I like to work, but I don’t really get to enjoy my paycheck.  Payday at my house is like the Academy Awards.  I walk in the door and my wife says, “May I have the envelope please?”  (just kidding!)

Speaking of which, did you know that there is an award ceremony in your future?  The apostle Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 5:10.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

The place of judgment.

In the Greek, the phrase judgment seat is rendered by one word, “Bema.”  Back then, the Bema was a raised platform at the city gate, where justice was handed down and war heroes and star athletes were honored. 

The bema is a place of judgment, but fortunately Christ who gave His life for us on the cross is the judge.  When we stand before Him, we can expect him to be gracious and yet, fair.

The subjects of judgment

Paul says we must “all” make an appearance to undergo a thorough examination of the way we lived our Christian lives.   There is another judgment reserved for unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15.) but the Bema is for those who believe. 

The basis of judgment

Paul said, “according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.”   We will be judged based on how we have lived our lives.  Jesus will be concerned with specific thoughts, words, deeds and attitudes – good and bad.

Wait! Doesn’t God forget our sins? (Ps103:12).  Yes, He does, He will never condemn a believer to hell because of their sins.   The Bema seat is NOT concerned about condemnation but rather commendation.  Jesus will be looking for ways to affirm us.

Another critical passage on the judgment seat of Christ is 1 Cor 3:11-15 where Paul tells us that Jesus will examine the quality of our work.  He pictures us as builders who use various materials: wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver and precious stones.  These materials symbolize the things we do as being either worthless or worthwhile   

For example, there is a specific reward promised for those who fast (Matthew 6:16-18) and those who give (Matthew 6:19-21) and for godly motivation (1 Corinthians 4:5) and worthy words (Luke 12:1-3) and for investing in others (1 Corinthians 3:6-8) and for extending hospitality (Luke 14:12-14) and for loving the hard to love (Luke 6:35) etc.

Our works will be tested, and Christ’s searing judgment will sift them as a fire that refines gold and silver, but consumes wood, hay and stubble.  Paul promised (vrs 14) that the one whose work survives the testing shall be rewarded.

But the one whose works burn, will be saved, yet so as through fire.   In other words, there is no possibility to be cast into hell, but his life’s work made of flammable, inferior materials will be lost, and he will go unrewarded. 

Think of it this way.  On the day we were saved we had nothing to lose, and yet everything to gain.  From that day forward, many of us engaged as Christians and we have been creating reward for ourselves. Others haven’t.  Some are still at net zero because they have treated their walk with God with apathy and indifference.  

You may ask, is this grace?  It is!  For we were once deserving of condemnation and hell, now having been saved, we have the unmerited opportunity to accrue treasure for ourselves in heaven.

The impact of judgment

So how should the prospect of this judgment affect us today.  In the next verse (5:11) Paul said, “Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people.” 

Paul spoke of his reverence for Christ as His future judge.  He feared being caught short of what the Lord would expect. So, he gave 100% to the work that God gave him to do.

Should a Christian be motivated by rewards?  Paul was motivated by many things especially his love for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:14) But it is clear here that the Bema seat was a considerable goad to him as well.  He wanted to win the prize.  How about you? 

A PRAYER: Lord help me to keep my eye on the prize. 

This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®