The Law of Rewards & The Matter of Works

Question from a reader:

On page 69 of The Law of Rewards, you are speaking of believers and say “What separates the sheep from the goats is what they did and didn’t do with their God entrusted resources of time, money and possessions” (referring to Matt. 25:21). But in verse 41 the goats are cursed and sent into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Your comment would appear to say that if we don’t pass muster in the matter of works, we will be condemned. Since our salvation is a gift and cannot be earned, this cannot be right. We may suffer loss but still be saved (1 Corinthians 3: 15). 

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

I would agree that our salvation is not based on our works. The problem is that I’m representing what the passage actually says. It does create a very serious challenge or paradox. I absolutely believe that we are saved by grace through faith, not by our works. But we dare not reinterpret Matthew 25 to imply that it doesn’t matter whether or not we care for the needy. Jesus makes clear that whether or not we’ve cared for the needy does have some essential connection to our salvation.

I personally believe that the idea is like that of James. True faith produces good works. But I want to be careful not to say it doesn’t matter whether we care for the needy because it has nothing to do with our salvation. It does have something to do with our salvation: it’s the product of our salvation, but not the cause of our salvation.

The question isn’t “What am I saying about this passage?” but “What is this passage saying?” I’m trying to present the reality of what the passage is saying. Does this produce a theological challenge for us? Yes, it does.

For more information on this subject, see Randy Alcorn's book The Law of Rewards.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries