Elon, North Carolina
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (I Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV)
Today, we come to a passage that affects all of us. It is relevant to every Christian. This is a powerful passage.
It is a passage that deals with prophecy. It is a passage that deals with a prophetic event. It is a passage that deals with judgment.
It is a passage that deals with the judgment of believers. It is a passage that deals with not only judgment but judgment by fire.
It is a passage that deals with our final exam. We will all have a final exam. Some will pass it. Some will fail it.
Some will get a lot of questions right and a lot wrong. Some did a lot of good in their life. They did a lot of things right and they did a lot of things wrong.
We have all taken final exams in college. We have all had a lot of stress over them. We would have all liked to have had the questions in advance for that test. That would make it easier to study.
Every Christian will one day take a final exam but, if we read Scripture carefully, we can have some idea what will be on this test. We can find out how to pass it. That is what we are going to study today.
We are going to look at what the Bible teaches about the Judgment Seat of Christ. We are going to look at five important truths about this judgment.
We are going to find out how we can prepare for it. We are going to find out how this judgment should change us today. Let’s look at five truths about this judgment.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
1) This will be a judgment of believers
Paul describes two different builders in our passage. Both build a building but they use completely different materials.
One builds with wood, hay and straw. One builds with gold, silver and precious stones.
Both builders are judged. Both builders pass through the fire. The fire tries every man’s work (I Corinthians 3:13). Augustine pointed this out in the fourth century.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will ALL stand before God’s judgment seat. (Romans 14:10 NIV)
For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10 NIV)
Every Christian will appear before this judgment seat. Ordinary church members will stand before this judgment.
Sunday School teachers will stand before this judgment seat. Deacons will stand before this judgment seat.
Elders will stand before this judgment seat. Pastors will stand before this judgment seat.
Missionaries will stand before this judgment seat. Even apostles will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul says, “WE must all appear” before this judgment seat.
There are many who teach that believers will not be judged. Only unbelievers will be judged. It is the unbelievers who will stand before a holy God in their sins.
They will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment. The books are opened. All of their sins are recorded in a book. They will be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:12, 13).
If their name is not written in the Book of Life, they are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15) where they are tormented day and night (Revelation 20:10).
Most Christians believe that if you have faith in Christ, you are saved. You have nothing to worry about. You will never be judged. Are they right? Some passages support that view.
Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me HAS eternal life and WILL NOT BE JUDGED but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24 NIV)
On the other hand, there are other passages teach that believers one day will be judged by God. We have to read the whole Bible.
If we just read half of the Bible, we will read verses out of context and not see what they really mean. That is how cults start.
The apostle Paul clearly says that believers will be judged. Not just the carnal ones but even the most spiritual believers will be judged.
We will be judged individually, not just collectively. The Apostle Paul said, “each of us” will appear before this judgment.
We all have a court date. Today, some get out of court. We will have a summons to appear before this judgment seat.
If you get a summons for jury duty, you can be excused from serving for certain reasons (e.g., medical condition).
No one will be excused from this summons. We are all going to have to give an account to God for how we lived our life and what we did while we were on earth.
It is possible to stand before a judge and not get justice. Not all judges are fair. It is possible to get an evaluation at work that is not fair. I have had some of them. Perhaps you have as well.
One day we will be evaluated by God. His evaluation will be fair. He sees the good and the bad. He knows your thoughts. He knows your actions. He knows your motives.
We will be judged by Jesus Himself. Paul called it “the Judgment Seat of Christ.”. He is the one with the eyes of fire (Revelation 1:14)
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22 NIV).
Christ is the judge because He is God. Only God could be the judge of mankind. Only God can read people’s hearts and determine their eternal destiny.
2) This judgment will involve fire
That is strange. How can Christians face fire? Most teach if you are saved, you will avoid fire. You will have fire insurance.
Paul describes this as a judgment of fire (I Corinthians 3:13). There is going to be a building inspection and buildings that are not up to code will burn.
What is this fire? It is not hell. The workers are not burned up. Their works are. It is not purgatory. Roman Catholics believe in something called purgatory and use this verse to support it.
They teach that bad people go to hell. Good people go to heaven. People in between go to purgatory to burn off some sins. Depending on how many sins they have determines how long they stay there.
This passage is not talking about purgatory. This fire is not for bad Christians. It is for all Christians (spiritual and carnal Christians).
The fire is not for the people but for their works. It does not purify people and make them fit for heaven. It does not make them better people.
The purpose of the fire is not to purify or to purge but to test for a reward. This fire is not a punishment but a test. The fire shall test every man’s work (I Corinthians 3:13 NIV).
It tests the quality of their works. The fire simply determines which works are worthy of a reward and which are not.
All the fire does is to TEST works. It evaluates works to see what kind they are and what they are really made of.
3) This judgment does not determine salvation
It does not determine salvation. The purpose of this judgment is not to punish. It is not punitive.
This is not a criminal court. Christ already bore our punishment on the cross. This is for rewards.
If Olympic athletes lose a race, we didn’t take them out and shoot them, although that may happen in some countries. We don’t punish them. They are just not rewarded with a gold or silver medal.
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss BUT YET WILL BE SAVED—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
You can be saved but have very little to show for it. If anyone lost their salvation, you would expect it to be this builder.
The built the building with wood, hay and straw does not go to hell. Paul says that the builder will be saved.
Does that mean you can make a profession of faith and live any way you want, because you will go to heaven anyway?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)
We need to be careful here. There will be some people on Judgment Day who call Jesus Lord and think they are saved but are not.
On the other hand, apparently, it is possible to get to heaven empty handed. Think of all the sermons, teaching, lectures and books that will be burned up because they were completely worthless.
4) This judgment will involve a life review
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. HE WILL BRING TO LIGHT WHAT IS HIDDEN IN DARKNESS AND WILL EXPOSE THE MOTIVES OF THE HEART. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5 NIV)
All of your works will be exposed on that day and brought out into the light. They will be open. There will be no secrets. The good will come to light. The bad will come to light. Secret sins will be exposed on judgment day. The work of every person will be revealed.
What we did will be revealed and why we did it will be revealed as well. Jesus searches the hearts.
Everything you do in your life, everything you say, every ministry you perform for Jesus will one day will be tested. It will be examined. It will be scrutinized. It will be tried by fire.
Are you ready for your life review? We will all have a life review. We will get to see key events in our life from the time we were born to the time we die.
Can you imagine what it will be like to see yourself being born? Can you imagine what it will be like to see yourself in middle school or high school. We will see yourself getting saved.
We won’t see everything. We will see what God thinks is important. It may not be the things that we think are important. It will also be some of the small things.
We will see the actions we did on earth. We won’t just see them. We will re-live them, and we will see how what we did has affected others.
What the builders built in this will be revealed. It will be revealed by fire. Paul said that the day would declare it.
If they built things with gold, silver and precious stones, it will be revealed. If they built things with worthless wood, hay and stubble, that will be revealed as well.
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 THEIR WORK WILL BE SHOWN FOR WHAT IT IS, BECAUSE THE DAY WILL BRING IT TO LIGHT. (I Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV)
5) This judgment will involve rewards
For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us MAY RECEIVE what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10 NIV)
This judgment will result in us receiving things. It will result in some rewards.
You don’t have to be perfect to get a reward, otherwise no Christian would get one.
You don’t have to do great things to get rewards. You don’t have to be a pastor of a mega church to get a reward.
Jesus said that you can get a reward for doing something small, like giving someone a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:42).
We will not all get the same reward. We are not going to get the same reward as those who were tortured and killed for their faith.
Some will get more rewards than others. Some may not get any rewards.
Paul described two builders. Both were Christians. Both were saved. Both built something on the foundation of Christ. One was rewarded and one was not.
Salvation is not based on works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Rewards ARE based on works. Salvation is based on what Jesus did. Rewards are based on what we do.
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23 NIV)
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. (Revelation 22:12 NIV)
There used to be a sign in the registrar’s office of Dallas Theological Seminary that said, “Salvation is by grace. Graduation is by works.”
Some say that God does not reward us. All of our rewards are here on earth but that is not what the Bible teaches.
It is not what Jesus taught. Notice what He said in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward IN HEAVEN, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV)
Jesus said that not only would some receive a reward in heaven, but it would be great. In the Book of Revelation, we see elders sitting on thrones with golden crowns on their heads.
Jesus promised when he returns, He will return with a reward to give people (Revelation 22:12). We will not get that reward until the Second Coming. The Bible is full of the topic of rewards.
Paul is primarily talking about rewards for pastors in I Corinthians 3. Paul laid the foundation, and he said others built on it. He started the church, but others came after and ministered in Corinth.
It is talking about ministers, but the principle is the same for every Christian. Every Christian will stand before the Judgment of Christ.
Every Christian will face the fire and that fire will judge every one of their works as well, not just ministers.
Applications for Today
What are some applications for us in light of this judgment seat.
1) Watch your life
We should all live in light of eternity knowing that one day we will stand before Jesus, the one who sees and knows all, and give an account.
Paul points out that we need to be careful going around other Christians. All of us do it but We will one day be judged by Jesus. We need to worry more about ourselves than others.
All of us are going to have a life review one day. Are we living a life that pleases Christ? Does it glorify Him? Are we living a life of obedience?
2) Watch your ministry
There is an important exhortation here that Paul gives us.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. BUT EACH ONE MUST BE CAREFUL HOW HE BUILDS. (I Corinthians 3:10 BSB)
There are some ministries characterized by gold, silver and precious stones.
There are other ministries characterized by wood, hay and stubble.
They may spend a lot of time building with these materials. They may think they are pleasing God. They may be sincere but can still have the whole building they built completely burned up and get nothing in return. They wasted their time.
One ministry lasts and one does not. What is the difference? What are the shoddy building materials today that will be burned up?
Just think how many sermons will be burned up that are preached every Sunday. Much of it has no content. There is nothing of substance said. God’s Word is not taught or preached.
Wood, Hay, Stubble Ministry
It is ministry that is based on entertainment. It is ministry that is based on the philosophy of the world.
It is ministry that is humanistic, secular and worldly.
It is a ministry just based on positive thinking. It is ministry based on pride, rather than humility.
It is ministry that does not glorify God. It glorifies and exalts man.
It is ministry based on self-reliance than the power of the Spirit.
It is a ministry based on carnality, rather than spirituality.
Gold, Silver, Precious Stones Ministry
What ministry is gold, silver and precious stones? What goes on forever?
Preaching the Word is gold, silver and precious stones. God’s Word will never pass away. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 NIV)
Prayer is gold, silver and previous stones. Your relationship with God is gold, silver and previous stones.
Sharing the gospel is gold, silver and previous stones.
Living a godly life, showing compassion to people in need is gold, silver and previous stones.
Faithfulness is gold, silver and previous stones. “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23 ESV)
 The title for the lesson comes from Jeremy Ballinger’s sermon on the topic (https://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/playpopup.asp?SID=5819174732)
 Augustine, Enchiridion, 68 (https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm).
 This is not a contradiction. Jesus and Paul are talking about two different things. One is talking about salvation, and one is talking about rewards.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2, Chapter 3, Article 12:3 (https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM)