Contemplation of New Life. (5:1-10) - Page 5 of 6 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

When Paul wrote this, he may have been thinking simply of the tribunal of the Roman magistrate before whom he himself had stood, or he may be thinking of the Greek way of justice. All Greek citizens were liable to serve as judges, or, as we would say, as jurymen. When an Athenian sat in judgment on a case he was given two bronze disks. Each had a cylindrical axis. One axis was hollow and that disk stood for condemnation; one was solid and that one stood for acquittal. On the bema there stood two urns. One, of bronze, was called “the decisive urn,” for into it the judge dropped the disk that stood for his verdict. The other, of wood, was called “the inoperative urn,” for into it the judge dropped the disk which he desired to discard. So at the end the jury dropped into the bronze urn either the disk that stood for acquittal or the one that stood for condemnation. To the onlooker they looked exactly the same and no one could tell the verdict the judges gave. Then the disks were counted and the verdict given.

So, in each of the ancient Greek cities there was the judgment seat, literally, the bema. I read that in Corinth one has been preserved for tourists to take pictures of. This was the place where the judges of the city would meet the citizens and would judge them for certain things—there was, however, no question of life or death. At the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:12{14), which will follow the rapture of the church, only believers will appear. It is not a judgment of the believer’s sins, which Christ totally atoned for on the cross. The judgment is to see whether you are going to receive a reward or not.

The judgment seat of Christ will be a place of revelation; for the word “appear” means “be revealed.” As we live and work here on earth, it is relatively easy for us to hide things and pretend; but the true character of our works will be exposed before the searching eyes of the Savior. He will reveal whether our works have been good or bad (“worthless”). The character of our service will be revealed (1 Co. 3:13{19) as well as the motives that impelled us (1 Co. 4:5{20).

It will also be a place of reckoning as we give an account of our ministries (Rom. 14:10-12{21). If we have been faithful it will be a place of reward and recognition (1 Co. 3:10-15{34; 4:1-6{35). For those of us who have been faithful, it will be a time of rejoicing as we glorify the Lord by giving our rewards back to Him in worship and in praise.

Is the desire for reward a proper motive for service? The fact that God does promise rewards is proof that the motive is not a sinful one, even though it may not be the highest motive. Just as parents are happy when their children achieve recognition, so our Lord is pleased when His people are worthy of recognition and reward. The important thing is not the reward itself, but the joy of pleasing Christ and honoring Him.

When Paul says, “We must all appear,” remember that he is writing to believers. All we believers will be judged, so that we may receive the things done in the body. We will be judged on the way we have lived the Christian life, how we have lived in these bodies down here. When we go into His presence, we will be through with these old bodies. How did we live down here?

This perspective on a day of judgment and the prospect of eternity had a beneficial effect on Paul. It enabled him to persevere in the face of hardship (2 Co. 4:7-12{15). And it motivated him to be faithful in discharging his ministry (5:11{16; 1 Co. 4:2-4{17).

Paul faces this question when he writes to the Philippians. He says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Then he talks of his desire to go and be with Christ but also of his desire to live longer so that he can minister to the Philippians. He wants to stay so that he can preach the Gospel of Christ a little longer.

At times Paul says that God will judge (Rom. 2:3); at other times, as here, Christ is the judge named. There is no conflict; God judges through Christ, as Romans 2:16 clearly states. Christ is the Lord of both the living and the dead (Rom. 14:9), and will judge both groups (Acts 10:42). That He will judge is repeatedly stated, not only in the Acts and epistles, but likewise in the Gospels (Matt. 16:27; 25:31-32). That God would judge all men through Christ Paul did not doubt (Rom. 2:6-8), but here he speaks only of the Christians; remembering that the judgment is surely coming at the end of the age, he and all other Christians must prepare to meet it.

This is the way I feel. I want to stay in this body and do as much for the Lord as I possibly can. Here is the primary motivation for believers: We are going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will answer to the Lord for our lives. We are going to give a report to Him. Let me make this very clear that this is not the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15 where only the unsaved will stand. If you are a believer, your name is written in the Book of Life, and you have eternal life. However, you will stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, to be judged for rewards. You and I will stand before him. This should motivate us to serve Him acceptably. Then when we come into His presence, He will be able to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Scripture reference and special notes

1} (1 Co. 1:30) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

2} (2 Co. 4:10-11) always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

3} (2 Co. 4:16) Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

4} (2 Co. 4:18) while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

5} (2 Co. 4:11-12) For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.

6} (Luke 6:21) Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.

7} (2 Pe. 1:13) Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you,

8} (1 Co. 13:12) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

9} (2 Co. 4:18) while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

10} (Rom. 8:24-25) For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

11} (2 Co. 11:23-29) Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?

12} (Phil. 1:22-23) But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

13} (Phil. 1:24) Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

14} (Rom. 12:12) So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

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