The Judgment Seat of Christ

Understanding the three-Fold Judgment of a Believer

1 Corinthians 3:10-15
MP3 Audio of this Message


I.         Introduction


A.      There are three judgments of every believer


1.        One in the past

2.        One going on right now in the present, and…

3.        One in the not too distant future


B.       These judgments are too often forgotten about by Christians, but are part of what keeps us sober, and watchful against sinful habits, and neglecting our service for God

C.       I want to focus on the Judgment called the Judgment Seat of Christ, but to do that, I think we need to look at it in the context of all three judgments by God

D.      It will make us appreciate the grace and mercy of God towards us!


II.       Message


A.      A Christian’s PAST Judgment—Judgment as a SINNER.


1.        We are already all judged as sinners (Romans 3:23; 5:12; Ps 51:5)

2.        Christ took all our sins upon Himself when He died on the cross (Isa. 53:6).


a.        1 Pet 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree

b.       Not because we are worthy, or good, but because God loves us (Rom 5:8)

c.        Christ suffered the judgment that you and I so deserved.


1)       1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

2)       Isaiah 53:5 –  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

3)       What are our sins? Lust, hatred, covetousness, disobedience, blasphemy, idolatry, selfishness, … and the list goes on and on!


3.        Every person has a choice to accept God’s provision for his sin or they are free to do nothing!


a.        If you accept God’s payment for your sin—You are saved and justified (Rom. 10:9-10).

b.       If you neglect salvation, you will die, forever and ever in a lake of fire


4.        ILLUSTRATION: During the old days of the wild west, there would be prairie fires. These fires would burn across the prairie at great speeds. It would be impossible to outrun one of these fires. So, a cowboy would set fire to a spot where he was and after the fire burnt away the grass he would stand on the area that he just burned. When the on-coming prairie fire arrived where he was, it could not harm him because he was standing on ground that was already burned out and could catch fire again.

5.        The fire of God’s judgment already fell on my sins at Calvary (Gal. 4:13). Therefore to escape from God’s wrath to come, I simply need to stand on the ground that God already judged.

6.        The law says you cannot be judged twice for the same offence (double jeopardy). Jesus already was judged for my sins.

7.        If you do not accept Christ’s payment for your sin, you will have to face God’s judgment for your sins yourself, and will die and go to a devil’s hell.

8.        If you are NOT a believer in the death of Jesus Christ in your place, then that judgment is ON you right now!


B.       A Christian’s PRESENT Judgment—Judgment as a SON (1 Cor. 11:31-32).


1.        When you accept Christ’s payment for your sin, you are born-again and adopted into the family of God as a Son of God (John 1:12).


a.        When you came to Christ for salvation, you didn’t come as a SON, you came as a SINNER. Lost, empty, messed up.

b.       God will never deal with you as a sinner again—He deals with you now as a SON!

c.        As a Son, you should seek to live to please your Heavenly Father. That’s obvious!


2.        But what if the believer sins after he is saved? God commands us to JUDGE our own sins (1 Cor. 11:31-32).


a.        By confession – agree with God that we have done wrong (1 Jn 1:9)

b.       Repentance – dumping our way of living and our old way of thinking


3.        What happens to the Christian who will not judge his own sins?


a.        God chastens His children (Heb. 12:5-11). Which would you rather?

b.       Chastening is not making a payment for sins.

c.        If a parent spanks a son for breaking a window, the spanking doesn’t pay for the window.

d.       When God chastises His child, it is not payment for sin, because Jesus already paid for them.

e.        As a son of God, you will never answer to God for any sin!

f.         You may be chastened for sin, but chastening is CHILD TRAINING, not payment for sin.

g.       Every bit of trouble, and chastening by the Lord in your life is to correct you, and make you more like Christ.


4.        Take responsibility for your actions as a believer and keep short accounts with God! By humility, loads of confession, lots of effort to do right


C.       A Christian’s FUTURE Judgment—Judgment as a SERVANT (2 Cor 5:10)


1.        This is a judgment of SERVICE (works), not sins (1 Cor. 3:11-15)


a.        Christ died to pay off the judgment of my SINS

b.       I go through chastening in my daily life to correct me as a SON

c.        But what about the things I do for the Lord (or the lack of them)? They get judged by God too!

d.       Christianity is all about living a life of good works


1)       Some religions try and make the works good enough to earn a place in heaven

2)       Jesus said only HE was the way to heaven – without ANY good works – only faith in Him!

3)       But after getting saved, the Christian’s life matters – how you live, where you go, what you think, what you look at, what you spend your money on, how you spend your time, what attitude you have…


2.        This judgment is a judgment of SORTS not SIZE (1 Cor. 3:13).


a.        Quality is the important thing in our lives – whether something has value (EX: having a lot of sawdust, or a bar of solid gold)

b.       Fire doesn’t measure size, it reveals quality in us

c.        The Lord is not only interested in WHAT you do, but also WHY you do it.

d.       IMPORTANT: A life of Service that is not motivated by love for Christ will not be rewarded (1 Cor. 13:1-3).


3.        FACT: A believer can lose their reward, but not their soul.

4.        So, in Review, What Is The Purpose Of The Judgment Seat Of Christ?


a.        It is not for punishment, but only for rewards or loss of rewards.


1)       The believer's punishment fell upon Christ (1Jn 2:2)!

2)       The judgment seat of Christ is like when an athlete is completing for the Olympics. If he loses the race, he is not punished but he loses the crown that he could have earned, and all of his effort was expended for nothing. At the end of the race, he stands before a judging committee who makes sure he ran fairly, and won fairly, and then they reward him!


b.       So, it’s purpose is to reward our service to Christ (1Cor 3:8,10,13,15)


1)       Salvation is a gift not a reward (Eph. 2:8-9). A gift is something that is purchased by someone else and is given to me freely. If I pay anything whatsoever for it or work for it in any sense, it is no longer a gift. Christ purchased the believer's eternal salvation by himself (Heb. 1:3) by His blood. There is nothing the believer can add to this.

2)       After I am saved by God's grace, I am to serve the Lord who saved me (Eph. 2:8-10), and the judgment seat of Christ will examine this service.

3)       It is like a son who works for his father in his father's farm or business. If the son is a slacker, he is still a son and is still loved by his father, but he will not be rewarded as he would have been had he been diligent and faithful and sincere in the father's service. 1 Cor. 3:15 is one of the clearest verses in the New Testament on the subject of eternal security. If the carnal believer who loses all at the judgment seat of Christ "shall be saved," how could it be possible to lose one's salvation?


5.        What Will Be Judged At The Judgment Seat Of Christ (1 Cor. 3:12)? There are only two kinds of Christian lives, and each will receive its own reward:


a.        One kind of Christian life is likened to "gold, silver, and precious stones."


1)       This refers to that which is eternal, to that which has eternal value. For example, that eternal city, the New Jerusalem, is made of pure gold (Rev. 21:18).

2)       "Gold, silver, and precious stones" living refers to things such as walking in fellowship with Christ day by day, walking in the Spirit and not the flesh, maintaining a fruitful prayer life, delighting in Christ's Word, loving Christ's church, being zealous in Christ's work, separating from the wicked things of the world and refusing to conform my life to its standards, separating from false teaching, being a godly husband or wife, raising children to serve the Lord, and winning souls to Christ. All of these things are gold, silver, and precious stones before the Lord and will be richly rewarded.


b.       Another kind of Christian life is likened to "wood, hay, and stubble."


1)       This refers to that which is associated with man and this world, things that do not last and have no value before God. Note that structures made of wood or even hay can be very large and impressive in this world, but when they are tested by fire they go up in flames and nothing is left.

2)       "Wood, hay, and stubble" living refers to things such as walking in carnality and indulging in sinful pleasures instead of walking in the Spirit, wasting time on vanities and forgetting that life is short and that only that which is done for Christ will last, talking about nothing, wasting an inordinate amount of time on such things as professional sports and video games and romance novels, spending money foolishly and not according to God's will, loving the world and patterning one's life after it, remaining infantile in one's Bible knowledge instead of growing strong in the Scripture and learning to rightly divide it, hoarding one's spiritual gifts instead of using them, neglecting the house of God, teaching things that are contrary to the Word of God, and neglecting one's responsibilities as a husband or wife or father or mother.


6.        The Rewards At The Judgment Seat Of Christ


a.        A CROWN. This is a position of authority and service under Christ (James 1:12).

b.       TREASURES (Mat. 6:19-21; 1 Tim. 6:19). The Lord Jesus has promised that treasures await those who serve Him in this world.

c.        A WORD OF COMMENDATION. "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Mat. 25:21). The greatest reward for the believer is to receive the Lord's praise. The loss of this will be like that which Peter experienced the night Jesus was tried. After Peter had denied Jesus he had to endure the look of disappointment and grief on the face of his Saviour and it broke his heart (Lk. 22:61-62).


D.      Why Does The Bible Teach so much about Judgments?


1.        They motivate people to sober up and be ready to face God – both the lost and the saved!

2.        They motivate us to be responsible for our actions – start judging ourselves, so God doesn’t have to

3.        They motivate the believer to be spiritual instead of carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3). Paul taught on the judgment seat of Christ in the context of warning the brethren at Corinth about their carnality and challenging them to be godly.

4.        They also motivate the believer to be busy and faithful (1 Cor 3:9-10; 15:58). When we recall that we must stand at the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for our lives, we are motivated to use our time wisely and fruitfully in His service.



III.     Conclusion: Where are you?


A.      Are you still lost as sinner before God?

B.       Christian… Are you ready to start judging your own sins?

C.       Are you being chastened by the Lord? If so, THANK GOD! If not! Time to do some evaluation!

D.      Will you have a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Just going to heaven is not what you need to be worried about!


Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland