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  • Writer's pictureJohan Smith

The theory of reward

There are so many practical problems with the reward theory. Let me mention a few: Who determines what is good? Who determines what is good enough? The term ‘good’ differs from culture to culture. In many Eastern countries, women are still disregarded nowadays and treated as if they have little or no value. In terms of their culture, this is good. Every country has its own traditions and habits that differ from those of another country. Who is correct? Even churches differ over certain matters and apply particular moral guidelines differently. Who is correct? It’s a very difficult and complicated debate when being ‘good’ becomes the norm to gain access to heaven. It’s an enormous problem if a specific pass mark must be attained, especially if this will eventually determine where you’ll spend eternity. Fortunately, our assurance of faith doesn’t depend on such airy-fairy stuff. Nope, God loves you too much for this kind of interaction.


Many years ago, the death penalty was a reality in our country. People were sentenced to death by the courts and then hanged usually because of murders they committed or brutal rapes. A noticeably young man (19), Johannes Wessels, was such a person. He committed a terribly brutal murder in the eastern Free State and following drawn out court cases, was sentenced to death. I remember photos of him in the newspaper. The story touched my heart because he was so young. I followed the court drama in the papers every day. It was a heartbreaking episode with a very touching end. But years after he died, somebody gave me a handwritten letter from the young man. To this day it is one of my most precious possessions. Amongst other things, he wrote the following:


While I’m sitting here in my prison cell on death row, one desire came to me above all else: I want to lead a lost sinner to Christ!... One Sunday afternoon about a month after the murder… I went down on my knees next to my bed and while sobbing I started confessing all my sins, big and small, to God. I told God everything about the sins I committed and continuously begged him for forgiveness… After I had finished, I experienced a feeling that made me dead quiet. It was something holy, pure and lovely. From that moment onwards I knew that the Spirit of God was within me. I was 18 then… a few months later I was sentenced to death.


This rebellious young man who committed murder, fell to his knees before Jesus in prison and accepted Jesus as his Savior and Redeemer. On the morning of his death, this young man walked to the gallows filled with the Lord’s joy and peace. He was assured that he was on his way to enter heaven.


This is what grace does! And it’s what reward cannot possibly do.


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