A gift is received by someone without cost and without doing anything as the decision to give lies solely on the giver; while a reward is received because of something worthwhile done by the recipient.
The Bible says, “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. For God did not send his Son unto the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and Only Son” (John 3:16-18 NIV). Notice that the giving away of His only Son to save the soul of the sinner was the sole decision of God the Father. The Bible says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 KJV).
The Word “Son” obviously refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the Only Son of God.
The Word BELIEVE is extremely significant because it means, belief in thoughts, in words and in deeds. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34 and Luke 6:45), and, of course, this belief is translated or shown by the deeds or works of the believer. For faith (or belief) without works or deeds is dead (James 2:26). How do we know that someone has this faith or belief in God or in the flesh, Jesus Christ? By his spiritual fruit. What are these spiritual fruit? “LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE (or longsuffering), KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS (or meekness) and SELF-CONTROL (or temperance) (Gal. 5:22-23). In other words, a true believer of God/Christ possess all these spiritual characteristics and qualities. Thus, the Bible says, “by their fruit you will know them” (Matt. 7:16). How do we know that a tree is a mango tree? It is by its fruit which we can see.
What is given as gift by God to mankind? Eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
So, the number one requirement is one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. “BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31 NIV). This word “believe” is extremely significant because it means a 100% acceptance by the repentant sinner of the fact that Jesus is the only Son of God, and that Jesus Christ, also called the WORD, is God in the flesh. The Word of God says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:14 NIV); … and “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV).
The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
What is grace? It is theologically defined simply as “unmerited favor” from God. Meaning, we don’t deserve it because we are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And the penalty for sin is spiritual death (Rom. 6:23).
Salvation is given free without our doing anything – just simply believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God, nothing else. This is the meaning of FAITH in this verse – saving faith, that is. For if we add something else yet, then salvation is no longer free, but it is by works. Thus, salvation is equally available by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ - - to all: young or old, rich or poor, man or woman, black, brown or white, beautiful or ugly, etc. Praise God! God is “no respecter of persons”. In our common language today, “Everybody is equal” before the sight of God.
But what about the pious and faithful and dedicated “servant” in the kingdom of God, like the apostles, priests, pastors, lay workers, preachers of the Word of God, writers (in our FGBMFI bulletin) etc.? What do they hope for or expect? Well, if they are saved because of the GRACE of God through their FAITH in Jesus Christ, and they will enter heaven, a REWARD is reserved for them.
This is illustrated by Jesus Christ himself in the parable of the talent (Matt. 25:15-25). A parable is an earthly story with heavenly meaning.
This parable relates that the one who traded or did something to produce more, to him was given a proportionate reward of 100%. The one who did not do anything but hid his talent, he had nothing. In fact, what was given to him was taken away from him and given to the one who had doubled his five talents to ten, and his punishment was:
“28Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25: 28-30 NIV)
Talent here is not only money but also it means any God-given ability, especially spiritual mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:7-10, namely: the Word of wisdom; the Word of knowledge; the gifts of healing; the working of miracles; prophecy; discerning of spirit; diverse kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues or those mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23. So, whatever money or ability that is endowed (or God-given) to us, we should use or exercise it in the service and furtherance of the kingdom of God, so we will receive a reward when we enter the kingdom of God – HEAVEN.
In Revelation 22:12, the Word of God says:
“12Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he had done.”
The gift giving is while the believer is on earth or in the world, but the awarding of reward will be in heaven. So, the saved person must enter heaven first in order that his reward will be awarded to him. But remember, Faith in God/Jesus Christ, God in the flesh is the passport to heaven. No passport, no entry, just like you can’t enter the U.S. territory without passport from the U.S. Embassy. You have to pass through the U.S. Embassy first. Our spiritual passport is Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “I am the WAY, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Let us exercise our God-given gifts for the advancement of the kingdom of God while on earth, and great will be our reward when we enter heaven, the true believers ultimate destination. This the brief description of life in heaven:
“3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4 NIV)
Do we like to be in heaven? Then, let us repent, accept Him as our only SAVIOR and have faith in Jesus Christ, our passport to heaven.