THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
The burning heart of all Christian responsibility looms immediately ahead - THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. Wherefore we make it our aim - the word means to love and seek for honour (Lange) in what Bengel calls the sole legitimate ambition in the world - to be well-pleasing unto Him; for - as the fountain of motive in all holy ambition - we must - as a necessity inherent in Divine justice; for the vindication of Gods holiness, and for the satisfaction of our own highest and holiest instincts - all - even all apostles, all prophets, all martyrs - be made manifest - to our own consciences, to all the world, and above all to the Judge; a complete manifestation of all that has transpired within us, or in the external life (Lange) - before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive - the technical word for receiving wages (Dean Alford) - the things done in the body - therefore thoughts and words as well as deeds, since the brain and the tongue are thus also involved - according to the things that [plural] he hath done - works exactly regulating reward: not according to the things that Christ did in His body; nor according to things done out of the body after death - whether it [the award] be good or bad (2 Cor. 5: 10). In the words of Lange:- Pauls tireless aim to please Christ can only be fulfilled by his being found approved at that tribunal where he and his fellow believers are shortly to appear, for every action of Gods children during their bodily life must there be judged according to the law of strict righteousness, and each believer must be rewarded according to his good or evil conduct.
For the sweep of the decree as quoted from Isaiah is absolutely universal - every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then - since it is universal and the Church is, therefore, not exempt - each one of us must give account of himself to God (Rom. 14: 11). Nor could it be otherwise. In view of the chaos of conflicting creed and conduct - the bitter controversies, the personal quarrels, the excommunications and anathemas - all denial of a judgment seat is inherently incredible and impossible: there must be a judgment seat, and there is. Molinos, the Quietist, when condemned as a heretic and led away to his prison cell - We shall meet again, said the old man to his judges, in the judgment day; and then it will appear on which side, on yours or mine, is truth. Furthermore, it rests upon the oath of God. By myself have I sworn, the word is gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return - the decree establishing it is as irrevocable as the life of God - that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear (Isa. 45: 23). So then, says the Apostle (Rom. 14: 10), let us forbear to judge, for we shall be judged, and, therefore, the bedrock of all our action is to be the approval of our Divine Judge.
We labour (A.V.) - we strive"
(Alford) -"we are eager (
tribunal, before which disciples appear, is peculiar. (1) It is a Bema,* not a Thronos; a judgment
seat for the investigation of disciples,** not a throne for the arraignment of
rebels: for the Judge (2 Tim. 4: 8) is a certain king, which would make a reckoning
with his servants" (Matt. 18: 23). It is the first of our
Lord's three judgments (Rom. 14: 12; Matt. 25: 31;
Rev. 20: 12) on His return; and judgment begins at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4: 17). (2) Thus those examined are
Christians only. "We all" -
i.e., "them that are sanctified in
Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord
in every place (I Cor. 1: 2): it is
a final investigation of the whole
[*The portable tribunal carried about with him by a Roman magistrate.
**Churches are judged now (Rev. 2: 5). The Church is never judged corporately - as the Body or Bride - either here or hereafter; but disciples, apart from their collective standing, in their individual responsibility as servants, must render account. So the Church, as an entity, is never named in the Apocalypse, except once (Rev. 22: 17), where the reference is to the present Age; nor do the children of God appear as aught but servants throughout that book of judgment, except once (Rev. 21: 7), when the Millennial Age has passed into the Eternal. The fact that the judgment of the wicked is by itself, separated by a thousand years (Rev. 20: 17), reveals that in 2 Cor. 5: 10, it is genuine Christians of whom Paul is speaking; all whose shortcomings and failures will one day be exposed, and who therefore make it their aim to avoid such defect (International Critical Commentary). Individual judgment is not possible for believers as such, for in justification [by faith] no believer differs from any other; but individual judgment as servants yields a variety of adjudication as infinite as the service and the sanctification.]
The procedure is revealed as exclusively judicial: that each one may receive the things done. Not, that each may receive something from God, but that each may receive the things he himself has done: it is not a general granting of glory, irrespective of service; but an exercise of the Divine Law, - as he hath done, so shall it be done to him" (Lev. 24: 19). Be not deceived - is a word to disciples - God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal. 6: 7). Paul puts it with exquisite clearness and twofold emphasis. Whatsoever good thing - for a judge approves - each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free (Eph. 6: 8): on the other hand - Ye serve the Lord Christ. For he that doeth wrong - for a judge censures - shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons (Col. 3: 25).
evidence wholly decides the award: whether it [the
award] be good or bad. The Greek points to the award: that each may receive according to the things done,
whether it - i.e., what he receives - be good or bad. Reward (as distinct from [eternal] salvation,
which is through faith, against deserts) is
strictly defined by works. So Paul says: With me
- as an example and model to all Christians - it is a
very small thing - it is a matter of the least importance - that i should be judged of you (1 Cor. 4: 3) - the