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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Charles Austin

This discussion shows the reasons I have closed down my theology shop.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. Former journalist. Former news director and spokesman for the LCA. Former LWF staff in Geneva, Switzerland.  Parishes in Iowa. New Jersey and New York.  Retired in Minneapolis.

John Mundinger

#61
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say,

Let's discuss sanctification.  To begin with, we do not justify ourselves and we do not sanctify ourselves.  Both are the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work within us.  Justification is not about performing good works to merit God's favor.  Likewise, sanctification is not about performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor.

fwiw, I learned about about sanctification from Luther's explanation of the Third Article and the related passages and Q&A in the 1943 CPH edition of the catechism.  That teaching says nothing about degrees of glory or even rewards for good works.  So, I'm still trying to understand what "degrees of glory" has to to with sanctification.

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

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:04:52 PM
Quote from: Fletch1 on February 17, 2024, 12:01:39 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 11:18:12 AMBut, why is it necessary to teach and preach degrees of glory?

Because it is part of God's inspired, inerrant Word.

Holy Scriptures - Is or contains - where do you shake out?  Is it all worth teaching and preaching or only the parts you value?

I'll ask you the same question.  Where in God's Word and the Lutheran Confession do you find the term, "degrees of glory"?
And also "rewards in heaven." The passages I've seen referred to could (more?) easily refer to earthly rewards. Thus, they follow some OT teachings about the righteous being blessed during their lives.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say, "Oh, I've not spent much time on that teaching. Thanks for sharing!" And move on. Why question the motives and service of persons teaching something taught by Christ and the Apostles?
"Sanctification" = "becoming more holy." Just what does that mean. How might a more sanctified person differ from one who is less sanctified? In my study on this topic, especially Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, maturity of Christians is indicated by their relationship with other people. I don't believe that we can do anything to improve our relationship with God. God has done everything that is necessary. We can add nothing to it. We can improve in the ways we carry out Jesus' command to love one another.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

RF

Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:04:52 PM
Quote from: Fletch1 on February 17, 2024, 12:01:39 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 11:18:12 AMBut, why is it necessary to teach and preach degrees of glory?

Because it is part of God's inspired, inerrant Word.

Holy Scriptures - Is or contains - where do you shake out?  Is it all worth teaching and preaching or only the parts you value?

I'll ask you the same question.  Where in God's Word and the Lutheran Confession do you find the term, "degrees of glory"?
I think that has been covered already in this thread.
Do you choose to answer my question or just divert further?  Either way, I'm good - are you?

John Mundinger

#65
Quote from: Fletch1 on February 17, 2024, 12:44:52 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:04:52 PM
Quote from: Fletch1 on February 17, 2024, 12:01:39 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 11:18:12 AMBut, why is it necessary to teach and preach degrees of glory?

Because it is part of God's inspired, inerrant Word.

Holy Scriptures - Is or contains - where do you shake out?  Is it all worth teaching and preaching or only the parts you value?

I'll ask you the same question.  Where in God's Word and the Lutheran Confession do you find the term, "degrees of glory"?  So, to answer your question, if it is not in the Scriptures and Confessions, it shouldn't be taught.
I think that has been covered already in this thread.
Do you choose to answer my question or just divert further?  Either way, I'm good - are you?


I've seen citations to both Scripture and the Confessions - none of which used the term "degrees of glory"
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

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:20:47 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say,

Let's discuss sanctification.  To begin with, we do not justify ourselves and we do not sanctify ourselves.  Both are the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work within us.  Justification is not about performing good works to merit God's favor.  Likewise, sanctification is not about performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor.

I see you are describing justification and sanctification by what they are not. Has anyone in the thread taught:

"Justification is performing good works to merit God's favor."

"Sanctification is performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor."

I've not seen anyone assert these ideas. Do you see someone asserting them?

John Mundinger

#67
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:01:17 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:20:47 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say,

Let's discuss sanctification.  To begin with, we do not justify ourselves and we do not sanctify ourselves.  Both are the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work within us. Justification is not about performing good works to merit God's favor.  Likewise, sanctification is not about performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor.

I see you are describing justification and sanctification by what they are not.

I bolded what Justification and Sanctification are, in case you missed it.

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:01:17 PMI've not seen anyone assert these ideas. Do you see someone asserting them?

The title of this thread has to do with "degrees of glory in heaven" and several folks have talked about rewards for performing good works.  You and others claim that you are not asserting work ethics.  Yet, by asserting the importance of teaching "degrees of glory" as doctrine, it reads like you are contradicting yourself.

I just re-read the article that is linked in the initial post.  The author makes a good argument that there will be a reward for faithfulness - that isn't in dispute.  He further states that some will receive greater in honor - a claim that is not supported with Scripture.  Then, he says this teaching is important because it encourages good works.  That sounds like a work ethic even though the author denies it.

btw, do you have the Scriptural and Confessional references to "degrees of glory"?  I'd also appreciate an explanation of what, if anything, "degrees of glory" has to do with sanctification.
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

Weedon

The great Weimarische Bibel Werk, prepared under the theological auspices of Johann Gerhard, glosses 1 Cor. 15:42 with this:

(also werden auch unsere Leiber in der Auferstehung mit viel herrlichern Eigenschaften begabet sein, denn sie in diesem Leben haben, auch werden die auferweckten verklärten Leiber under sich selbst die Klarheit nach unterschieden sein)

(So our bodies will also be endowed with much more glorious attributes in the resurrection than they have in this life, and the resurrected glorified bodies will differ in brightness among themselves)

This is the same verse, I believe, that Franz Pieper takes as a sedes doctrinae for the distinction in glory among the saints in his Christian Dogmatics.

If you want to play word games, John, with "degrees" vs. "distinction" have at it. The point is that in the Kingdom glory will differ from one saint to another, and this will be a cause for glorifying and praising God, not griping.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 01:09:34 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:01:17 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:20:47 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say,

Let's discuss sanctification.  To begin with, we do not justify ourselves and we do not sanctify ourselves.  Both are the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work within us. Justification is not about performing good works to merit God's favor.  Likewise, sanctification is not about performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor.

I see you are describing justification and sanctification by what they are not.

I bolded what Justification and Sanctification are, in case you missed it.

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:01:17 PMI've not seen anyone assert these ideas. Do you see someone asserting them?

The title of this thread has to do with "degrees of glory in heaven" and several folks have talked about rewards for performing good works.  You and others claim that you are not asserting work ethics.  Yet, by asserting the importance of teaching "degrees of glory" as doctrine, it reads like you are contradicting yourself.

I just re-read the article that is linked in the initial post.  The author makes a good argument that there will be a reward for faithfulness - that isn't in dispute.  He further states that some will receive greater in honor - a claim that is not supported with Scripture.  Then, he says this teaching is important because it encourages good works.  That sounds like a work ethic even though the author denies it.

btw, do you have the Scriptural and Confessional references to "degrees of glory"?  I'd also appreciate an explanation of what, if anything, "degrees of glory" has to do with sanctification.

I noticed the one positive statement but thought you might agree that it was ambiguous.

To track a dogmatic term, you trace back in Latin and/or Greek. A quick look took me to:

gradum bonum/bathmon kalon

See 1 Timothy 3:13. An English translation is "good standing." Gradum shares it's root with degree. It's literally a step (like gradual in liturgy) but is a word for measurement.

John Mundinger

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:45:19 PMI noticed the one positive statement but thought you might agree that it was ambiguous.

What is ambiguous about the statement that both justification and sanctification are the work of the Holy Spirit?

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:45:19 PMSee 1 Timothy 3:13. An English translation is "good standing." Gradum shares it's root with degree. It's literally a step (like gradual in liturgy) but is a word for measurement.

All believers are in good standing by virtue of God's promise of forgiveness and eternal life, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  That is justification.

"Degrees of glory" implies that some will be in better standing as a reward for their good works.
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

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 01:01:17 PM
Quote from: John Mundinger on February 17, 2024, 12:20:47 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 17, 2024, 12:14:08 PMI think Will's point is that Christ and the Apostles taught us about both justification and sanctification. If you don't want to discuss sanctification, why not just say,

Let's discuss sanctification.  To begin with, we do not justify ourselves and we do not sanctify ourselves.  Both are the consequence of the Holy Spirit at work within us.  Justification is not about performing good works to merit God's favor.  Likewise, sanctification is not about performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor.

I see you are describing justification and sanctification by what they are not. Has anyone in the thread taught:

"Justification is performing good works to merit God's favor."

"Sanctification is performing good works to merit an extra measure of God's favor."

I've not seen anyone assert these ideas. Do you see someone asserting them?
No, you don't use that language, the results of what you say imply that good works merit an extra measure of God's grace. It's sort of like saying something is "more correct" or "more perfect." Once something is correct or perfect, there can't be more of it.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 01:33:06 PMThe great Weimarische Bibel Werk, prepared under the theological auspices of Johann Gerhard, glosses 1 Cor. 15:42 with this:

(also werden auch unsere Leiber in der Auferstehung mit viel herrlichern Eigenschaften begabet sein, denn sie in diesem Leben haben, auch werden die auferweckten verklärten Leiber under sich selbst die Klarheit nach unterschieden sein)

(So our bodies will also be endowed with much more glorious attributes in the resurrection than they have in this life, and the resurrected glorified bodies will differ in brightness among themselves)

This is the same verse, I believe, that Franz Pieper takes as a sedes doctrinae for the distinction in glory among the saints in his Christian Dogmatics.

If you want to play word games, John, with "degrees" vs. "distinction" have at it. The point is that in the Kingdom glory will differ from one saint to another, and this will be a cause for glorifying and praising God, not griping.
How do you interpret "more glorious attributes in the resurrection" to indicate degrees of glory in the afterlife? There is a distinction between our bodies on earth and our glorious bodies in heaven. Paul is clear about that in 1 Corinthians 15. I don't see any distinctions among the glories given to our heavenly bodies.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

John Mundinger

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 01:33:06 PMIf you want to play word games, John, with "degrees" vs. "distinction" have at it. The point is that in the Kingdom glory will differ from one saint to another, and this will be a cause for glorifying and praising God, not griping.

I'm not convinced that I am the one playing word games.  And, I am not the one who is saying one thing that sounds as though it is implying something else.

Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 01:33:06 PMThe point is that in the Kingdom glory will differ from one saint to another, and this will be a cause for glorifying and praising God.

Clearly, So our bodies will also be endowed with much more glorious attributes in the resurrection than they have in this life, and the resurrected glorified bodies will differ in brightness among themselves is cause for glorifying and praising God.

What does the idea that bodies will differ in brightness add to our understanding of justification and sanctification and why is that an important lesson to teach?


Quote from: Weedon on February 17, 2024, 01:33:06 PMthis will be a cause for glorifying and praising God, not griping.

Whose griping?  I'm just trying to understand what sounds like a bunch of theological double speak.

Footnote:  Pieper's Christian Dogmatics does not appear in my copy of the Confessions.
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

Weedon

Again, 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)

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