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Devotions from Second Corinthians

OUR TRIUMPH IN UNION WITH CHRIST
2 CORINTHIANS 1-7

A Divine Assessment of Life Lived in the Body (15)

2 Corinthians 5: 9, 10  (NKJV)

 Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

Paul passes almost imperceptible from the "dismantling of our tent" (Romans 5: 1-8) and our giving an account of the deeds done in the body - the Judgment Seat of Christ,  The believer is now faced with a full personal disclosure of his use of the body. He renders his account of what he has done with "trading of the talents he was given". In the master's words: "Do business till I come" (Luke 19:11-27). 

Paul is careful to craft the joyous expression of a walk by faith, not be sight. Bishop Moule paraphrases the Christian walk: not following the "Object Visible", that is, simple sight requiring no exercise of confidence in God's mercy and direction. On the contrary, "we have hearts of cheer,"[1] come joy or come sorrow, come life or come death. "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5: 8). Retain this buoyant spirit because Paul will soon turn to a much more solemn reminder.

The Judgment Seat of Christ, a Powerful Motivation for Ministry 

Let us frame the role of the Judgment Seat of Christ, so critical to Christian service, in the broader context of the two Corinthian epistles. "Therefore we make it our aim, (holy ambition) 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 Corinthians  5: 8,9).

Paul's second statement of the Judgment Seat of Christ in our text is a most positive motivation for joyous service. That day of accountability brings him no fear, only the calm assurance that the grace of God will prevail in that solemn day of evaluation of the deeds through the body and his gracious reward.

An Open Forum on the Believer's Conduct and Character

Paul loved his Corinthians converts. But his first letter was a corrective epistle to a conflicted local church. He answered their questions and corrected their distractions, all the while expressing his own deep concerns as evidenced by their pride and divisions.

Paul's first treatment of the Judgment Seat of Christ in 1 Corinthians 3 provides a stark background for the more positive second affirmation in 2 Corinthians 5.  "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as babes in Christ  . . . for you are still carnal (fleshly). For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3: 1, 3) This is an arresting challenge from a faithful spiritual father.

Paul speaks of himself as the master build and as their spiritual father he laid the only foundation that could be laid. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (3:11), But this strong affirmation of the uniqueness of Christ, our justification, is preceded by a solemn word of warning. The words are ominous: "But let everyone take heed how he builds on it" (3:10).

Paul's analogy is striking: the believer is the builder; the materials vary in worth and resistance to fire: gold silver, precious stones vis a vis wood, hay, straw. "Each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is" (3: 13).

This fiery evaluation will result in the refining of the gold and silver and hence a reward. The works of the believer will have stood the test of that Day. On the contrary if wood and straw are used, fire will mean the loss of reward, the believer himself will be saved "yet so as through fire". This does not call into question the finality of his salvation by God's grace. The Judgment Seat of Christ takes place in heaven itself, but it does reveal the solemn truth that there will be consequences in terms of eternal reward and heavenly service.

Paul places the Judgment Seat of Christ just subsequent to the rapture, the blessed hope of the believer.  The teaching is crystal clear: first, the rapture of the saint, saved by the grace of God through faith alone. (Ephesians 2: 8, 9). There will never be wrath to come because it fell on his Son. Our sins are never again to be called into question. However, the believers' works in the body will be displayed and the motivation of our service will be assessed.

Paul's View of Accountability,   Reason for Confidence

If in the first declaration of the Judgment Seat of Christ there was an evident measure of reproof, in the second there is a solemn statement of fact but rather a quiet confidence that the Corinthians have responded to his challenge. In fact, he responds by saying our holy ambition, meaning purpose, stamina and focus is to be pleasing to the Lord of the Harvest. Far from the dreary duty of service, we are buoyed up to accept his evaluation. Inferred in this is Paul's sheer confidence that he has served, not for selfish reasons, nor to maintain his "kingdom" but rather to present the fruits of the use of the body so recently transformed.

To stand in the presence of the Master and give an account is no small thing. Wood, hay, straw represent the works of the flesh. Sadly true is the fact that the Christian worker can serve for years his own ends, maintain his own position and power, preach sing, teach all in the energy of the flesh. In that day "prayer letters" will not be read but rather the fire will consume what God has never accepted in any form, the works of the flesh.  Our titles, our achievements, our years of service, our curriculum vitae will have no value.  I ask myself the solemn question: How much of my 62 years of preaching and teaching will abide that Day?

Notice how sweeping are the requirements: we must all . . . each one will receive . . . things done through the body . . . whether good or worthless (bad). The gracious heavenly builder will place his plumb line on our activities. It will not be quantity: years, hours, service, but rather quality. What was our motivation? Was it the indwelling Christ who offered a cup of cold water in his name or the prominence of the "ego" dressed in spiritual language, the energy of the flesh?

I return to my constant theme. It can all be reduced to the simplicity of Not I but Christ; he took me out of the picture 2000 years ago. I daily consent to that judgment (Romans 6:6). In my taking my place in his death by faith, the Risen Christ does the work, receives the glory and my holy ambition is realized: to be well pleasing in his sight. This should not be an intimidating future event, but one we can face with Pauline confidence. "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). How do you and I stand under that Verdict of the Cross?

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

Gordon E Johnson

    www.kneillfoster.com   gejohnson1928@gmail.com 



[1] Bishop Handley C. G. Moule, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (London: Pickering & Inglis), 1962 p.38.