Believers have not been chosen of God to fulfill the same earthly destinies. God has given each of us different gifts and different responsibilities. And God will one day judge us for how these responsibilities are carried out.
Believers today cannot deny the tasks that we have been given to build upon the foundation that has been laid for us. God has equipped each believer for a particular work of faith. We are to fulfill our destinies before God. And God will someday judge each believer for how we have carried out our stewardship responsibility.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10-12)
“Judgment Seat” comes from the Greek word “bema.” The bema was a judgment stand found at athletic functions throughout the ancient world. Likewise, Christ one day will reward believers for the way in which they have carried out their stewardship responsibility.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church clearly connects the Judgment Seat of Christ with the stewardship responsibility of believers. Many Corinthians were struggling over their understanding of the various roles of those working in the body of Christ. Some of the Corinthians believers were taking sides between leaders in the body. Paul told them that each believer has a different responsibility before God.
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.” (1 Cor. 3:10a)
“According to the grace of God that was given to me” is a phrase designed by Paul to take the reader back into the stewardship responsibility that God had given to him, and to us (Eph. 4:11-16, Rom. 12:6). He said that as a wise master builder he is laying a foundation and others are building upon it. He then reminded the believers at Corinth to take care as to how they built upon the foundation.
“But each man must be careful how he builds on it.” (1 Cor. 3:10b)
“It” refers to the bedrock solid foundation that was laid by the Lord Jesus Christ when He died for us. He paid the entire sin debt owed to God. The apostles were used by God to put in place the original foundation upon which others were to build.
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw.” (1 Cor. 3:11-12)
Each believer has been given grace to build upon the foundation. The “if” introduces a conditional clause in the Greek language. The condition is the possibility of building upon a foundation that will result in gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay and stubble. Six kinds of building materials are mentioned, and they fall into two categories of three each. The basic difference between the two categories is that one material grouping is combustible and the other is not. Gold, silver, precious stone is not combustible, but wood, hay and stubble will burn.
“Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:11-15)
The word evident is “to come into focus.” Each believer’s work will be focused in on. The purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to expose the believer’s works. The gold, silver and precious stones speak of a reward that will be valuable and lasting. The wood, hay and stubble reveal reward that will be burned away.
A day of reckoning is coming for every child of God. The exposure to fire will make each believer’s work clear. Fire will determine what kind of material has been used.
The Lord Jesus Christ is going to judge every believer’s work. Notice that it is our “work” that is going to be judged not our sin; and it is the quality of each man’s work, not the quantity that is to be judged.
If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he will be saved, yet so as through fire. What is being determined by this judgment is the believer’s status in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. As previously mentioned, every believer has been granted an inheritance in Christ’s kingdom (Gal. 4:29). However, this inheritance varies based upon how we carry out our stewardship responsibility within the body of Christ (1 Cor. 9:16-10:32).
Crowns will be given for quality stewardship.
- A crown of joy – given to believers who faithfully share the gospel (1 Thess. 2:9).
- A crown of righteousness – given to believers who have kept the faith in the face of severe temptation (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
- A crown of life – given to believers who persevere through the trials of life (James 1:12).
- A crown of glory – given to believers who faithfully feed and meet the spiritual needs of the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4).