9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The Apostle Paul had written several letters to the Christians in Corinth, where he had previously planted a church. In this second letter, one of the things he passed on was vital knowledge of how Christians should live their lives. In addition to acknowledgment in other letters such as 1 Timothy and Romans, Paul explains that it is right and expected to strive for excellence for Christ Jesus. He demonstrates why our actions must be continually motivated to increase the glory of God.
He starts the passage by explaining a fundamental truth. It doesn’t matter where you are (present or absent from the church people), the goal is always to be well pleasing to Jesus. The implication was that the Corinthians were slipping back into practices that were pleasing to man, not God.
Paul then demonstrates why. We will all appear alone before the judgement seat of Christ. The purpose of this Judgement is not to determine heaven or hell. Our passage into heaven and eternal glory with Him was paid for by His work on the cross and our acceptance and living of our lives in light of that reality.
Paul, via the Holy Spirit, demonstrates what will be judged at that event. The Greek word used is komizo, which specifically means to “to be paid back for.” We will be recompensed for those deeds done in the body.
The passage then goes deeper and says, “whether good or bad.” This indicates that God will evaluate our actions by our motivations. He sees our hearts in their fullness. At the time of judgment there will not be back forth banter, explaining our actions, or cajoling. Jesus knows our exact motivations and whether that motivation was for His glory or ours.
We see more detail of this judgement scene in 1 Cor 3:11-13:
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Our works will be metaphorically thrown in the furnace and burned. Anything built on the foundation of Jesus, for His glory, will not burn as they are like precious metals and jewels. Everything else will be burned and turned to ashes.
We can see in this passage just how important it is what we do in our everyday lives and to ensure we are properly motivated in our actions. We are shown how those motivations will affect our eternity forever. His perfect design is that while in the body we must strive to build on His foundation, seeking to obey His commandments and to further His kingdom. We do not want to stand in front of Him with nothing but burnt up wood, hay, and stubble.