January 6, 2019 - The Judgment Seat of Christ

The Judgement Seat of Christ

 

Our scripture reading this morning is Exodus 12:12-15. READ. PRAY.

 

During the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church taught, and the Western world believed, that one's own works, good deeds, were needed in addition to faith, hope, and love, in order to be fully justified before God. That is, to have our sins forgiven and to be considered righteous in the eyes of God. As the Council of Trent wrote in 1547:

Whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, —as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, —and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, —we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also and it's (due) time,

 

It was this idea, that eternal life was merited, I.e., earned, by our good works that left those trying to follow Christ wondering if they had done enough to merit eternal life. It was this false idea, among others, that caused the reformers to rise up and demonstrate the biblical truth that eternal life is a gift of God that is completely separate from our deeds, based on simple trust on what Christ accomplished on our behalf. What a freedom this truth brings! There is nothing we can do to merit eternal life! It is a gift that God gives to us based on simple faith. Our good deeds play no part in receiving this gift and our evil deeds play no part in losing the gift.

 

With respect to the first, it is taught in several passages of Scripture but perhaps most clearly in Romans 4:1-6

READ.

 

We note some important truths from this passage.

 

From verse 3 we see that it was simply by believing in what God spoke that Abraham was considered righteous by God. This amazing fact is also true to anyone who follows Abraham’s example in simply believing in what God has spoken

Secondly, note that from verse 4 that wages getting something because of what we do is contrasted with the gift getting something without respect to what we doing. The two are incompatible. One is earned and the other is free. One depends on us and the other depends upon God. One is conditional and the other is unconditional, save for the faith itself.

 

Third, verse 5 reveals that the blessing of righteousness is for the one who does not work.

 

Fourth, simply trusting God, which a six-year-old, or a country pumpkin with no education can do, or a well-educated person who has lived a life of sin and degradation can do - simply trusting God is counted as righteousness! Hallelujah! That is good news!

 

Fifthly, just to emphasize his point Paul says again in even stronger terms: “God counts righteousness apart from works.” It could not be any clearer.

 

With respect to eternal life not being lost because of either our foolishness or our wickedness (which can arise even among the redeemed - consider David and Solomon, two of the Lord's greatest men) one could enlist a good array of scriptures. But consider the symmetry of divine revelation: if a redeemed man is totally helpless to do something in accomplishing his redemption in the first place, then he is as totally helpless to undo anything which has been accomplished for him in bringing it about.

 

In our passage from Exodus this morning there is a dual truth. There is the application of the blood and the expelling of leaven. Chapters 12 and 13 also introduced two feasts of the Lord to be followed by Israel: the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These feasts were instituted the very night that the death angel went through the land of Egypt.

 

The blood of the lambs was to be applied upon the houses first. Then, those who applied the blood were to put the leaven out of their houses. This is the unchangeable order established by God in the book of Exodus.

 

We must remember that the only thing the Lord looked for on that first pass overnight was the blood. “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” Nothing else was in view.

 

Following the Passover, God dealt with the Israelites on an entirely different plane. Immediately following the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread commenced. God dealt with them relative to leaven in their houses. They were to eat unleavened bread for seven days. Seven in Scripture is God's number of completion. It signifies divine completion. In other words, the Israelites were to partake of unleavened bread for a complete period of time.

 

“Leaven” signifies that which is vile and corrupt. It points to sin in the lives of the Israelites. The feast of the unleavened bread was meant to communicate that God's people were to expel and keep sin out of the camp for a complete period of time, that is, for the rest of their lives; For as long as Israel was a nation.

 

If an individual Israelite failed or refused to expel the leaven he was to be cut off from Israel. He would die on the right side of the blood. He would be cut off from Israel, not cut off from God.

 

The entire generation was cut off after the events of Kadesh-Barnea where the Israelites complained. They failed to enter the promised land but they still died on the right side of the blood.

 

The entire matter is the same for the church today. The Passover lamb was a type of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins to save us from the wrath of God. Once we have received the benefits of that sacrifice, which is eternally efficacious, we are to put away that which is vile, corrupt, and sinful out of our lives for one complete period of time: the entire duration of our lives. If we fail in this regard we will be cut off from the people of God. In fact, this is most often done voluntarily. Many times those who let sin and rebellion into their lives will come to church very seldom if at all. This is a sign of one of two things: either they were not saved, to begin with (and, sad to report, there are many in this category: those who never really had a change in their heart wrought by the Holy Spirit and were, therefore, Christians in name only. Their end, unless they come to Christ in reality, is the lake of fire for eternity;) Or they are true Christians that have been deceived by the deceitfulness of sin or allow rebellion to raise up in their heart. In both cases, they are cut off.

 

The possession of eternal life or the lack thereof is determined by God before the foundation of the world. It is realized in time by the faith of individuals as they are born anew by the Spirit of God. Then it is verified and confirmed at the Great and Final Judgment which we read about in one of the last chapters of the Bible, Revelation 20. This verification depends on whether one's name is written in the book of life.

 

However, the rewards that one receives will be determined at the judgment seat of Christ. This is a judgment not for unbelievers, but for Christ's own. Turn with me to second Corinthians 5:10. “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 so whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

 

First, we must note that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, informs us that we are going to receive from the Lord something for the good that we have done. This is the doctrine of rewards and it appears rather often in the pages of the New Testament. Consider another passage on the subject: Ephesians 6:5-8 “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, With a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, Doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a goodwill as to the Lord and not too man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

 

See that in verse 8 Paul links the command to obey our earthly masters (or, in our culture, our bosses) (vs 5) with making sure that we know that the Lord will reward us.

 

The Lord himself has inspired the New Testament authors to hold out rewards to the faithful in order to give us motivation for obedience, Faithfulness, And service. Not just once or twice but many times. In fact, this is one of the dominant themes of Jesus himself and his teaching ministry.

 

This is why it is somewhat peculiar to hear Christians on occasion denigrate or belittle the doctrine of rewards as if it is beneath them or not the proper motivation.

 

Some will say that it is not good to obey God for any other motive than the fact that it is our duty to do so. It is indeed the duty not only of every believer but of every person to obey God. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

The person who does not fear God is a fool, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the one who does not keep his commandments is, likewise, A fool, Building the structure of his life upon sand instead of bedrock.

 

Serving God out of a sense of our duty is a good thing. But it is fully compatible with serving Him with a view to rewards. Why would they be incompatible? They are no more incompatible than one spouse having a sense of duty to the other and taking them out for a nice dinner or buying flowers, but still having a view of some “rewards” that might be received at the end of the day. (What are you smiling about? I'm talking about a homemade dessert or getting something fixed around the house. My wife fixes things around our house.)

 

The idea of the duty is the only right motive originated in Immanuel Kant, an agnostic philosopher. The Scriptures hold out more than one motive.

 

Others say that they only want to serve and obey Christ solely out of love for him, not for any rewards. This sounds quite spiritual and pure. But is it? Could it be that those who say such things really have a higher opinion of the purity of their motives than is actually the case? I think the answer must be “yes” for three reasons.

 

1. The human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9) and one does not even know their own heart. They may think they know it, but they do not. We do not even know our own hearts let alone another person’s.

 

2. God knows our hearts. That is why he holds out rewards in the next age so many times in the Scriptures as a motivation for service and obedience. What the Lord condemns is the seeking of rewards in this life, not the seeking of rewards in the next life. He commands the seeking of rewards in the next age as evidence of believing what God says about the next phase of our living.

 

3. Because of 2 John 1:8 - “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” Observe that when John writes “watch yourselves’ it is a command. Then he gives the purpose of the command; so that we will not lose the reward we have worked for and that we may win a full reward. So, you see, it is a command that we seek rewards. We are to seek the glory that God will give us in the next age. (John 5:44) WE MUST BELIEVE THAT GOD REWARDS THOSE WHO SEEK HIM. (HEBREWS 11:6)

Now hear this: Jesus said that if you love me you will keep my commandments. But it is one of his commandments that we seek rewards! Therefore, those who say that they are not serving him for rewards are disobeying Him and actually do not love Him as much as they think!

 

Let us now return to 2 Corinthians 5:10 we have spent a fair amount of time talking about the first half of the passage: Receiving what is due for the good that we have done. But it also says that at the Judgment Seat of Christ we will receive what is due for what we have done in the body that is evil. Do you see that in the text?

 

Now, this cannot be referring to those things that we have done after saving faith and for which we have confessed. A precious verse that I hope we are all familiar with says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all on righteousness. (1 John 1:9) it must refer to:

 

  • Those disobedient actions that we have not confessed,
  • those that we have not repented of.
  • These are the actions that we justify before ourselves and before others.
  • These are the actions that Jesus gives so many examples of in the parables.

 

When you speak about positive rewards, everyone agrees that there will be some. It is difficult not to see them since the Bible addresses them so often. But if you mention negative rewards, in other words, discipline or chastisement, At the judgment seat the naysayers begin to arise. Many Christians do not want to hear that.

 

But there must be negative or words for the following reasons:

 

1. The passages that teach it are too clear. In order to properly understand any passage of scripture, we should know to whom it was written and the intention the author had for those to whom it was written. Consider the book of Colossians. This was the apostle Paul's letter to the church Colossae, a city in Asia Minor. In verse 2 of this epistle, we read: “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.” When the book itself identifies the audience it makes our task so much the easier. They are saints, faithful brothers, and they are “in Christ.”

 

In chapter 3, starting at verse 22, we see admonitions to the saints along the same lines as those in Ephesians 6 that we just read. READ Col. 3:22-25. The “wrongdoer” here is a follower of the Lord and his being “paid back” will be at the same time, in context, as receiving a reward. That is the next age.

 

2. There must be negative rewards because sanctification is not always perfected in this life. It can be. Paul was certain that he was going to receive a full reward at the end of his life as he wrote his second letter to Timothy. I have personally known men of God whose lives were transformed and holy. But, consider this same passage in Colossians. Look at verse 18. Do all Christian wives submit to their husbands? Verse 19: DO ALL HUSBANDS LOVE THEIR WIVES? Do all husbands avoid being harsh with their wives? Verse 20: Do all Christian children obey their parents in everything? It is obvious the answer is no for many families. And since no one can see God without personal holiness, sanctification must be completed in the next age if it is not completed in this age.

 

3. There must be negative rewards in the next age, this is, divine discipline because those whom Jesus loves He reproves and disciplines. And His love for us does not cease upon death. It continues.

 

What are the positive rewards and what are the negative rewards? That is a message for another time - maybe next Sunday. For today, we must realize there will be judgment that is separate from eternal life. We must prepare for this judgment. We should live our lives in such a way that we have a view of the rewards that we will receive. Jesus lived this way. For the joy that awaited Him in the next age, he bore up under suffering. We should live our lives in such a way that we have a view of divine discipline still to come if we yield to temptation. These are the motivations that the Lord has given in his word and woven into the fabric of reality. Therefore, prepare thyself!