Bill was hired on a trial basis by the Food World grocery store to stock shelves. The supervisor showed him the area where the pallets of goods were located and then promptly left, telling Bill that he would return in a few hours to see what he had accomplished and to decide if Bill would be hired permanently. If Bill was thinking at all at this moment, he would likely be frustrated and uneasy because he had no idea what Food World’s expectations were. How many pallets was he to unload? Where did things go? What did the computer codes mean?
No one would like to be put in such a situation where they are going to be evaluated against some unknown standard. And when it is something as important as the Judgment Seat of Christ, our knowledge of the criteria is even more significant. So our question is: “what will Judge Jesus be looking for at the Judgment Seat”? Unlike the supervisor at Food World, the Scriptures give to us the basic criteria for our future evaluation by Jesus Christ at His judgment seat. There are three primary criteria that the Scriptures give. This article will deal with the first one and the next article will deal with the other two.
CRITERION #1: HOW CLOSELY DID OUR LIVES ALIGN WITH GOD’S TRUTH?
The truth of the Word of God will be the objective standard that our lives will be evaluated by. The Scriptures give us all that we need to know to live well for the Lord Jesus and to serve Him. The following verses give us a needed reminder of this.
“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Because the Word of God gives us all that is necessary to honor Christ and live well for Him, this same Word will be used to evaluate how we lived our lives.
The Apostle Paul also states that we will not receive reward if we do not live according to the rules that God has set up.
“And also if any one competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)
In his classic discussion on the Judgment Seat of Christ in 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul uses the helpful picture of building a structure. He notes that all of us as believers are building. It is quite important to observe that the question is not “am I building?” The question for each of us is “in light of the fact that I am building, what kind of building materials am I using?”
In his illustration, he tells us that all believers are given the foundation on which to build. The foundation on which we build is the same. That foundation is the truth about Jesus Christ, His person and His work (1 Cor. 3:10-11). Our lives and service are built on our relationship with Christ. By faith, we have received God’s gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins. From the moment we are saved, we begin to build on this foundation.
Paul informs us that we have two types of building materials available as we build. The first are those materials which will not perish when touched by fire (gold, silver, valuable building stones), and second, those materials that are combustible (wood, hay straw). Again, we must remember that every day we are building. So, last week you and I built, and the dominant question is what kind of material we used last week.
What do these materials represent? The imperishable materials (gold, silver, valuable building stones) represent the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is found in the Scriptures. This discussion of the Judgment Seat found here in 1 Corinthians 3 and has been preceded by a lengthy discussion of the importance of the wisdom of God. From 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul has been arguing for the critical role that God’s wisdom plays in people getting right with God and with its significance in living life. When we live and serve according to the standards, commands and guidelines of Scripture, we are building with these wonderful, permanent materials. On the other hand, the perishable materials represent those views, philosophies and ideas that are not part of God’s Word. Some suggestions will be given on what these things might look like.
Living according to the guiding principles and commands of Scripture is building with gold, silver and precious stones. For example, in our family relationships each of us have roles and responsibilities as set for by the Bible. When I, as a husband, love my wife and give her biblical leadership then that is one area that I am building with imperishable materials. As we guide our fiscal lives according to God’s principles on money and material things, we are building with these lasting materials. So, whether it is in my vocation, my responsibilities in the Church, my relationship with the unsaved, the way I budget my time, the decisions made related to recreation or a dozen other matters, we can be choosing to live by the appropriate principles and guidelines found in Scripture.
This, of course, leads to a fundamental issue of whether or not we are spending the needed time in studying the Scriptures to both understand and then apply the truths of God to the various areas of life. What we do or don’t do will determine the receiving of rewards, or not, at the Judgment Seat.
What might the perishable materials of wood, hay and straw represent in the lives of believers? These represent any alternatives to the revealed standards and principles of God in His Word. In the context of 1 Corinthians, in a very fundamental way, this represents the “wisdom of man.” Believers can and often do make decisions based on things other than the wisdom of God. In order to try and take this out of the realm of the abstract and to see what wood, hay and straw might look like today, several suggestions are given.
- Believers will sometimes make decisions in life based on some circumstances or coincidence they have experienced; or some path is taken because of an alleged vision they saw or voice they heard. Others say they were “slain in the Spirit” and this experience determined choices made in numerous areas of life. But experiences, though real to a person, must be evaluated by the Scriptures. Some experiences come from God but others are generated by the human mind and yet others by Satan. The Scriptures alone can determine the authenticity of experience.
- Believers can program their lives by their religious traditions. But as we all know, the traditions of the Pharisees in the days of Christ, brought terrible consequences. Tradition might at times be helpful but it is the Word of God that evaluates tradition.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL IDEAS. Even pastors in their sermons can substitute current psychological ideas for biblical truth. For example, child raising can be done according to biblical principles or according to current trends in psychology; or time is spent digging back into a person’s childhood instead of focusing on the present and future (Phil. 3:13-14).
- DOCTRINAL ERROR. The greatest concern of the Apostles was the influx of false doctrine into the church. The distortion of biblical truth affects every area of life, and the Apostle John warned that embracing that which is error will bring about the loss of reward in the future. (2 John 7-8)
Building is going on daily in our lives. Whether we are building according to the Word, or on other things, will determine the gain or loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is no small matter. And it becomes obvious to the thinking person that understanding and applying the truth of God in life is a primary task of ours in the present.