THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

by D. M. Panton



Chapter Six

WORKS TESTED BY FIRE

Scripture next unfolds to us the Judgment Seat in actual operation. It is a judgment for those already on the rock. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ," or, that Jesus is the Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). God laid the foundation in fact: every wise master-builder lays it in doctrine. "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone of sure foundation " (Isa. 28:16). Every regenerate soul is planted upon that Rock as upon adamant. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God" (1 John 5:1). "Jesus Christ" - the personal Rock; "Jesus is the Christ" - the doctrinal rock; upon this foundation rests all revelation, all regeneration, and all the millions of the saved.

But once again a new sphere opens before the redeemed soul. "But let each [disciple] take heed how he buildeth thereon." Works emerge into God’s sight only after the foundation of faith is laid: works before faith are sins to be repented of (Heb. 6:1). "But” implies one foundation, but many superstructures: "take heed" implies that grave consequences attach to how a disciple builds after conversion. Slowly, surely, imperceptibly a house of works - and, for the Christian teacher, a house of doctrine - is rising round each disciple’s life: costly granite and marble, silver columns, and cornices of gold; or else wooden doorways, hay mixed with mud for the walls, and straw thatching for the roof. The supreme fact is this: one set of materials stands fire, the other feeds fire; and, since the fire is coming, "let each take heed how he buildeth thereon."

Paul here states reward with the limpid clearness of a crystal. "If any [disciple] building on the foundation [of Christ] gold" - ingots of gold - "silver" - silver bullion - "precious stones" - marbles, jaspers, alabasters - "wood, hay, stubble" - boards, chopped hay for mortar, thatch - "each [disciple’s] work shall be made manifest ; for the fire itself shall prove the work of each" - not purge, for the inflammable perishes; nor punish, for the gold is equally searched; but prove, test, discriminate the structure for exactly what it is. "If any [disciple’s] work shall abide, he shall receive a reward"; that is, all reward is confined to work that survives judgment: "if any [disciple's] work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss" - a loss the degree and duration of which is not here defined: "but he himself shall be saved" - for salvation is through faith wholly independent of works before or after conversion; "yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:12) - through burning embers and showers of falling sparks, as he flees down a corridor of flame. The sprayed fire, sweeping and searching the entire discipleship, exactly determines what can be rewarded. "Singed and scorched as by an escape out of a burning ruin" (Stanley), he" saves nothing but his bare life " (Lange) in the crash of his life-structure, the collapse of his whole discipleship. The selection of the material lies within the choice of the disciple. "If any buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble." Every disciple has absolute control over the materials with which he builds: he selects which he chooses. Contending motives sway the choice : popularity, social prestige, wealth, pleasure ; love to Christ, fidelity, a sense of truth, the fear of God. What is the precious stonework? Material that matches the foundation. There are a thousand voices in the world today: to the wise man there is but One. "Heaven and earth shall pass away [in fire: 2 Pet. 3:7], but My words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35): that is, the divine Word will survive the judgment fires. Every thought, every word, every act is to be built out of the quarries of Scripture. No higher level is possible to a Christian teacher than to frame a not altogether inadequate setting for the jewels of revelation; no higher level is possible to a Christian disciple than to translate into life the mind of God as revealed in the Word of God: the one transmits the Book into the soul, the other translates the Book into the life.

An exposure of the disciple’s work follows at the Judgment Seat. "Each [disciple’s] work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire." The believer’s life is a palimpsest, the invisible lines of which steal forth into sight as it nears God’s fires. The foundation is not tested; it is, as Isaiah says, already a tried Stone: it is the superstructure which the fire searches. No believer will be put on trial for his standing, but for his walk; not for his faith, but for his works; not for his life, but for his living; not for his foundation, but for his superstructure. "The fire itself shall prove each [disciple’s] work of what sort it is." The kind of material is infallibly revealed by the fire: it is searched through and through by the eyes of Christ (Rev. 1:14). The fire does not cleanse, it tries: and, if trying the inflammable, it destroys: Christ does not purge our works but searches them judicially. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like a flame" - here is the fire; "I know thy works" - the fire plays into the heart of the material; "and thy love and faith and ministry and patience" - the fire tests the quality, and finds gold; "and that thy last works are more than the first" - the fire tests the quantity, and finds much fine gold (Rev. 2:19). The fire proves.

The Judgment Seat now adjudicates. "If any [disciple’s] work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward." Salvation stands upon the foundation, reward rests upon the superstructure[5]. "If the work shall abide - reward": reward is utterly conditional on works. "If any [disciple’s] work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire." Our Lord also stated the possibility of a bare salvation, and no more; "else ye have NO reward" (Matt. 6:1): himself saved - for no soul can ever be swept off the foundation of Christ; his work burned - for a discipleship may end in piteous conflagration. As fireballs descend upon a laboriously - constructed dwelling, and the inmate within, overwhelmed by a sudden burst of flame, escapes for his life through a blazing corridor of fire - "he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire." THEREFORE "LET EACH [DISCIPLE] PROVE HIS OWN WORK" NOW (Gal. 6:4). "O could I always live for eternity, preach for eternity, pray for eternity, and speak for eternity! I want to see only God" (Whitfield). " Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find SO DOING. Of a truth I say unto you, that He will set him over ALL THAT HE HATH" (Luke 12:43).



Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ


[5] “Out of Christ there are no good works at all: entrance into Christ is not won nor merited by them. In Christ, every work done of faith is good and is pleasing to God. The doing of such works is the working of the life of Christ in us: they are its sign, they are its fruits: they are not of us, but of it and of Him. They are the measure of our Christian life; according to their abundance, so is our access to God, so is our reward from God: for they are the steps of our likeness to God. So that no degree of efficacy attributed to the good works of the child of God need surprise us: it is God recognizing, God vindicating, God multiplying, God glorifying, His own word in us.” Dean Alford on 1 John 3:22.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)