Matthew 10:40-42: The Disciple’s Reward

Read: Matthew 10:40-42

In the work of the gospel, there are goers and senders. In the New Testament context, the goers were the apostles (literally, “sent one”) who made it their life’s work to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth and starting churches where they went. The senders were the ones on the other end, supporting the work of the apostles as they went. These senders came from all sorts of backgrounds, but they too played a part in helping advance the gospel.

In Matthew, Jesus is speaking to his disciples concerning the rewards of those who receive the apostles and also do things in accordance with the scriptures. The apostles themselves were the New Testament analog to the Old Testament prophets who proclaimed what God told them to. Jesus’ remarks concerning those who receive the prophets receive the prophets reward make an allusion to the Old Testament when both Elijah and Elisha were welcomed into a home, and the welcoming home was blessed because of it (1 Kings 17:9-24, 2 Kings 4:8-37). To this, Jesus adds that the one that receives the righteous man and also gives a cup of cold water will also receive the just reward.

Being a “sent one” comes a great personal cost the one going. It’s for this reason that God has called the senders to take care of the goers, and to them that receive the goers, there is a great reward. In all things though, the one who does this as a way of life doesn’t discriminate: he could be caring for the goer or a perfect stranger. Jesus says that when one does it to the “least of these” they are doing it unto him.

Lord, help me to care for all people, everywhere!

 

Hebrews 12:1-11: Don’t Give Up!

Read: Hebrews 12:1-11

Faith is momentous and the quintessential trait of every person listed in or alluded to in Hebrews chapter 11. Having made his case for faith, the author of Hebrews breaks away from making a theological point to making some points of application, and he does so with the use of three different metaphors.

First, the author of Hebrews says that a “cloud” of witnesses surrounds believers.  The imagery here suggests a fog so thick fog such that one cannot tell which way he is going. In a manner of speaking, the author is trying to show his readers that the witness of God working in the lives of the faithful is undeniable – there’s no escaping it. This thick cloud of witnesses serves as a point of encouragement to the readers, knowing that God is faithful to those with faith.

Second, the author of Hebrews follows the cloud metaphor with a metaphor from racing. He likens the Christian life to a long distance race. First, runners should lighten themselves. He says to his reader that they should shed their sin that gets in the way perusing Jesus as a runner discards excess baggage before running a race. Second, he calls Jesus the “author” and “perferter” of the faith. In keeping with the race metaphor, Jesus is the “leader” and “finisher” of the race of faith. The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as enduring the cross and its shame for the Joy set before him and he is now seated, high and exalted. The author is encouraging his readers to look to Jesus as the exemplar runner. But even so, his readers have not shed blood in their struggle against sin as Jesus did. The Apostle Paul uses the race metaphor elsewhere in scripture in a similar manner. He says that runners run to receive a prize and they do so by maintaining a since of self control so that they would not become disqualified from the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). At the end of his life, he says that he has run the race such that he will receive a prize when he departs from the earth to be with God (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The manner in which one runs the race is important so that one can be as the exemplar runner, namely Jesus.

Third, the author of Hebrews likens the hardship that his readers are enduring to the sort of discipline a father gives his children. He draws on an Old Testament quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12. Proverbs 3 is part of a larger pericope of scripture exonerating the value of wisdom, particularly from one’s father and mother. The author of Hebrews is invoking this passage to show that God does indeed use the difficulties in life to hone one’s faith, and it is a blessing to receive such discipline. The author notes that it results in a “fruit” of righteousness, and even more so what Paul called a “crown of righteousness” that one receives as a reward from God.

The question for Christians is not if hardship will come, rather when hardship will come. When it does, Christians are often tempted to retreat back into sin and give up. But rather than give up, Christians can be reminded of the cloud of testimonies of so many others who have remained faithful. In doing so, this can help Christians not to give up, rather to continuously fix their eyes on Jesus, not the problems of life and look on hardship as an opportunity to be blessed by God rather than feel cursed by God. In the end, a reward of righteousness will be the prize!

Lord, rather than giving up, I want to be encouraged to run with endurance so I might be blessed!

Help me to do just this!

2 Timothy 4:6-9: Crowns

Read: 2 Timothy 4:6-9

Paul when writing first Timothy seems to feel that his end is near. He claims that he is being poured out like a drink offering and that time for his departure has come. He’s dying. He says this on the cusp of telling Timothy to fulfill his ministry. Paul speaks of the rewards that await him after he passes to go to be with God, and uses this opportunity to remind Timothy of the rewards that await everyone who God has loved. Paul speaks of a crown of righteousness. The sort of crown that Paul is alluding to is a wreath awarded to athletes who win competitions. Paul feels this crown is well deserved because he has “finished the course” and “fought the fight”. He had spent the better part of his life enduring hardship for the sake of the gospel by traveling throughout Asia and Greece starting churches and telling people about how they could find salvation in Jesus.

The New Testament speaks of many rewards for various sorts of activity. The beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 speak of many different conditions, each with a blessing that comes from that condition. In addition to the “crown of righteousness” mentioned by Paul there are three other crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament. First there is a “crown of life” that comes from one persevering under trial (James 1:12). Second, there is an “incorruptible crown”. Paul says this crown is received for preaching the gospel and living according to it. It is received because he practices what he preaches, saying the rules and not disqualifying himself by obeying the rules (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Third, there is a “crown of glory” that comes from rightly shepherding a flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Ultimately the crowns that are received for faithful service will be cast before Jesus as an act of worship because all the glory, honor, and power belong to Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11).

The purpose of the work of the believer is to glorify the Father, and Paul knew this. He had every right to brag about his accomplishments as a Jew, but he considered that all loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Now at the end of his life, he has worked hard and endured much for the sake of the gospel. He could have been prideful in this work, but rather he takes the opportunity to encourage Timothy to continue because of the prize that await after one’s departure, and this prize will bring the most even more glory to God. Christians in the same manner as Paul should fulfill their ministry and receive the crowns for faithful service. Older Christians who have lived their lives faithfully and have fulfilled their ministry can likewise encourage young Christians to do the same. And on that Day that Paul speaks of, Christians can alongside Paul cast their crowns before God in worship giving the glory, honor, and power to him for all he has accomplished in and through the lives of believers!

Lord, I want to live so I receive crowns that I can used to glorify you! Help me to do so!