The Apostle tells us in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, ‘Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.’ There were two great motives urging the Apostle, driving him on, in all his travelling and preaching: ‘The love of Christ constraineth me’, and ‘knowing the terror of the Lord.’ Those two motives should always govern us as Christians, be we servants or masters.
Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.’
. . . This is the second grand motive that should govern the whole of our Christian life and living; namely, our accountability to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the realization of the fact that we are his slaves, and that we shall all have to render up an account to him. This is a principle which many dislike at the present time; indeed a dislike of this whole idea of accountability and judgment has been characteristic of much religious thinking during the whole of this present century. It is disliked, and has become most unpopular. People say, ‘Ah, but that is a very unworthy motive for living the Christian life. ‘ You should live the Christian life, they say, because it is a noble and exalted life. You must not live it in terms of the fear of hell or of the hope of being in heaven. You must live the life for its own sake, because it is so good and so wonderful. You find that sentiment in some of the hymns. They condemn what they regard as a mercenary and a selfish motive.
That kind of teaching came in about the middle of the nineteenth century. Men called ‘scholars’ began to say that the Bible was not divinely inspired in a unique sense, and they began to substitute for it their own philosophy. They put up ‘goodness, beauty, and truth’ in the abstract as the great principles for which men were to live, and they said it was not desirable that you should think of yourself at all. But that is by no means the Christian position; it is philosophy, idealism, but not Christianity. I say so because of the teaching of the New Testament, indeed I say so because of the teaching of the whole Bible. The Bible from beginning to end holds before us the idea of heaven and hell. It is God who appointed the two mountains — Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal — in order to teach a vital lesson to the Children of Israel when they entered their Promised Land. According to whether they obeyed him or not they would have blessing or cursing.
Our Lord himself taught this same truth, as seen in Luke chapter 12. The servants in his parable recorded in verses 42-48, are to be examined when the Master comes. Some are going to be beaten with a few stripes, some with many stripes. In other parables also he teaches the same truth, for example, the parable of the Foolish Virgins, the parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, and the parable of the Pounds in Luke 19. All were spoken in order to emphasize this idea of judgment and reward. In 1 Corinthians chapter 3 it is made quite plain and explicit — ‘Every man’s work shall be judged’, says Paul. The Christian teacher as a builder must be careful how he builds on the foundation that has been laid, because ‘every man’s work shall be made manifest’ (verses 11-15). Then, again in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 it is made very clear: ‘We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’ — we who are Christians — ‘that every one may receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad’ (verses 9-10). That is the New Testament teaching. We must therefore dismiss the false idealistic teaching. It is just here that it shows its cloven hoof. It represents itself as something better than the Scripture — a sheer impossibility!
But the highest, and most irrefutable argument in favour of this teaching is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 12, verse 3. There we read that even our blessed Lord himself was sustained by the thought of that which awaited him. We are exhorted to ‘lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us’ as we run this race; ‘looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame.’ ‘For the joy that was set before him!’ That was what helped him and sustained him.