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From the Summer 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

Augustine on Heaven and Rewards

by Kevin Offner
Senior Campus Staff Member for Intervarsity Collegiate Ministries, Mid-Atlantic Area Graduate and Faculty Ministries

 

 
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A Proper View of Heaven

 A second way that we can benefit from Augustine’s pastoral theology is in the priority he places on the Christian’s good works and their relation to heaven and heaven’s rewards. What a human being does in response to God’s grace really matters to Augustine—in fact, it is a matter of heaven and hell. Since the drama of salvation is a process finalized only at death, our moral choices along our pilgrimage are not mere icing on the cake of an already finished state, but truly significant players in the successful completion of our journey.
 Even though Jesus often speaks of rewards as one way of motivating His flock, many of us become uneasy with such thinking, assuming (often unconsciously) that our doing something that merits some kind of reward from God automatically rules out grace and inevitably involves pride. But at the end of the ages, Jesus will say one of two things to every person—either, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you,” or, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” (Note: Jesus will not say to the Christian, “Well done, Holy Spirit in you,” but, “Well done, Sally; well done, Jim. You have been faithful!”)
 Somehow, we must be able to do two things simultaneously in our understanding of salvation: (1) affirm the importance of the Christian’s obedience, holiness, and moral choices, insisting that our choices reap real and serious consequences, and (2) glory in Jesus Christ and His grace, where we can say with full exuberance that God has saved us, God is saving us, and God one day will save us.

 


 

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Notes:
1 Augustine, (s.)Sermons, trans. Edmund Hill, in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. John E. Rotelle, part 3, vols. 1–11
(Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1990), s.363.3.
2 s. 213.1.
3 s. 16A.9.
4 s. 16B.3.
5 s. 9.4.
6 s. 57.13.
7 s. 22A.4.
8 s. 84.1.
9 s. 9.13.
10 s. 127.1.
11 s. 127.2.
12 s. 210.7.
13 s. 108.
14 Scripture quotations here are from the English Standard Version.
15 s. 131.8, 11.
16 s. 333.2,5.
17 s. 113A.1.
18 s. 85.
19 s. 31.6.
20 s. 398.9.
21 s. 19.5.
22 s. 58.13.

Kevin Offner has been on staff with InterVarsity for 31 years, serving students in New England and now the metro Washington DC area.  He currently oversees faculty and graduate student ministry on 4 campuses in Washington, DC.  Kevin is married to Amy, and they have a 12 year old son, David.  Kevin is interested in orthodox Christian theology across a wide spectrum of traditions, seeking agreement without compromise.

 

Recommended Reading:
Gerald Bray, Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God (Crossway, 2015)

Augustine is widely considered to be the most influential theologian in church history after the apostle Paul. Dramatically converted from a life of licentiousness to one of wholehearted devotion to Christ, the humble North African pastor quickly established himself as a leading figure within the ancient church. In Augustine on the Christian Life, historian Gerald Bray explores the rich spirituality of this extraordinary man, examining his historical context, approach to the Christian life, and work as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word. Drawing on Augustine’s many writings—including his classic spiritual autobiography, the Confessions—Bray demonstrates Augustine’s enduring relevance for Christians today. This book is part of Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series.

 
COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

 
 

 

 
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