J. Foster Crane, New Zealand
'We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ ... everyone of us
will give account of himself to God', Rom. 14.10-12; 2 Cor. 5. 10.
THE ISRAEL OF OLD TESTAMENT TIMES lived in the main under the strict,
unbending, commands of the law - 'Thou shalt', Thou shalt not'; the
people loved and obeyed God because the law demanded it.
Believers of New Testament times still love and obey God but, because
they live in an age of grace, they are privileged to show their love because
they want to, not because they have to. It is really the only way that God can
test the reality and genuineness of our faith and love.
Greater privileges, however, bring greater responsibilities - the right to
live freely does not carry with it freedom to live unrighteously or
irresponsibly either towards God or man; 'None of us liveth to himself, and
no man dieth to himself', Rom. 14. 7. Whether living under law or grace,
every person is accountable to God for his actions and decisions, hence the
plain, clear warnings of Scripture that God has set a time when all shall
I! will be a day when the Lord 'will bring to light the hidden things of
darkness', 1 Cor. 4. 5; when 'God shall judge the secrets of men', Rom. 2. 16,
when 'every man's work shall be made manifest: for the fire shall try every
man's work of what sort it is', 1 Cor. 3. 13.
The basis of the examination will not only be on what kind of deeds we
have done but on why we did them. Outward, visible works may be seen
and judged by men but only God can judge the inner motives or the real
value of our actions. Some works are likened to 'gold, silver, precious
stones', while others will be found to be but 'wood, hay, stubble', 1 Cor. 3.
12,13; 2 Tim. 2. 20.
The far-reaching, unchanging consequences of the judgment seat of
Christ are solemn in the extreme. Paul was conscious of this when he said
'knowing therefore the terror (fear) of the Lord, we persuade (urge, constrain)
men', 2 Cor. 5. 11.
For some the judgment holds no fear. There will be 'rewards', 1 Cor. 3. 8,
14; Eph. 6. 8; Col. 2. 18; 3.24; 1 Tim. 5. 18; 2 John 8; Rev. 11. 18; 22. 12; Matt.
5.12; 10. 41,42; 1 Cor. 9. 17; 16. 27 - praise from God for faithful stewardship,
1 Cor. 4. 5; Rev. 3. 5, positions of privilege and responsibility in the
kingdom of the Messiah, Matt. 24. 47; 25. 21; Rev. 2. 26, 27; 2 Tim. 2. 12,
crowns of glory and beauty, 1 Cor. 9. 25; 2 Tim. 4.8; James 1.12; 1 Pet. 5. 4.
But for others the judgment will involve sad, irreparable loss, 1 Cor. 3.
15. Works, some of which may have been commendable and praiseworthy
in the sight of men, will be consumed under the searching fire of
the eyes of the Judge, 1 Cor. 3. 13; Rev. 1. 14 - If the worker is accounted
unfaithful before the Father, and regarded as unfit for service in its kingdom,
what a sad and shattering experience it will be, 1 Cor. 9. 27; Matt. 25. 30.
There are three broad areas in my life for which the Lord holds me
1 In the Use of my Material Possessions
'Give an account of thy stewardship', Luke 16. 2 is a command the Lord
may well make at the judgment seat and one we wish we could avoid.
Most of us are by heart far more covetous that we think we are. The eyecatching
appeal of today's electronic hardware, modern vehicles, costly
clothes and comfortable homes stand in contrast to Paul's admonition,
'Having food and raiment let us be therewith content', 1 Tim. 6. 8. It is so
much easier and pleasing to the flesh to lay up treasure on earth than in
Under the Mosaic law the Hebrews were required to give one tenth of
their possessions to the Lord, besides the first fruits of their harvests, and it
was their failure to do this that became one of the major causes of their later
dispersion, Mal. 3. 9, 10.
In this age of grace, however, anything given to God must be entirely a
matter of free will and not a matter of compulsion. To give on the basis of
an Old Testament command as a duty and obligation cannot be viewed as
a rewardable voluntary gift. The man who agreed to work for a penny
a day received what he expected, others who laboured on the basis of the
employer's goodwill were rewarded twelve fold, Matt. 20. 1-16. Those
who give freely are 'laying up in store for themselves a good foundation
against the time to come', 1 Tinl. 6. 18, 19.
But who are we to expect rewards for what we give? 'We brought
nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out', 1 Tim.
6. 7. It would be a pleasure to hear the Lord say, 'Well done, thou good and
faithful servant ... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord', Matt. 25. 21, but
surely our response should be, 'We are unprofitable servants: we have
done that which was our duty to do', Luke 17. 10; 'all things come of thee,
and of thine own have we given thee', 1 Chron. 29. 14.
2 My Personal Relations with other People
Cain's angry words, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' indicate clearly the
subtle tendency of the hmnan heart to put self-interests before the welfare
of others. Even the disciples in the upper room disputed who should be the
greatest. But it must not be!
'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' is the second great
commandment of the law, Matt. 22. 39. 'A new commandment I give unto
you', said Jesus, 'that you love one another as I have loved you'; 'love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them that ... persecute you', Matt. 5. 44. So likewise the words of
Paut 'We are mernbers one of another', Rom. 12. 5; 'Let no man seek his
own, but every man another's wealth', 1 Cor. 10. 24; 'I please all men in all
things, not seeking mine own profit ... that they may be saved', 1 Cor. 10.
The Lord will not hold me responsible for the actions of others, but He
does hold me responsible for the example I set and for the way my actions
may influence them in their way of life. The Name of God was 'blasphemed
among the Gentiles' because of the sins of the Jews, Rom. 2. 24.
The spiritual growth and welfare of fellow believers ought therefore, to
be a matter of priority in everything that I do and say. Writing to the
believers at Philippi concerning Timothy, Paul said, 'For I have no man like
minded, who will naturally care for your state'. But of others he said, 'All
seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's, Phil. 2. 20-21.
For all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, it will be a humiliating
experience to give account of our lives lived in the body - to recall so many
self-centred interests, acts of ingratitude, harsh and unkind words, secret
and unconfessed sin, worldly ambitions and carnal pride, wasted time and
talents, lost opportunities and misused possessions - and thus to stand
'empty handed' before the One who gave His all for us, Exod. 23. 15.
3 My Personal Involvement in the Witness of the Local Assembly,
and the Ministry of the Word of God
This is the third, and far more serious, area of accountability that we all
must bear before the Lord.
None can evade this. From the moment you were saved and baptized
into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, your life is no longer your own.
You are now an integral part of the Christian fellowship and everything
you do will, in one way or another, affect the local asselnbly for its
development or decline.
The local church in its corporate character is viewed by God as the pillar
and ground upon which the truth of God's Word is displayed, 1 Tim. 3. 15:
hence it is responsible before God to understand, proclaim, defend and
teach all the counsel of God, Acts 20. 27, not only in matters of doctrine, but
in the orderly behaviour of all meetings convened for the edification of its
members, l Cor. 11. 2; 14. 26,40; Titus 1. 5, recognizing the respective
functions of men and women under the headship of Christ, 1 Cor. 11. 3.
This is seen so clearly in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 where the Lord is seen
as Judge in the midst of His people examining, reproving, rebuking and
warning them concerning their behaviour and doctrinal teaching.
The apostles laid the foundation of the New Testament church, 1 Cor. 3.
10; Eph. 2. 20, instructed them in the faith, and gave rules and guidance for
their administration and conduct; but, warns Paul, 'let every man take
heed how he buildeth thereupon'; 1 Cor. 3. 10.
Special responsibility rested on the local elders to teach and shepherd
their respective assemblies, Acts 20. 28; 1 Tim. 5.17; 1 Pet. 5. 1-4, to guard
against false teachers, trouble makers, and any who caused disunity and
division among the believers, Rom. 16. 17; Acts 20. 29-30. But responsibility
rests upon all for 'to everyone of us is given grace according to the measure
of the gift of Christ', Eph. 4. 7. All are responsible to co-operate with the
local church in its life and take part in its activities, to attend its meetings,
Acts 2. 42-44; Heb. 10. 25, and share in its ministry and public witness.
To support, encourage, and build up a local congregation of believers
seeking to maintain the unity of the faith and the oneness of the body of
Christ, however weak they may be, is a great honour and privilege, and
those who faithfully fulfil their ministry will be abundantly rewarded in
the day of examination, but great indeed will be the remorse and loss of
those who, by their behaviour and teaching, build hay and stuble on the
biblical foundation, creating disunity and disharmony among the people
of God, bringing the Lord's Name into dishonour.