A recent question came in on one of our Communication Card, it reads: “How does James 5:9 and James 5:12 fit with Romans 8:1? Can we be sure as Christians that we won’t be condemned/judged in the end?”
What a heartfelt question, at least I feel it. I personally have wrestled with this question over the years, and the answer always follows with rejoicing – the kind of joy that comes from having joy in Jesus.
In James, and in other verses of the Bible, we do get a picture that there is some sort of judgement or “giving an account” for Christians. James himself writes like a preacher, in a style that exhorts his hearers not to wander into sin and stay there – for the end of that lifestyle is condemnation. So James does write about Christians facing some sort of ‘giving an account’ on the last day. Yet it’s not just James that writes of this. We see this presented in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, and it’s the sort of thing that understandably could start to make us feel anxious.
Our concern as Christians is twofold, we first are worried that all our sin will be dredged up and thrown on the table before us to give an answer for. We know that our only answer before the living God could be to confess our wrong again, and have we not already done that?! So that secondly, our concern turns to confusion as we thought the gospel was really good news, where our sins are forgiven and not to be dredged up – even if not to be punished for but at the very least be humiliated by (which would be punishing enough). These are the things I have felt as a younger believer, but it has always been my experience that returning to the gospel via the clarifying cohesion of God’s word brings rejoicing.
So what is this judgement for all people that we will face, even as Christians? What exactly is this accounting (Romans 14:12) that we will give to God?
In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, we see a picture of the future and how a believer’s life will be examined on the last day. Not for judgement as punishment, but as a sifting out of what they lived for in building upon the salvation that was obtained for them by the cross of Christ. It is the gospel, Jesus himself, who is the foundation that has been laid for us (1 Corinthians 3:11). What Christians are doing in their own life and ministry is simply building on the existing foundation of Christ – and what we build with really matters in the end.
I would love for you to notice at this point, that the judgement on this aspect of the Christian life on the last day is not for salvation. It is not for punishment. It is not for entry levels of heaven. Rather, this judgement, this accounting, is to see what fruit the Christian produced in their life based upon living for Jesus as Lord. The end result of this judgement/accounting is that some will have more or less of a reward after a revealing of what each has done. Yet even with different rewards, it can’t be that any loss of reward will be a punishing loss, for there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The loss suffered is not even close to salvation, but simply a disclosing of how we have lived in response to the gospel weave believed and all it’s implications by the gospel works we have done.
It may well be, that if you’re like me, you still feel the weight of sin and worry that your sins will be entangling your service and therefore that even your accounting of living the gospel shared life will be affected. You’re concerned that maybe even there might be a little shame for you and I on that day. If that is you, come with me in your Bible now to Revelation 20:11-15. There we see a picture of that moment when we will all stand before the throne. Books will be opened, and judgement will be given from those books. Then we see something amazing, grace.
For with all the books that are opened and their records of works, there is another book opened – the book of life. And unlike all the other books, which have all our works and wrongs, this book has only one thing in it – your name. If you’re a Christian person, if your faith is in Christ, then you are not judged and condemned but God saves you from condemnation by grace. There is nothing you could have contributed to being in the book of life, you’re name is all that is there and only by the sovereign grace of God. Your name is there because Jesus knows you by name as belonging to him.
In this all of this our main concern is not even whether we face a judgement or not, it is more so if we grasp how powerful the gospel is. The gospel that is the power of God (Romans 1:16), is the power to forgive sins (1 John 1:7-9), it’s the power that drags dead people to life (Ephesians 2:1-5) and it means that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
Will our sins be brought back to haunt us? As Romans 8:1 and following the rest of that chapter shows, says, no. How can they? For we know that such things are forgiven sins. So they cannot haunt, harm or humiliate us in any way because Jesus is the one who on that cross was haunted, harmed and humiliated as he took our sin upon his shoulders. We can be sure that we won’t be condemned in the end as we build on the foundation of the gospel. For it is that same gospel that saves us also shapes us and sees us safe and sound in the end.