Reward, prizes, and competition can be gruesome, unfair, and cultivate selfishness and an ego in this world. We should automatically know then when our heavenly Father speaks of “reward” and “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” that its obtainment is given based upon His own standard, rather than the “wisdom of this world”.
It should be noted that “the judgment seat of Christ” along with “reward” and “loss” do exist (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:12-15, 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Php. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:5). Yet, the event of “the judgment seat of Christ” and it’s “reward” and “loss” are not obtained until after the rapture the church, the Body of Christ. Therefore, it can be plainly understood along with the corresponding passages that “reward” and “loss” are a by-product of something we do in “the life that now is”. It can also be said, the “life that now is” can profit us “in the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8).” In other words, our Christian life means something and certain things we do or don’t do are rewardable by God or not.
Every Christian will stand before “the judgment seat of Christ” because of who God has made us to be “in Christ” when He not only justified us unto eternal life, but also sanctified us unto functional life by making us “dead indeed to sin and alive unto God (Rom. 6:11).” In so sanctifying us and making us members of “the new creature” He has made it so that we can now live unto Him and be used by Him to replace the current holders of the positions of governmental rule in the heavenly places, in order to reconcile those positions unto Himself.
The capstone of our sanctified position in Christ is the issue of God dealing with us as “sons”. In dealing with us as “sons” God is dealing with us as one’s who He expects to labor together with Him in what He is now doing, and in doing so look forward to eventually entering into His business with Him. This is what receiving “the adoption of sons” (Rom. 8:14-15; Gal. 4:1-7) is all about. God has provided us the honored privilege to be educated by Him in His ways and work and to do so with the intention and motivation of entering into His business with Him. God has brought us into that greater intimate relationship with Him; therefore, educating us in His mind, ways, and work. He is enabling us right now to labor with Him in things that He is doing with the very pointed intention of us entering into His business with Him of reconciling the heavenly places unto Himself.
It is in this context of us receiving “the adoption of sons” that “the judgment seat of Christ” is not only brought up, but has its’ ultimate objective. The objective being the evaluation when it comes to determining how well His “sons and daughters” can enter into His business and how much responsibility they can handle in it. At this time God will evaluate our response to His desire and provision to educate us in His mind, ways, and work and on the basis of the evaluation He will determine how much responsibility we are qualified to handle in His business.
The basic nature of the evaluation will be us “giving an account” of ourselves to God in connection with what He has said that He wants us to do in view of Him sanctifying us “in Christ.” The essence of what God wants us to do is to be “godly”; in other words, think like He thinks, live like He wants us to and labor with Him in the things He is doing in this dispensation. Our Father, being the Father He is, has graciously and fully provided us with the doctrine we need to be educated in “godliness” (1 Tim. 1:3-4). 1 Corinthians 3:10ff describes each of us as “God’s building” with “the foundation” being who God has made us to be “in Christ Jesus” which is doctrinally found in Romans 1-11: the rest of the blueprint or pattern for the structure of our “godly edifying” being in Romans 12-Philemon. When we build upon the “foundation” of who God has made us to be “in Christ” we build with either “gold, silver, and precious stones” which are materials that are meet to the nature of the “foundation” thereby glorifying it, adorning it, and honoring or when we do otherwise, either by not specifically following Paul’s blueprint “as the wise masterbuilder” or by following and educating ourselves with “the wisdom of this world” we then build with “wood, hay, stubble” which are contrary to the nature of the “foundation” thereby defaming and dishonoring it, which materials will not be permitted to remain forever. If we build “godliness” upon the foundation of our justified and sanctified position “in Christ” we “shall receive a reward” in that day. If we do not do so, our “work shall be burned” and we “shall suffer loss”; no reward because the work was not proper, along with the loss of what had been built.
A “reward” is compensation for work done that has pleased the one who gave you the opportunity to work for him or with him. The exact nature of the “reward” is not described in this passage, but is defined later in 1 Corinthians 9:25 when Paul says, “and every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” A crown is associated with being in a position of authority and ruler-ship or privilege over others. In view of the fact that in God’s plan and purpose for us as stated in 1 Corinthians 6 that we “shall judge the world” and “that we shall judge angels”; and in view of the fact that being the church the body of Christ we are “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” in connection with the governmental positions in the heavenly places; the “reward” of the “incorruptible” crown has to do with particular positions of authority we are worthy to fulfill and occupy (See Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16 for more about the positions).
If you’re wondering, “how are we going to know what to do and what are we to know to fill these positions since everything will be new to us?” our present education in “godliness” is the very thing that trains us for occupying and functioning in those positions. Briefly note 1 Corinthians 6:11ff when Paul strongly reproves them for going to law with another and for not exercising their own wisdom and judgment among themselves to settle the matter, the basis of his reproof is they are not exercising right now the very same kind of wisdom and judgment God is going to expect them to exercise in the future when they as saints “judge the world” and “judge angels”. In light of Paul’s reproof they are supposed to look upon their present ability to make godly decisions and judgments regarding these “smallest matters” and “things that pertain to this life” as training and practice, so to speak, for the godly judgments to come. Again, God has built into the doctrine for our “godly edifying” the very issues of training, practice, and equipping for the future, that furnishes us with the knowledge and ability to function in one of the positions of governmental ruler-ship.
It is a truth therefore that in regards to the reward we are to “strive to obtain” and “strive lawfully”. The issue of “reward” is based upon the Cross-work of Christ and the full measure of what it provided for. A believer can be rewarded with such a position if they “strive to obtain”. If one so has the desire and strives according to the doctrine of “godliness” found in our edification. In other words, if one strives lawfully according to the doctrine of godly edifying which provides one to think the way God does, live the way God lives, and labor with Him in what He is doing in this dispensation of grace they will be rewarded with a position of authority and responsibility in the life to come that is meet or fitting to their striving in godliness in the life that now is. It should be noted being motivated by the Cross and being motivated to obtain the prize as our Apostle Paul did are one in the same, for it was the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that made it possible not only to justify you, but to provide knowledge of “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” giving you the capacity to measure up to such fulness. Simply put, although Christ died to justify you and you can live any way you think or want, He died to justify you and to live His life in you which is rewardable by Him. The reward is a by-product of the effectual working of the doctrine unto godly edifying; therefore when we “strive to obtain” our godly edification provides the qualifications to obtain it and motivates to “strive lawfully” following the instructions set forth in our edification like esteeming others higher than ourselves (Rom. 12:3): the epitome of the thinking and heart of any saint who will be rewarded with a position of authority and responsibility. For their heart and mind will need to match the One they will be ruling and reigning with, the Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed and only Potentate. I don’t know about you, but I want someone like that over me. May we not allow “the course of this world” and Satan’s plan of evil against our edification to “beguile” or “spoil” us of our reward and as Paul instructs, “…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
May we all run to obtain and strive lawfully for the prize the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, thinking of others in order to obtain; knowing full well we run not like the world, nor to obtain what the world has to offer and follow our edification that transforms us instead of the world that conforms us.
Josh Strelecki, Pastor-Teacher