Part 1: The Judgment Seat of Christ

In the glory days of American sports, when athletes competed for the love of the game or event, Jim Thorpe stands out as perhaps the greatest all-around athlete our country has ever produced. Born near Prague, Oklahoma in 1888, Thorpe began his athletic career at a small school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he established himself as an outstanding football player, both at the college and professional level. But he was probably best known for his remarkable achievements at the 1912 Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden.

At the Stockholm games, Jim Thorpe, a Native American Indian, became the first athlete to win both the Pentathlon and the Decathlon. The Pentathlon is a one-day event which includes the long jump, javelin throw, 200-meter race, discus throw, and 1,500-meter race. The two-day Decathlon is a rigorous 10-event competition. On the first day, the participants compete in the 100-meter race, long jump, shot-put, high jump, and 400-meter race. On the second day, they compete in the high hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500-meter race. Having participated in some of these track and field events years ago, I can say that this was an amazing accomplishment.

Sadly, Jim Thorpe, was disqualified when it was learned that he had played baseball for a small salary some years earlier. The Amateur Athletic Union ruled that he was, therefore, “a professional athlete and ineligible to compete in the Olympic Games.” He was subsequently stripped of his Gold Medals for failing to observe the rules. (Source: World Book Electronic Reference Library—Millennium 2000.)

The Apostle Paul says that those who participate in these games “do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” What we do for Christ now, which is likened to a race, will echo throughout eternity. The apostle’s great fear was that when he preached to others he would fail to bring himself into subjection to the things of the Lord, and consequently be disqualified at that day. In a nutshell, he didn’t want to be a hypocrite.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).

The themes of redemption and judgment are woven throughout the Scriptures. So it is important to rightly divide the Word of truth to ascertain which judgment pertains to us. Since Paul uses the personal pronoun “we” in the above passage and foregoing context, we can safely conclude that he is addressing the members of the Body of Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a dispensational phrase solely found in Paul’s epistles. It is referred to in his revelation as “the day,” “that day,” and “the day of Christ.” This particular judgment will be a review of the believer’s conduct and service which takes place at the Rapture of the Church. According to I Thessalonians this is a planned meeting that was kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25 cf. I Thes. 4:17).

“For we must all appear.” Every believer in Christ has an appointment with the Lord—pastors and members of their congregation, Bible teachers and students, evangelists and converts, faithful and unfaithful, etc. Little wonder the Scriptures warn both leaders and those who sit under their ministries accordingly:

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth there-on. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (I Cor. 3:10).

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

While Paul makes frequent references to the Judgment Seat of Christ in both his early and latter epistles, he deals extensively with the subject in the Corinthian letters. This isn’t without rhyme or reason; the apostle wanted the Corinthians to understand the gravity of their ungodly conduct. They seemed to be oblivious to the fact that someday they were going to stand before the Lord and give an account of their actions. Some may have even denied this based on the assumption that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Although this is true positionally, the practical outworking of the matter is determined by our present conduct. The Corinthians would one day have to answer for the turmoil they caused in the local assembly, due to their envy, strife, divisions, carnality and immoral lifestyles.

This raises the question as to why God doesn’t simply judge believers when they die. Why wait until the Rapture of the Church? Here we must keep in mind that our lives touch the lives of others even in death. For example, Pastor J. C. O’Hair died in 1958, yet his writings and tape messages continue to bring others into a knowledge of the Mystery. Even though he is dead, he yet speaketh! Conversely, the Christian father who carelessly lives a worldly life influences his children to follow in his footsteps. The long-term effects of such a lifestyle will not be overlooked at that day.

But God has another reason to withhold judgment until the Judgment Seat—a solemn one indeed! Paul says, “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). The terms “every one” and “himself” clearly indicate that each of us will stand individually before the Lord to give an answer for our behavior. But this doesn’t imply that others will not be present at times during the course of this examination. In fact, this will be a necessity to set the record straight. More will be said about this later.


“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” As the phrase implies, Christ will be our Judge. According to John 5:27 the Father has placed all judgment into the hands of His dear Son. He is the perfect Judge. Even though the Mystery was still a secret when the events of John chapter five occurred, the principle of Christ’s judgeship certainly applies during the administration of Grace.

The apostle says in Colossians 2, “In Him [i.e. Christ] dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” As God, He knows our innermost thoughts and motives and the intent of the heart. On the other hand, He took upon Himself the form of a human servant and dwelt among us. No one will be able to stand before Him at that day and say, “Lord you just don’t understand!” Oh, but He does, my dear friend. Christ suffered in all points as we, yet without sin. As the prophet said, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).

The Greek word for Judgment Seat here is Bema. In biblical times it was a raised platform, with ascending steps, where rulers handed down decisions (Acts 18:12-16). It was also the place where the judges presided over the Greek games. From this vantage point they could see the entire field of events. To be summoned to the Bema meant one of two things; either the participant was disqualified for disobeying the rules or rewarded with a garland for winning a particular event.

When we appear with Him in glory, Christ will hold a position of exaltation. As the righteous Judge, He will be clothed in glory, honor and majesty as we stand before Him. Unlike the Great White Throne, condemnation is not the issue at this judgment. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Since the sin question was answered for the believer at Calvary, this examination has to do with whether or not we have devoted our life to Christ and faithfully served Him. But will our sins be taken into consideration at the Bema? We will have more to say on this later.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

There has been an ongoing debate if the phrase “the things done in his body” is speaking of the believer’s body or the Body of Christ. It seems clear that Paul has the individual believer in mind. The original dia tou somatos has the idea of the things done “through our body.” In other words, there is a moral accountability insofar as our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are, therefore, accountable for its deeds, whether they are good or of no value. For example, we believe Paul’s instructions to the Colossians capture the moral responsibilities of slaves and masters or employees and employers.

“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye service, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:22-25).

In the final assessment, the Lord is going to compensate both labor and management for the good they have done and whatever wrongs they may have committed. Every believer in Christ can expect to receive a reward for good conduct and loss for misconduct. Little wonder Paul adds:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences” (II Cor. 5:11).

While the Corinthians lived as if there was no tomorrow, Paul cautions them regarding the “terror of the Lord.” Some have concluded that the apostle is now turning his attention to the unsaved, but this interpretation does a great injustice to the context in which the passage is set. The terror or fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. But in what sense should the believer fear the Lord? Consider for a moment standing before the Lord with perfect recall of every idle word, thought and deed. We should fear the possible devastating consequences of a misspent life, not to mention the inspection itself.

With this in mind, Paul sought to persuade men as to the gravity of the occasion. Of what did the apostle seek to convince believers? Since the behavior of the Corinthians left much to be desired, Paul is passionately trying to persuade them to walk worthy of their calling. This beckons the question, are we living up to God’s expectations? Paul could confidently say, “But we are made manifest unto God.” You see Paul had a clear conscience concerning his actions among them. Thus, he desired that his manner of life before the Lord would be manifested in his hearers’ consciences that they, too, would be to the praise of His glory at that day. (See II Tim. 3:10,14).


“Ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:10,11).

As we turn to I Corinthians Paul addresses our service in relation to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Interestingly, as he develops this theme he uses the metaphor of the “temple” in verse 16. While we lay great emphasis upon rightly dividing the Word of truth, we must also recognize that there are connections between the two programs of God. As members of the Body of Christ we are numbered with the household of God and therefore joined to the living temple, which God foreordained before the foundation of the world. This explains why Paul uses the metaphor of a temple when he speaks of us collectively. Hence, Ephesians Chapter 2:

“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21,22).

God has raised up a new masterbuilder to add an addition to the household of God that was not included in the original plans of the Prophetic Program. It was hidden in the mind of God until the raising up of the Apostle Paul. He is the divinely ordained architect who laid a new section of foundation, which is Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-10). The apostle was very, very careful not to build upon another man’s foundation, nor should we (Rom. 15:20). Of course, he was referring to building upon Peter’s foundation who preached Jesus Christ according to the Kingdom promised by the prophets of old.

Like a father, Paul warns us, “I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (I Cor. 3:10). The foundation upon which the Judgment Seat of Christ is based will be Jesus Christ according to His heavenly ministry, as revealed by Paul. So then, as we serve the Lord we must take care to use Pauline materials when building upon our foundation, otherwise we will suffer the consequences at that day.

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How Would You Have Handled the Situation?

An experienced visiting Grace Pastor and teacher, who was conducting a week of meetings, asked for questions from the floor after one of his nightly meetings. A lady then asked him, “How do you reconcile Romans 4:5 with James 2:24?”

The question could have been answered in either of two ways:

(1) James 2:24 is preceded by a “timeline” in a preceding verse, James 2:21, “was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” Romans 4:5 on the other hand occurred before Isaac was even born, many years before Abraham “had offered Isaac…upon the altar.” (Cf. Genesis 15:2-6). So then, Romans 4:5 stands!

(2) Ask the person who posed the question to open her Bible to James 1:1 and read it aloud. After reading the verse, ask her the question, “Are you a Jew?” “Are you a member of one of the twelve tribes of Israel?” The lady’s answer will be an indignant “No!” Then say to her, “The Book of James is not your mail; James 2:24 was written to Jews, the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” Romans 4:5 still stands!

The above was related to the writer and his wife by that lady who since has become a Grace Believer.

The visiting pastor used answer (2) above. He knew that the lady, being of a prominent denomination, was not acquainted with the Bible; her only help being “Quarterlies.” If the word “timeline” of the first approach had been used, the visiting pastor would have “lost” the attention of the lady. The more direct approach was the most appropriate way to respond to her question. The visiting pastor was C. R. Stam. The church that he visited was the Forest Park Bible Church, Mobile, Alabama, whose pastor is Roy Lange.

The writer gives the above happening as an illustration of directness since lately he has been deluged with mail with argumentation that runs “all over the woods” to make a point rather than using the direct approach. In the writer’s experience in working in government and private industry he has found that a letter will receive more attention if it is short and to the point (i.e., direct) rather than one that rambles “all over the woods,” as it were.

Many Infallible Proofs

One method of showing the truth of Scripture is by prophecy fulfilled. Another is to show that tangible, historical, secular evidence that non-believers accept is also established by the Bible. The branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christian doctrine is known as “apologetics.” For us as believers, our faith in the Scriptures is all that is required, and our belief is all that is necessary. The reason, however, for resorting to defending the Bible by means other than mere belief is to have a testimony of reasonableness, common sense, and credibility which may win others to our faith. Let me give some examples of Biblical truth which make it difficult for non-believers to discredit the Bible as the literal Word of God.

Abraham came from Ur in Chaldea. Chaldea was the old name for Mesopotamia, or Babylon, which we now call Iraq. Excavations in the 20th century by the eminent scientist C. Leonard Wooley attest to the existence of Ur, long thought by many scholars as being completely mythical. Found in Ur were middle class houses having 10 to 20 rooms on upper and lower floors. A school was found that existed during Abraham’s era, and the pupils were taught the three R’s as today. They used multiplication and division tables and worked with square and cube root. Think for a moment about someone you know today who may be unable to do these kinds of calculations. A bill of lading dating from 2040 B.C. showed a highly developed commerce at the time of Abraham. Even the name “Abraham” was found on excavated tablets.

Modern scholars have said that there were no camels in Egypt at the time of Abraham, although the 12th chapter of Genesis says Abraham had camels. Archeologists have since found not only statuettes, plaques, and rock carvings of camels, but also camel bones, skulls, and camel hair rope dating from 700 B.C. back to 3000 B.C.

Chapter 15 of Genesis tells about God’s Word to Abraham, that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four centuries, but would return to Canaan in the 4th generation. Exodus 12:40 says that Moses led the Israelites from Egypt after 430 years in bondage; and Moses was the 4th generation from Jacob: Levi, Kohath, Amram, and then Moses. It has to be more than wild happenstance that Luke in the New Testament Book of Acts, written more than a thousand years later, mentions this same historical event.

What could be greater evidence of the Bible’s uncanny, long-term accuracy than the account of Ishmael, the child of Abraham and Hagar. You will remember that Hagar was the Egyptian servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. The Lord told Hagar that her child would have descendants without number, and that they would be wanderers and always in conflict. These of course are the Arabs of today, and the Arabs have been nomads for 4,000 years.

Chapter 17 of Genesis tells God’s promise that kings would be among Abraham’s descendants. This has been fulfilled countless times: all of the kings of Israel and Judah came from Abraham. Genesis contains many, many more evidences which confirm Bible truth; but our space limitations require that other Scripture passages be considered.

In Exodus, as one traces the route of the 40 year wanderings of Israel through the wilderness, it is discovered that the geographical features of that part of the world as described in the book correspond entirely to what a modern map would provide. Moses, the writer of Exodus, as well as the other of the first five books of the Bible, could not have come up with such a documentary by sheer chance.

Bible critics, upon reading about a seven-candle lampstand in the tabernacle in Exodus 25, declared that such a candelabra was unknown until 600 B.C. in Babylonia. However, excavations just south of Jerusalem by the renowned archeologist W. F. Albright revealed seven-sprouted lampstands dating from 1200 to 1400 B.C.

The Book of Leviticus states that, in spite of all the attempts of enemies to hate and destroy the Jews, the Lord will never allow them to be completely wiped out. Scattered for 25 centuries, and with never-ending attempts to eradicate them from the face of the earth, they not only continue to exist, but are a force that cannot be denied. Even if only a very few Jews were left in the world, after the diabolical effort to exterminate them, it would be more than sufficient evidence to trust the Word of God. By comparison, just ask what happened to the numerous other peoples whose future was not assured by God. Where are the Amalekites, the Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, Philistines, Assyrians, and all the other nations that existed in history? There is not a trace of them today.

Although the Bible mentions the Hittites 48 times, critics have long contended that any such people, if they did exist, were of little consequence. The archeologist G. A. Barton mentions in his book, Archeology and the Bible, that an archive of clay tablets records a military treaty between the Hittites and Egypt thirteen centuries before the birth of Christ. This would certainly make the Hittites a significant culture with whom the Egyptians were politically involved.

Going on to another section of the Bible: The book of Joshua details how Israelite soldiers marched around the city of Jericho seven times in a day. Sir Charles Marston’s book, New Biblical Evidence, reports that the excavations of old Jericho show walls to be only 650 yards—which is a third of a mile—in circumference, enclosing an area of only seven acres. Thus a seven-lap march in one day is entirely feasible. Excavations of other ancient cities such as Troy, and even Jerusalem, show that the walled sections were places of refuge to which people could flee in time of trouble, and did not enclose the entire city where people regularly resided.

The Bible quotes Joshua as cursing anyone who would rebuild Jericho (Josh. 6:20), declaring that any such person would suffer the loss of his oldest as well as his youngest son. When the book of I Kings was written centuries later, it recounts how the evil King Ahab endeavored to rebuild the city (I Kings 16:34). Listen to this detailed description of the rebuilding: “The builder was from Bethel, and was named Hiel. As the foundation of the city was laid, Hiel’s first-born son, Abiram, died; and as the gates were set up in the walls, his youngest son, Segub, died.” It seems unreasonable to assume that a duplicitous plot between Bible writers who did not know each other, and who lived centuries apart, could have manufactured such a tale whose pieces fit together so perfectly. Anyone, or any group of conspirators attempting to plan a story like this by deceit would certainly be doomed to failure. But because the Scriptures are all divine in their authorship, one needs never to worry that close scrutiny will reveal anything but absolute truth.

Probably the most boring part of the entire Bible is, at the same time, a most revealing evidence of its being God’s truth. I am referring to the book of I Chronicles. I have read it through, and if you do not want to read it through, at least leaf through it to see the genealogies. No one—absolutely no one—would contrive such a book as a self-serving act with the pretext of promoting some religious dogma. One thing such a book does show is God’s personal concern for everybody—each individual who was ever born.

Today’s thinkers, philosophers, and so-called intellectuals place great importance on secular intellects of the past such as those of ancient Greece. Concerning the earth, those presumed masterminds came up with the most bizarre, hare-brained ideas as to be laughable by any civilized intelligent standard; and still the Greek scholars are revered today by those who refuse to recognize the wisdom of God and His Holy Book. If the Bible were to assert that the earth was carried on the shoulders of the god Atlas, who stood on the backs of giant tortoises, which stood on the backs of elephants, this would be more than sufficient reason to discredit the Holy Scriptures as being of God. What does the Bible say about the earth? What keeps it up? Job 26:7 states that God spreads the skies over empty space and suspends the earth on nothing. The Bible is not a book of science; yet in not even one point does it contradict any principle of modern science that has been established as fact rather than mere theory.

There are in this country, and in several European countries, chapters of the Flat Earth Society, whose members are convinced that the earth is not round. Up until the 15th century, centuries after Isaiah lived, no one knew, nor would many people believe, that the earth was not flat. Without benefit of a telescope or a knowledge of the physics of astronomy, Isaiah wrote in chapter 40, verse 22, that the Lord sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. Noted Bible teacher, J. Vernon McGee has stated that the word, “circle,” is synonymous with “globe,” a round geometric figure.

Moses was not an oceanographer, but in Genesis 7:11 he wrote that fountains, or springs, of the great deep burst forth, at the same time the rains fell from heaven, flooding the earth. Only relatively recently have our scientists discovered that there are, indeed, great water fountains erupting from the ocean floor.

There was a time when Babylon was where mighty kings exalted themselves above the God of heaven; and that Babylon might ultimately become only a memory would have been unthinkable. However, Isaiah prophesies in chapter 13, verses 20-22 that Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of their pride, will be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah; she will never be inhabited throughout all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherd will rest his flocks there; jackals, owls, wild goats, and hyenas—only desert creatures—will lie there.

In contrast, the city of Tyre according to Isaiah 23:14-18, was to be devastated and desolate for 70 years, and then restored. What actually happened was that Tyre was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and was left in ruins for 70 years, but rebuilt by Alexander the Great. The 18th verse goes on to say that Tyre would return to a life of commerce, and the profits would not be hoarded, but instead be consecrated to God. Eventually, true religion did return to Tyre. Jesus visited Tyre as did Paul, as we can read in Matthew 15:21 and Acts 21:3-6. The historian Eusebius wrote that when the church was founded in Tyre, much of the city’s wealth was dedicated to God; and Jerome, another noted historian of the 4th century A.D., wrote that the wealth of Tyre’s churches was not stored away, but given to those of the church who were in need.

Mathematics is regarded as the purest of the sciences, and the value of the Greek letter “pi” as approximately 3.1416 is recognized as a basic numerical constant throughout the universe as well as a function of geometry. How easy it would have been for an author of one of the Bible’s books to err in recording some data involving mathematical computations. Only God’s inspired authorship, however, prevented any such thing from happening. In I Kings 7:23 is given a description of the huge water reservoir in the temple used for ceremonial washings. We are told that the basin was 10 cubits, or about 15 feet, in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference. Technically, using the value of “pi,” this should be 31.416 cubits rather than 30. But in verse 26 we learn that the basin was a “hand breadth” thick, or about three inches thick, which would make the inside circumference 30 cubits as the Bible says. Even the most nit-picky critic should be impressed with this evidence of Biblical accuracy.

Luke, in Acts 17:6, refers to a city official by using the Greek term, “Politarch.” This term has never before been found in Greek literature, so Bible critics have pointed out what seemed to be an invention by Luke. In the year 1835, an arch in Thessalonica was discovered with the term “Politarch” inscribed on it, and the Apostle Paul was in Thessalonica at the time of which Luke was writing. In 1867 the arch was destroyed, but the block containing the word “Politarch” was rescued and is now in the British museum. My wife, son, and I saw the display of Greek memorabilia when we visited the museum, but unfortunately we did not take note of this particular piece of stone. Incidentally, since the discovery in 1835, this same description has been found on 16 other monuments in various other localities in Greece.

In summary, all of the foregoing examples—which hardly scratch the surface—demonstrate the uncanny, inexplicable accuracy and complete reliability of God’s Word. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself in John 17:17 said that God’s Word is Truth. In John 10:35 the Savior says the Scriptures cannot be broken; and Matthew 5:18 quotes the Lord as saying that the smallest letter (which is iota in Greek) or the least stroke of a pen (referring to the minuscule embellishments added to the Hebrew alphabet) would not disappear as long as there was a heaven and an earth. The Bible teaches that there will be a heaven and an earth forever.

Let me conclude by suggesting that whenever we are confronted with presumably authoritative opinions that seem to be at variance with what one reads in our Bible, we take to heart the Apostle Paul’s words found in his first letter to the Corinthians. He triumphantly declares, “I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. For God says, `I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.’ So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish, and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. For God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then He stepped in and saved all those who believed His message, which the world calls foolish and silly….This so-called `foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest plan of the wisest man, and God in His `weakness’—Christ dying on the Cross—is far stronger than any man.” Amen and amen!

Berean Searchlight – December 2002

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A Birthday Celebration?

“And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).

“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power,
“Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places,
“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:19-21).

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (II Cor. 5:16).

Are we a bit negative about Christmas? Perhaps. However, let’s see what God has to say about this subject in His Word.

Leaving aside technicalities, there is surely something wrong, basically wrong, about the world’s—yes, and the Christian world’s—celebration of the birth of Christ.

There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that a celebration should be held in remembrance of our Lord’s birth—as there is with regard to our Lord’s death (I Cor. 11:23-26). There is no evidence that any of the apostles observed such a celebration or taught their followers to observe it. This, we concede, does not mean that we may not celebrate this glorious event, but certainly the Word, rightly divided, leads us to a higher plane.

When our Lord’s “birthday” arrives, we see on every hand likenesses of the babe in the manger, or the babe in His mother’s arms. This is sweet and touching indeed, for who does not love a little babe, especially in the arms of a young mother? Ah, but even apart from the Scriptures, it should occur to every thoughtful person that this is not the way to celebrate one’s birthday.

Let us stop and think. If I were to be given a book in celebration of George Washington’s birthday, I would not expect it to be filled with pictures of the great general as a babe in various poses. I would expect to find pictures and narratives regarding the general’s courage and perseverance, his ascendancy to the Presidency of the United States of America. I should expect to find him as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

If I should be given a book in celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, I would not expect to find the book filled with pictures of a babe, or to read anecdotes about the joy that attended his birth. I should expect to read of his kindness and courage; of the great obstacles he overcame in trying to hold the Union together. I should expect to read about how, in this great endeavor, he paid the greatest of all prices—his life, as he was slain by an assassin. In the photographs shown I should want to see those sad eyes, those stooped shoulders, and that wrinkled face. And I believe that this would be so with every one of my readers.

Then why, in the celebration of our Lord’s birthday, is He constantly depicted as a babe? Is it any wonder that, anticipating the errors of the religious world, God should tell us through Paul that henceforth we are no longer to know Him “after the flesh”? Indeed, the Apostle wrote in a day when many still living had known Christ after the flesh, yet he wrote:

“Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (II Cor. 5:16).

What trick of Satan is this, so to de-emphasize, so to minimize, the present glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Why is it that in so many churches throughout Christendom our Lord, on that day, is depicted as a baby, with manger scenes set up on platforms, and some aspect of the “Christmas story” told? Should we not rather be proclaiming how He went to Calvary for us and blotted out “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross” (Col. 2:14)? Should we not be proclaiming to all how He defeated Satan and his hosts, and “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [i.e., in the Cross]” (Col. 2:15)? And should we not make it a special point to show that He has now “passed into the heavens” (Heb. 4:14), and “entered… into the Holy Place,” the very presence of God, “having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). And should we not be revelling in the fact that the simplest believer may now be “justified freely by [God’s] grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24), that our blessed Lord is now at God’s right hand as the Great Dispenser of grace to a lost and doomed world? But as it is, what event in our Lord’s life and ministry genders the most excitement and prompts the greatest celebration of the whole year? Not His accomplishments, but His birth—and this is a pity.


It is blessedly true that our Lord’s birth was different from that of the greatest of men. His birth was an incarnation: God coming into this world “in the flesh,” and doubtless this should be, as it too seldom is, emphasized, but certainly not apart from what, in the very nature of the case, that God-man came to accomplish:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (I Tim. 1:15).

And in this very connection one of the great exploits of our Lord is again emphasized. He came into the world to save sinners—even the chief of sinners, Saul of Tarsus (I Tim. 1:15), who had made havoc of the Church, and had breathed “threatenings and slaughter” against all who believed in Christ and loved Him. Indeed, it is the very uniqueness of our Lord’s birth, the very fact that here was “Immanuel,” i.e., “God with us,” that should hinder us from worshipping Him as a mere babe in a manger. The truth of the incarnation involves far more than the birth of Christ.

All this brings us back again to II Corinthians 5:16.

It was not long after the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ that the world was given a glowing example of what was accomplished at Calvary.

At Pentecost, Peter had rightly pointed out that the “last days” of prophecy had begun:

“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel….in the last days saith God” (Acts 2:16,17).

What then had been predicted by the prophet Joel? Two things, basically: that God’s Spirit would be poured out upon His own (Acts 2:17,18), and that God’s wrath would be poured out upon His enemies (Vers. 19,20).

As we know, the Holy Spirit was poured out, but not the judgment. When all was ready for the pouring out of the bowls of God’s wrath, God, who is “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy,” interrupted the prophetic program to save His chief enemy on earth, the leader of the rebellion against God and His Christ: Saul of Tarsus.

As the Gentiles were given up and scattered over the face of the earth at Babel, so now He gave up the favored nation, and soon they were scattered abroad over the face of the earth. What does this leave us but a world of individuals lost and condemned before God? But:

“God hath concluded them all in unbelief, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL” (Rom. 11:32).

No longer does the great wall between Jew and Gentile stand:

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:12,13).

“For He [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

“…that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:14-16).

According to the prophetic program it was the Cross that made the enmity1 between God and man, for in Psalm 110:1 we have the Father saying to the Son:

“Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”

In Psalm 2, again referring to man’s rebellion against Christ, we read that:

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

“Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure” (Vers. 4,5).

Ah, but the prophetic program has now been interrupted by God’s overabounding grace:

“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign” (Rom. 5:20,21).

Now the Law has given way to grace, and prophecy to the mystery which was “kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest…” (Rom. 16:25,26).

As we have pointed out, not only are we now no longer to know men after the flesh, we are not to know Christ after the flesh (II Cor. 5:16). God is not now establishing His kingdom upon earth; He is forming the Body of Christ, with a position and prospect in the heavenlies.

Thus the Apostle goes on to say:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is [or “there is”] a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new” (Ver. 17).

It does not mean here that for the believer in Christ suddenly all the old temptations and habits have passed away and all has become new, for this is not so. Rather, when the Apostle says that old things are passed away and all things are become new, he speaks of the program of God, and he goes on to explain that in this new program,

“All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (Ver. 18).

In the program of the Body of Christ there is no Mosaic Law to threaten, no blood sacrifices required for forgiveness, no washings or oblations: “all things are of God.” It is He who reconciled us to Himself in Christ:

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (Ver. 19).

Through the death of Christ, God has now assumed the role of a Savior (I Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:2,3), and the door of grace has been flung open wide for all to enter by faith.

How wonderful!

“For…when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

He does not ask anything from man. Rather, in infinite grace, He considers the death of His Son as the payment for man’s sins, so that as far as He is concerned, the world has been reconciled to Him.

And now God has given to us “the ministry of reconciliation.” This is our “great commission” (II Cor. 5:18,19) and it explains why the book of Acts closes with Paul, God’s ambassador, in prison. Should one of America’s ambassadors be thrown into prison by another government, America would doubtless declare war tomorrow, but God did not do so. He left Paul in prison, and this is where the record of Acts closes. And he leaves us here too, on enemy territory.2

Thus he explains:

“God was in Christ [i.e., at Calvary], reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (Ver. 19).

How amazing that we can go to the vilest sinner, in the name of our glorified Lord, and tell him that the amnesty has been proclaimed, that God is not, for the time being, imputing man’s trespasses against him, but that he may be reconciled to God and to Christ by grace through faith.

And thus it is that the Apostle closes this passage as one who stands here instead of Christ, now highly exalted in heaven, saying,

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

“For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (Vers. 20,21).

Thus, while we do indeed rejoice that our Lord was born, a tiny babe, into the human race to become one of us, we know Him as the God-man exalted “far above all,” as the great Dispenser of grace.


  1. The enmity now slain by the Cross.
  2. Psalm 2:1-3 aptly describes man’s declaration of war against God. But God did not make a counter-declaration. Instead, He left Paul, and leaves us, surrounded by His enemies, so that we may bring to them the message of grace and reconciliation. What a commission! How much greater than the commission given to the eleven!

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