GOLD, SILVER, PRECIOUS STONES: A study of the Judgement Seat of Christ

Judgement day. Do you think about it much? We all have a judgement day coming. There are actually two judgement seats spoken of in the Bible. One is the Judgement Seat of Christ where believers will stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account of what we did with our lives. The second is the Great White Throne Judgement for those who rejected the finished work of Christ to pay for their sins. I’m so very grateful that I get to stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, knowing that He paid the price for the penalty of my sins and I don’t have to. Because of His finished work on the cross, my sins have been forgiven and removed as far as the East is from the West. However, I still find it very sobering to know I will have to stand before my Lord and Savior and give an account of what I did with my life — how I built on the foundation that was laid down in my life when I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

I will using the New King James Version and the Blue Letter Bible and Strong's Concordance for this study.

I Corinthians 3 is one of the passages that informs us of the Judgement Seat of Christ. In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul was addressing the believers at the church in Corinth. We know they were believers because Paul calls them brethren, sanctified, and says they were called to be saints. He says they were given the grace of God by Christ Jesus, and that they were enriched and gifted in everything by Him, and that the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them. They were definitely believers. But they didn’t look or act like believers, like people who had been set apart. They weren’t recognizable as followers of Christ. These believers were carnal Christians. They were carnal and fleshly, acting like the world instead of the Savior that they believed in. There was no discernable difference between these carnal Corinthian Christians and the world. Sounds a little like some Christians we know today, right?

These Corinthian believers were divided among themselves, taking pride in saying who they followed, such as, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or even “I am of Christ.” Can’t you just hear the pride? These believers had a whole lot of sin in the camp. Much of it was what we consider the really bad sin, like sexual immorality, which is always the obvious kind of sin. But even deeper are the more acceptable, but harder to recognize sins like pride and self righteousness. The Corinthians were very prideful. They were destroying their Christian testimony because of immorality, disunity and pride, and because they looked just like the world. They had completely lost their reputation.

Another problem the Corinthian Christians had was their view of the world. As Christians, we are to view this world as a place that we must pass through until we are in our real home with the Lord. We are to be in the world, but not of the word. We are to live in this world as pilgrims passing through, but not be a part of this world. The Corinthian Christians were living as the world lived, with all the worldly influences and philosophies. They mistakenly thought of themselves as wise, because they were very familiar and accepting of the world system and its human wisdom. This was a time when human philosophy and worldly wisdom was highly valued. Much like today. The Corinthians possessed no discernment or the true wisdom that only God can give us. The sad truth was that instead of influencing the city, they were letting the city influence them. This continues today with the church. Instead of us influencing the world, we are letting the world influence us.

Paul begins to address all the problems. We will pick up with chapter 3: 1-11:  "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder i have laid the foundations, and another builds on it. But let each one take head how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

There were several things that Paul had to address with the Church at Corinth. At the root was their pride. Then he points out that they had swallowed up the philosophies and so called wisdom of the world and had adopted these as their way of thinking instead of the principles of the Lord and his Word. After that, he had to address the sexual immorality and the gross sin going on. Add to all this, the fact that they seemed to be obsessed with their “rights” instead of being willing to lay down their rights for their fellow man/woman. Because of all this fleshly, carnal, “me first” living, they had not only failed to grow spiritually and mature in the faith, they had also lost their Christian witness and testimony to the world around them. Paul warned throughout this letter and the book of Romans and other letters not to be a stumbling block to others or to defraud others. This is a very serious thing for us as believers. This was a serious matter for them personally, and for every believer, because as a result of the way they were living, they could forfeit the inheritance that was intended for them.

Many people have some confusion about this. There is a difference between losing our salvation, and losing our inheritance. Once we are saved, once we have accepted the Lord, received Him into our hearts and lives to be our Savior, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and we are eternally secure in Him. Then He begins the work of sanctification in our lives. He begins to conform us into His image. He wants us to grow and mature in Him and to become fruitful Christians. This takes cooperation on our part, but it also takes certain actions on our part. We are to “put off” our old fleshly ways of doing things and “put on” our new man and things like tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering and things of this sort. Paul’s epistles of full of instructions to the Body of Christ of active things we are to do to grow in our sanctification. Sanctification is something the Lord does in us, but it requires our willingness to let Him do what He wants to do, and it requires us to take action ourselves and apply certain disciplines in our lives. Then, according to Ephesians 2: 10 God has prepared good works for us beforehand, that we should walk in them. How tragic it would be for a baby to be born, and stay a baby for the rest of its life. It’s the same, spiritually. God wants us to grow up and mature spiritually. These Corinthian Christians were staying spiritual babies. This can happen to Christians today.

Some might argue, well if one lives this way, they were never really saved. But the Bible is evidence against that argument. Lot, of course, is the prime example of a carnal believer. The Bible says he was righteous, but carnal. Because he chose to be in the world and found his life and value in the world, he lost everything. It was all burned up. He still will live eternally with the Lord, but will he have the same rewards as those Christians who lay down their lives to live for Jesus? I think the answer is found here in 1 Corinthians 3.

As Paul continues his letter to the Corinthians, something begins to emerge. He starts addressing our rights. As citizens, just as human beings, we all have rights. Paul was well aware of his rights. As he writes, addressing the different issues the Corinthians had brought up in their previous letter to him, we begin to see a kind of attitude in the Corinthians of “me first”... an attitude of, “well I have a right to…” It’s important to know Paul considered himself a bondslave. The Greek word is doulos and we’ve studied the word in other lessons. The idea of a bondslave comes from Exodus, and Deuteronomy 15 where slaves were only slaves for a certain term. When that term was up, they were free to leave their masters. If they had had a good master, and wanted to stay with him, they would take an awl and pierce the servant’s ear by putting the awl through his ear next to a door, and thus the slave would be the master’s bondslave for life. The pierced ear then was a mark of identification for that bondslave. He was identifying with his master. Paul and Peter and Mary, the mother of Jesus, among many others considered themselves bond slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a bondservant, we are identifying with our Master. He becomes our identification. When we are saved, our identity becomes who we are in Christ. But there’s a further aspect to identification where, as the Lord conforms us into His image, we identify with our Lord in His sufferings and really every aspect of His life. He is our identity, but He is who we identify with as we live, day in and day out. This is the antidote to carnality. Jesus said that the only way to be His disciple is if we lay down our lives and take up our cross and follow Him. If we try to hold onto our lives, as Lot did, or as these Corinthian Christians did, then we lose the true life that the Lord means for us to have, and then when we stand before Him at the judgement seat, all we have is wood, hay and stubble. Paul was driving home the fact in all these issues of lawsuits, marriages, what we eat or drink, etc., that what is important is to lay down our rights, lay down our lives, and thus grow and mature and finish the race well. He goes on to talk about the race, which he does throughout his epistles. Paul was obsessed with not only running the race, but running well, and finishing the race to obtain the prize. He did not want to become disqualified. And becoming disqualified is a very real possibility for a Christian, or else Paul would not have been so concerned about it. More about this later.

Let’s continue with verses 12-13, “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be save, yet so as through fire.”

I Corinthians 5: 10 “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Notice in the first passage there are two groups of three: gold, silver and precious stone is the first group; wood, hay and stubble, the second. The first group, gold, silver and precious stone represents what happens in our lives when we walk in the Spirit and lay down our lives and let the Lord do the work in us that He desires to do. The second group, wood, hay, straw represent what happens when we work in our own strength, flesh and earthly desires. We might even have some works in this group that look pretty good to the outside world, but they were done for the wrong reasons, like maybe to make us look good to other people and not because we were submitted to Him to do what He wanted. These works will go up in flame. The person will be saved, but as by fire. In other words, he/she will be left holding ashes for his/her life’s work.

Let’s dig further. Notice that each one’s works will be revealed by fire. There are numerous references in the Bible of being in the furnace, or being refine by fire. Let’s look at a few.

Daniel 4:20 “But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt to be His people, as you are this day.”

Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”

Proverbs 25: 4 “Take away the dross from the silver and the smith has material for a vessel.”

Zechariah 13:9 “And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are My people’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

Proverbs 17: 3 “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the hearts.” The word for refining pot is mitsreph and means “crucible”. It comes from the root tsaraph which means “to smelt, refine, test, to purge away.” The Hebrew word for furnace here is kuwr and means “furnace, forge, smelting furnace or pot. To bore, pierce, dig hew.” Strong’s defines it as “from an unused root meaning properly, to dig through; a pot or furnace (as if excavated): —furnace.”

Malachi 3:3 “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Psalm 66:10 “For You, O God, have tested us; You have tried us as silver is tried.”

Haggai 2:8 “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah 48:10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”

As I studied these passages, and meditated on God’s Word, I began to see that the gold, silver and precious stones are the workings of God in our lives. He uses the furnace of affliction sometimes to get rid of things that shouldn’t be there, sometimes to refine us. Gold has to be mined. Most gold in engrained in rock and it is mixed with other minerals. A complex extraction process is necessary to isolate pure gold. This involves all kinds of tools and actions to break down the rocks and to chip away all the unnecessary substances in order to get to the gold. Once the gold is isolated, there are still all kinds of procedures that must be done in order to separate the gold from carbon. The next process required for gold is the smelting process which involves a furnace heated to 2100℉. After all this, there is further refinement for gold used in jewelry and other applications.

Silver also is found embedded in different materials. Different processes are necessary to mine silver, depending on which materials the silver is found. We’ve talked about the process of refining silver in other studies. The refiner exposes the silver piece to intense heat to purify the silver and for all the impurities to melt away. It is important for the refiner to keep his eyes on the piece at all times during this process, lest the heat become too intense or get too close, and damage the silver.

The first mention of precious stones in the Bible is found in 2 Samuel 12: 30: “Then he took their king’s crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David’s head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance.” The Hebrew word for precious is yakar and means “valuable, prized, weighty, precious, rare, splendid, costly, highly valued, influential.” Strong’s defines it as “brightness, clear, costly, excellent, fat, honourable women, precious, reputation.” The Hebrew word for stones here is eben which comes from the root banah which means “to build, rebuild.” The meaning of eben is given as “stone (large or small), common stone (in natural state), stone, as material of tablets, marble, hewn stones, precious stones, stones of fire.” I love the fact that the first mention of precious stones is in reference to the jewels in the king’s crown. Do you see that the precious stones that the Lord produces in our lives can be seen as jewels in the King’s crown?

As I study these materials and the processes that are necessary in order for these precious metals and gems to be brought to their maximum enhancement and beauty, it becomes clear to me that this is a picture of the work that the Lord does in our lives when we give Him full reign and control and let Him do His work in us. His work in us is often uncomfortable, sometimes painful and can be very excruciating. But if we walk in the Spirit and trust Him through the process, He can bring forth this gold, silver and precious stones in our lives that we then have to stand before our Lord at His judgement seat. If we let God go mining in our lives, if we let Him dig deep and excavate the gold and silver, chipping away the unnecessary...if we let him apply the heat to remove the dirt and impurities...if we trust Him in the refinement process, we can be left with gold and silver and precious stones in our lives.

There is an alternative to this. I have to say the alternative is a much easier way in the here and now. We can decide we want to live our lives our way. We can look for our validation and fulfillment in this world and what it offers. We can be like Lot and lift our eyes and see what’s good for us. We can identify with the world and it’s philosophies. And those philosophies are not only appealing, but very deceptive. Many Christians can be fooled into accepting the lies hidden in these philosophies. Lot was very prominent in his city. Perhaps he thought he was doing a good thing. We can be blinded by our own carnality. Walking after the flesh can blind us to so much. At the end of a life lived in the flesh, we will be left with wood, hay and stubble. It will all be burned in a flash.

Paul viewed our lives here on earth as a race to be run. Not a sprint, but a marathon. As I said earlier, he was obsessed with finishing the race and not being disqualified. This implies that we can do well at times, but give up before the race has ended. Marathons are so long and tough that it is often tempting to give up. We have to endure till the end. We are qualified for the race when we are saved. Colossians 1:12 says, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers for the inheritance of the saints in the light.” Did you get that? We are qualified by the Father to be partakers in the inheritance. The Greek word for qualified is hikanoo and means “to make sufficient, render fit, to equip one with adequate power to perform duties of one. To enable, i.e. qualify—make able.” The Greek word for partakers is meris and means “ a part as distinct from the whole, an assigned part, a portion, a share. Participation.” So, just as athletes qualify for a certain race, we have been qualified for our race. But we have to partake. We have to identify with our Master and abide in Him. We have to willingly surrender to His will and works in our lives. And we have to endure and participate until the end, lest we become disqualified. If Paul were concerned about this, then surely we must also. Let’s endure to the end, encouraging each other to partake, abide and identify with our wonderful Savior and risen Lord. See you at the finish line!


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