9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. (NIV)
Here’s a mental picture to begin with today. Suppose you have committed a very serious crime and have been arrested. You are in jail and your trial date has been set. In your jail cell there is another person who has been accused of a crime just as serious as yours. And it turns out that his trial date is the same as yours. As the both of you languish in jail, your trial dates get closer and closer. It’s a month before your trial. Then it’s the week before your trial. Now it’s the day before your trial. And you look over to your cellmate, and say, “I’m worried about you. I don’t think you’ve got a very good defense. You need to spend some time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and get ready to face the judge tomorrow.” It’s 24 hours before YOU are going to trial for YOUR crime and you’re worried about someone else’s defense? You should be worried about your OWN defense.
But do we Christians not do the exact same thing? Every day every one of us gets closer and closer to facing Jesus on his judgment seat to give an account for our lives. But we spend our time pointing out the faults and failures of other people instead of examining our own lives. That is the point Paul is making in verse 10. “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (NIV) We should be a lot less concerned about judging others and pay more attention to judging ourselves. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:31 “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” (NIV)
Let’s go back to the example of the courtroom. If you have ever been in court before, you know the feeling of respect and awe that the judge holds. You are very careful with every word you say. You are never disrespectful to the judge. Why? Because the judge has a position of authority over you. The judge could make your life very miserable, or he could be lenient. Is this any less true with Jesus Christ? Every time we make a decision in our life, we should realize that we will have to give an account for that decision before Jesus Christ. Will I be able to defend the actions that I will take today and the decisions I make?
Maybe someone reading this has figured out a plan. They say, “I’m not going to the judgment seat of Christ.” Well, my friend, I don’t think you’ll have the option. Hebrews 9:27 tells us “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (NKJV) And again, we read in 2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (NIV) Now, I want to make it clear that I believe that this judgment is not for the purpose of condemnation, but rather is for the purpose of commendation. We are told in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV)
So if we all must face the judgment seat of Christ, what will we be judged for? There are three things that Jesus will judge each and every Christian based on: our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. This is not a complete list, but is representative of the level of holiness that God expects from every Christian. Let’s look at these three in reverse order.
First, every Christian will be judged based on their deeds. That is, we will be judged based on the works which we do. Read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (NIV)
Notice that the foundation is all-important. We can do good works for an entire lifetime and it is nothing but filth before God unless it is built on the foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:4-9). But also notice that the quality of the works built on the foundation of Jesus Christ is important. Some works are compared to precious metals and fine jewels. Other works are compared to sticks and hay. Paul then uses the imagery of light and fire that will test the quality of the works. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus likens the heat of the sun to times of testing and trials in our lives. If what we have built on the foundation of Jesus Christ survives the fire that tests the quality of our works, then we will receive our reward. But if our works are destroyed, then we lose our reward, but we will still be saved.
Second, every Christian will be judged based on their words. Read Matthew 12:34-37:
34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (NIV)
Why are the words we speak so important? After all, they have no substance. They are spoken, and then they are gone. Very little of what we say gets recorded here on earth. Most of our words have little lasting effect. In verse 36, we are even told that we are judged based on our “careless” words. The Greek word is “argos”. It doesn’t mean “careless” as in “hurtful”, it means “careless” as in “inactive”. The KJV uses the word “idle”. The Bible recognizes that most of what we will say is nothing but careless, idle conversation. So why are these words so important that we will be judged based on EVERY ONE of them? The answer to this question is found at the end of verse 34. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (NIV) The best indication of the state of a person’s heart is what comes out of their mouth when they speak. And yes, that means when you are giving a speech, or delivering a sermon, or teaching a class, or testifying about your faith. But it also means what you said about last Saturday’s football game Monday morning at work. And what you said Tuesday morning when your car wouldn’t start. And what you told your wife when you were an hour late coming in from work on Wednesday. And what you told your mom when you came in from your date on Friday night. I imagine we should all do a better job monitoring what comes out of our mouths.
Third, every Christian will be judged based on their thoughts. We are told in Romans 2:16 “On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal (their hidden thoughts).” (AMP). And again, in Hebrews 4:12-13 we are told “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (NIV) Someone may object, “I can’t control my thoughts! How can I be judged for something I have no control over?” I respond that your premise is not true because it is not Biblical. You can, and in fact, are advised to control your thoughts. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV) The person who claims to have no control over their thoughts has probably not tried to have any control over their thoughts. Again we ask the question: Why are my thoughts so important? They hurt no one. Wrong. They hurt you. And they hurt others also. Did not Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tell us that lust is just as bad as adultery and hatred is just as bad as murder? (see Matthew 5:21-28).
As we move toward a conclusion of this principle, let’s turn our attention back to Romans 14:12. “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (NIV) We will not be called upon to give an account for someone else. We will be called upon to give an account for ourselves. And it will be on an individual basis. Each one of us will have our own opportunity to stand for judgment. Actually, I think verse 11 says that we will kneel. “It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.‘” (NIV) We will be required to give an account for every thought, word, and deed that has made up our lives. And we will give this account directly to God. What is my goal? It is to be found faithful. To hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
By Berean Husband