Calvary Road Baptist Church


Philippians 2.16

There are really only two religions in the entire world, if you look at what different folks really believe about sin, salvation, and service to God. Oh, I know there are Catholics and Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians. But when you remove all the labels and carefully examine what people believe about how to get right with God, there are only two religions, really.

Religion wrong, which is the religion of the vast majority of people on this planet, holds to the belief that the way to escape Hell and gain heaven is to do certain things so that God in heaven will eventually be happy enough with your good deeds that He will say, “Okay, I’ll let you in.” Of course, there are variations and differences in what folks think it actually takes to gain access to heaven, whether by helping little old ladies across the street, or dying in a holy war, or getting water sprinkled on your forehead when you are a tike, but the essence is the same. Do something good enough, or do enough good things, and God will let you in. Religion wrong, then, is basically built on the supposition that you do things that please God and He will reward your efforts by letting you into heaven, or into Nirvana, or into paradise. This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, and Catholics, and Mormons, and Hindus, and Shakers, and Pentecostals, and Charismatics, and Muslims. Now, many of these groups say they don’t believe this way, but careful examination of their adherents shows that they, in fact, do believe in getting to heaven this way. Many Baptists believe this way. However, that is wrong religion.

Right religion, that which is found in God’s Word, which is described as “the faith which was once delivered to the saints,” with saints being simple believers and not some special category of spiritual superman recognized by the Catholic Church, is entirely different, unlike any other faith system found anywhere in the world.[1] Right religion accepts the Bible declaration that people are sinners and completely incapable of doing anything that pleases God.[2] Right religion accepts that people are dead in trespasses and sins, and their attempts to do things pleasing to God are only contemptible and ill-conceived, are so helpless that they are in need of one to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. That is, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of the living God, must needs save you from your sins and establish you in a right relationship with God. And He does that without help of any kind from you. That is called salvation by grace through faith.[3] It is salvation which is a gift from God, not of works of any kind, though works have their place. Not before salvation, in order to earn God’s favor, but after salvation has been freely granted by God to the undeserving sinner.[4] So you see, right religion, Bible Christianity, does not see doing good deeds as a way of earning God’s favor so that He will allow you into heaven, but as a way for the person already granted a place in heaven to show to God his appreciation.

Wrong religion, then, sees salvation as a reward for good deeds done. Right religion sees salvation as a free gift given by God to undeserving sinners. After a person is saved, however, he can then work, he can then labor, and he can then expend great effort and energy, in service to God. Such service to God does not earn for him salvation or a place in heaven, for that is already guaranteed him through faith in Christ. But such service rendered after he is saved does earn for him rewards that will be given to him at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ, a place where believers in heaven are rewarded.[5] In various places in the New Testament, mention is made of rewards that will be given to people who are already saved and on their way to heaven, and these rewards will be awarded for outstanding service to Christ. Some rewards will be given for evangelism, getting sinners saved.[6] Other rewards will be given to pastors for being faithful undershepherds of God’s people. Still other rewards, and these rewards are called crowns in scripture, will be given for being a martyr who is faithful unto death, and so on.[7]

One of the great errors among those who strive to earn rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ as believers is the false belief that the Lord Jesus Christ will give crowns solely for winning lost folks to Jesus Christ. Turn to First Thessalonians 2.19: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” This verse is usually cited as evidence that when the believer gets to heaven and stands before the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be rewarded for the number of people he has supposedly “led to Christ.” My friend, I know that reading that verse by itself seems to indicate a reward for each person you have “led to Christ.” However, the subject of what we call a soul winner’s crown is really not as simple as that. Consider two things: First, consider the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 28.19-20, where we are commissioned not to win people to Christ, but to make disciples by teaching folks how to be saved, by baptizing those we are confident are saved, and by training those saved and baptized to do all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. Do you believe the Lord Jesus Christ rewards people for doing only a part of what He has commanded them to do? I don’t think so.

Consideration number two is our text for today, Philippians 2.16. In this verse it becomes abundantly clear that rewards which will be given to believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ are based on considerably more than just obtaining professions of faith from people. Let’s stand and read that verse together: “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” In this verse Paul anticipates his own rejoicing in the day of Christ, as he relates his own future to his ministry and how it relates to the lives of the Philippians he was discipling. To personalize and apply this verse to you and me, as well as to you and someone God uses you to bring to Christ and then influence, my purpose is to consider your responsibility as it is shown here, my rejoicing, and my responsibility. My rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ and your service to Christ are interrelated.


Notice the picture Paul paints for us. “Holding forth the word of life.” In verse 15, Paul indicated that his beloved Philippians shined as light in the world. And the Lord Jesus Christ told His apostles that “ye are the light of the world,” Matthew 5.14. Sadly, not every professing believer shines as spiritual light in a dark place. However, Paul was ecstatic that these Philippians did hold forth the word of life. So, Paul is painting for us a picture of spiritually dynamic Christians, who are obedient and aggressively evangelistic in trying to reach their world for Christ.

Now notice the practice. My friends, this is more than just someone who has made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and who has followed the Savior in believer’s baptism. “Holding forth the word of life” means more than being saved and becoming a church member. You go back to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples by teaching, by baptizing, and by teaching to observe all things whatsoever Christ commanded, and you will come away convinced that “holding forth the word of life” is the behavior of someone who is an obedient Christian, a true disciple of Jesus Christ. If I am to apply this passage to my own life, then I am in a position to be a rejoicing kind of guy when I am dealing with those of you who are following my lead and responding to my efforts to train you to be those who seek the salvation of the lost around you. Seeking the salvation of the lost around you is your responsibility.


Two things about this rejoicing:

First, it’s a reaction. The word “rejoicing” in this verse translates the Greek word for “boasting” or “bragging.” “It is not a boasting in meritorious effort but the sign of the completion of a divinely assigned commission.”[8] Thus, Paul is not here bragging on himself here. Oh, no. Remember, from verse 13, that he recognized “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” There is no cause or occasion for anyone to boast and to brag about what they had done. However, there are plenty of occasions to glory in what God has done, to brag on God, to boast about the doings in people’s lives that God has brought about. That is what Paul is referring to here. He is anticipating rejoicing as a reaction to the great work God accomplishes in the lives of those he ministers to.

However, this is all in the future, at the Rapture, which Paul refers to when he writes, “that I may rejoice in the day of Christ.” This refers to the catching away of all believers that will be the next significant event on the prophetic calendar. At the time of the Rapture, the Lord Jesus Christ will sit in session on His judgment seat, rewarding believers for their service to Him in the flesh after their experience of salvation. Paul is anticipating his great joy upon receiving rewards at the hand of his Master and Sovereign, in heaven, in the future. I, too, have occasion to anticipate the great rejoicing that is in store for me in the day of Christ, as a direct result of some of you who serve God by holding forth the word of life. Your responsibility, my rejoicing.


You have your responsibility. I anticipate my own rejoicing. However, the connection between you fulfilling your responsibility before God and me rejoicing over the rewards I will receive from the hand of my Savior is my responsibility to God to minister to you, to lead you, to teach you, to be an example to you to follow in service to Christ. Notice how Paul describes the responsibilities of a discipler toward those discipled here:

First, there is a responsibility to run. Paul will rejoice when he discovers in heaven that he has “not run in vain.” That is, when he discovers that his running has not been worthless and nonproductive. This reminds me of Paul’s comments in First Corinthians 9.24-25, where he likens his life and ministry of leadership in the lives of others to running a race and striving for a crown:

24     Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

25     And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

The crown he referred to is the crown he anticipated receiving from the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven for faithfully serving Him and training other believers to serve Him faithfully. So you see, there is more to real evangelism than persuading someone to pray a sinner’s prayer.

Then, there is a responsibility to labor. In First Thessalonians Paul links labor up with love. It is the labor of love in First Thessalonians 1.3, working hard to train, help, encourage, and be an example to younger Christians. Is it possible to labor and work in someone’s life, only to find your time wasted by an unproductive response? Oh my, yes. It’s worse than the heartbreak of psoriasis. There is a great deal of labor poured into the life of a black hole church member, who wants your time, who demands your time, who takes your time, who insists on being hovered over by you, but whose life never produces anything of lasting value. Such labor, then, has been in vain.

So, you can see that this simplistic idea of being rewarded by the Lord Jesus Christ for having more professions of faith than someone else doesn’t hold water. And the idea of getting someone saved and then moving on out of his life isn’t a Biblical concept either. Not that you shouldn’t try to get strangers saved, or that you shouldn’t witness on vacation, because of course you should. That being clear, understand that the Savior wants you and me to get disciples made. And disciples get made by getting sinners saved, getting newly saved sinners baptized, and then getting those folks trained to serve God in this church, to shine as lights in a dark world, to hold forth the word of life, etc.

My rewards in heaven are directly related to my effectiveness in seeing folks get saved, baptized, and properly trained to do right and actually doing right in this church ministry. And so are yours. Your job is not finished when you see someone make a profession of faith; it’s just beginning. So, let’s redouble our efforts to see folks come to Christ, to see that those who make professions of faith are genuinely converted, to then baptize them, and to then train them by our example, by our instructions, by our encouragement, to see them live for Christ here at Calvary Road Baptist Church. When you are involved in getting some sinner saved, baptized, and trained to actually live for Christ, then you have good reason in your own life to anticipate a great day of rejoicing at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What will it be like for you in the Day of Christ? Will you rejoice then for what you are doing now in the lives of others?


We now turn our attention to those of you are not saved. As I have already pointed out, true religion and a right relationship with Jesus Christ makes no attempt to work in order to secure the salvation of your soul, but rather works after conversion to glorify God and to serve the One Who saved you from your sins. Wrong religion, on the other hand, seeks to somehow and in some way work for salvation, seeks to accomplish something, seeks to achieve something, in order to help God, in order to help Jesus Christ, in order to have some ground for feeling good about yourself. However, Paul wrote to Titus saying, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” Titus 3.5.

In an effort to throw you off your attempts to work your way into God’s good graces, in an attempt to sour you on your attempts to do something in order to secure for yourself the salvation of your soul, let me explore three results that arise from any attempt by you to secure your salvation by any means other than faith in Christ alone:


The word depraved is a theological word. It’s a word that is not found in the Bible, though it’s a word that describes a concept that is powerfully and emphatically asserted in scripture. That concept is that you, as a sinner in the sight of God, are utterly without redeeming merit, are utterly without redeeming capacity, and are utterly without redeeming desire. Consider just a few passages of scripture that show you to be depraved.

The Bible teaches that you are without redeeming merit, that there is nothing about you that is commendable to God. Do you doubt that? Then listen to the Apostle Paul, the greatest example of Christianity ever to walk on this planet. In Romans 7.18, Paul wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” Now listen to the words of Job, the Old Testament patriarch described by God Himself as a perfect and upright man. In Job 42.6, after being confronted by God, Job describes himself with these words: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” If Paul was no good, and if Job was no good, despite the fact that both men had standing before God, how can you deny that you, too, are without redeeming merit of any kind?

In addition to being without redeeming merit, which is to say there is nothing good in you, you are also without redeeming capacity. That is, you possess no capacity to save yourself. How can I say that? I can say that because you are spiritually dead, Ephesians 2.1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” I can say that because you are spiritually weak, Romans 5.6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And I can say that because you are spiritually blind, Second Corinthians 4.4: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

Third, you are shown to be depraved by the fact that you are without redeeming desire. Romans 3.11 says it succinctly and sufficiently: “There is none that seeketh after God.” There is nothing good in you worth saving, without redeeming merit. There is no ability in you to save yourself, without redeeming capacity. There is no will to seek after God and know Him, without redeeming will. These three things, confirming your spiritual depravity, are taught in God’s Word. If, therefore, you try to get to heaven or try to know God by doing something, anything, you are denying what God’s Word says to be true about your depravity. In effect, then, a good Catholic, or a good Mormon, or a good Jehovah Witness, or a good Buddhist, or a good Muslim, by their own efforts, by their own beliefs and strivings to do good works, actually deny depravity, calling God a liar by their efforts.[9]


What did Jesus cry out with a loud voice on the cross? John 19.30 tells us that He said, “It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” Why did Jesus cry out “It is finished?” He yelled that out because it was finished. The work of redemption had climaxed and concluded in His work on the cross.

Do you doubt what I say? Then listen to the writer of Hebrews contrast the priesthood of Old Testament times with the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10.11-18:

11     And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

12     But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

13     From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

14     For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

15     Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

16     This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

17     And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

18     Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.

Consider this in light of what I have just read: When you try to get into God’s good graces by doing good deeds, by taking the sacraments, by performing acts of contrition, by chanting the mantra, or by learning lots of Bible truths and being a good Bible student, you are actually and in effect deploring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Are you really sure you want to do that? First Peter 3.18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Those things that you do when you do your good works, they don’t bring you to God. Only Jesus Christ brings you to God, and He only does that when you abandon works for faith in Him. Therefore, when you try to work your way to heaven, or when you think that joining a church will help expedite your journey to heaven, do you know what you are doing? You are deploring the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. You are behaving as though Jesus Christ didn’t pay it all. You are acting as though He did not and that He could not, by His doing and dying, purchase salvation for you full and free.


Why would an unsaved man perform rites and rituals unless he thought that somehow it would remove his sins? Why do the Buddhists turn their prayer wheels in Tibet, and why do the Roman Catholics light their votive candles and christen their babies, except to remove their own or someone else’s sins? Why do most Baptists get baptized, or go door knocking, or go to prayer meetings, if not to get their sins forgiven? Why do most Pentecostals pretend to be Spirit-filled and con others into believing they speak in tongues if not to somehow and in some way remove their personal sin? Such efforts can only be attempted in a futile effort that has the effect of devaluing the precious shed blood of Jesus Christ. You see, only the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses away sins, First John 1.7. Thus, any effort, any work, performed for the purpose of seeking salvation can do no good whatsoever. By devaluing the blood of Jesus Christ, by supposing that your weak, lame, and misguided efforts are up to the task of removing sins, you succeed only in offending and enraging the one you claim you want to please.

My friend, if you are not depraved, if you have the merit or the capacity or the will to save yourself, then what was the point of the Savior’s doing and dying for you? If you could, by work, accomplish your own salvation, why then did He sacrifice Himself for you and shed His precious blood to wash your sins away? The answer, my friend, is simple. The Lord Jesus Christ worked for you because you are incapable of working to save yourself. You are incapable of working for your salvation because you are depraved. And when you attempt to work for your salvation you succeed only in greater sin.

Let me urge you to look, instead, to Jesus. He worked for you. He shed His blood for you. You need Him to save you from your sins because you cannot save yourself.

[1] Jude 3

[2] Romans 3.10-12, 23; Ephesians 2.1-3

[3] Ephesians 2.5, 8

[4] Ephesians 2.10

[5] Romans 14.10; 2 Corinthians 5.10

[6] 1 Thessalonians 2.19

[7] Revelation 2.10

[8] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 553.

[9] Romans 3.4

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