Davenant on Rewards for Good Works

RewardsHere is John Davenant’s explanation of how Christians should view rewards. This can be found in his commentary on Colossians.

We conclude, therefore, that a reward to good works is proposed by God, and that it ought to be regarded by us,

  1. That hence we may learn the will and munificence [generosity] of God.
  2. That we may exercise hope and faith by fixing our view upon it.
  3. That hence we may be excited to cheerfulness in good works.

But we ought not to regard and look to the reward;

  1. So as to be unwilling to serve God if there is no reward.
  2. So as to set the blessedness itself as our end in loving God.
  3. So as to infer any merit in our good works from the reward being proposed.

A couple of notes on this.

It is wonderful that Davenant’s first point is rewards point us to God’s generosity and desire for us His people. Rewards are proof that God is a generous, giving God, the overflowing fountain of all good.  Rewards first cause us to praise God and not to praise our virtue.

And of course rewards should motivate us to cheerfully and hopefully work. Too often Christians question of the value of focusing on rewards as we labor for Christ. But Christ promises rewards for those who work and strive. The Scriptures teach this from start to finish. Rewards should drive us to persevere in good deeds.

But Davenant also warns against some dangers with the focus on rewards. Most obvious is the last one, where our works  become a foundation for our salvation. The more works we do the more saved we are. This is explicitly taught in the Roman Catholic system, but it is easy for Protestants to buy into it as well.

The next danger, working up the list, is that rewards become the end instead of God Himself. The goal is always and forever commune with the Lord. Rewards are a byproduct of that goal, but not the ultimate goal.

Finally, there is the danger of refusing to work unless we see the reward.

These last two dangers are often seen in an over-realized eschatology where rewards become the end and those rewards are to be found in this life.  Many health and wealth teacher make the basic error of trying to make the not yet into the already by saying that God rewards us here and now. God does reward us at times in this life. But the great, lasting, and perfect rewards will only be found in the next life. If we expect to do good deeds here and God to reward us quickly, immediately, and in this life, we will often be disappointed.

Promiscuously Called Saints

John_Davenant-300x200Here is a quote from John Davenant’s commentary on Colossians, which is published by Banner of Truth. He commenting on Paul’s use of “saints” in Colossians 1:2.

Whereas the Apostle calls not this or that good man, but the Colossians promiscuously, saints, as many as put on Christ by baptism; hence we learn that we must think and speak well of all who profess religion, unless by clear and manifest deeds they shew themselves to be ungodly and hypocrites. For the Apostles always, when they descend to particular men and churches, presume every Christian to be elect, sanctified, justified, and in the way of being glorified, until he himself shall proved himself to be wicked or an apostate. So Paul writing to the Corinthians affirms indiscriminately concerning them Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, I Cor. 6:11. For in those things which relate to faith, we must speak and think according to Scripture, which is a certain and infallible rule: so, in other things which relate to charity it is sufficient to think and speak according to the probability of appearances. This rule may deceive; yet not by any fault or hazard of him who thought better of another than he truly deserved, but rather of that hypocrite who was a different and much worse man than he appeared to be.

This rule is solid and the only way to make sense of the way the Apostles’ write while at the same time holding that not all who are in the church are actually saved. I think the 21st century context may need a bit more nuance than this, but it is still good rule to follow. His last point is a good one. If a person assumes that a professing Christian is saved, yet they prove apostate the fault does not lie with the one who showed charity in judgment, but rather with the hypocrite.

Dangers of Being a Man Pleaser

 

Office Workers 1.jpg

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. (Colossians 3:22, KJV)

 

Paul warns us in this passage to make sure we serve God and not just our employers in our vocations. When a man first gets a job he usually has a great desire to impress his boss. Of course, this is good. But Paul tells us this is insufficient. What are the dangers of “eyeservice” and “menpleasing?” (By the way, the ESV version says, “people pleasers.” That is lame.) Before we note the dangers let’s be clear on what Paul is saying. He is not saying we should aim to displease our “masters according to the flesh.” All employees should seek to honor their bosses. But Paul is saying that our ultimate allegiance is to God. Paul closes this verse by focusing on singleness of heart, which means a whole-hearted devotion to God. We are to fear God. We are to obey our masters, but our hearts are to be completely devoted to our Lord.  What are the dangers of man’s approval being our ultimate goal instead of God’s? Continue reading

Further Thoughts on Colossians 2:20-23

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Col 2:16-23). ESV

This passage could be referring to Jewish OT law, although the phrase “human precepts” in Colossians 2:22 would seem to contradict this. But even if it is referring to OT law, my point [from this blog post] is not weakened, but strengthened. If OT laws are useless in fighting against the flesh, how much more useless are non-biblical food laws?

Men and women love to believe that doing hard things to their bodies will make them more holy. It is a constant temptation. If I exercise, eat right, take these supplements, don’t do this, and do do that I will not just be healthy, I will be more righteous. The words used in Colossians 2:23 indicate a hard, severe approach to the body. Again arguing from the greater to the lesser, if whipping oneself and starving oneself will not help with the indulgence of the flesh then how will abstaining from soda or cigarettes?

Paul is not saying we cannot abstain from certain foods. He is just saying abstaining will not make you more righteous. Many will agree with this in theory. But in practice food restrictions or the idea that eating a certain way is healthier easily becomes a way of looking down on other people. We make a choice for our family and it quickly becomes the right choice for every family.

The last phrase of Colossians 2:23 is especially strong. These things, despite the appearance of holiness, wisdom, and self-control are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. They are ways of looking holy, but not actually being holy.

We all like to look wise and holy. Food restrictions help us keep up appearances. But they are of no value against sin: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, lying, anger, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language (Colossians 3:5-9).

So make the food choices you think are best, but don’t turn them into signs of holiness. And make sure you spend a lot more time fighting lust, anger, bitterness, pride, and covetousness than you do fighting your waistline.

Related Blog Posts
Quit Fussing
Back to the Shadows
Doctrines of Demons

The Whole World Our Banqueting Table

The first six items are here.

7. It is a doctrine of demons to encourage abstaining from foods because you think they are sinful. I Timothy 4:1-5 are very clear on this particular point. Teachers were saying you were unholy if ate certain foods and had sex. Paul denounces these men and calls them the voice of demons. This passage is emphatic and strong. Nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. If someone doesn’t want to eat meat that is fine. But if they don’t eat meat or anything else because they think it is evil, sinful, or less holy they are teaching false doctrine. All things can be eaten, provided they are sanctified by the Word and prayer.  Colossians 2:20-23 and I Timothy 4:1-5 are foundational texts for understanding what use food has in our lives.

8. A lot of Christians use “the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” argument from I Corinthians 6:19 as an argument for healthy living. However, we must remember that Paul is talking about having sex with a prostitute. So if you think drinking soda or smoking cigarettes or refusing to exercise is “defiling the temple” then you are saying that these are the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute. Is that really what you want to say? Is that really biblical? No doubt this is in the top ten most misused verses in the whole Bible.

9. To refuse fellowship with another brother or sister over food is a great perversion of the Gospel. To divide over organic vs. inorganic, natural vs. processed, meat vs. veggies, hormone free vs. hormones, exercise vs. non-exercise, white vs. wheat, etc. is to deny Christ who has made us one body in the Spirit. We lean towards self-righteousness, which means we lean towards false lines of holiness where we are on the holy side. Food is one of the ways Satan tempts to look down on other believers. Food is not usually a barrier between churches, but it is often a barrier between Christians. We don’t put in our vision statements: “No short, bald, fat guys allowed.” But with our attitudes, who we like to hang out with, and our treatment of men and women we make it clear that thin, healthy people are preferred.

10. This one will make some people mad, but here goes. Many of the current food fads in Christendom are promoted by women. I know this has not always been the case, but it is now. Most of the best-selling “Christian” exercise books and “Christian” eating books come from women. Most of the pastoral problems about food stem from women who pester their husbands to bring up the issue to the pastor. Pastors and husbands need to teach the women in their flocks and homes a Biblical perspective on food and exercise.  I would encourage beginning with I Timothy 2:11-15.

11. It is easy in our culture to see exercise as a means of holiness. Men and women who exercise should remember I Timothy 4:7-8, which follows very closely on the heels of the I Timothy 4:1-5. Paul says that physical exercise is of little value or possibly it could be translated is only valuable for a short time. Paul is not saying exercise is wicked. But he is saying that we should keep it in perspective. Exercise is of limited value in this life and of no value for the next life.  In our sports and super model saturated world it is difficult to keep our exercise in perspective. Go without exercise for a week or a month and see what that does for you spiritually. Did you feel guilty? Do you feel less holy? If so, your perspective is off. I am not saying stop exercising. Exercise is good. But keep it in perspective and remember that it does not make you more holy.

12. Remember that our culture is obsessed with physical appearances and living a long life. Our culture spends billions each year on beauty and health, promoting items, such as tanning, implants, hair dyes, gym memberships, organic food, etc.  The world believes you will be happier if you are thin. And of course, their pockets will be fatter as well. The world wants to live forever. But for us death is gain. (Philippians 1:21) The newspapers and magazines and sitcoms are not neutral observers, but preachers for a materialistic, Godless world, where the only thing that matters is living as long as you can and being as beautiful as you can be. But for us pouring out our lives, including our bodies, is what we are here to do. (See Romans 12:1-2 and Matthew 10:38)  As Nate Wilson said, “Self-preservation is not a great virtue in [our] story.”  Do not buy into the false gospel they are preaching. Pour yourself out for those around you with little concern for self-preservation.

13. Last, but certainly not least, your view of the Lord’s Supper says a lot about your view of food. Is the Supper a banquet, where we feed upon the body and blood of Christ? Or is it a place where we do penance, hanging our heads in sorrow?  A low, somber view of the Lord’s Supper can lead to or come from a low view of the created world, including food. This is a huge topic, but a brief word will have to do.  The only place outside the Gospels where the Lord’s Supper is discussed extensively is I Corinthians 11:17-34. There the picture is not one of somberness, but of so much food and drink people were getting drunk. Paul does not tell them to tone it down. But rather he tells them to wait on each other. The Lord’s Supper is a feast. (c.f. I Cor. 5:8) Once we see that, then I Timothy 4:1-5 makes perfect sense and the whole world becomes our banqueting table.

Back to the Shadows


Food can be a source of great anxiety for Christians. Our society bombards us with what and how we should eat. Every week there is new study telling us about the evils this food or that food. How should we think as Christians when it comes to food? Below is my brief attempt at putting up some guardrails on a road where many are currently driving over the cliff. A couple of notes before I begin:

First, I know there are Christians who flaunt their freedom and eat like gluttons. I know it is possible for the fat person to look down on the thin. However, in the community I am in and the Christian world at large that is becoming less and less of an issue. The bigger issue is holiness by dieting or exercise. That is what I am addressing because that is what I see around me.

Second, each person has to make choices about how they want to eat and what they want to eat. I understand this. However, too often our choices become a source of holiness for us and a way of dividing between Christians. What we eat has very little bearing on our own righteousness and holiness and should not be a source of division in the Body of Christ.

With those qualifications out of the way, here are my points.

1. The Old Testament laws about food have been done away with. It is hard to understand what else Acts 10:9-16 along with 10:28 can mean. Any Christian who tells you, “Don’t eat pork because the Bible forbids it” has failed to understand the New Covenant and is leading you back to the shadows of the Old Covenant.

2. The Old Testament food laws were about the separation of Jew and Gentile. This is clear from Acts 10:28. The Old Testament food laws were not about health.  There are many arguments against this. God never uses this type of language. He tells them to do this because they are to be holy, separate from the nations. (Leviticus 22:26) The Old Testament dietary laws are not a manual on healthy eating. They were a reminder to the Old Testament saints that they are to be separate from the nations. With the coming of the New Covenant those OT dietary laws are broken down as God is making one new man out of two. (Ephesians 2:14-18)

3. Natural food is not necessarily healthier than processed food. In today’s culture, much of the processed food has been stripped of its nutrient value. However, it is important to not overreact. Nature is fallen just like man. There is not pristine, natural wheat. The wheat has felt the effects of sin just like we have.  Also, God put us here to take dominion. We should be trying to make the wheat better. That is what God put us here to do. Just because greedy men tear down what God has given does not mean we should just take food as it is. We were made by God to take up the things in the world and transform them for his glory. This would include wheat, cows, and orange trees.

4. The two primary food sins in Scripture are gluttony and drunkenness.  If you eat too much or drink too much alcohol then you are sinning. However, having an extra piece of pie does not qualify as gluttony, just as having two beers does not qualify as drunkenness. Gluttony, like drunkenness is not hard to spot. The verses on gluttony are few and far between, though it has always been included among the seven deadly sins. Primary verses are Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverbs 23:19-21. The picture here is not of someone who overeats and is overweight, but of someone who leads a riotous, drunken life and squanders their money and time. (c.f. Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34) I am reminded of the vomitoriums in ancient Rome, where men would eat until they were full and then go throw up so they could eat some more. That is the picture of gluttony.  A fat person is not necessarily a glutton. A thin person can be a glutton.

5. Where your food comes from does not matter. As Americans we have been taught somewhere that it is our solemn duty to make sure our food does not come from a tainted source. But in I Corinthians 8:1-8 Paul says it is not a sin to eat meat offered to idols. (See especially I Corinthians 8:8) If it is not a sin to eat meat offered to idols, then it is not a sin to eat non-organic chickens, lettuce from China, and beef filled with hormones from the meat plant in Iowa. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If the Scriptures teach that I can buy meat sacrificed to idols, it is hard to see how it is sin to buy and eat vegetables with pesticides on them or to eat chickens that were stuffed in a small cage their whole life.

6. What you eat or refuse to eat does not make you more holy than someone else. You are not more holy because you refuse to eat white sugar or white flour. You are not more holy because you buy organic. You are not more holy because you are a vegan or drink soy milk. You are not more holy because in your Christian liberty you can eat an entire pizza. You are not more holy because you exercise. Paul makes this point in Colossians 2:20-23.  Men love to draw unbiblical lines of holiness to separate themselves from others. Paul says these false lines make us look holy and feel holy, but in end they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Paul tells us where true holiness comes in Colossians 3:1-17.(See especially verses 5, 8, 12-13) If we worried more about those things mentioned in Colossians 3, sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, and less about what type of flour we are eating, how much fat is in our food or how much weight we put on we would be more holy.