“Will Christians be judged according to their works, or not?” Paul lived with the judgment in view. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5-10).
When we study for a test, we pay attention to the teachings of the one who will grade us! While Paul was in the body, he assumed his life would be scrutinized. Therefore he sought to live according to the values of Him who will judge.
Paul did not expect recognition for his life before he was saved. That life was forgiven and forgotten when he was born again. He did not expect a reward for believing in Christ for salvation because Christ gets all the honor. Paul expected a reward for his own labor.
Paul made it his “aim to be well pleasing to Him” by his works of love. These are curious words from someone who taught that we are “accepted in the Beloved”! These verses do not contradict. Being accepted into the family of God on the merit of Christ’s work is different from meriting a pleased smile for going the second mile to labor in response to the Savior’s love.
The Christian will receive “according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” What does the Lord regard as “bad” in a Christian’s life–bad enough to render a negative judgment? The Lord was gracious enough to give us several examples. In no case is it a judgment on whether or not the believer will lose his salvation. Due to Christ’s completed work at Calvary, our salvation cannot be lost.
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
But if that evil servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,” and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:44-51).
The servant who was found faithful was rewarded for his faithfulness when his master returned. The unfaithful at the time of his master’s return lost his position of honor and was put with the hypocrites.
We have another example in Matthew 6:14-15. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” If we wish certain sins forgotten at the throne, we must meet the conditions. If we confess our sins, He will forgive (1 John 1:9). If we do not forgive others when it is in our power to do so, the sin of unforgiveness will be dealt with at the future time of evaluation. Now is the time to show mercy, for “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
With these Scriptures as a guide, you should find it easier to recognize other examples of the judgment of believers. We will be judged according to our works, good rewards for good works and stern discipline for works and attitudes unbecoming of the child of God.