Are There Degrees of Glory in Heaven as a Reward for Good Works?

Started by racin_jason, February 15, 2024, 02:15:18 PM

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Tom Eckstein

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 10:32:29 AMNo one, but no one has remotely suggested that we would seek to do good works in order to be rewarded for them. But that has zero to do with the Church's clear obligation to teach what the Scriptures teach about the reality of degrees of glory and reward. No imagined danger of teaching this escaped the Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred writers to include this in the faith once delivered to the saints. The correct way to guard against misunderstanding of the doctrine is to teach correctly about grace and the motivation of thankfulness for salvation in our serving the neighbor; it is not to erase part of what the Holy Spirit revealed because you think it might be abused. Grrrr.

Will, I hope you know I agree with all that you say about "degrees of glory."  My posts are simply pointing out that people in our culture and many (most?) within the Church HEAR "degrees of glory" at worst in terms of earning salvation and at best as though our motive for good works in this life should be to obtain the best mansion possible in heaven.  I fully realize you do NOT teach these false views and I'm sure you do out of your way to correct such false views among our people.  It's just that I've discovered that when I address Scripture's teaching about "degrees of glory" that many either assume it refers to works righteousness, at worse, or "I'm saved by grace but I'm gonna do good works so I can live on a higher plane in heaven!", at best.
I'm an LCMS Pastor in Jamestown, ND.

Weedon

Tom,

I know that you agree. You confess the Lutheran Symbols without reservation! No need for you to gospel-reduce them! And I agree with the way you describe folks mishearing this teaching—I've encountered it too. But it hasn't stopped me from teaching and clarifying, as I'm sure it hasn't stopped you either.

Tom Eckstein

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 04:01:27 PMTom,

I know that you agree. You confess the Lutheran Symbols without reservation! No need for you to gospel-reduce them! And I agree with the way you describe folks mishearing this teaching—I've encountered it too. But it hasn't stopped me from teaching and clarifying, as I'm sure it hasn't stopped you either.

I teach as you do.  However, my posts were not an attempt to "gospel-reduce the Confessions" but GOSPEL-CORRECT the misunderstanding of Scripture and the Confessions by many on this issue.  The opinio legis is strong in us - and thus the constant need to GOSPEL-CORRECT teachings of Scripture and the Confessions that are often heard by our sinful nature with the result that we end up curving in on ourselves.
I'm an LCMS Pastor in Jamestown, ND.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 03:11:43 PMAgain, the Lutheran Symbols (I'm citing from my old Tappert):

Afterwards works merit other bodily and spiritual rewards because they please God through faith. There will be distinctions in the glory of the saints. (Ap IV:355)

Yet the proclamation of rewards and punishments is necessary. In the proclamation of punishments the wrath of God is displayed and hence this belongs to the preaching of penitence. In the proclamation of rewards grace is displayed. When they talk about good works, the Scriptures often include faith, since they wish to include the righteousness of the heart with other fruits. Just as they sometimes offer grace with other rewards, as in Is. 58:8,9 and often in other places in the prophets. We also concede, and have often declared, that though justification and eternal life belong to faith, still good works merit other rewards, both bodily and spiritual, in various *degrees*, according to 1 Cor. 3:8: 'Each shall receive his wages according to his labor." The righteousness of the Gospel, which deals with the promise of grace receives justification and new life gratis. The keeping of the law that follows faith deals with the law, in which a reward is offered and owed, not gratis but for our works. Those who merit this are justified before they keep the law. (Ap IV:365, 366)

Works and afflictions merit not justification but other rewards, as in these passages a reward is offered for works. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6); here the degree of the reward is commensurate with the degree of the work. (Ap IV:367)

Although this keeping of the law thus merits a reward, since a reward properly belongs to the law, still we must remember that the Gospel offers justification freely for Christ's sake. We neither do nor can keep the law before we have been reconciled to God, justified, and reborn. This keeping of the law would not please God unless we had been accepted because of faith. Since men are accepted because of this faith, the incipient keeping of the law pleases God and has its reward, both here and hereafter. (Ap IV:368)

Thank you, Will. Very helpful.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

So, to circle back to the original question from Jason, Lutherans do teach that, apart from and after justification, the Lord rewards His saints for their good works. This includes rewards in eternity, perhaps represented by seats in heaven (e.g., elders nearer the throne) and the crowns awarded (five by my count), which the saints in turn use to praise the Lord. This is not a major locus in the Lutheran Confessions but is represented from 1530 and normative among us for nearly 500 years.

Good question and discussion.

John Mundinger

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 03:11:43 PMAgain, the Lutheran Symbols (I'm citing from my old Tappert):

Afterwards works merit other bodily and spiritual rewards because they please God through faith. There will be distinctions in the glory of the saints. (Ap IV:355)

Yet the proclamation of rewards and punishments is necessary. In the proclamation of punishments the wrath of God is displayed and hence this belongs to the preaching of penitence. In the proclamation of rewards grace is displayed. When they talk about good works, the Scriptures often include faith, since they wish to include the righteousness of the heart with other fruits. Just as they sometimes offer grace with other rewards, as in Is. 58:8,9 and often in other places in the prophets. We also concede, and have often declared, that though justification and eternal life belong to faith, still good works merit other rewards, both bodily and spiritual, in various *degrees*, according to 1 Cor. 3:8: 'Each shall receive his wages according to his labor." The righteousness of the Gospel, which deals with the promise of grace receives justification and new life gratis. The keeping of the law that follows faith deals with the law, in which a reward is offered and owed, not gratis but for our works. Those who merit this are justified before they keep the law. (Ap IV:365, 366)

Works and afflictions merit not justification but other rewards, as in these passages a reward is offered for works. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6); here the degree of the reward is commensurate with the degree of the work. (Ap IV:367)

Although this keeping of the law thus merits a reward, since a reward properly belongs to the law, still we must remember that the Gospel offers justification freely for Christ's sake. We neither do nor can keep the law before we have been reconciled to God, justified, and reborn. This keeping of the law would not please God unless we had been accepted because of faith. Since men are accepted because of this faith, the incipient keeping of the law pleases God and has its reward, both here and hereafter. (Ap IV:368)

First, thanks for citing the reference that I had requested.

I find it interesting that the reference to "degrees" in the Confession is in reference to "rewards", not glory.  It is even more interesting that it occurs in an article specific to justification - and argument that refutes the argument against ACIV and affirms the doctrine of justification by grace, through faith.  And, clearly, the idea of degrees of rewards is subordinate to the reward we all share as a result of faith in Christ Jesus.

The following is from the the article that initiated this conversation:  "The purpose of this teaching is to encourage us as we carry out our Christian callings in this sin-darkened world and look forward to the perfect joy of heaven."

I would suggest that sentence is not considered with degrees of rewards, if degrees of rewards is considered in the entire context of Apology IV.  Moreover, I'd suggest that it also is inconsistent with the idea that good works are the consequence of sanctification and that our motivation for participation in good works is one of thanksgiving, not the expectation of special recognition in heaven. 

In many respects, especially if we consider eternity through the lens of John's Gospel, we already are living eternal life and good works are part and parcel to living in eternal life.
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

John Mundinger

Quote from: Tom Eckstein on February 17, 2024, 03:59:07 PMWill, I hope you know I agree with all that you say about "degrees of glory."  My posts are simply pointing out that people in our culture and many (most?) within the Church HEAR "degrees of glory" at worst in terms of earning salvation and at best as though our motive for good works in this life should be to obtain the best mansion possible in heaven.  I fully realize you do NOT teach these false views and I'm sure you do out of your way to correct such false views among our people.  It's just that I've discovered that when I address Scripture's teaching about "degrees of glory" that many either assume it refers to works righteousness, at worse, or "I'm saved by grace but I'm gonna do good works so I can live on a higher plane in heaven!", at best.

I think you make a compelling argument for talking about "degrees of glory" in an advanced Confessions seminar.  But, that the topic should be avoided in Sunday morning Bible Class.
Lifelong Evangelical Lutheran layman

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought.  St. Augustine

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