The Universal Accountability of All Christians

those-who-must-give-an-account-a-study-of-church-membership-and-church-disciplineThe following is an excerpt from “Those Who Must Give an Account” by John S. Hammett and Benjamin L. Merkle, professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“One of the most sobering thoughts flowing from the words of the New Testament is that on judgment day I will have to stand before Jesus Christ and give Him an account for every matter of stewardship that He entrusted to me. For years I was like many of the Christians I now seek to instruct concerning this grave and sober theme. I rejoiced in the fact that, as a sinner justified by faith, I was delivered from the wrath of God on judgment day: “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). I felt that judgment day would in some way not apply to me, and that I, like all other believers, would be spared any unpleasantness whatsoever on the day of accounting. But over the last decade of meditation on passage after passage of Scripture on what awaits us on that day, I have increasingly come to realize the seriousness of my full accountability to the Lord for everything He has entrusted to me.

The Scripture reveals that each Christian will be held accountable by Christ for everything He has committed to him or her. Paul asks the Corinthian Christians, “What do you have that you didn’t receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). This rhetorical question gets immediately to one of the key concepts of the Christian life: stewardship. A steward is a servant who is entrusted by his master with the responsibility to manage some of his possessions. Essential to the stewardship relationship is the concept that everything the steward is managing for his master still truly belongs to the master and that the steward must give an accounting for his management. Christ told several parables in which this basic relationship is at the center: the parables of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the Unforgiving Slave (Matt. 18:23-35), the Faithful or Unfaithful Servant (Matt. 24:45-51), the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), the Vineyard Owner (Matt. 21:33-43), and the Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-12). In each of these parables, the scenario is basically the same: an authority figure (king, master, homeowner, etc.) entrusts a servant (steward, manager, etc.) with something valuable, departs leaving the steward in charge and empowered to make decisions, then returns and calls the steward to account for the possessions the master entrusted. The steward’s standing and rewards or punishment are based on his faithfulness in managing the master’s possessions. This is the essence of stewardship – and all Christians are stewards.

Of what resources are Christians stewards? Simply put, we are stewards of everything the Lord has entrusted to us – our physical blessings (health, natural talents, time, money, possessions, relationships, opportunities, education) and our spiritual blessings (faith, the gospel, spiritual gifts, the Bible, every good sermon we have ever heard, etc.) All of these things, and all the others not mentioned, were entrusted by God to every Christian as a stewardship, and on judgment day we will have to give Him an account for what we did with them. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

It is therefore not just pastors but all Christians who must stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give Him a full account for everything He entrusted to them. The whole of the Christian life revolves around seeking to please the Lord on that day. Furthermore, the accountability will be complete, and there will be no secrets. “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known” (Matt. 10:26); “No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13). Sins of commission, acts of willful rebellion against the Lord’s commands, and sins of omission – acts of laziness, neglect, or forgetfulness – all will be open and laid bare; and we will each have to give an account to the Lord Jesus Christ for everything.” (pp. 207-08)

Sobering. May we live mindful of these things.

Brett

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