We are responsible to God as His children to live our lives pleasing to Him. Our challenge is to allow the Spirit of God to glorify (shed light upon) Christ through us. The way to do this is to keep short sin accounts with God. However, we do not always cooperate with the Spirit. We either grieve Him by consciously doing that which displeases Him (Ephesians 4:25–32) or we quench Him by not allowing Him to lead us (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Both will result in God’s discipline.
Always remember that God’s discipline is proof positive that we belong to Him and that He loves us. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we can adjust ourselves to God’s righteous standard by judging ourselves (confession) and enduring God’s discipline (1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 11:31). Unbelievers do not have this option. They stand condemned before God because they have not believed in His Son (John 3:18).
Another area of personal accountability other than our personal relationship with Christ concerns our work of faith. Again, the Bible makes it quite clear that we are not declared right before God by our good deeds (Titus 3:5). However, we have learned that God has uniquely gifted every Christian to perform a stewardship responsibility to help build the body of Christ (1 Corinthians12:11;1 Peter 4:10). We are one body in Christ, but we have not been given the same responsibilities (Romans 12:4). If a choir all sang the same parts where would be the harmony? I really like the harmony. But we all have one very important thing in common.
God will one day judge each of us for spiritual productivity, especially the effort we make. Paul asked a simple question. Why are we quick to judge other believers? As someone said, why do we have umpires’ hearts, or the desire to call balls and strikes on other people. Why are we quick to show contempt for fellow members? After all, we are all going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live say the Lord, every knee shall bow to me. And every tongue shall confess to God” (REF). Each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:10–12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Judgment seat is the word bema. The bema was a rewarding stand for judges. It was established to reward those competing in the sporting games of the ancient world. Our righteous judge will one day reward believers for the race we have run. This judgment has nothing to do with the sin that condemned us before God. That debt was paid in full on Christ’s cross (John 19:30; Matthew 27:45-46).
Paul connected the basis for this judgment with the grace gifts given to believers. He used three can’t miss symbols to help us understand (1 Corinthians 3:5-15):
We are God’s fellow workers. Paul had the apostles in mind. He is saying that the apostles’ work was not their own. God gave to them this responsibility. The church at Corinth was Christ’s body, not Paul’s or Apollos’s or Peter’s. They were just workers working together for the building of the church.
You are God’s ﬁeld. The church here is pictured as God’s cultivated ﬁeld. These people were familiar with agriculture. There must be preparation of the soil, the planting of the seed, the fertilizing, the watering, the weeding, and then the harvesting. That is what ministry is all about! All need the seed of the gospel to be planted in their minds (1 Peter 1:23-25). If germination comes, the plants will need special care. All will need to be taught (watered and fertilized), will need encouragement (the soil loosened around them), and will need mercy (the weeds and vines removed).
You are God’s building. The Corinthian church also understood how a building was put together. Some are just beginning to lay a foundation in the Scripture and are in need of the milk of the word; some have the walls already built, and they are sturdy, and need deeper teaching. Some are ready for the roof to be put in place and are mature and in need of meat.
First you have those who lay the foundation (the apostles and prophets, Ephesians 2:20), then the framers, the construction crew, the bricklayers, the dry-wallers, and the painters (all the gifted believers) (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:7-16). Since the servants work on the same team, and since God is the one giving the increase, does the quality of each work make any difference at all? Oh Yes! Take careful note of these words: “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor, for we are all God’s fellow workers, take heed how you build on it” (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). We may not heed these warnings but there is coming a day when they will matter. Stay safe and stay tuned.