I have been trying to understand the relationship between grace (gift) and reward (merit) from a Biblical perspective. And this is not merely an intellectual pursuit; I have been trying to come to terms with it in my own life–how I see God, myself, and those around me. Whenever I have those “ahaa” moments in life, it is always with the realization that I can never do anything (“good” or “bad”) that would change my standing with God–grace.
This is what it is all about, “saved by grace through faith”, etc. But then how do we reconcile the idea of rewards with this idea of grace. A reward is in essence, a wage. And so the contrast, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” The writer didn’t say the wages of God. God doesn’t pay us with eternal life, it is purely a gift.
But then what about the concept of obtaining rewards based on our faith? Many try to argue that “salvation” (accepting Christ–and therefore “getting into” heaven/the Kingdom of God, etc.) is grace-based, but our standing/position in eternity is reward-based. Does the Bible refer to two different types of faith???
then isn’t God’s gift to all obtained as a reward? (saved by grace through faith)
Now I guess some argue that faith itself is a gift from God as well, but then doesn’t this make the whole concept of rewards nonsense? If faith is simply something that is given, then why would Jesus and Paul make such a big deal out of it, as if it depended on us? (need I quote the numerous examples?)
Now some would say that faith in its potential is a gift, and that we have to activate it (receive the gift) via our will. Well then, what is the difference!? Our will is the determining factor in the matter (or at least it “seals the deal”), not God’s grace. But maybe this is the both/and of grace and faith?
I realize this is probably one of those paradoxes that can’t be explained, but I still can hope…
Any thoughts anyone?