In the 14th chapter of Romans Paul warns us concerning our relationship with weaker brethren and of the danger of judging them and determining their spiritual state He warns us in verse 7-12 of our eventual meeting with Christ at the Bema Judgment Seat when Christ will judge accurately.
Let me pause at this time to define several judgments everyone should understand. Then we will focus on The Bema Judgment.
Because this is such a crucial topic to your future, I urge you to take the time to read the Scriptures along with my comments.
Christ bore the judgment for our sins on Calvary.
We read in I Peter 2:24 how Jesus took our judgment and bore the penalty for our sins in His own body on the cross.
We are saved when we understand this truth and by faith trust in Jesus’ sacrifice of His blood on the cross as the full penalty for our sins
Romans 8:1-4 and John 5:24 assure us that because of His sacrifice we are forever freed from the penalty for our sins. Do you understand this judgment and are you resting fully in His accomplished work on the cross? As Jesus died, He cried out, “It is finished!” There is no further penalty or payment you or I must make for sin. Jesus paid it all. If you are trusting in Jesus, your war with God is over. The full penalty has been paid and according to Romans 5:1 and Colossians 1:20 He has signed the peace treaty with His own shed blood and reconciled us to Himself.
Now you can build on that foundational truth as you learn to know God and learn how to live for His glory through His Word, the Bible. That’s what Christian growth is all about. Find a church where this Gospel is clearly preached and where the Bible is faithfully taught and learn how to walk with God as a Christian.
The Bema Judgment
The Bema Judgment is a judgment reserved only for Christians. It takes place after Christ returns to earth to catch up into Heaven all who are trusting in Him for salvation, including the living and the dead. This Bema judgment has nothing to do with a penalty for sin. That was borne by Christ as He died on the cross two thousand years ago.
The Bema Judgment is somewhat like the Olympics where winners of athletic contests are given medals for their physical accomplishments. This judgment concerns rewards for living for and serving Christ. faithfully. Some Christians will receive rewards. Others will suffer loss of rewards. But none will pay the penalty for their sins. That was accomplished by Christ on the cross. We will learn more about this Bema Judgment later in this message.
The Great White Throne Judgment
The great White Throne Judgment is yet to come at the end of time. It is only for unbelievers who refuse to trust Christ to save them from sin and Hell. Its terrifying description is given in Revelation 20:11-15. Thank God that no Christian will ever face God’s wrath at that judgment for their trust is in Christ who bore the wrath of God in our place for our sins in His own body on the cross.
The Daily Self Judgment of Christians
There is one more judgment for Christians and that is our daily self-judgment as we become aware of our sins and failures and confess them to God as sin. When God convicts you of sin, don’t make excuses for them or try to lessen your guilt by calling them a weakness, or excusing them because other people’s sins are just as bad or worse. Instead of trying to make excuses for your sins, simply confess them to God and I John 1:9 promises us that “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It’s as we “walk in the light (of God’s Word) as He is in the light that we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleasnses us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:7
Christians will never go to hell for those sins, but unconfused sin will cut fellowship with God and result in physical, mental and emotional suffering in this life right now. I Corinthians 11:20-34 warns us as Christians to confess our sins daily, especially as we come together for the Lord’s Supper or Communion. To take Communion as though you were right with God when in reality there is unconfessed and unforsaken sin in your life is an extremely dangerous matter. Read David’s genuine confession to God in Psalm 51 in which he pours out his heart in repentance after he had committed adultery and murder. In spite of these awful sins, God, looking at his heart, described him in I Samuel 13:14 as “a man after His own heart”.
So having considered these other judgments, let’s focus now on the Bema Judgment.
FACTS CONCERNING THE BEMA JUDGMENT
The Judge is Jesus Christ who died and rose again as our Saviour and who lives in Heaven today as our Lord and who, according to Revelation 22:12, is returning to reward those who faithfully serve Him now. How dare we who are Christians attempt to judge the faithfulness of other Christians or attempt to lord it over them! In Matthew 7:1-5 we are warned to never judge other’s motives. Leave that to God who alone can read and discern hearts and motives.
The Bema Judgment Seat is not a judgment of condemnation. We who are trusting Christ for salvation will NEVER face a judgment of condemnation and be cast into Hell. That, according to Romans 8:1 was borne by Christ on the cross. Rather, this judgment concerns Jesus’ rewards for faithfulness to Him as Christians.
Romans 14:10-13, I Corinthians 3:10-15, II Corinthians 5:9-10 warn us that in this judgment we as Christians will give an accounting of ourselves to God. In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus encourages us to face persecution for Him with the assurance that we will be greatly rewarded. Even Moses, as well as other Old Testament saints who lived in Old Testament times lived and suffered in the light of future reward. according to Hebrews 11:24-40
When we give an accounting of ourselves before Christ, that will include an accounting of our time, strength, talents, financial resources and use of spiritual gifts entrusted to us as His stewards, as taught in Luke 12:35-48.
In that passage are some troubling truths we dare not overlook nor ignore. Though it is clear from Scripture that Christians will NEVER be condemned nor sent to hell for their sins, for Jesus took the full condemnation for our sins in His body on the cross; yet there is clear teaching that the Bema Judgment Seat of Christ involves not only reward for faithfulness, but pain and sorrow and loss of rewards for unfaithfulness. Christians, we will be sorry and shed bitter tears for ignoring God’s will for our lives and living only for ourselves. Jesus talks about being beaten with stripes. Whether that is literal or figurative, I am sure it will be painful and tears will be shed. Later, in the eternal state, all tears will be wiped away, we read in Revelation 21:4.
I Corinthians 4:1-5 referring to the Bema Judgment, declares that this judgment of Christians will be based on our faithfulness to Him. Here we are taught that we as Christians have no business attempting to judge the hearts or motives of fellow Christians. Only God can read hearts and judge correctly.
In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 we are taught in 7:1-2 to NEVER judge nor condemn others as individuals. Government alone through the court system has the right and the God-given responsibility to condemn and sentence law breakers. In fact, according to Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:1-7 human government has the God-given responsibility to avenge victims and put to death those guilty of capital crimes.
Keep in mind, aging, faithful Christian, we are warned in II John 8 and Revelation 3:11 that it is possible after a life of faithfulness; to ruin our testimonies in old age and lose the rewards we could have received.
WHAT WILL THE REWARDS BE?
The rewards we receive in Heaven are all described as crowns. These crowns indicate that we will rule with Christ over the world in the Millennial reign of Christ. See Revelation 5:9-10 II Timothy 2:12
The Crown of Righteousness Christ is our righteousness and our only glory. II Timothy 4:6-8, Galatians 6:14,
The Crown of Glory I Peter 5:1-4 This crown is given to faithful elders and pastors. Why to them? Because to such there is little glory in this life. Rather, for the faithful pastor, it is a life of suffering, heartache and shame.
The Crown of Life James 1:12, Revelation 2:10 This crown is given to Christians who endure temptation, love Christ and are faithful to Him to death.
The Crown of Rejoicing I Thessalonians 2:19 This crown is actually the people whose lives we have touched for Christ. I believe this will be one of the most surprising and amazing crowns we will receive in Heaven. I look forward to meeting you, my presently unknown reader of Hidden Treasures and those to whom I have ministered over the years. May God use you in a greater way than He has used me.
The Incorruptible Crown The Christian life is a race. Death or the Rapture is the finish line. The Bema Judgment is the throne of Christ before whom we will one day stand to receive our crowns or suffer the greatest loss of our entire lives as castaways. I Corinthians 9:24-27
ALL FOR HIS GLORY
Because Christ is the only One worthy of glory, one day, faithful Christians in Heaven will have the glorious privilege of casting their crowns at His feet. Revelation 4:10-11
As we move into Romans chapter 14 the topic before us concerns the relationships of stronger and weaker Christians to one another. All of us are at different stages of spiritual maturity. Most of us who have been Christians very long consider ourselves stronger than we probably should. We all tend to think we have a better understanding of Scripture than others. Be cautious concerning such an attitude.
WHO IS A WEAKER BROTHER OR SISTER IN CHRIST?
We are all weak in some areas of spiritual understanding or practical living. That’s one reason we go to church and sit under the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Because all of us are sometimes blind to our areas of weakness, we need to learn to esteem and prefer one another to ourselves, as we learned in Romans 12:10. Because we are often blind to our own faults and weaknesses, Paul challenges in Philippians 2:3 to esteem others as better than ourselves.
That’s quite difficult for most of us who have been Christians very long. We each tend to think we have a more accurate understanding of Biblical truth and that we are stronger Christians and know the best methods of church polity and worship.
In Romans 14 we’re going to identify two kinds of Christians who needed to recognize and receive those they considered as weaker Christians.
First, the new Christian coming from Jewish background. His conscience was weakened by holding on to the ceremonial system of the Old Testament Law. He was offended by and looked down on the new Gentile believers who saw no problem with eating meats forbidden by the Old Testament ceremonial law and by failing to observe the special days proscribed by that Law.
And then there were the Gentile believers. They had their weaknesses also. They were calloused and unloving as they looked down on and despised the new believers coming out of Judaism with all their Jewish “baggage” just as many Christians today look down on and despise as “legalistic” Christians who simply desire to please God by doing what they believe to be right and avoiding what they believe to be displeasing to God. The Jews judged their Gentile brothers in Christ and the Gentile believers despised their brothers in Christ coming from Judaism.
This still goes on in churches today. We tend to judge or despise those who do not meet our criteria for being “good Christians”. Do we fail to understand that all we are and all we have is by God’s grace? Do we understand that in Christ we are free from the Old Testament Ceremonial Law? Read of that wonderful truth again in Romans 8:1-4.
At the same time, we love God’s moral law, His standards of right and wrong taught throughout the Bible from both the Old and New Testament. Like the Psalmist, that Law is written in our hearts and we delight to do His will. The fact is that if we are Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts and He gives us the desire and the enablement to fulfill God’s Law as we are surrendered to Christ, whose Spirit dwells in us as Christians. Read Romans 8 again until you fully grasp this vital truth.
Though all of us have areas of weakness, we are growing stronger if we are in the Word as we learn in I Peter 2:2 and I John 2:12-14. But the Christian who ignores God’s Word is growing weaker and more susceptible to the snares of Satan. He is carnal or fleshly rather than spiritual, as Paul explains in I Corinthians 3:1-3.
How can you recognize a fleshly, weak Christian? He boasts of his supposed spiritual gifts and yet does not know how to use them to be a blessing to others. Read I Corinthians 4:7-10 on this. He is full of himself and proudly and judgmentally looks down on others, as described in Romans 15:1. On the other hand, Jesus is “touched by the feelings of our infirmities”. Hebrews 4:15
HOW THEN ARE WE TO DEAL WITH WEAKER BRETHREN?
We are to receive them warmly. Romans 14:1 God’s love flowing through us is the secret of interpersonal relationships with other Christians.
We are not to argue with them. We can discuss doctrine freely and lovingly with strong, mature Christians. But be cautious about arguing with a weaker Christian.
Don’t despise or judge another Christian. Romans 14:1-3
Be settled in your mind as to how God wants you to think and live. Romans 14:5 But at the same time, be open to growth and change. We change as we grow. I’ve been saved seventy years now and throughout those years, even to this day, I am constantly changing and growing in grace and in the liberty which we have in Christ. See II Corinthians 3:18 on this truth.
Give God thanks for everything. Romans 14:6
Live for others. We’re members of churches for others; not just for ourselves. Romans 14:7
Live for God’s glory. Romans 14:8
Remember this as you seek a church home. A healthy growing church will always have weak saints who are in the process of growing stronger and maturing as saints. Get involved in such a church, but avoid churches that are ingrown and have no interest nor desire to reach out to others.