The Judgment Seat of Christ
2 Cor. 5:9-13
The term “judgment seat” comes from the Greek word “bema”, which was the platform in Greek towns where orations were made or decisions handed down by rulers (Matt. 27:19; Acts 12:21; 18:12). It was also the place where the awards were given out to the winners in the annual Olympic Games. It is a future event. After the rapture, we will be at the judgment seat of Christ. It is not a place where salvation is decided. It is where we will receive our rewards.
I. Holy Ambition (2 Cor. 5:9)
A. ‘“Wherefore we labor…accepted of him” (II Cor. 5:9): The word translated “labor” is the word for “ambition.” The ambition here that the Apostle Paul was talking about is not the selfish desire that we know in our present English. What he wants to tell us is, it is right and noble for Christians to strive for excellence, spiritual goals, and all that is honorable before God. We are “ambitious” to be pleasing or “accepted of Him,” Christ! “Whether present or absent” means whether he is heaven or not he cared about how he lived for the Lord. Like Paul we should be passionate in pleasing the Lord.
Illustration 1: True Greatness
I had a good friend who preserved the axle of the cart in which he wheeled home his goods when he first came to London. It was placed over his front door, and he never blushed to tell how he came up from the country, worked hard, and made his way in the world. I like this a deal better than the
affected gentleness which forgets the lone half-wit which worked in solitude with nothing in their pockets when they entered this city.
They are indignant if you remind them of their poor old father in the country, for they have discovered that the family is very ancient and honorable; in fact, one of their ancestors came over with the Conqueror. I have never felt any wish to be related to that set of vagabonds; but tastes differ, and there are some who think that they must be superior beings because they are descended
Nobodies suddenly swell as if they were everybody. Observe that Jacob does not say, “Years ago I was at home with my father Isaac, a man of large estate.” Nor does he talk of his grandfather Abraham as a nobleman of an ancient family in Ur of the Chaldees, who was entertained by kings.
No, he was not so silly as to boast of aristocracy and wealth, but he frankly owns his early poverty:
—”With my staff, a poor, lonely, friendless man, I crossed this Jordan, and now I am become two bands.” It humbles him to think of what he was, but at the same time it strengthens him in prayer; for in effect he pleads “Lord, hast thou made two bands of me that Esau may have the more to destroy? Hast thou given me these children that they may fall by the sword?” So again, I say, that which humbled also encouraged him: he found his strength in prayer in those very things which furnished motives for lowliness. —C. H. Spurgeon
II. The Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10)
A. The Purpose of this judgment.
1. It is for Christians, not the unsaved (1 Cor. 3:1,11-12).
2. It is to examine the believer’s service, not to determine his salvation (1 Cor.
3:8,10,13). The believer is judged as a son and an heir (Gal. 4:6-7).
B. The Nature of this judgment.
1. The believer’s judgment is not for punishment, but to manifest his service for reward or loss of reward.
C. The materials of this judgment.
1. The “wood, hay, and stubble” are associated with man and that which is of the world, temporal.
2. The gold, silver, and precious stones” denote that which is of God, that which has eternal value. We note that it is not the size of one’s labor, but its value before God that is important. Some things which are “gold, silver, and precious stones”
a. Faithful church membership (1Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:25; 13:7,17);
b. Being a loving, providing husband (Eph. 5:25; 1Tim. 5:8);
c. Being a submissive, serving wife (Eph. 5:22; Tit. 2:4);
d. Being an obedient child (Eph. 6:1);
e. Gospel preaching and world evangelization (Mk. 16:15);
f. Training children in the way of God (Pr. 22:6);
g. Being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18);
h. Seeking God (Heb. 11:6; Pr. 8:34-35);
i. Sacrificing for Christ (Mk. 10:29);
j. Approving excellent things (Ph. 1:10);
k. Being pure in spirit and body (2 Cor. 7:1).
D. The Loss of this judgment.
1. The loss will not be salvation (1 Cor. 3:15) or one’s riches in Christ (1Pet. 1:3-4; Rom. 8:18; Col. 3:4).
2. The loss will be crowns; reigning positions (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-26; 3:21;
3. No one who appears at this judgment will lose salvation for poor service; he will lose rewards and suffer shame (1 Cor. 3:15; 1 Jn. 2:28; 2 Jn. 1:8). Salvation is not gained through faithful service, but through faith in the blood of Christ
(Rom. 3:1-4; Eph. 2:8-9). For the Christian, the judgment of God’s wrath upon
his sin is forever past. It was poured out upon the Savior on Calvary (Jn. 3:18,36).
E. The Judgment Seat of Christ is one of the greatest motivators in the Christian life. It should motivate the Christian to be:
1. Spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1-3),
2. To be busy (1 Cor. 3:9-10),
3. To be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2-4).
Illustration 2: That Which is Hidden Will Be Revealed
It is Christians only who are in view here. All that we have hidden shall be revealed. The things we have done in the body will come back to us, whether good or bad. Every pious thought, and every thought of sin; every secret prayer, and every secret curse; every unknown deed of charity, and
every hidden deed of selfishness; we will see them all again, and though we have not remembered them for years, and perhaps have forgotten them altogether, we shall have to acknowledge that they are our own.
Is not that a solemn thing to stand at the end of life? James Denney, 1856-1917
Illustration 2: No Mistake in Judgment
A young man who graduated from West Point said that so much tension and anxiety built up with regard to final examinations that the best scholar in his class fainted at the first question asked him. He felt that his standing in his chosen profession was at stake, that his future position depended on
the manner in which he acquitted himself. If the loss or gain of a little worldly distinction could so move a man, what will be the feeling of the soul when it stands alone at the bar of God? West Point
honors are but for the little moment of time here, but the results of this final examination are for eternity. There are often mistakes made in worldly judgment, but there will be no mistakes made at the judgment seat of Christ. Illustrations of Bible Truths.
III. “The terror of the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:11-13)
A. This is more clearly rendered “the fear of the Lord”. It is not referring to be afraid but to Paul’s worshipful reverence for God as his essential motivation to live in such a way as to honor the Lord and maximize his rewards for his Lord’s glory.
B. “We persuade men”. The Greek word for persuade means to seek someone’s favor, as in getting the other person to see you in a certain favourable or desired way (Gal. 1:10). This term can mean gospel preaching (Acts 18:4, 28:23), but here Paul is persuading others not about salvation, but about his own integrity. The Corinthian’s eternal reward would be affected if they defected to the false teaching and leave the divine teaching of Paul.
C. “well known”. Paul’s true spiritual condition of sincerity was manifest to God and he also wanted the Corinthians to believe the truth about him.
D. “Which glory in appearance.” (2 Cor. 5:12). The false teachers in Corinth boasted of their rank, their eloquence, their talents, their external advantages; but not in the qualities of the heart–in sincerity, honesty, real love for souls. Their consciences would not allow them to do this; and they knew themselves that their boasting was mere vain pretense, and that there was no real and solid ground for it.
E. “Beside ourselves” (2 Cor. 5:13). This Greek phrase usually means to be insane or out of one’s mind but here Paul used the expression to describe himself as one who is really devoted to the truth thereby answering his critics and enemies who claims that he is only a fanatic.
F. “Of sound mind”, means to be moderate, sober minded and in complete control. Paul behaved this way to the Corinthians as he defended his integrity as he teaches the word of God to them.
The Lord Jesus Christ may come any moment. We will meet Him in the air and then He will judge us at the Bema or the “Judgment Seat of Christ”. The question is are you ready to meet Him?