“FOR we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Here we are told of certain ones that must appear before Christ’s judgment-seat. Paul speaks of them as “we,” therefore he means himself, together with those to whom he is writing the letter, which, in this case, is the church at Corinth, “with all the saints which are in all Achaia.” We conclude from this that none but believers must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and that with believers it is a case of must appear, not may or shall or will appear; that is, there is a needs be or necessity for the appearance of every child of God before the judgment-seat of Christ. Whatever judgment-seat the nonelect appear before, it certainly is not Christ’s judgment-seat, for he is Head over his house, and the elect of God constitute his house. The nonelect are under God’s judgment, but not subject to the judgment of God’s Anointed (Christ). Here we must distinguish between the judgment of God and the judgment of Christ. While God and Christ are one, yet there is a difference, or a different relation between that in which God reveals himself to his elect and that which he bears to the wicked. To his elect people God is Christ: the Savior from sin and the victor over death and hell. In this relation Christ is the head of his elect, and they are his house, they are under law to him, must appear before his judgment-seat. To the nonelect God is Creator; he is not known to them or by them as Savior, victor or any other anointed relationship whatsoever. We are not saying that the nonelect are not or will not be judged, it is not the purpose of this article to discuss that, but we do say that our text at this time does not refer to any such matter, but simply to a judgment that concerns “we” (believers), a judgment to which “we must all appear.” The church is not under Moses, nor under the law of sin and death, having been redeemed from under that law by the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. He has bought his people, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood, hence they belong to him, and do not belong either to Moses, to Satan, or to themselves. Since the redemption of the elect is finished, since the work is perfect, and since the sanctified ones are forever perfected through this one offering, it must follow that those thus saved or redeemed are forever free from any claim, great or small, which their former captors may have held against them. The debt having all been paid, the elect can never again be brought into judgment by those things which were formerly their condemnation. God is just, and will not demand the payment again of the debt already paid. We say this to emphasize the point that “we must all appear” before the judgment-seat of Christ, who is our living head, our spiritual Lawgiver, and we are not bound to appear before any other judgment-seat than that of Christ, because believers are not subject to Moses, nor to any other master than Christ, he only is their Lord and King. Having tried to make this plain, we now pass to consider for what purpose believers appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Is it to be judged for their sins? Right here we had better determine just what we mean by sin. Sin is a transgression of law. Now, if we are thinking of the Mosaic law, or of the law of sin or of death, then God’s elect cannot sin, for it is impossible to transgress a law to which one is not subject. A citizen of the United States, living in the United States, cannot transgress the law of France, for he is not subject to the jurisdiction of French law. On a higher plane, therefore, a child of God redeemed from under the curse and dominion of the law which once held him captive, can no more transgress that old law, for he is no longer under the dominion of that law. In that sense the believer cannot sin. However, the believer is now under law to Christ, and can and does disobey the commandments of his King, so that in this sense the believer does sin. It is for this that he must appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. This is what John means when he says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Again, in Hebrews we read, “For if We sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” A believer sins willfully whenever he offends against the truth, whenever he transgresses a command of Jesus or walks contrary to the order and doctrine of the church of Jesus. These transgressions of the believer which grieve the Holy Spirit, whereby he is sealed unto the day of redemption, do not cause the believer to forfeit his portion in Jesus’ perfect work, for that would be to unsave what Jesus has saved, or would be the creature undoing the work of the God that made him, which is impossible, because absurd. Further, Paul declares that no creature is able to separate God’s, people from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Therefore, the appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ of every child of God has nothing to do with their eternal salvation. It is an experience that all God’s people have while here in the flesh, and does not affect eternity at all. This appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ is not something that takes place with the believer in the future, after death, but right now, while present in the body. The judgment-seat of Christ is set up in the soul of the believer, Christ is in him the hope of glory, and the believer is constantly before this judgment-seat, he cannot get away from it. He needs not some one outside himself to reprove him, for this inner quickened conscience reproves the believer for every foolish thought and every idle word. “The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” The same grace that reveals salvation in a believer also teaches that believer the denial of worldly lusts and ungodliness, to the end that he should live in sobriety in this present evil world. Thus, whether the believer does good or bad, he receives the things done in his body. If one sows wheat, he will not reap oats; he cannot gather figs of thistles. If one sows to the flesh, he reaps flesh; that is, corruption. If one is enabled to sow to the Spirit, he reaps Spirit; that is, everlasting life. The thought of the Writer in our text is that God’s people now while here in the flesh are constantly assembled, or are appearing before Christ’s judgment-seat, not to decide whether they shall be sent to hell or shall go to heaven, for that was decided in the mind of God before the foundation of the world, but that the believer may receive right now the things done in his body. If the things done by us in the body are contrary to the law of Jesus and the order of his house, thus sowing to the flesh, we receive or reap flesh; if, on the other hand, grace is given us to obey the law of the Spirit, and to live in the precepts of Jesus, we do good and we receive or reap good.
Brother John Kerr, of Ontario, has asked us to write on this subject, and we have tried to do so to the best of our present ability. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 8
April 15, 1916