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Faith Bible Church, NY
July 24, 1994
A Disciples Reward
Matthew 19 has been a chapter full of questions, and today we come to another one. The questions began with the Pharisees trying to find some means by which to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. Since they were already aware of Jesus’ conservative views on divorce and remarriage from what He had said in the Sermon on the Mount, they had hoped to show that Jesus was unkind, harsh, and narrow in His treatment of people in this issue if they could get Him to speak against the popular view of easy divorce and easy remarriage (See: Jesus on Divorce). They also hoped to show that Jesus did not follow the Mosaic Law as they did.
The Pharisees succeeded in doing both, but to their detriment rather than favor, because Jesus showed that He did not follow the Law as they did, and because they had perverted and twisted the Law to the point that they were doing the opposite of it. They claimed to be the keepers of the Mosaic Law, but they did not even follow it themselves and in fact their practice went directly against the Mosaic Law because their practice of divorce and remarriage only increased adultery in the land.
Jesus did speak against the popular view, but He did so showing clearly both God’s plan for marriage and His grace to men. God’s plan for marriage is one man and one woman for life, yet because of the hardness of men’s hearts, He makes provision for those who suffer because of someone else’s sin. In this case, someone else’s sexual sins. Properly they should have been stoned, yet God in His mercy to the sinner spared the life. We know this is true because when Joseph found Mary to be with child He could have had her stoned under the Mosaic Law, yet the Scriptures point out that Joseph, a man declared in Scripture to be righteous, instead desired to put her away and divorce her privately. Only the intervention of the Holy Spirit prevented that and Joseph finally understood that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so he married her. God’s longsuffering brought mercy to sinners and spared their lives, yet at the same time, if divorce did occur because of the sexual sins of one of the partners, God through Moses allowed for divorce in which the non-offending person would not commit adultery. This is God’s mercy and grace.
The Pharisees were wrong on both accounts because they did not know God or understand His plan for marriage. Even the disciples were dismayed and came with a question wondering if it is was better not to marry at all. Again, we find that God is the one that ordained marriage for the benefit of man. God is also the one that can sustain it. Rather than marriage being a hardship, it is a blessing and only a few who truly dedicate themselves to the Lord can successfully live as singles and consider it a blessing.
After a situation occurs in which Jesus again reminds His disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to those who come in the nature of a child, in other words, with humility and a simple trust in Him, Jesus is asked another question, a question we examined last week.
The rich, young ruler came to Jesus with outward humility desiring to know “what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life.” (See: How to Obtain Eternal Life) An excellent question from an extra-ordinary individual being asked of the only person that could grant eternal life, and not just life existing without ceasing, but life with the quality of godliness; a life with purpose and meaning. Jesus did not respond like most of our modern day “evangelists” do, because Jesus knows that eternal life does not come by raising your hand, walking an aisle, being baptized, or even praying a prayer. Salvation does not come by any of the thing people are often told to do these days in order to receive salvation. Eternal life does not come by heritage, works of the flesh or the will of man (John 1:13). It comes when a person in complete humility. Someone poor and destitute in spirit -who comes to God and with the faith of a child places their trust in Him for forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life. Though we are justified and our sins are forgiven in a moment of time when Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us by God, eternal life is not punctilliar but on-going. Reconciliation has taken place and it is a continuing relationship with the Living God.
Jesus’ questions to the rich young ruler exposed the man’s heart for eternal life is an issue of the heart. You cannot earn it, but to receive it you have to want it more than anything else. This man wanted eternal life, but only if he could gain it for himself. His riches and his self-righteousness were more important to him than salvation from sin, from obtaining from Jesus the very thing he was seeking. The rich young ruler departed from Jesus very grieved. Not only had he failed to gain eternal life, he also left condemned by the very Law that he claimed to have kept from his youth up.
There are many today just like that man. They want what God has to offer, but only if they can get it on their own terms, only if they can get it without having any obligation to God, only if they can earn it themselves. Pride, selfishness, stubbornness block people from believing that they can be forgiven their sins, justified before God, and receive eternal life solely on the basis of God’s mercy and grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Love of this world , or materialism, hedonism, and the quest for power are things that are temporal and will soon pass away. Things that are fleeting like the passing of a season, are more important to them than the things of eternity.
The disciples were shocked at this scene, and even more shocked as Jesus explained by analogy in verses 23 & 24 that salvation is impossible for men to gain for themselves. Just as it is impossible for a full-grown camel to go through the eye of a sewing needle, so it is impossible for man to earn eternal life. Riches, power and wealth do not make the task any easier, if anything it makes it more difficult because of man’s tendency to trust in what he can control. The disciples were astonished because they had thought the rich could in essence “buy” their way into heaven, but salvation is impossible with men and possible only with God.
No one comes to Jesus unless God the Father draws him to Christ (John 6:44). All men are dead in their own trespasses and sin, and it is only God that can make them alive (Eph. 2). No man can earn his own way, it comes only by God’s grace (Eph 2:8,9). And yet God is longsuffering with us sinners and He loves us as is proved in the death of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8). God willingly gives His grace that we may answer His call given to everyone to repent and come place their trust for forgiveness of sins and hope for eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If salvation was something to be earned, then certainly the rich would have the advantage, but eternal life is not earned by men. It comes by God’s grace and so it extends to all – even the poorest most wretched person that has ever lived. Paul put it this way in 1 Cor. 1:26 “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…”. Since salvation is only possible with God, then it can come to you and me.
That is the setting for Peter’s question in verse 27. Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
Peter picks up on the fact that the rich young ruler received nothing because he was not willing to give up anything. Peter’s question comes about because he takes note that He and the other disciples have done what Jesus said. Now Peter wants to know what this means. Jesus had told the rich young ruler that if he would leave everything and follow Him, he would have treasure in heaven. Peter wants to know what treasure in heaven there would be for him and the others.
Peter is speaking here on behalf of all the disciples, and the first thing to understand about the disciples is that they had left everything that would have been important to most people. Though they were at their homes some of the time, for a large portion of the three years that they followed Jesus they were away from home in other parts of Galilee, down in Judea and Perea and even out of Israel way up Tyre and Sidon. Much of that time was away from family as well as their normal means of income.
Peter may or may not have comprehended that the “treasure in heaven” that Jesus was talking about comes by grace and not by works for the idea of work-righteousness and human claim to merited reward, i.e. the more we do the more we earn the more God owes us, was very strong within Judaism at that time. But lets be sure we understand that God does not owe us and will never owe us. All that we receive from Him is because of His grace, not our merit – all our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight (Isa. 64:6). Yet, God is pleased to give rewards to His children. The disciples valued Jesus and willingly left everything to follow Him. What was their reward?
Jesus answers in verses 28 & 29 tells us. And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” The first part of Jesus’ answer is specific to the disciples. The second part applies to all who meet the conditions.
Peter had correctly understood the conditions of inheriting eternal life. It is not in purchasing it by giving everything else up, because that is only a consequence of meeting the condition. . Jesus says, “truly I say to you,” a phrase calling attention that what would be said next is important and true: “that you who have followed Me…”. Notice that Jesus does not give a blanket statement covering all the disciples. In other words, Jesus did not just start out with what they would receive, “in the regeneration…” Instead, Jesus qualifies who would receive the reward. It would be those “who have followed Me.”
Leaving everything behind did not qualify for a reward unless the reason for doing so was to truly follow Jesus. Judas had also left everything and was physically following Jesus, but his heart was not. That fact comes out in his stealing from the money bag (John 12:6) and his selling out of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matt 27:3). But aside from Judas, the other disciples did follow Jesus from their hearts trusting Him as young children trust their dads. That is why they were part of the kingdom, their leaving everything was a consequence of their following Jesus.
God is a gracious God who delights to give good things to those who humbly seek Him and obey him (Matt 7:11). We find in this passage that there is a special reward to the disciples who followed Jesus and later became his apostles. “in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The term here translated as “regeneration” literally means the “new birth.” It is used only one other time in the New Testament in Titus 3:5 where it refers to the spiritual new birth of a believer in Jesus Christ. Here it refers the rebirth of the earth when Jesus will reign upon the throne of David. We are told about this time in several different passages of Scripture. We get the name “Millennium” for this period from Revelation 20 where in verses 1-3 the capture of Satan is described. Then, starting in verse 4 the scene mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 19 is described in detail.
“And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
The chapter goes on to talk about what happens at Satan’s final rebellion at the end of the thousand years and the final judgement upon Satan and all who did not follow Christ. Chapter 21 addresses the recreation of a new heaven and new earth and entering eternity. But the period of the “regeneration” is during the millennial reign of Christ when Jesus will sit on His “glorious” throne, the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13,14 and Psalm 2:2, 8-9.
During that reign the 12 apostles will have special positions and will sit on thrones and judge the 12 tribes of Israel just as Jesus says here and Revelation 20 declares. Some have always been curious about who will replace Judas as the 12th apostle, and whether it will be Matthias or Paul, but that is one of those curiosity questions that will be answered when we see it.
Now Jesus had ended there it would still give us much to praise God for since it demonstrates is gracious character. God does give good gifts to His children. His does give rewards to those who follow Him, and not because we are deserving, but because He is gracious. But Jesus does go on and what He says gives us even more reason to rejoice and praise God.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.” The promise of blessing and reward was not just to those disciples, but to all those that will in like manner follow Jesus.
Not everyone must leave their homes, business and family to follow the Lord, but that is the cost for many. In Matthew 10 as well as Luke 14 and other passages Jesus says that He has come not to bring peace but a sword with family members being set against one another because some come to faith in Him and others do not and remain Jesus’ enemies. That sort of price has been paid many times by people in other countries, and it occurs here as well. I have known people who upon coming to Christ were disowned by their families. One girl’s family even held a funeral for her and every time they called they said, “we have no daughter anymore.” Sometimes the cost is being kicked out of your home by the rest of the family that remains unbelieving, or the loss of your business. The price of following Christ can be high. Are you willing to pay it. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37 that “he who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
While the price for following Christ could be high, Jesus’ promise here is that the a higher price paid the greater reward that will be given. Regardless of what you must give up to follow Christ, He says that He will replace it many times more.
A friend of mine that I used to co-teach a home Bible study with was alienated from His family for many years when he started following Christ. It bothered him because he desired to see his family saved, but he said on many occasions that the Lord had replaced his loss many times over with his church family. Many brothers and sisters in Christ as well as older folks who became spiritual parents to him and as time went on, younger people that became his spiritual children. Some of you have made similar statements, that the church has become your family, and family that is much closer and more intimate than your blood relatives have ever been.
Those who follow Christ are given eternal life, and that is the greatest reward anyone could ever receive. It is of much more value than anything ever given up.
Some have reacted to this idea of rewards as being improper, an appeal to man’s baser nature, but I prefer to let God decide what is proper or improper. Jesus told us to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:19,20). The first and primary treasure is eternal life, but there are others mentioned in Scripture. There is a “Crown of life” mentioned in James 1:12 that is given to those who persevere under trial because of their love for the Lord. There is an Imperishable Wreath mentioned in 1 Cor. 9:25 that is given to those who learn self-control in their pursuit after godliness. Those who are diligent at fulfilling the great commission have a “crown of exultation” in those who come to Christ through their ministry (1 Thess. 2:19). For those that love the Lord’s coming and live their daily lives in light of His promise to return, there is a Crown of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). And for those that serve the Lord as His under-shepherds in His church there is a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2).
God is loving and very gracious. Though we deserve nothing and can do nothing on our own, though we can never demand of God, make a claim for merited reward or even earn His favor, yet He extends to those that will follow Jesus Christ not only eternal life, but rich gifts.
How tragic for the rich young ruler to value his possession and pride more than eternal life and the blessing and rewards that God gives. What about you? Have you suffered because you have followed Christ? Then rejoice! Great is your reward in heaven. If you have not yet come to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, what could you possible value more than what He offers? And those of you that have made professions of faith, what in this world is hindering you from following Jesus as you ought too.
1 John 2:15 warns us “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father , but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Are you laying up treasure here on earth where it will come to nothing, or in heaven where it will remain for eternity?
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