Faith -> Justification -> Works

So No Works -> No Justification

Take a look at this post. Hope that clarifies it a bit.  


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