I was reading in Romans 14 about the laws of love and of liberty—laws which Christians often abuse or ignore. In verse 10 Paul asks, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” After quoting Isaiah 45.23, he reiterates: “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
Apart from the sheer terror of this prospect (I have yet to be convinced that the Bema Seat will just be an awards ceremony), what should this verse teach us? Here are three quick observations:
- JUDGMENT OF OTHERS IS WRONG. There’s no simpler way to put it. That is not to say we must not make judgments—obviously, we must assess faithfulness in people, among other things, or we cannot fulfill basic New Testament mandates. But our judgments of others must be restricted to that upon which what God has already pronounced judgment. We are to proclaim the whole council of God without hesitancy and without apology. And when we do that, we must have our attitudes right (Gal 6.1-5) and our hermeneutics straight (not dredging up Mosaic laws or preferences and applying them to the Body of Christ.) But that’s not what Paul is referring to here.
- JUDGMENT BY GOD IS COMING. Each of us will have his chance to give account to God Himself, so if we require other believers to be accountable to us (this is what judging them is, really) in matters where God has, in the words of Stuart Briscoe, “maintained a discreet silence,” we are violating this principle. And when we violate this principle, we can expect to discuss it with the Lord at a later date.
- JUDGMENT OF OURSELVES IS VITAL. We are far better off examining our own hearts and motives than those of others. This will enable us to apply the laws of love and liberty and also better prepare us for that Great Evaluation yet to come.