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. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10
Yep, this is one of those subjects guaranteed to empty your church, who wants you preach on the judgement seat? It’s true to say that there is a pressure to only preach “nice” sermons, to only say “nice things!” Yet it’s in scripture and Paul was not afraid to speak about it.
Let’s try and take this step by step.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
So, whatever else Paul may have in mind in 2 Corinthians 5, if you are “in Christ Jesus” by faith you need never, ever fear condemnation. Yet Paul does say there is a judgement seat.
If we then ask the question who is to be judged? we have to say that the context of 2 Corinthians 4-5 is that the ones being judged are Christians.
If we then ask what is the nature of that judgement? then this is not about our eternal destiny or our entrance to heaven, it is so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
When will this happen? Paul doesn’t seem to say ‘when’ here in the passage, but looking back to verses 6-8 it is after death. Now, some theologians take the view that judgement will occur at the second coming of Christ. They use the following texts to substantiate that,
(Matthew 16:27, Revelation 20:11 and 22 :12).
Paul makes it clear that the judgement is something every believer will be involved in “for we all must appear” its time is fixed and God will not change his mind despite the passage of time therefore, as believers, our continued aim should be as Paul states “to please God.”
Paul tells us that the judgement is done on an individual basis, “each one,” we can get a little lost in the corporate, the body, the people and forget our individual responsibility. Blame is often given to “the Church.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Please do note, we won’t just turn up, or wander in, or fit it in when we are free! Paul said in I Corinthians 4:5 “ The Lord will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” This is is not casual, but serious and sober, a divine scrutiny.
It is sobering to think that every random thought, every righteous impulse, every heart felt prayer, hidden deed, long-forgotten sin or act of compassion will be brought into the open for us to acknowledge and for the Lord to judge? Keep holding on to: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The place is the judgement seat of Christ, not me and my mate down the pub having a chat! Paul uses the Greek word “Bema” the throne, the platform, the stage. It is that we are below it and He is above us. He has the authority and the power. The use of this word in verse 10 would have been particularly evocative for Paul and the Corinthians since it was before Gallio’s tribunal in Corinth that Paul had stood some four years previously when the proconsul dismissed the charge that Paul had contravened Roman law (Acts 18:12-17).
Who is the one who will judge? It is the judgement seat of Christ.
For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, John 5:22.
How will each person be judged ? “What he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” The reference to the “body” tells us that the judgment concerns what we do in this life. The ESV says we receive “what is due.” In other words, and more literally, we will be judged in accordance with or maybe even in proportion to deeds done. Paul tells us those deeds are characterised as with good, so those things which please Christ or evil, which must mean those things that do not please Christ.
What happens next is not stated in this passage, therefore its clear point is for us to take more seriously our pleasing of Christ whilst in the body. However we will all receive what is due. Paul said in a previous letter to the church in Corinth,
14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:14-15
Can anything be added to give us an idea of what might be due?
Maybe the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5
17 and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Having said all of this our deeds do not determine our salvation, but demonstrate it. They are not the root of our standing with God but the fruit of it, our standing has been already obtained by faith in Christ alone. The visible evidence of an invisible faith are the “good” deeds that will be made known at the judgment seat of Christ.
Please don’t be afraid that, with the exposure and evaluation of your deeds in the body that this will spoil your enjoyment of heaven.
If there be tears of grief for opportunities squandered, or tears of shame for sins committed, or tears of regret caused by mistakes made, then he will personally and carefully wipe them away (Revelation 20:4). The perfect joy of forgiving grace and intense love the Father has for you will swallow up all sorrow, and the beauty of Christ will blind you to anything other than the splendour of who he is and what he has, by grace, accomplished on your behalf.