Are Christians going to be judged by God, and if so why?
In I Corinthians 5:1-10 the Apostle Paul writes about “our future after death” when “we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he had done in the body, whether good or worthless” (vs. 10). Based upon what Paul says here, the answer to the above question is, “Yes, we are going to be judged so that we may be repaid for what we have done as Christians.”
Biblical scholar R.V.G. Tasker hastens to say that even though “the thought of the judgment seat of Christ has for the Christian a peculiar solemnity it is not meant to cloud his prospect of blessedness, but to act as a stimulus” to Christ-centered living that will result in rewards in heaven. Philip E. Hughes points out: “The judgment pronounced is not a declaration of doom, but an assessment of worth, with the assignment of rewards to those who because of their faithfulness deserve them, and the loss or withholding of rewards in the case of those who do not deserve them.” He soon thereafter quotes Romans 8:1 how there’s “no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
In 2011 Billy Graham answered this question by stating simply: “The reason [for judgment of Christians after death] is so God can reward us for what we have done for him.” We are rewarded for the fruits of the spirit that grow out of the root of faith in Him that saves us for heaven.
Murray J. Harris views the appearance of Christians before Christ’s tribunal as “the assessment of works and, indirectly, of character, not with the determination with destiny; with reward, not status. Judgment on the basis of works is not opposed to justification on the basis of faith.” He also explains how “not all verdicts will be comforting” because “the believer may ‘suffer loss’ (I Cor. 3:15) by forfeiting Christ’s praise or losing a reward that might have been his.” John MacArthur declares: “Believers will not be judged for sin at the judgment seat of Christ. Every sin of every believer was judged at the Cross, when God ‘made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ (II. Cor. 5:21) ….’ [Judgment’s] purpose … is not judicial; it is that every believer may be recompensed for his deeds in the body.”
Based upon what the text and these scholars say, we might justifiably conclude that judgment is only concerned with determining a Christian’s rewards in heaven. However, those who study the Bible can, and do, disagree.
John Piper believes there is more to this post-death judgment of Christians than to determine rewards. He introduces Jesus’ Parable of the Talents that teaches there are not only “varying degrees of reward for the faithfulness of our lives” but also “that there is a loss not only of reward but of eternity for those who claim to be faithful but do nothing to show that they prize God’s gifts and love the Giver. That’s the point of the third servant who did nothing with his gift. He did not just lose his reward, he lost his life.”
Piper reminds us of James 2:26: “Faith without works is dead.” He then adds: “That is what will be shown at the judgment.” He contends that “the aim of judgment” is not only to measure a Christian’s reward, but also to determine who may in fact not be a Christian at all because of no faith-inspired works. Absence of works means absence of faith.
When we return to II Corinthians 5:10 it is crystal clear that “we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, SO THAT each may be repaid for what he has done in the body whether good or worthless.” Paul was obviously speaking of rewards for faith-inspired/empowered works.
John Piper does make us stop, pray, think, and re-examine this text. That in and of itself is a good thing about something that is ever so serious. Nevertheless, Paul is writing to Christians who have been saved by our faith in Christ and what He has done for us through His Amazing Grace and loving forgiveness.
Once we open up our lives to Christ, we need never agonize over being judged by Christ after death! He lives within us as we walk through life and death into eternity as our Savior and Lord. We are exempt from the kind of judgment that separate His sheep from those who are not of His flock.