God will judge all people (Acts 17:31; Rom. 14:12), but
only believers in Christ will appear before "the judgment seat
of Christ." "All" in 2 Corinthians 5:10 is used in a restrictive
sense to mean all believers rather than absolutely every human.
Contextual evidence from 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 supports this:
an eternal house in the heavens
to us the Spirit as a pledge"
walk by faith, not by sight" (v. 7).
... prefer... to be at home with the Lord" (v. 8;
cf. v. 6).
"We also have as our ambition... to be pleasing to Him
Since these truths about “we" and "us" are limited to
believers in Christ, what will be the believer's recompense at
the judgment seat of Christ for deeds "whether good or bad" (2
Cor. 5:1O)? The issue here is the deeds or work of believers -
not their sins. Christ paid the recompense for all our sins (2
Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24-25), and we have been forgiven all our
sins through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:22-26; Eph. 1:7; Col.
Therefore, no sins will be punished at the judgment seat of
Christ (Heb. 10:17). Still, sin can make an otherwise good deed
into a bad deed. For instance, Christian giving done in love and
secrecy is good and will receive heavenly reward (Matt. 6:1-4; 1
Cor. 3:14; 13:1-3), but hypocritical giving is bad (though it
may benefit the recipient) and causes loss of heavenly reward
for the giver (Matt. 6:1-4; cf. Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 3:12-13,
Christ's judgment of the Christian's deeds is presented as
an evaluation by fire: "Each man's work will become evident; for
the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and
the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work" (1 Cor.
3:13). This judgment can have two possible results. First,
acceptable service or good deeds are compared to gold, silver,
and precious stones that can endure fire (vv. 12, 14). Good
deeds remain and bring reward (v. 14). Second, unacceptable
service or bad deeds are compared to wood, hay, and stubble that
burn up (1 Cor. 3:12, 15). Bad deeds perish and bring loss of
reward (v. 15); this is the recompense for bad deeds done in the
believer's body (2 Cor. 5:10).
Your work can be acceptable to Christ. How? Pass these four
tests (cf. 2 Tim. 2:5): (1) love is your motive (1 Cor. 13:1-7),
(2) faithfulness is your attitude (1 Cor. 4:2; cf. Matt. 25:21),
(3) God's glory is your goal (Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31), and (4)
the Holy Spirit is your power (Zech. 4:6; Rom. 15:19; Gal.
be a worthy reason for serving the Lord? Yes, if we recognize
reward as a means to glorify God and not an end to gratify us (1
Cor. 9:227; 10:31). If our "good works" on earth can glorify God
(Matt. 5:16), how much more can our reward in heaven glorify
Him. Just as the heavenly elders worship and glorify God by
casting their reward - crowns at the feet of Christ (Rev. 4:10),
so believers will use their heavenly reward to glorify Him (cf.
Dan. 12:3; 1 Cor. 6:20). Think of our heavenly reward as a
beautiful Hallmark card to Christ saying that we loved Him
enough to give our very best in service (Acts 20:24; 2 Tim.