Disciples, Evaluation, Rewards
Matthew Lesson #117
April 17, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word, that it is Your Word that guides and directs us. It is Your Word that informs us of reality, that we might conform our thinking to reality as You created it and as it has been impacted by sin, that we may come to understand Your grace, that we may understand your provision of salvation for us, and that we may understand the depth and the breath and the height and the width of Your love for us and all that is provided for us in our so great salvation, our spiritual life.
Father, as we continue our study in Matthew and surveying some of the key doctrines that have been brought out in our study, we pray that You might challenge us because the challenge to the original disciples is the same challenge to every believer down through the ages—and that is to follow Jesus, to be a disciple, and to commit to following Him, to manifesting Your character in our lives, that we might glorify You forever and ever. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
For those of you who are visiting this morning, we’ve been studying through Matthew. We’ve come to the conclusion of a section in Matthew 20. So I’m taking a couple of weeks, last week and this week, to review for us some of these major themes, major doctrines that are taught by Jesus to His disciples, especially in these chapters: Matthew 18, 19, and 20.
This broader section that we have in Matthew that really started in Matthew 13 is related to Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.
But once we get to the end of Matthew 16, the focus begins to shift on preparing them in light of His coming death, burial, and resurrection, and preparing them for what will follow after His ascension as they would be leaders in the church that would begin on the Day of Pentecost following His ascension.
As we look at this section, what He began to emphasize was that which would, or should, characterize the person who was a genuine disciple.
Last time I looked at this because in many churches and many theological systems there’s confusion that the term “disciple” is equivalent to the term believer. But Jesus makes it clear, as I pointed out, that a believer is someone who trusts in Christ as Savior. At the instant of faith alone in Christ alone, they become a born again, regenerate, justified believer, and they have eternal life.
This is the first stage of salvation, which we describe as Phase One. It takes place at the Cross. Technically it’s called justification, because at that instant we are declared righteous because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us.
We’re not made righteous because we still have a sin nature. There is not a transformation internally that somehow makes us less sinful.
We are declared righteous, not because we are morally correct, but because we now possess someone else’s righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Following justification, we have something that is distinct from justification, which is the spiritual life, Phase Two. There are those as in Roman Catholic theology and in a lot of aspects of Calvinistic theology that see a necessary connection between justification and sanctification, the spiritual life.
In Roman Catholic theology, both are a process so that you never really know if you’re justified unless you have enough of the merit of Christ. You get that incrementally as you participate in the sacraments. But you never really know if you’ve got enough “brownie points” to get to Heaven.
In Calvinism it’s a little different. They so integrally connect the two that justification takes place in an instant in time, but it is necessarily integrally connected to the spiritual life so that a person who believes will necessarily grow.
That is called the “perseverance of the saints,” and sometimes we refer to it as Lordship salvation. The way that you know if you’re truly saved is if you have the right kind of works after your salvation experience—that you know you’re saved, not by the promise of God that if you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you will have eternal life, but that you are saved because you have the right kind of works. They misunderstand and confuse sanctification with justification.
The third phase is glorification.
The word “saved” is used to describe each of these in the Bible. So when we read the word “salvation,” we must understand that it’s either talking about Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3.
It’s often not used in Phase 1, though that is how we use it in modern American evangelical idiom. We talk to people and say, “Are you saved?”
But the Bible talks about the fact that we are working out our salvation. And that is Phase 2.
So we’re saved from the penalty of sin, eternal death, the instant that we trust in Christ.
We’re saved from the power of sin as we grown to maturity as believers.
And we are saved from the presence of sin when we’re absent from the body and face-to-face with the Lord.
The issue in justification is trusting Christ as Savior. The issue in the spiritual life is growing and maturing, and that is going to relate to service and to works.
The first point I have today in relation to what we’re studying is that I’m trying to summarize this into one really crisp lesson. Many of you have heard me go through this in detail, but we’re going to try to summarize this in just one lesson today.
There’s a difference between salvation, which is by faith alone in Christ alone, and being a disciple or follower of Jesus. That’s what we covered last time.
Jesus is talking to His disciples not about how to get to Heaven, but how they can have a position and rule and reign when they get to Heaven—that it’s not based on seeking status in this life, but serving God, serving the Lord Jesus Christ, and living a life of humility, which is the result of spiritual growth.
So there’s this distinction between justification and the spiritual life.
For example, as we’ve seen in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” See, that’s the condition for justification—belief.
John 20:31, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” It’s not believing plus anything.
In the Gospel of John over 85 times John just uses the verb “to believe,” and he doesn’t qualify it with genuine belief, true belief. You either believe or you don’t believe. It is a tautology when you say “genuine belief” or “true belief.” It’s only believe.
John 8:31, “Jesus said to those Jews”—He’s talking to a crowd, and He’s focusing on His disciples and He says—to those Jews who believed Him, “ ‘If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.’ ”
See, this shows that there are two categories here. He is addressing those who already believe in Him. They are justified. They are saved. They will have eternity in Heaven. And He is talking to them about something in addition to securing your destiny in Heaven, and that is being a disciple.
So He says, “If you abide in My Word.” That is a condition for being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ.
A disciple is someone who is committed to following the teaching of his master to some degree. There are disciples who will produce ten fold, some thirty fold, some a hundred fold.
In John 21:19 Jesus spoke to His disciples and said to them, “Follow Me.” “Follow Me” is not the same as “believe in Me.” These are two separate issues.
In John 21:22, again He said to His disciples, “You need to follow Me.” Believing in Him is what secures eternal life. Following Him is what is necessary if we’re going to reap the benefits of our new life in time and in eternity.
Discipleship is demanding. Jesus made statements such as Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
He isn’t talking about justification there because then it would be by works and not by faith. He’s talking about something that comes after salvation. He’s already talking to His disciples who are already saved, justified—Phase 1—about what is necessary to truly grow spiritually.
There are differences in the Scripture between salvation and rewards. Growing as a disciple is the basis for rewards, as we are going to see this morning.
I built this little chart here to understand the difference:
Salvation is offered to all mankind, and anyone who believes is saved.
Rewards are for all believers. They are offered as an opportunity for believers to glorify God into eternity.
Salvation is given to a few. Rewards are also given to a few.
Salvation is given only to those who believe. Rewards are given to those who believe and grow spiritually.
In salvation Christ does the work. In rewards the believer does the work, but we have to understand what that means: it is walking by the Spirit, serving the Lord, growing to spiritual maturity.
Salvation is a free gift, but rewards are earned, as we will see.
Salvation is permanent, but we will see that rewards might be lost due to failure in the spiritual life.
Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, but rewards come as a result of our walk by faith, our walk by the Holy Spirit.
Salvation provides us with equal opportunity at the point of salvation. It’s like it used to be in this country. If you understand the Constitution correctly, that is you are a citizen or living in this country, you have equal opportunity.
But there is not a guarantee of equal results.
Results are determined by how you utilize your opportunities. It is not guaranteed. Freedom, our true liberty, does not guarantee results, it offers opportunity.
Salvation provides every believer with equal opportunity to serve the Lord and to grow to spiritual maturity, but rewards are for those who utilize their opportunities to serve the Lord and to glorify Him.
That basically shows that the Scriptures teach a difference between justification salvation and the rewards that come at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
That leads to the next point—that works, as defined in Scripture, relate to the course of a person’s life. They’re the product of one’s life, the things that we think, say, and do. Works can be good, or they can be useless or worthless. Some works are even sinful.
As we studied in 1 Peter 1:17 on Thursday night (and for those of you who weren’t here or haven’t listened to the Thursday night Peter lesson, there’s a lot of connection and overlap between what I’m covering this week and what we’re covering next Thursday night in 1 Peter), “If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work,”
Now the next word that is used, “conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear,” is the verb form of a noun that’s used in 1 Peter 1:17, and those two uses of the noun and the verb sandwich our understanding of works—that works is the result of how a person conducts their life.
We understand that works are significant, but not in relation to securing our eternal destiny in Heaven. Scripture makes this very clear in a number of passages as we’ve noted.
Ephesians 2:8–9 talks about works in relation to justification, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” So salvation justification is a gift.
A gift is not something we work for. A gift is not something we earn. A gift is something that is freely given without strings attached. There’s no conditions that if I’m going to give you this gift, and if you use it right, then you get to keep it, but if you don’t use it right, you don’t get to keep it. A gift is something that is yours no matter what you do with it.
We can compare that to, let’s say someone gives you a brand new Ferrari. And this brand new Ferrari is yours, the title is signed over to you, and you can do with it whatever you will. You can put it in the garage, and you can let it sit there. You can drive it and put 100,000 miles on it and not change the oil and tires, and you’re going to have a few problems. You’re going to destroy something, but it’s still yours!
This is what happens with a lot of people in the spiritual life. They have something that is quite valuable, but they never develop it; they never learn about it; they never grow; and it’s like driving an expensive, valuable car until you just run it into the ground where it is of no value to you whatsoever.
But it’s still yours. You don’t lose that ownership. The point is you can’t lose your justification, but it just has no value or meaning for you in this life, and that will reap some negative consequences.
We are saved not of works, Ephesians 2:9 says, but that’s not saying that works don’t play a role. For the very next verse says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We are created in our regeneration for the purpose of serving God, and that good will be produced in us through our walk by means of God the Holy Spirit.
What we see then is Point 3: Therefore, works are related to Christian service, obedience, and spiritual growth.
Scripture talks about the fact that if you love God, then you will keep His commandments. That has nothing to do with securing your eternal justification, but it is related to your spiritual growth, your service to God, and your ultimate evaluation at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
This is why Paul says things like in 1 Corinthians 15:18, “Therefore, my beloved brethren”—see, he’s talking to believers—they’re brethren, they’re already justified. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
That is talking about Christian service. Christian service takes place biblically primarily and initially within the body of Christ. We have a whole series of commands related to one another:
- We’re to love one another.
- We’re to serve one another.
- We are to pray for one another.
- We’re to teach one another.
- We’re to admonish one another.
- We’re to encourage one another.
- And we’re given spiritual gifts to minister to one another within the body of Christ.
You do not use your spiritual gifts to minister outside of the body of Christ. That’s not their purpose and function. The only exception to that is the person with the gift of evangelism who is presenting the gospel to those who are unsaved.
But one of the primary purposes for the gift of evangelists, according to Ephesians 4:11–12, is just like the pastor: he is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, which is evangelism.
Most people think that the gift of evangelism is primarily to evangelize others, instead of what the Bible says, which is the primary purpose for the gift of evangelism—to train the rest of us to be effective evangelists and giving the gospel to others.
It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and, but the priority is training believers to give the Gospel.
A couple of key Scriptures that are important to understand about the distinction between salvation as a gift and inheritance as a reward are found in Colossians 3:24 and 2 John 1:8.
In Colossians 3:24, Paul says to the Colossians, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”
Immediately we see that “service” there is related to inheritance.
Inheritance is not given as a gift; it’s given as a reward.
A reward is something that is worked for, something that is won due to effort. A reward is not a gift. A gift is something freely given. A reward is something that is earned.
So in Colossians 3:24, what Paul is saying to the Colossians is that now that they are saved, they need to continue to serve the Lord, so that they will receive the reward of their inheritance.
Now that’s a critical word here because what it does is introduce us to the idea of heirship—that we are heirs of God, as we’ll see in a minute, and heirs of Christ.
There are two different categories of inheritance: the first type is a gift that is the same for every believer, and the second is one that is distinct for every believer depending on these issues of service and spiritual growth.
2 John 1:8 is a warning, “Look to yourselves”—John says—“that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”
So what he is pointing out there is that there may be a loss. This is parallel to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24 and following when he uses a race image, and he says, “I run so that I will not be disqualified.”
Disqualification doesn’t mean you can lose your salvation; it implies a loss of reward.
It’s interesting if you have time, turn to 2 John 1:8, for the surrounding context is significant. There’s a warning there [in verse 7] that “many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess or admit Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” So there are those who are false teachers and teaching false doctrine about the Person of Jesus Christ.
Then John, addressing his recipients, warns them to watch out because believers can be deceived and be taken captive by false doctrine.
He says, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.”
Verse 9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ,” so here he’s not talking about losing fellowship due to sin, but fellowship due to a false Christology, a false understanding of the Person and work of Christ.
That’s what 1 John is all about as well when he talks about our “fellowship is with the Lord,” and consequently with one another—that fellowship can be breached by having a false understanding of the Person of Christ in the first chapter.
The word “abide” always emphasizes fellowship with God. It’s not a term that relates to what every believer has. It is not related to our position in Christ, but our walk with Christ by the Holy Spirit.
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.”
Some people think not having God means they don’t have salvation, but if you’re careful in your understanding of how John uses vocabulary, phrases like “having God” and “knowing God” are relational synonyms. They’re related to fellowship. They’re not talking about our position in Christ.
For example, in John 14 Jesus is talking about Philip, and Philip says, “Well, show us the Father.” Philip, at this point, is clearly already a believer in Jesus as Messiah, and he’s already justified. And Jesus says to him, “How long have you been with Me, Philip, and you do not know Me.”
See, we’ve made a mistake in evangelical language in idiom, and we think that knowing Jesus equals believing in Jesus. But biblically the terminology “knowing Jesus” is what happens AFTER we believe in Jesus.
As we grow and mature as believers, we come to know Him. We cannot know Him before we are saved because the things of the Spirit are not naturally understood. So we have to be regenerate first, and then we grow, and we come to understand who Jesus is. So “knowing Jesus” is relational and progressive as a result of our spiritual gift.
So what 2 John tells us and in the surrounding context is that we are to grow and mature and serve the Lord, and if we do not, and if we’re not doctrinally correct in our understanding of the Person and work of Christ, then we will be out of fellowship, and we can actually lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
So what we have seen, Point 5, is that salvation is a free gift, but rewards are earned. This is a distinction that we have to maintain. Just as we maintain a distinction between justification and sanctification, we make a distinction between walking by the Spirit and walking according to the sin nature. We make a distinction between walking in the light and walking in darkness, so we must understand that salvation is a free gift, but rewards are earned.
That brings us to the 6th point, which starts to connect the dots for us, and that is that inheritance—remember we receive the reward of our inheritance, something that is related to service—comes in two categories.
This is seen in Romans 8:17, which we’ll look at in just a second.
These two categories are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. A joint heir with Christ—that will be seen in context to relate to our spiritual growth.
You have two categories of inheritance: one that is true for every believer—every believer has some inheritance; we’re heirs of God.
But other believers grow and mature and serve the Lord, and they will have the reward of their inheritance. They will have additional blessings that are theirs in eternity. This relates to roles and responsibilities and position and privilege in Heaven.
Remember as we were going through Matthew 17–20, two of the big questions that get asked of Jesus relate to position and privilege in the Kingdom.
In Matthew 18, the disciples are arguing amongst themselves as to who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom. When Jesus answered them, He does not say, “Ah! Wait a minute! You’re all going to be the same.” He doesn’t correct their understanding that there will be some greater than others, that there will be distinctions in the Kingdom.
Secondly, He does not correct their understanding of the Kingdom as being a future Messianic Kingdom where Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning on the earth. He doesn’t say, “You guys have the wrong idea of the Kingdom.” He doesn’t say, “You guys have the wrong idea. Everybody’s going to be the same. In eternity God’s really a Marxist; everybody’s the same.” It doesn’t say that.
What He says is, “You’ve misunderstood what the issues are and what will determine who will be greatest in the Kingdom. You have to be like the little child.”
Remember we saw that being a little child is talking about a child in that environment, in that culture who had no status, position, or privilege.
He says, “You have to be humble like a child. Quit being concerned about your future position in the Kingdom. You’re not to be concerned about your status in the Kingdom, but you’re to be serving Me now.”
A little later in Matthew 20 the mother of James and John, Salome, comes to Jesus and says, “When you come in Your Kingdom—remember they’re cousins, and she says—“Family matters here, Jesus. Can you put James and John on your left and right hand?”
Again, Jesus doesn’t correct her understanding of the Kingdom. He doesn’t correct her understanding that someone will be in positions of honor on His left and His right, but He says you misunderstand what is necessary in order to have a position of honor and privilege and responsibility in the Kingdom.
Again, He emphasizes the role of service, the role of Christian service, the role of spiritual growth, and humility.
So in the Kingdom there will be distinctions among believers; just like in the Old Testament.
This is a key theme in the book of Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews, there’s a warning to those Hebrew Christians to whom the writer of Hebrews is speaking, and he warns them, “Don’t be like the Exodus generation.” They were all saved. Almost all of them were justified and will be in eternity. They all had the opportunity to enter into the Promised Land, but because of disobedience at Kadesh Barnea, only two could enter into the Promised Land.
Aaron couldn’t enter into the Promised Land. Miriam couldn’t enter into the Promised Land. Moses couldn’t enter into the Promised Land. But they were all justified. They’re all going to be in Heaven. But because of sinful disobedience, they lost privilege and inheritance. They never entered the Promised Land. And so, that again shows distinctions that will occur. It relates to a temporal illustration of that.
In Romans 8:17 we have—I always love this—a fun little grammar issue. In the original Greek manuscript, especially in what was called Uncial Manuscripts. In Uncial Manuscripts it’s all uppercase letters, and there’s no space between words.
One of these days I’m going to change the slide and do that with the English. There are no commas, there are no periods, semicolons, question marks. It’s just like one large run-on sentence.
When the editors, the translators of your English Bible read this, they have to decide, based on their understanding of the grammar of the text, where the pauses are, where the sentences end and begin, and where the commas should go.
The commas were not inspired by God. The commas are not part of the inerrant text. The commas were inserted by a fallible theologian who translated the text.
If we look at the grammar, there’s a couple of different ways that you can interpret this. The issue is this comma.
The verse reads, “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
If you put the comma after “also,” then “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” are tied together as if they are the same thing.
Both of those, “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,” are then qualified by a conditional clause, “if indeed we suffer with Him.”
What that would be saying is if “heirs of God” and “joint heirs with Christ” are the same thing, then we can’t be an heir of God or a joint heir with Christ at all unless we suffer with Him.
But Jesus didn’t say believe and suffer. He said believe.
The issue with suffering really is if you live for the Lord in this life, you will face the opposition of the world system, you’ll face the opposition of other people. It’s not necessarily active suffering; it can be just living within the world and receiving the rejection, the hostility of the world.
1 Peter deals with this. In that whole epistle, for those of you who’ve been with me on Thursday nights, that’s the focal point—that if we are truly following the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are going to face opposition in this life. That’s what suffering with Christ means.
But it doesn’t make sense if suffering with Christ is a condition for salvation. But the way this is punctuated, that makes suffering with Him a condition for all inheritance.
Let me give you a fun little illustration. I’ve used this for years. Some of you are too familiar with this.
If you have this sentence and are asked to punctuate it, if you were a man you will punctuate it one way, and if you are a woman you will likely punctuate it another way:
“A woman without her man is nothing.”
Now if you are a woman, you may punctuate it this way: “A woman, without her, man is nothing.” If you punctuate it that way, you’re basically saying that men just can’t ever be anything unless they’ve got the right woman behind them.
Now men, on the other hand, may punctuate it this way: “A woman without her man is nothing.” If you punctuate it that way then what you’re saying is women just can’t really be anything unless they have their man.
So where you put the commas can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
This is a problem in Romans 8:17.
In the top example on this slide, we have the situation in most translations, which puts “heirs of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ” as synonymous.
But if we punctuate it this way, “and if children, heirs also, heirs of God,”—that’s your first category of heirship—“and fellow heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him”—that means there’s a second category of inheritance, that being an heir of Christ is conditioned upon suffering with Him.
In this case, being an heir of God is something that is true for every believer, but for those who press on in spiritual growth and obedience and are willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus, then the result is that they have additional inheritance. They are joint heirs with Christ if they suffer with Him.
An example biblically of the first kind of inheritance is in Ephesians 1:13–14, talking about the fact that we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” at the end of verse 13.
We’re told in verse 14 that He is the “guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
That is the inheritance that we all have; that is pledged by the sealing of the Holy Spirit.
An example of inheritance in the second category is seen in Galatians 5:19–21. This is a very, very important passage for understanding the spiritual life because it follows from the command in Galatians 5:16 to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Then we’re told that the Spirit wars against the flesh, and the flesh wars against the Spirit, so that’s this conflict.
We’re told in Ephesians 5:19, “what the works of the flesh are”—the sin nature. The flesh is a metaphor for the sin nature—“what the works of the sin nature are.”
That’s how you can tell. It’s not an exhaustive list, but if these sins are present in your life, then you know that you’re walking according to the sin nature: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”
The list goes on is what He is saying. So your sins may not be listed there, but that doesn’t excuse you or me; they’re still there.
Then Paul says, “of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past. That those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A lot of people take “inherit the kingdom of God” as a term that’s a synonym for getting into Heaven, for being saved. But as we’ve seen, inheriting the Kingdom of God is a separate category of inheritance that relates to position and privilege and roles and responsibilities in the Kingdom.
So, if you commit these sins, it’s not saying you won’t go to Heaven, but there’ll be problems in terms of the rewards of the inheritance.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 that has a similar type of sin list. The issue is if we commit these sins, it doesn’t mean that we have torpedoed or self-destructed spiritually because this is the significance in 1 John 1:9. We have forgiveness and cleansing from all sin, so we can recover because Christians sin.
Christians continue sinning. Christians have a sin nature that’s just as nasty after salvation as it is before, unless you’re like me. My sin nature wasn’t that nasty when I was saved at six. Six-year-old kids, they can be pretty nasty, but not always. But you know, I got older, and I learned, and my sin nature got pretty nasty. And that was AFTER I was saved. So this idea that somehow Christians don’t commit the same kinds of sins as unbelievers is just not true!
That is a false theology that a lot of people somehow think. “Oh, how can that person be a Christian! Look at that guy! Look at his life! How can he be a Christian?”
He can be a Christian because he trusts in Christ as his Savior. But then he’s just blown it from that point on. He’s not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. He’ll be there, but he won’t be an heir of the king. He won’t be a joint heir with Christ.
So how and when is this decided?
2 Corinthians 5:10, the passage I read this morning says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
That’s not the Great White Throne judgment, as I’ve pointed out on Sunday night. That’s for all unbelievers at the end of the millennial reign, at the end of the 1,000 years.
This is an evaluation judgment for Church Age believers after the Rapture of the church. We are raptured, and then there’s an evaluation judgment. The purpose of the evaluation judgment is not to point out your sin.
That doesn’t mean sin is not going to be an issue there, but it’s not to point it out. Sin was judged at the Cross. So the point isn’t related to judgment of sin because sin was judged at the Cross, but we have to remember what we just saw in Galatians 5, that those who practice sin. The word there is important; it’s PRASSO. Those who practice these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. There are consequences to the believer that continues to live in carnality.
There’s going to be an evaluation judgment, “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.”
Now just to give you a little distraction here with some nice pictures:
This is a picture of the archeological remains of the city of Corinth. What we have in the foreground is the bema seat. This is where the procounsel would sit, and where he would bring judgment.
So bema simply means a raised platform. If you go to synagogue, they refer to the dais, upfront where the pulpit is and where the Torah scroll is, they refer to that as the bema. It just refers to a raised platform in a stadium.
Where they held the Olympics in Ancient Greece, there’s a distinct set of seats in the middle, that’s the bema, that’s where the judges sat. So this was where the civil judge sat here.
You see it a little closer in the picture here. They even have a sign there to mark it so that people will know what it is; that’s the bema.
Here’s a picture from a few years ago when I was there with Tommy Ice, Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson.
We have this statement, “We must”—it’s of necessity—“we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ”—the bema seat—“that we are evaluated.”
We’re evaluated for the things that are done. It’s not the word “do;” it’s not POIEO in the Greek. It is the word PRASSO, the same word we had in Galatians 5; for the things that are practiced in the body.
They are categorized two ways: There is AGATHOS; and AGATHOS refers to the good of intrinsic value. This relates to the things that are done while we’re walking by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22–24. It’s related to Christian service when we’re walking by the Spirit. It’s related to our spiritual growth, our spiritual maturity.
In contrast, things that are done in this life that are bad.
If you have a New American Standard, New International Version or whatever, they’ll translate it “bad,” and in some cases it’s translated “worse,” but it’s the word that’s on top on the right; it’s PHAULOS, which only occurs in a few of the older manuscripts.
But the majority of manuscripts use the word KAKOS, which can refer to evil. It refers to something that’s harmful, something that’s worthless, something is bad, something is wrong. This word, even though it may appear to be, and can be, a synonym for “sin,” remember what we just read in Galatians 5:17–19, that if you’re walking according to the sin nature—in Galatians 5:19–20—those who practice those sins will not inherit.
Let’s say you have five hours in the day, and you spend five hours out of fellowship. Well, because you spent five hours out of fellowship, you didn’t spend any of that time, you didn’t redeem any of that time walking by the Spirit, so there’s nothing rewardable out of those five hours.
Just extrapolate that. It’s not that we’re being judged or evaluated for our sin at the Judgment Seat of Christ because, as we’ll see in 1 Corinthians 3, the purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to expose the good, not to expose that which is worthless.
For 1 Corinthians 3:11–12 says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” He’s the foundation stone. The gospel: “trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Now you build on that with your spiritual life for the rest of your life. Your conduct, your works; it’s just a general term for the conduct of your life. Everything you think, say, and do is summarized in that phrase “your works.”
You build on that. Some of it is that which has eternal value: gold, silver, and precious stones. And others that which has no value: wood, hay, or straw.
The first represents that which is intrinsically good; and the second represents that which is PHAULOS or KAKOS, that which has no passing value.
In 1 Corinthians 3:13 we read, “Each one’s work will become clear”—it’s evident—“for the day will declare it.” Now here’s the image—“It will be revealed by fire”—so you stack everything up, and then God’s going to light a torch, and the fire will test or reveal what’s there.
The fire’s going to burn up the wood, hay, and straw. It’s not revealing the wood, hay, and straw. What’s left over is the gold, silver, and precious stones. So the focal point of the Judgment Seat of Christ is what we have that has eternal value.
The purpose is not to expose sin or failure, but to expose obedience, to expose service.
The trouble is there are some people that when it’s finished, they’re not going to have anything there. There are others who are going to have a little bit, a nugget or two, others are going to have a little pile there, and that’s what Paul talks about at first in verse 14, “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures”—or survives—“he will receive a reward.”
But “if anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss”—loss of reward.
God has already determined what our reward package is. It’s the potential, but if we are failures at the Judgment Seat of Christ, then we don’t receive those rewards; they’re not distributed, they’ll be destroyed.
“If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved.” See, you’re still going to get into Heaven; you’re just not going to have anything rewardable. There are no roles and responsibilities, position and privilege in the Millennial Kingdom or the Eternal State.
This is the issue in discipleship—to follow Christ. This is what Jesus is getting across to the disciples: if you follow Me, if you are humble like a child, if you serve Me and serve one another, if you grow to spiritual maturity, then you will have these positions and privileges and roles and responsibilities in Heaven because your work was designed to glorify Me.
But if you don’t follow Me, then you will enter into Heaven for sure, but yet it’s through fire. There won’t be anything rewardable. You will be in the Kingdom, but you won’t be an inheritor of the Kingdom, you won’t have those positions and privilege because you didn’t build capacity for that in this life.
So the challenge for all of us is the same day in and day out:
Am I going to follow the Lord Jesus Christ? Am I going to abide in His Word? That’s what He said to the Jews. Remember, these who are already believers; He said, “If you abide in My Word, then you are My disciples indeed.”
Knowing the Word of God is not an end in itself, but it is the only means to the end of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. We have to abide in the Word, and the Word will abide in us. That produces, through the Holy Spirit, our spiritual growth and our spiritual maturity.
So the challenge is are we willing to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and be a disciple no matter what it costs? Or are we just satisfied with “as long as I end up in Heaven, not the other place, then I’m okay?”
Do we have a low standard of expectation or do we want to press ourselves to a high standard of expectation?
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon Your Word and to see its eternal consistency from the Gospels to the Epistles. On into even the book of Revelation we see this constant thread challenging the believer to press on to the high calling of Jesus Christ.
We are justified by faith alone, but we are to grow and mature. We are to serve You, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and in doing so, it’s not for the purpose that we will gain rewards and gain position, for that would be self-serving, but that these rewards will reflect more upon You and Your grace, but that we will fulfill the commission that You have given us, that we can serve You and be prepared for a future role, a future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ in His Kingdom when He comes and on into eternity.
Father, we pray that if anyone is listening, and they’re not sure if they’re saved, if they’re not sure what will happen when they die, we pray that they will clearly understand the issue for you is not obedience, it’s not your lifestyle. The issue for you is simply to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It’s not a matter of doing anything. It is simply a matter of trusting in Christ, Jesus Christ, who did it all, who paid it all on the Cross, and that by trusting in Him you have eternal life.
Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with the message of Scripture, the challenge to grow, the challenge to walk by the Holy Spirit, and the challenge to not take our spiritual life lightly.
And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”