We now arrive at the burning heart of this entire revelation
as it concerns the Church—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 God's holiness, and
for the satisfaction of our own highest and holiest
instincts " all "—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. v. 10). In
the words of Lange:—Paul's 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 God's 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. xiv, 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. xlv. 23). So then, says the
Apostle, (Rom. xiv. 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 "
(Stanley)—" we make it our aim " (R.V.)—" we are ambitious
(R. V., margin) to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we
must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ
" (2 Cor. v. 10).
The 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. iv. 8) is " a certain king, I which would make a
reckoning with his servants" (Matt. xviii.
23). It is the first of our Lord's three judgments (Rom.
xiv. 12; Matt. xxv. 31; Rev. XX. 12) on His return; and
judgment begins " at the house of God " (1 Pet. iv.
I7). (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 " (1 Cor. i. 2): it is a
final investigation of the whole Church of God. No Book of
Life is produced, for it is no judgment of the lost: " the
wicked shall not stand [or, rise] in the judgment . .
. of the righteous" (Ps. i. 5). Nor (3) is it a judgment for
life. " He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that
sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into
judgment, but hath passed out of death into life"
(John v. 24; Rom. viii. I). The believer was crucified with
Christ, and on Calvary exhausted the penalties of Hell: on
that ground he can be judged no more. (4) The process is
individual: " so then each one of us shall give
account of himelf to God" (Rom. xiv. I2). " We "—it
is Christian; " must "— it is inevitable; " all "—it is
universal; " made manifest " —it is public; " judgment seat
"—it is judicial; " stand " —it is in resurrection; " each
"—it is individual; " give account "—it is responsibility; "
to God "—it is Divine. 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. xxiv. 19). "Be not deceived "—is a word to
disciples—" God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap " (Gal. vi. 7). Paul
puts it with exquisite dearness, 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. vi. 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. iii. 25).
Our works and conduct are put
in as the evidence: " things done by means of the body." We
must all " appear in our true light" (Alford): as the fossil
imprint of a bird's claw, made ages earlier by a momentary
alighting when the stone was soft, now records that act in
solid rock, so our actions are the unerring imprint
of our characters; the things done reveal what the
body was. Like a palimpsest, when the heat of fire (I
Cor. iii. 13) passes over it, so our life silently steals
forth in lines every one of which we ourselves wrote: so
that what our eyes looked on, what our ears listened to;
what our hearts loved, what our minds believed, what our
lips said, what our hands wrought, where our feet
walked:—these are the unimpeachable evidences of the
Judgment Seat. Secrets (1 Cor. iv. 5), motives (Matt. vi.
1), soul-attitudes (Luke vi. 36—38), and just Church
decisions (Matt. xviii. 18), also sway the adjudication.
The 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
salvation, which is through faith, against deserts) is
strictly defined by works. So somewhere there exists a
draft by the hand of God of what our life might have been,
and still can bc: some have lived wonderfully near God's
thought for them: let us find and
follow that Divine original.
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. iv. 3)—the Church
of Christ. When " all that are in Asia turned away" from
Paul (2 Tim. i. 15), there must have been personal attacks,
solemn denunciations, ecclesiastical censures, even
excommunication of thc Apostle: in wide areas of the Church
his name had become a bye-word: even Paul. When his
priestly executioners brought Savonarola to the stake, they
cried:— "We excommunicate you from the Church militant here
upon earth !" " But not from the Church triumphant in
heaven ! " answered the lonely hero. Men may not judge
me, the Apostle says; but then neither do I judge myself:
it is not because I am infallible that I rate human
judgment so lightly, but because neither they nor I are
competent to judge. " Yea, I judge not mine own self "—I
cannot pass, even on myself, the final judgment—" for I know
NOTHING against myself "; I am conscious of no sin; "
yet am I not hereby [for all that] justified"—found
blameless, irreproachable, a perfect steward. So Paul now
administers the great heart-tonic: he takes our wrist, like
a mastersurgeon, and with his hypodermic syringe inserts
beneath the skin perhaps as powerful a heart-strychnine as
I, for one, have ever known. HE THAT JUDGETH ME IS THE
LORD." A believer's friends may overpraise him, and his
critics overblame; the world will totally misunderstand him
in any case; his own conscience may flatter: the LORD only
can appraise us exactly, and judge to a nicety. "
Wherefore judge nothing "—pass no final sentence— "
before the time "—our judgment must come; but its time, its
season, is not yet: " until the LORD come"—to judge.
If even my own conscience, knowing my motives and inner
life, must be set aside as a judge, of how much less value
is the praise or blame of men, whose judgment is purely
external; and if an enlightened conscience ruled by
Scripture does not condemn, the sharp criticisms of men need
not unduly depress. Early in the Great War a young man sat
at a table in a London restaurant. Two young ladies, seated
at another table, watched him for a few minutes, whispering
together; and then, approaching him, offered him a little
box. He opened it, and in it lay —a white feather. " How
strange," he remarked, " that I should receive two such
gifts in one day: this morning I received the Victoria
Cross at Buckingham Palace." If we are clear in the
forum of conscience, we may have good hope that we shall be
clear at the bar of God. " Beloved if our heart condemn us
not, we have boldness toward God "(1 John iii. 21). " Let
them say what they will," said a good man now gone to his
rest; " they cannot hurt me; I live too near the Great
White Throne for that."
The above excerpt is
for evaluation purposes only. It is the sincere hope that
readers of the above excerpt will be interested to
obtain the author's entire work.