Christ is interested not only that we do the right thing; He wants to know why we are doing it.
Two teenage boys stay at home when their parents leave for a night. Each one has three assignments. The older gets up the next morning and completes assignments one, two, and three. By the time he is done, his younger brother begins to stir, then spends his day between the refrigerator and the TV.
Evening comes and dear old Dad returns home. He rewards the older boy with ten dollars.
“You’ve done just what I asked you to do, and you did it diligently. You did It well. I really appreciate it.”
The younger son comes up and he doesn’t know what to expect.
The father says, “Son, I realize you are a lazy son. You haven’t done anything.”
If the father had reached into his wallet and said, “Here’s ten dollars for you, too,” you can imagine the horror that would have spread across the face of the older son. Why, the whole house would have been up for grabs from that day onward.
Not one of us would reward a boy for laziness. And yet we think that God is going to do just that – that when we all get to heaven, everyone’s going to have the same reward.
A. J. Gordon said, “I cannot think of a final divine reckoning which shall assign the same rank in glory, the same degree of joy to a lazy, indolent and unfruitful Christian as to an ardent, devoted and self-denying Christian.”
Father Abraham would agree to that. He recognized, when he said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right,” that, when it came to evaluation and Judgment, God was always fair because it’s simply an extension of His character.
Some Christians say we ought to be motivated by our love for Christ and not by carnal rewards. I agree. But the Scriptures themselves promise rewards:
Jesus said in Matthew 5:12 (NASV), “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.” He had just finished the famous beatitudes and was exhorting his listeners to live their lives that way.
In Matthew 6:20, He says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
In Matthew 10:42, He says that whoever gives a little one a cup of water to drink shall not lose his reward.”
In Matthew 16:27, He said, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense (or reward) every man according to his deeds,” and in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
Now, there’s a big difference between a reward and a gift. A gift is an expression of love, of appreciation. A reward is given for performance. Your paycheck is not a gift; it’s a reward. Salvation is only a gift, never a reward.
So, if you are attempting to receive salvation as a reward for your performance, you are outside the Scriptures. The Bible speaks of salvation only as a gift.
Have you any idea what the believer’s payday will be like? Do you know what we’ll be rewarded for?
Paul tells us about the judgment seat of Christ. He says in Romans 14:10, 12 that we are all going to stand before the judgment seat of God and every one of us is going to give an account of himself.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 he says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
The word in Greek that Paul selected for judgment seat is bema, a raised platform where referees or judges sat at the games. After an individual won his event, he would go the bema, to receive his laurel wreath.
Christ will evaluate our service and reward us.
But what about our sin? Will that be an issue there?
Yes and no. No, because we are justified. We have been declared righteous by God. The old sins have been paid for and there’s no sense in even bringing them up again.
But on the other hand, sin will have its effect on what takes place there.
If a man has been a Christian four years, but for two of those years has lived his life away from the Lord having no real or vital relationship with Him, he will lose reward he might have earned for responsible service.
Not too long ago we had the Olympic games. Many men and women competed in the events. At the end, television cameras focused on the gold, silver and bronze medal winners. Those who didn’t win were not punished. They simply didn’t earn a reward.
That’s what the judgment seat of Christ is like. It’s a place of rewarding, not punishing.
Who will be there? The Lord Jesus will be there. He is the One who examines us (1 Cor. 4:3). Believers are not to evaluate each other’s life and ministry. We’re not to act in the role of Jesus Christ as the Judge. We are to leave the evaluation to Him on this great day of evaluation, this Christian payday.
And according to 2 Corinthians 5:10, all believers, all people who are part of the Body of Christ will be there.
When will this take place?
Scripture emphasizes that when Jesus returns at the rapture He will bring rewards with Him.
Some people ask. why couldn’t He reward us at our death? But we’re never told rewarding takes place at death. God will reward us only when our work is done, and our work is not done until our influence stops.
Now, if D. L. Moody had been rewarded for his ministry at the time of his death, he would have lost a tremendous amount. Look at the influence he has had since then. God is going to wait until a man’s influence is over and then reward him at the return of Christ.
Then there will be three things that the Lord Jesus is going to base His rewarding on.
The first one is whether our ministry is true to the Word of God. Paul examines this in 1 Cor. 3:10-11: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
He is saying, “I preached to you the truth about the Lord Jesus – His person, in that He is God, and His work, what He did.”
Paul puts it in a nutshell in Rom. 10:9 (KJV): “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth” what? Jesus as Lord. Deity. You recognize Jesus as deity. “And shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead,” – that’s resurrection, the capstone of His ministry. Now, if you believe in His person and His work, “thou shalt be saved.” That’s the foundation – this truth regarding the Person of Jesus Christ.
“Now you make certain,” he writes the Corinthians, “that you build upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones – the three things that will not perish in fire.” In other words, their ministry (and ours) is to be built upon the truth. Fire is to test the quality of each man’s work.
If any man’s work remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is wood, hay, or stubble, he shall suffer loss. The Scriptures do not indicate that we have an option as to whether we build or not. It simply says we are building. The only option we have is the choice of materials.
Is your ministry true to the Word of God?
Are you thinking, “Well, I’ve got no problem there. You ought to see the doctrinal statement of our church. We believe all the fundamentals of the faith.”
That’s not what he is talking about here. Your ministry, whatever it is, must be true. It must be built upon the truth. It must line up carefully with the truth or it will be wood, hay, stubble.
Ministry can be polluted with tradition – the teachings of men that have come down through the years. A person can be conservative, evangelical and yet not have all the things he teaches in alignment with the Word of God.
Ministry can be polluted with legalism. A classic example of those who had polluted ministries despite their pure doctrinal statement would have been the Pharisees. As a group, they were soundly condemned by the Lord Jesus – not because they deviated from their doctrine of God, but they added tradition to truth and polluted the Word of God.
Ministry can be polluted with experience, as people build their lives, their counseling, on some spiritual experiences or encounter they have had. Now experience, of course, can be good or bad. But the issue is, does it line up with the Word of God? That’s the key.
Ministry can be polluted with error. John in Revelation 2:20 accuses the Thyatiran church of tolerating the woman Jezebel “who calls herself a prophetess, and … leads my bondservants astray, so that they, commit acts of immorality.” Now was he writing to a group of pagans in their temple? No, to a New Testament church where people were living in error.
A mixture of truth and error becomes wood, hay, and stubble. You and I must know what the Word of God is teaching.
Now notice that some people’s work will be burned up. They may suffer loss, but they themselves shall be saved, yet as through fire. Why? Each person still has the foundation. Remember, the foundation is not the reward; the foundation is a gift.
The Scriptures also warn us that our rewards can be taken away from us. Satan would love to divert us from serving the Lord. He may throw golden apples across our path as the slow Hippomenes did to distract the swift Atlanta in the old fable (she would only marry the man who could beat her in a race). He would direct us away from God’s best into some mediocre thing.
Lots of Christians have crates of golden apples and they don’t have the foggiest idea of what is going on. They are being robbed of eternal reward and they don’t even know it.
Well, Christ is going to measure if our ministry is true and secondly, our motive is pure.
He is not only interested that we do the right thing; He wants to know why we are doing it. He “will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Cor. 4:5).
And what is our motive to be?
The glory of God and the approval of God in our lives.
Paul makes it very clear in Philippians 1:15 and 2 Corinthians 2:17 that it is possible for people who are doctrinally sound to have impure motives. In Philippians, he talks about the motive of envy and style, of personal pride, and of ego-satisfaction.
Why do you evangelize? Why are you interested in your neighbor’s being saved? Is it to salve a conscience or are you really interested in the glory of God and in your neighbor’s benefit.
Why do you counsel with people? Does this pump you up to have people unload their problems on you and for you to give the ultimate answers to them?
Why do you teach? Why do you do what you do? All of that is going to be evaluated.
In Corinthians Paul talks about people who minister for profit, who peddle the Word of God, who preach the truth for personal gain. We need to constantly evaluate our motives because that’s going to be part of Christ’s evaluation.
And He is going to evaluate us according to, third, a life that is faithful.
It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. You see, each one of us has individual stewardship over the things that have been committed to us – differing gifts, natural abilities, varying opportunities. We are not going to be compared with anybody; we are only going to be measured by what Christ has given us in the way of gifts and opportunities.
You know, so often we are impressed by the individual whose name is in front of the lights – the Rev. Dr. William Wonderful. He goes all over the world, and everybody knows him; and when he speaks the place is packed.
We look at him and say “My, but he’s going to stagger away from the Judgment seat of Christ bearing all those rewards. He’s going to have to get some help from lesser saints to carry his rewards away from there.”
Then there’s a gal like Sarah Nobody, occupation housewife, who has developed a tremendous inferiority complex. She looks at herself and says, “Boy, I look at William Wonderful and I’m not nearly as good as he is. Obviously, I’m second or third rate.”
She reads books by some Christians like “How I Won My Neighborhood in 24 Hours” and she intensifies her complex. She is constantly reading in her subscription to Super Christian magazine these marvelous stories. The one that really blessed her recently was, “You Can Be a Successful Christian (even though you don’t have much to work with).” And this was such a blessing to her heart.
It is more of a blessing for all Sarahs to realize that each one is only going to be evaluated according to what God has given. If she’s faithful in raising the family God has given her, that will bring great reward. There’s probably nothing more significant than that.
And you know, it may be a Sarah Nobody who staggers away from the judgment seat of Christ heavily laden with rewards, whereas the Super Christians we read about may have improper motives. Why, a William Wonderful may stand before the judgment seat of Christ and see everything go up in flames, including his audio messages! Well, a ministry that is true, a motive that is pure, and a life that is faithful – these will bring reward.
God has given us the truth of the Judgment seat of Christ – not to discourage us or to terrify us, but to motivate us to godly living.
Each of us should write Revelation 22:12 on a 3×5 card and put it in a conspicuous place to remind us that the parting words of the Lord Jesus were, “Behold, I come quickly and My reward is with Me.”
We ought to pray that God would help us see whether our motives are right. All of us should do this constantly and make sure that we are correct before the Lord.
There’s a great day coming, a great payday, and the Lord Jesus who desires to give us rewards is going, to reward His followers.
1 Corinthians 4:5 should be a great encouragement to all of us. “And then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Moody, Dr. Paul N. Benware, Moody Bible Institute.