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2 Corinthians 5:

7 For we live by faith, not by sight. ... (NIV)

10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (NASB)

The "we" refers to believers. At the judgment seat of Christ, what is the recompense for doing bad?

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  • I was looking up which translation of 2 Cor 5 was used--looks like both NIV & NASB, but please correct me if I'm mistaken May 1 at 17:04
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For believers, what is the recompense for doing bad?

Even the best of us will stumble. We are frail human beings who need God’s forgiveness. He, therefore, gracefully cleanses us through prayerful repentance (1 Jn. 1:7). Living our lives in Christ, we should understand that we have passed from being slaves of disobedience to become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18) as the children of God. Consider Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, which argues the point rather emphatically:

Colossians 1:21-22: “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet [Christ] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before [the Father] holy and blameless and beyond reproach…” (emphasis added).

Prior to faith in Christ, we were alienated and hostile to God. We were “engaged in evil deeds” just as the text reads in verse 21. That is how God sees everyone outside of Christ, irrespective of whether we consider them “good” or “bad.” That’s because, what we happen to think is irrelevant.

Elsewhere, Paul reveals the destiny of the saints, those who have turned from their sinful ways in the body:

2 Corinthians 5:8: “[We] are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

Our transgressions, whatever they may be, are promised to be forgiven through obedience to the Gospel (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7, 9, below). In stark contrast, there is no question that the faithless stand condemned before God.

When we chose to appropriate salvation through faith, our circumstances changed dramatically: we no longer stood condemned because we were cleansed. And, we must remain in that condition through prayerful repentance:

1 Corinthians 6:11: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God!”

Note the words: “washed,” “sanctified,” “justified.” Naturally, we must remain washed, sanctified, and justified, in the name of Christ to the very best of our ability.

To your point, we will be recompensed when we fail to obey God. Our lives will likely become more difficult; we may pay a great price for the consequences of sinful behavior. Disaster could soon follow, much of it intended to bring us back from the brink. God will move heaven and earth if He knows we can still be saved:

Hebrews 12:7: It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Naturally, we will all be tested: that is what this life is, a test of our faith in God. We should never expect to live a worldly, half-hearted life of faith because God does not hear the prayers of sinners (Jn. 9:31). Here is an unsettling reminder for us all:

2 Peter 2:21: "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them."

And this:

Hebrews 10:29: How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The great news for the steadfast believer is that they are saved as long as they walk in the Light because Christ and His Sacrifice continually perfects us:

1 John 1:7: “[But] if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (emphasis added).

If there is any ambiguity in this verse, God appears to have anticipated it:

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (emphasis added).

We are incapable of living perfect lives as flawed human beings but God purifies us. As we reach out to Him for help, He is simultaneously reaching down to give us a hand. He made us all and is painfully aware of our limitations. We often stumble and, again, must seek relief for our mistakes through prayerful repentance.

We must be ever diligent never to forsake our allegiance to God. When we stumble, we must get up, brush ourselves off, and look to God for relief and guidance.

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  • Agreed and upvoted +1. Except for the expression 'we ... chose to appropriate salvation'. This wording is foreign to the New Testament. Salvation is all of grace, not of man's will, in the slightest.
    – Nigel J
    May 2 at 15:31
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May I propose that what God has in mind is not a checklist, where we either score enough points to merit a passing grade or we fail, but rather, His fundamental concern is what we are becoming. This is expressed beautifully by John:

2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

That is not to say there are not clear steps along the path of becoming--Jesus Himself indicates that there are (e.g. John 3:3-5); but that going through the motions alone is inadequate and misses the point--Jesus made this abundantly clear to the religious leaders of His day (see Mark 7:15 and its larger context).

Thus, the recompense for doing bad can be considered in its immediate consequence and its eternal consequence:

  • Immediate consequence--it halts, diverts, delays one's process of becoming what they are capable of becoming.
  • Eternal consequence--as in Jesus' parables of the talents & the 10 virgins, there is a day of reckoning. If we have put off what we were here to do, we may find that the day comes and we, like the five foolish virgins, are not ready.

Jesus put it very well in parable form:

45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

That's a pretty potent recompense--to appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

I shared related (and potentially unpopular) thoughts on this site here, and a much more extensive discussion of grace and becoming on my YouTube channel here.

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