Chapter 10: Christ as Judge at the Judgment Seat

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by Craig Munro, Scotland

INTRODUCTION

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE WORD JUDGMENT?

WHAT DOES THE TERM ‘JUDGMENT SEAT’ MEAN?

OVERVIEW OF JUDGMENTS IN SCRIPTURE

SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ON THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

SEVEN CRITICAL FEATURES OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

SUMMARY: SEVEN CRITICAL FEATURES OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

CONCLUSION



INTRODUCTION

In this chapter we will be considering the terms ‘judgment’ and ‘Judgment Seat’ in Scripture. Following a brief survey of the various judgments we find in Scripture generally, we will then focus in particular on the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When dealing with the subject of the Judgment Seat of Christ, a number of basic questions must initially be answered. For example, will believers have to answer for their sins? When will it happen? Who will be there? Where will it happen? Having answered these initial questions, seven critical features of the Judgment Seat of Christ will be examined. There are four principal sections of Scripture that set out the subject most fully: 1Corinthians chapters 3 and 4; 2Corinthians chapter 5 and Romans chapter 14, each of which will be briefly reviewed. This subject is one of deep solemnity and the prayer of the writer is that our souls may be stilled and consideration of this critical subject will form deeper convictions of the glory of Christ.


WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE WORD JUDGMENT?

There are a number of words that are translated ‘judgment’ in the Bible and each must be interpreted in its context. There are, however, two basic meanings. Firstly, there is the idea of a righteous assessment made based on evidence, leading to conviction or exoneration of the charges. The second idea springs from the first but is concerned with the decision made and the action of punishment or reward that arises from a righteous assessment of the facts. We often use these two meanings interchangeably. When we say that God is a God of judgment, we normally mean He is righteous in His assessment of people and events. When we say that God is a God of wrath, we are focusing particularly on the consequences of His righteous assessment resulting in righteous punishment. To illustrate this distinction we should remember that the Lord Jesus spoke about a time when the prince of this world is "judged" Jn.16.11. The Lord Jesus was speaking, of course, of the cross at Calvary. It was there that Satan was righteously assessed, his claims were dismissed, his power annulled and his eternal judgment pronounced. However, His actual final punishment and placing in the lake of fire waits the judgment day that will be just prior to the eternal Day of God, 2Pet.3.10-12; Rev.20.1-15.


WHAT DOES THE TERM ‘JUDGMENT SEAT’ MEAN?

There are 13 times in our New Testament when the Greek word "bema", normally translated "Judgment Seat", is used. This word bema commonly referred to a raised platform in a Greek court where judgment took place. It was applied to the tribunal of a Roman magistrate or ruler, including at Gabbatha, Matt.27.19; Jn.19.13. It is also used of God’s place of judgment for the believer, Rom.14.10; 2Cor.5.10. This is not to be confused with the Greek word thronos which is used of the Great White Throne where the wicked dead will be judged at the end of the Millennium kingdom, Rev.20.11-15. An overview of the various judgments in Scripture might be helpful to set the Judgment Seat of Christ in context.


OVERVIEW OF JUDGMENTS IN SCRIPTURE

There are seven fundamental aspects of judgment in Scripture:

  1. Judgment at the Cross: God’s judgment against sin, death and Satan, which was once and for all, Jn.12.31; Rom.5.16,18; 2Cor.5.21; Col.2.10-16; Heb.2.14.
  2. Judgment in Life: God’s daily governmental dealing with nations, assemblies and individuals. This is true of both Old and New Testament periods and the present Church age, Lev.10.1,2; Num.16.20-35; Acts 5.11; 1Cor.11.30. It will also be evident during the Millennium kingdom where righteous judgment will be executed directly and immediately by God, Zech.14.17-19.
  3. Judgment Seat of Christ: God’s assessment of the service, conduct and motives of each member of the Church, which will take place after the rapture, 2Cor.5.10.
  4. Judgment of the Living Jews: God’s removal of the chaff and refining of Israel prior to the manifestation of Christ on earth, Ezek.20.33-44; Zech.13.9 -14.2.
  5. Judgment of the Earth at Christ’s Coming: God’s punishment of a rebellious earth at Christ’s return, Zech.14.3-9; Matt.24.29-31; 2Thess.1.7-9; Rev.1.7.
  6. Judgment of the Living Nations: God’s assessment, punishment and reward of resurrected Old Testament and Tribulation saints and those alive on the earth following His return to earth and before the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, Matt.25.31-46; Rev.20.4; Dan.12.2,3; Rev.7.13-17; Rev.11.18.
  7. Judgment at the Great White Throne: God’s final assessment and punishment of the wicked dead after the millennial reign of Christ, Rev.20.5-15.


SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ON THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

Scripture enlightens us as to seven fundamental issues relating to the Judgment Seat of Christ. We are told: the Name of the Judge; the Time of the Judgment; the Persons to be Judged; the Place of the Judgment; the Scope of the Judgment; the Manner of the Judgment; the Purpose of the Judgment.

The Name of the Judge

The Judge is "Christ" 2Cor.5.10. The Lord is "the righteous judge" 2Tim.4.8. Paul says: "He that judgeth me is the Lord" 1Cor.4.4. The Lord Jesus said: "For the Father ... hath committed all judgment unto the Son" Jn.5.22. It is likely that the Judgment Seat of Christ in Rom.14.10, should be translated the Judgment Seat of God. This is another example of Scripture confirming the Deity of Christ.

The Time of the Judgment

It will take place after the Lord Jesus Christ has come for His people to the air, often called the "Rapture", but before the manifestation of Christ on earth in judgment. Paul taught the believers in Corinth that they should not try to assess one another’s spirituality but leave that "until the Lord come" 1Cor.4.5. In other words, the Judgment Seat of Christ happens after His return to the air for the believers. Elsewhere in this book the fact that the Scriptures teach the imminent return of Christ has been outlined. When the Lord Jesus said, "If I go … I will come again" Jn.14.3, this was believed by the early disciples. They taught the young Christians in Thessalonica to turn "to God from idols … and to wait for His Son from heaven" 1Thess.1.9,10. This truth affected their everyday conversations. They used a Syriac word in their greetings, "Maranatha" which means "The Lord cometh" 1Cor.16.22. They mentioned the possibility of not dying, cf. "if"; 2Cor.5.1, exhorting one another with words like "we shall not all sleep" 1Cor.15.51, believing that the Lord was coming to the air to "catch up" His people, 1Thess.4.13-17.

However, the Old Testament had taught that the Lord Jesus would also come to the earth, to the Mount of Olives and manifest His glory in judgment, Zech.14.3-9. In the book of Revelation the Church is seen at the beginning of the book in chapters 2 and 3; but in 4.1 we read of a door opened in heaven and a voice crying "come up". The Church then seems to be "caught up" (raptured) and to disappear into heaven. In the following chapters 4-19 we never read of the Church. We do read of terrible events on earth while the Church is in heaven. The events on earth are often described as the Tribulation period and relate to the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy, the detail of which we cannot go into in this chapter. However, in the 19th chapter of the book of Revelation immediately prior to the manifestation of Christ on the earth we are told that the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, a picture of the Church, "hath made herself ready" Rev.19.7, and she is seen coming out of heaven wearing her bridal dress. The revelation of Christ with the Church follows from v.11 onwards in this chapter. Note that the Church is ‘ready’ before this revelation takes place. It indicates that the matter of the believer’s assessment, being part of the Bride, will have been completed prior to the revelation of Christ on the earth. Indeed, it is likely that it will have taken place prior to the marriage of the Lamb in heaven.

Three events concerning the Church take place in Heaven after the Church is ‘caught up’ to glory to be with Christ, but before the Lord descends to judge the earth. They are listed in sequential order below:

  • Assembling of the Saints: Rapture and the Father’s House; 1Thess.4.13-17; Jn.14.1-3
  • Appraisal of the Saints: Judgment Seat of Christ; 1Cor.4.5; 2Cor.5.10
  • Adorning of the Saints: Marriage of the Lamb; Rev.19.1-8.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will therefore take place after the rapture but before the manifestation of Christ on the earth. After the rapture, the next event for the believer is the Judgment Seat of Christ. The imminence of such an experience is most sobering; it could be today!

The Persons to be Judged

All believers and only believers will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul says: "We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ" 2Cor.5.10. He does explain who the "we" are in vv.1,2,4,6-9; on each occasion it always means the believer. All the major chapters that deal with the Judgment Seat of Christ are written to believers, for example, 1Corinthians chapters 3 and 4; Romans chapter 14. The ‘Day of Christ’ in Scripture is restricted to the believer, Phil.1.10; 2.16. There is not a hint in Scripture that unsaved will be present. They await the judgment of the Great White Throne.

The Place of the Judgment

It will be set up in heaven and not on earth or in the air. It will take place after the rapture when the saints are in heaven, 1Cor.4.5, and will have taken place before they come out of heaven, Rev.19.11-14. The Lord also spoke of heavenly reward for those in the present enjoyment of the kingdom: "Great is your reward in heaven" Matt.5.12.

The Scope of the Judgment

Will Our Unconverted Life be Examined?

No. Every verse on the Judgment Seat of Christ is to do with Christian service and work and not about our works as unsaved people that produced no fruit for God. Paul says of our unconverted state: "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" Rom.6.21,22. Paul regarded his best features of his unconverted state as "dung" and "loss" Phil.3.7-9. There is nothing in our unconverted state that could bring God any pleasure. This is not what is being reviewed.

Will Our Sins be Examined?

No. God said our "sins and iniquities I will remember no more" Heb.10.17. He means it! The Scriptures state: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus" Rom.8.1; 1Pet.2.24. Our sins have been dealt with eternally in the death of Christ and will never again be brought up. "He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" Heb.10.14. Glorious truth!

However, the ‘bad’ (worthless) things I have done in my Christian life, 2Cor.5.10, will definitely be brought up. The idleness, the gossip, the slander, the wrong motives and the jealousy will all be judged! There is that awful possibility that our service may be rejected, 1Cor.9.27, and we "will be saved, yet so as by fire" 1Cor.3.15. This throne of judgment is not judicial or punitive but it is declarative. It will reveal and expose the Christian for what he is and was as a believer. What we have said and done will ‘boomerang’ back on us at this unique and sobering event. These ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (worthless) things will be accounted for (verbally) before Christ, 2Cor.5.10; Rom.14.12.

The Manner of the Judgment

This will be an individual assessment and we will appear on our own, not en masse. The Scriptures emphasise, "each one"; "each man’s"; "every one" 2Cor.5.10; Rom.14.10; 1Cor.3.13. These verses stress the individual. We will all individually be manifested: (cf. "receive" in 2Cor.5.10) before the Judgment Seat of Christ, but not before our brethren. However, the outcome of the assessment will be manifest to all.

The Purpose of the Judgment

Why is the Judgment Seat of Christ Necessary?

The assessment at the Judgment Seat of Christ willdetermine our position in the kingdom, 2Pet.1.11. God requires a righteous basis for awarding positions in the kingdom. The principle of varying positions is found in the parable of the pounds. Some were given authority over ten cities and others over five cities etc. Lk.19.17, and always in keeping with how they equipped themselves in their service beforehand.

Will There Be Any Rewards?

Yes, there will be rewards: "If any man’s work abide ... he shall receive a reward" 1Cor.3.14. The principle is also seen in the parable of the pounds, Lk.19.12-27. Moses was motivated by reward, "for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" Heb.11.26. It is perfectly acceptable in Scripture to serve for reward, 2Jn.8, and although love for Christ is our reason for serving, the thought of rewards given in heaven makes us more ambitious for God, 2Tim.4.8.

What Will The Rewards Be For?

The rewards will be for faithfulness to Christ. There will be no rewards for gift or for length of time served, 1Cor.3.5-9; Rom.12.3; Isa.10.15: "For what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" 1Cor. 4.7. However, there will be rewards for the durability of our service in the assembly 1Cor.3.14, our faithfulness to Christ and motivation for service, 1Cor.4.1-6, our character and our conduct in our bodies, 2Cor.5.10.


SEVEN CRITICAL FEATURES OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

As with all major doctrines of the person of Christ, the truth is not given in well arranged notes co-located for the convenience of the reader in the Bible, instead it is taught in the context of real situations in which God’s people would find themselves and is left to the thoughtful, prayerful reader to be led more deeply by the help of the Holy Spirit into its truth. Consequently, in some cases we will need to give a brief overview of the chapter, in order for the feature that is being stressed regarding the Judgment Seat of Christ to be easily understood.

The chapters that deal with this subject are 1Corinthians chapters 3 and 4, 2Corinthians chapter 5 and Romans chapter 14, although the following verses throw light on this important event: Matt.12.36; Phil.1.10, 2.16; Col.3.25; Heb.13.17; Jms.3.1; 1Pet.5.4; 2Jn.7,8; Rev.3.11.

Construction

"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" 1Cor.3.12-15.

This chapter is one of the principal sections of Scripture that deal with the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Corinthians are being reminded that the assembly is "God’s husbandry [garden]"; "God’s building" v.9, and " temple of God" vv.16,17. A short overview of the chapter will prove helpful in understanding the lessons of the Judgment Seat of Christ in its context here. As we shall see, the Judgment Seat of Christ is portrayed as the place where our service and the quality and durability of what we have built into God’s assembly will be reviewed. As well as addressing the quality of assembly activity, it will principally answer the question what, i.e. what I am building into the assembly will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Brief Overview of 1Corinthians chapter 3

The Assembly: The Place of Feeding - vv.1-4

This is the section where the Corinthian problem is diagnosed: carnality, vv.1,2, and the evidence is briefly outlined, vv.3,4. There was little evidence of any development in the Corinthians; they were still spiritual infants and marked by rivalry and the following of men. They needed to move on from the milk and enjoy the meat of God’s Word if they were to grow.

The Assembly: The Place Of Giving - v.5

Paul and Apollos were merely servants not personalities or heads of parties. Paul was reminding them of the Lord’s giving that the "Lord gave to every man". All the Corinthians in the assembly had a gift, and so all should be functioning in the assembly; it should not be left to a few.

The Assembly: The Place Of Serving - vv.6-8

Sequential Service - v.6. Our service should be sequential. Paul planted and then Apollos watered. There is no point watering then planting. Our service is in relation to others. We have to make sure that we do it in the correct way, v.10, and at the correct time, v.6. This is a subject Paul returns to in 1Cor.14.40.

Humble Service - v.7. We should remember that we are nothing in ourselves and any results from our service originate from God.

Thoughtful Service - v.8. This verse is not saying that we are all part of the one work (although that would be true), but that the Christians themselves were one in essence and aim. Everyone and each gift is required. Let us be careful how we work, with respect to the gift others and wise in how we operate. Let us not seek to belittle a gift that may have a different emphasis to ours.

Individual Service - v.8. We cannot rest on others; it is my work and my exercise. I will receive a reward for what I have done and how I have done it, and nothing else, v.10.

The Assembly: A Divine Institution - v.9

The assembly belongs to God. It is His cultivated field and His building, v.9. It is something for His pleasure, and it develops because of Him, v.7. He equips His workers for the task of making it beautiful for Him, vv.5,10. The foundation is Christ, and cannot be re-laid. It is sufficient and it is Divine. We cannot extend it; we only can build upon it, vv.10-12,14.

The Assembly: Labouring On An Eternal Edifice - vv.10-15

How I Build Is Important - v.10: We must build in a manner that is appropriate for the foundation, namely Christ, cf. 2.1-5. Pride, worldly wisdom, pomp and oration must be absent.

What I Build Is Important - vv.12-15: We must build something that is eternal and of God; something precious; perhaps insignificant in the world’s eyes but precious to God. The Church of God is still being built. There is still work to be done by everyone. No assembly of believers can sit back and say ‘finished’ or ‘we have arrived’. Labour and toil must be spent in this unique place. The review of this service shall be assessed by God individually: "every man’s". It is our ‘work’ that will be reviewed and not our salvation or our gift. The quality of our service and not the quantity, i.e. results, will be the focus, thus, ‘what sort’. Rewards will be given for everything that has been done in the power of the Holy Spirit and in accordance with His character.

The Assembly: A Holy Temple - vv.16,17

The assembly is a temple and not a barn. It is the residence of the Holy Spirit. Reverence, awe and holiness should mark our gatherings; not flippancy or familiarity, 1.10, not feasting and revelry, 11.21, not filthiness, 5.1, nor indeed associations that are detrimental to the testimony, 10.21.

In v.17 we find that the unsaved man will make it his practice to corrupt the house of God. He is opposed to all that is from God. He will, in return, be destroyed and corrupted.


SUMMARY

This section of Scripture is dealing with how and what is built into the assembly of God’s people. It is fascinating that the subject of the Judgment Seat of Christ is introduced in our New Testament with the assessment of our service in the assembly. It proves how important this is to God. If I move outside of the assembly then I am not promised any reward here. They have been privileged to build on the foundation of Christ. The questions are: what were they building into the assembly? Was the material durable? Would it last? Wood had bulk but it could not stand the fire. Only things of eternal value would last, like the gold and silver and precious stones. The metaphor of a fire is introduced, and it is important to stress that this is not hell fire, but invoked to bring the fearsome thought that all our service in the assembly might be burned up and at the end of the day have no lasting impact. What a terrifying thought, to be utterly naked on that day! What am I building into the assembly? This chapter is a forceful reminder that we cannot divorce loyalty to the assembly from loyalty to Christ.

Capacity / Character

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" 1Cor.4.3-5.

This section deals with the issue of assessment of our stewardship in Divine things, leading to the conclusion that only the Lord can fully assess our spirituality. It will also answer the question when, i.e. when will the assessment at the Judgment Seat of Christ take place?

A brief overview of the chapter will be helpful to get the context. The assembly in Corinth has been charged with division. They had been shown to be worldly in their thinking and behaviour. They have been diagnosed as having the disease of carnality amongst them as exhibited in their spiritual poverty and diminutive and stunted growth. They have been invited to consider the original cure from such a position: Christ crucified. They have been shown that their proper place and function is in the house of God. They have been asked to assess both their personal and their collective service for God. There has been a great appeal for separation from the world in its thinking, methods and practice. The worldly yardstick that they were using to assess spirituality has been rebuked and replaced with a new yardstick, the yardstick of Christ. In chapter 4, they are invited to consider the world’s assessment of them, and God’s. What a contrast there is between the world’s assessment and God’s assessment! They will be given a number of pointers to assess the suitability and spirituality of servants. They have already been shown that we are all nobodies, 3.7, but chapter 4 is written to give them a deeper appreciation of God’s assessment of their and our stewardship as servants of the Lord and to guard against men speaking disparagingly of the humility of the apostle Paul.

Paul clearly outlines the yardstick for accepting servants of the Lord. They are to:

  • be faithful, v.2
  • be humble, vv.3-7: they will not try to assess or boast in their service
  • suffer persecution for Christ, vv.8-10
  • be dependable and marked by a genuine love and concern for God’s people, vv.14,15
  • be role models of Christ, v.16
  • not change their ministry depending on the audience, v.17
  • live according to the will of God, v.19
  • be marked by the power of God, v.20.

Servants and Their Stewardship - vv.1,2

V.1: Paul makes two points in this verse. Firstly, Paul and his fellow workers were only servants of Christ, which connects with 3.22,23. Secondly, they did serve a special function (not any idea of superiority but a God-given authority) as "stewards of the mysteries of God". All had not been given the great fundamentals of truth, Rom.16.25,26, nor could they plant the foundations of churches, 3.10.

V.2: Paul stresses what is important in a steward, a servant of Christ, is faithfulness. This underscores the point already stressed: reliability is much more important than ability. Trustworthiness comes before talent.

Servants and Their Assessment - vv.3-7

Vv.3,4: Paul then asks: how do we assess faithfulness and trustworthiness? Paul shows that the Corinthians could not assess it correctly. They did not know all the facts, nor could they read true motive. Even although our conscious is clear, that does not acquit us of bad stewardship. The Lord is the only One Who can accurately assess our faithfulness. Paul claims that we do not have the ability to assess our own faithfulness correctly, never mind trying to assess others. These verses do not mean that Paul did not interrogate and hold in check his own actions and motives; he did, 1Cor.9.26,27; 11.31; nor does it mean he was not hurt by the wrong assessment of the Corinthians, 9.1-3; he would feel it keenly. We should be very careful what we say about others. Paul argues that there is only One Who can truly assess our faithfulness and that is Christ.

V.5: The day of assessment is coming (after the rapture, as we have shown earlier) and a true assessment of service, 3.13, motive, circumstances and background, 4.5, will be made by the Lord Jesus. This will result in praise to God. How different to our assessment which on the one hand either causes pride (assessment too high) or misery, frustration and anger (assessment too low)!

Vv.6,7: Paul explains that he has used himself and Apollos to give many general lessons but that they should not overestimate them. No one, he says, can boast about what they can do, have done or will do. All gift comes from God, all desire for service is from God and all service is to God.

The World’s Assessment of the Corinthians, of Paul and of Others - vv.8-13

In this final section Paul argues that the world’s assessment of the Corinthians, unfortunately, is that they are rich, reigning and prosperous. They were regarded as wise, strong, determined and distinguished. The world’s assessment of Paul and the Lord’s servants was different: they were poor, weak, to be pitied, hungry and homeless. Paul says that we should bless them when they insult us and endure when they persecute us. We are slandered and are regarded to be the scum of the world; hated on the stage of the world. Their assessment of Paul was the same as they gave of the Lord Jesus. Paul then warns them sternly that the world’s assessment of the Corinthian believers was the very opposite to the assessment that it gave of the apostles.


SUMMARY

In chapter 3, the stress on the Judgment Seat of Christ was on our service in the assembly and the construction of God’s house. Now in chapter 4, the stress is on stewardship and the capacity to come to an accurate assessment of our service. Paul is really saying that the Corinthians’ assessment of him was not the critical factor. In fact he did not have the capacity to assess his own faithfulness. The only One Who did is the Lord. We should leave it all to Him. We forget that God can read the heart, the motive, knows the background of everyone, our physical and emotional frame, the light we have from previous experience and only He can therefore assess perfectly. This will result in everyone giving praise to God. One day soon the Lord Jesus will come and then His true assessment of our stewardship will be seen at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Conscience

"For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" Rom.14.9-12.

This section of Scripture is dealing with my inner motives and attitude expressed to my brothers and sisters even when their issues are not of doctrinal significance. This passage of Scripture deals with the question why, i.e. why should I treat my brother with the utmost respect when he will not eat meat due to Jewish scruples about diet that are not relevant today? The reason why we should treat our brother with respect even when his scruples are not Scriptural is because he is my brother for whom Christ died. My treatment of my brother will be assessed at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

A brief overview of the context of this section of Scripture might be helpful. The context here is of Judaistic scruples between brethren. The weaker brethren wanted to control the conscience of their stronger brethren by insisting on not eating meat and other things. There was a danger that stronger brethren would deliberately run roughshod over the conscience of a weaker brother. Paul reminds them of the Judgment Seat of God (R.V.). It is God that knows the consciences of all men. They will have to give account, not in this instance, of their service or conduct but of themselves to God. How careful we must be in our dealings with one another for God, Who knows our innermost thoughts, is the One to Whom we will answer in a day to come. The apostle pleads for selfless behaviour to mark both sides. This is very relevant today. In different ages and cultures, different scruples can arise which have no Scriptural basis but can be applied like doctrine. We must not allow issues of conscience to become doctrine, but we ought to treat such brethren with the utmost respect and love, for every one of us will give account of himself to God.

The Lordship of Christ Should Dominate My Behaviour - vv.8,9

V.8: If I live, I live conscious of the Lord; if I die, I die unto the Lord. I am answerable to Him in death as I was in life. I cannot avoid His Lordship nor evade, by dying, the issue of coming to a judgment before the Lord on this issue.

V.9: This is the reason why Christ died, rose and lives again that He might be Lord of the dead and the living. He is Lord and His resurrection confirms this. The Lordship of Christ should dominate my behaviour.

My Attitude Towards My Brethren and The Motives For My Actions - vv.10-12

V.10: Paul asks: Why are you judging your strong brother or despising your weak brother? Do you not realise that you will both appear before the Judgment Seat of God to answer for yourself and not for your brother?

V.11: Paul quotes Isa.45.23 proving that no one will argue with God’s assessment. Every knee will bow; no one will be able to give any excuses for "every tongue will confess".

V.12: Paul stresses that each one of us, individually, will give account of himself to God. By stressing the fact that the Judgment Seat is "God’s", he reminds the Roman believers that it is the God Who knows all my thoughts, background and character, Who alone can judge. They did not know the susceptibilities of their brethren. It may be that the reason they abstained from a certain thing was for reasons of a very personal nature. He warns the believers from scorning them and reminds them that they will stand on their own before the Lord to answer for their attitude towards other believers.

I Should Do Nothing to Stumble My Brother or Hurt Him, Even if He is Wrong - v.13

V.13: Paul says: here is what we all have to judge: not my brother, but myself, lest I do something to stumble another believer. The emphasis changes in this latter section of the chapter from the supposed error of the weaker brother to what the stronger brother may be doing to make him go wrong.


SUMMARY

The Judgment Seat of Christ will examine my service in the assembly, 1Corinthians chapter 3; and my stewardship, 1Corinthians chapter 4; but also my sensitivity to the consciences of my brethren, Romans chapter 14. It will review my actions, 1Corinthians chapter 3; ability, 1Corinthians chapter 4; and attitude, Romans chapter 14. These things are important to the Lord Jesus.

Conduct

"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences" 2Cor.5.8-11.

This section of Scripture emphasises that the Judgment Seat of Christ will review our conduct in our bodies as Christians. The context here is of the thought of one day appearing in glory with Christ in a changed body. This should have a sanctifying effect on my life now. God is interested in this body in which we currently live. We will one day get a changed body. We will "receive back" for the good and the worthless things that we have done in this body. We will truly get our ‘just deserts’. These solemn but searching verses should inspire us to have greater ambition to be active for the Master in this body as we wait for His return. At the end of the day what have I done in my body for the glory of God? What is the sum and substance of my conduct and how have I used my body as a vehicle for His glory? This will all be revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ and in some way will be manifested in how I am fitted for my function and position in glory.

Conversation

"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" Matt.12.36.

This is a most solemn verse; it reminds us that our speech will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. How careful we should be in our talk! Every word that our blessed Lord spoke was inspired; came from His Father’s words from heaven, Jn.12.49,50. Let us all be vigilant about how we speak. James will tell us of untold damage that has been caused by the tongue, chapter 3. The proverbs constantly warn against the talebearer, Prov.18.8. By contrast, God has "put a new song in [our mouths,] even praise unto our God" Ps.40.3. Before our conversion to Christ "the poison of asps [was] under [our] lips" Rom.3.13, but now He has given us the Spirit of God to speak forth "the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light" 1Pet.2.9. Our conversation is as important as our conduct, 2Corinthians chapter 5, and it will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Classification

How we have used our unique, specific gift will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every believer has been given a gift from God, 1Cor.12.7,11. The Scriptures teach that different groups of individuals serving in various ways and locations will be judged for the role that they perform. At the Judgment Seat of Christ different expectations will be placed on various individuals dependant on the gift they were given.

Elders

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" Heb.13.17.

Those who take the lead in the house of God will give account for the state of the flock at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is why the work is not for a novice and is deeply serious.

Preachers

"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" Phil.2.16.

Teachers

"My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" Jms.3.1.

Those who preach and teach the Word of God will be held accountable for what they taught, and how, when and where they taught it.

Slaves

"Servants obey in all things your masters … but he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done and there is no respect of persons" Col.3.22-25.

We may never have to attend an employee tribunal but we will be held accountable for our conduct at our place of employment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. What a thought!


SUMMARY

These verses underscore the seriousness of using our specific gift for the glory of God; using it in the circumstances wherein the Lord has placed us, enabled us and intended for us to use it. It also solemnly warns against any one seeking to do a work for which they have not been asked or equipped to do.

Crowns

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" Rev.3.11; "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" 1Pet.5.4; "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward" 2Jn.8.

One of the most solemn thoughts is that God has fitted us for a task and we may not have completed it for His glory. He can, of course, take up another to do this task. Let us go in for the things of Christ; let us not lose our crown.


SUMMARY: SEVEN CRITICAL FEATURES OF THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

(i) 1Cor.3

Construction

Activity in the assembly

Service

What are we building into the assembly?

(ii) 1Cor. 4

Capacity/Character

Ability to accurately assess service

Stewardship

When will the Judgment Seat of Christ happen?

What yardstick are we using to assess stewardship and spirituality?

(iii) Rom.14

Conscience

Attitude of believers towards one another

Sensitivity

Why must we be careful with the scruples of our fellow brethren and sisters?

(iv) 2Cor.5

Conduct

Activities and actions performed by the body

Substance

Who will be there at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

Whose interests motivate actions in the body?

(v) Matt.12.36

Conversation

Account taken of every idle word spoken

Speech

How should I speak to others?

(vi) Heb.13.17 etc

Classification

Arrangements given for disparate groups of believers

Specific Gift

Which gifts have greater scrutiny at the Judgment Seat of Christ?

(vii) Rev.3.11 etc

Crowns

Awards for the faithful

Superabundance

Where is it all going to end?


CONCLUSION

This solemn subject of the Judgment Seat of Christ has been traced from its first mention. All of the judgments in Scripture have been briefly outlined and seven fundamental questions about the Judgment Seat of Christ have been answered. Seven critical features of the Judgment Seat of Christ have been explored in more depth with an overview of some of the fundamental chapters that deal with the subject most fully. The reader is now invited to look further into the passages cited and asked to prayerfully allow the Spirit of God to use these passages of Scripture to mould his conduct, conversation and conscience in the light of the ‘bema’ before which we must all soon appear. Maranatha!

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" 1Tim.1.17.