We must "all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5.10). Each one of us will be "made manifest" at the Judgment Seat, in that it will be revealed what we really were when we served God on earth. Our salvation will not be called in question, for the Lord "bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet 2.24). He "once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet 3.18). He paid, in full, the penalty our sins deserved and we are eternally secure through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 3.36; 5.24; 10.28,29; 1 Jn 1.7). At the Judgment Seat of Christ, which will take place in heaven between the Rapture and the coming of the Lord in glory, our true character will be revealed, our service for Him will be reviewed, and we shall receive rewards or suffer loss of reward depending on how we served Him after we were saved (1 Cor 3.14,15).
At the Judgment Seat "every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14.12). The emphasis in the verse is on the word himself. How unwise then is the believer who constantly criticises others for lack of faith or for what he considers to be inappropriate behaviour. Rather, we should honestly judge ourselves, as before God, seeking to serve God as He would have us to serve Him, endeavouring not to be, through the things we do and say, an hindrance to another believer, causing him to sin (Rom 14.10,13). We should examine ourselves frequently, identifying and confessing our sins to God (1 Jn 1.9), so that we might have no unconfessed sin which would spoil our service for Him. The believer who is honest in judging himself and confessing his sins to God will not be quick to judge and condemn other believers, and will be very careful in his relationships with other believers. The account we give at the Judgment Seat will be free from any attempts at self-justification and there will be neither criticism of, nor comparison with, other believers.
We will give account to the Lord of all we have thought and done, and of our attitudes and motives (1 Cor 4.5). The account will be objective and true and correct in every detail. Men only see and hear what we do and say, they do not know the real motives behind our actions and words. God is omniscient, He knows all things, and "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam 16.7).
We are responsible and accountable for our stewardship of the resources God has made available to us, and of the spiritual gifts He has bestowed upon us. God requires that we should be faithful stewards (1 Cor 4.2), and only He can judge our faithfulness for it is to Him that we are responsible (Rom 14.4). We must learn His will from a prayerful study of the Scriptures, and, in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6.19), obey the truths He reveals to us.
An overseer in a local assembly is responsible to God and he "must be blameless, as the steward of God" (Titus 1.7). Overseers are accountable for their care of the "house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim 3.15), and they must watch for believers souls "as they that must give account" (Heb 13.17).
God has bestowed gifts upon us for the benefit and edification of other believers, and we are enjoined, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet 4.10). We should endeavour to cultivate and develop our gifts. We are responsible to God as stewards for our spiritual gifts, for the measure of health of mind and body which we enjoy, for time made available to us, for the opportunities for service we are given, and for the use of all financial and other assets God has enabled us to acquire.
Profit and loss
We must be careful not to become covetous. The Lord said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Mt 6.19-20). There are some things which will cause a believer to suffer loss at the Judgment Seat, but there are some things which are spiritually profitable. At the Judgment Seat "Every mans work shall be made manifest the fire shall try every mans work of what sort it is" (1 Cor 3.13). The quality of service we have rendered to the Lord will be assessed.
The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which an assembly must be built. Care must be taken to ensure that what is built on the foundation is of lasting value and quality. All believers in fellowship are responsible to God for the ways in which they affect the spiritual state of that assembly. Some work done could be likened to gold, silver, and precious stones which are valuable and are a result of digging and searching and would withstand fire, but work which could be likened to wood, hay and stubble would be consumed by the fire of the judgment of God. Those who build into an assembly that which is of lasting value will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those who do not build in that which is of high spiritual quality and value will suffer loss of reward, but they themselves will be saved yet as through fire (1 Cor 3.10-15).
Once a person has been saved his priorities should change, and some of the things which were attractive in the past, and the acquisition of which would have been regarded as gain, should no longer be sought after. As Paul said, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ...I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3.7-8), and, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1.21). Paul was entirely surrendered to the will of God and was no longer driven by worldly ambitions, but had learned to be content whatever circumstances he was in (Phil 4.11). He had learned that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim 6.6).
Obedience to God will result in the gaining of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and yet the prospect of reward is not the highest motive for obedience and service. Love for God and a desire to glorify Him should be the greatest motivating force in the life of a believer. Out of this love will flow obedience to the will of God, and reward at the Judgment Seat will be a consequence of this obedience.
Spiritual profit results from prayerful study and obedience to the Word of God, for "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim 3.16). Obedience will lead to godliness which is profitable (1 Tim 4.8), and to doing those good works "which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph 2.10). Good works profit others as well as the believer (Titus 3.8). Timothy was told not to neglect his spiritual gift, to give attention to the public reading of the Scriptures, and to exhortation and teaching. He was told to "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1 Tim 4.13-15). Timothy and others would be blessed and God would be glorified by Timothys spiritual growth and development.
By the grace of God, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, may each one of us be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and be good stewards of the resources and gifts God has graciously bestowed upon us. May we do those things which are spiritually profitable and for the glory of God. Let us remember always that "every one of us shall give account of himself to God".