This topic is well-known to Christians and expected to be well-understood. Yet, many sorely missed to see where the difference and similarity as they relate to salvation.
To begin with, in a Biblical parlance, a gift is given by someone to another who does not deserve it, nor is it based on something good done by anyone, but given nevertheless. On the other hand, a reward is given by someone to another who did something good to deserve it. Notice that in both giving gift or reward, someone did something to or for another whether deserved or not.
Paul, explained this principle in Rom. 5:10,
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Because of sin, we were God’s enemies, “driven from the garden of Eden” , so to speak, and not deserving of a gift. Yet, the Father gifted us with his Son, as in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.(NIV)
And not only giving his Son, out of the Father’s love, as an undeserved gift to us for reconciliation with the Father. But even more importantly as promised from the foundation of the world to resurrected Jesus, another undeserved gift to us, which is the Holy Spirit of power, for our salvation. And these free gifts to all of us, undeserved who sinned, were planned even before anyone sinned, i.e., before the foundation of the world, before the creation of man.
Reconciliation and justification came about because of what Jesus did, i.e., his death. But, this was reckoned not because Jesus followed thereby substituting his death for mankind; not by his “works” or obedience. Rather, as Paul explained in Rom 3:22-23:
“by the righteousness of faith (even of Jesus), so no man (even Jesus) can boast. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.
Notice, “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all them that believe“, meaning that while these gifts are for all, still one has to “believe“(had to do something), for these to be “activated” on any specific person. Much like a “link for temporary password” given freely to a person by a website app, it has to be activated or authenticated for I.D. security; it is specific and secure, but we need to do something. To believe on something material that is heard or seen by our physical senses is one thing. But, spiritual things are discerned only by “spiritual ears and eyes” empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:14). Meaning, to believe is something we ourselves do, but we could not have “heard or seen” spiritual things without the spirit-power given to us; therefore, the power tool is also a gift.
Eph. 2:8-10 ” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, (even of Jesus’) so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Similarly, the Holy Spirit was given not because of Jesus’ works but on Jesus’ trust and belief (based on faith) in the Father that what he promised for mankind (which is the Holy Spirit) He would give. And this receipt of the Holy Spirit occurred after Jesus had been resurrected to receive it for mankind.
In both gift and reward, we did something:
1. We sinned (did something), yet were given free gifts of his Son, out of the Father’s love (John 3:16) for reconciliation and the Holy Spirit of power towards our salvation. These gifts were due to belief leading to trust based on “faith of Jesus“(not his works) that the Father will fulfill his promises to “the seed”(Jesus). This belief and trust is faith-based, evidence-based and substantive.
2. We believed (did something) and were given this free gift of Holy Spirit. No “good works” yet from us, except belief. Nevertheless, even this ability and power tool to believe spiritual things also come as a gift of the Holy Spirit of power, given by the Father to resurrected Jesus to us-ward, as promised and founded on Jesus’ trust and belief which is faith-based(evidence-based/substantive), not works.
3. We obeyed (did something) the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, to ‘bear fruits” worthy of God’s reward, which is “glory, honor, immortality, eternal life“, being Sons and Daughters of the God-Kingdom, the family of God.
4. As man-Jesus’ reward of having a “glorious spirit-composed body” was based on following God’s will (his works), so is our reward to have “spiritual-composed” bodies based on following (our works) the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
5. Gift is given out of love, unmerited and initiated by belief leading to trust that is faith-based, not work-related, nor work-based. It comes from faith of Jesus leading to belief/trust of Jesus and similarly our belief and trust that are faith-based(evidence-based, substantive(Heb.11:1). Whereas, reward is given based on following and therefore”works-based“.
Original post: 4/10/2017
Revised post: 5/3/17