Paul mentions a solemn reality, which is appearing before the judgement seat. Normally we think of the Day of Judgement with regard to what will happen to the lost when they appear there and are sentenced by the Lord. Yet the passage here is not describing what will happen to the lost when they appear at the judgement. Instead, it focuses on the fact that the lives of Christians will be assessed then as well.
In order to explain how we should think about appearing at the judgement, Paul mentions several details for us to consider. The first is that Christ is our master. An obvious problem that can arise with issues of Christian liberty is that we can descend into thinking and acting as if each of us was master over our own decisions and the opinions of others. Instead we have to remind ourselves each time we express an opinion or perform an action, ‘What would Jesus say about this or do if he were here?’
The second detail is that Paul wants us to consider what will be important when we come to die. Things that will be important then should be the things that are important now. Many of the matters that disturb us now will be of no consequence then, so why should we become strident about them now. It is worth asking when we get involved in a disagreement, ‘Will this matter when my life comes to an end?’ Most disagreements would not have occurred if people remembered this question.
The third detail is that we should recall the reason for the mission of Christ. Paul says in verse 9 that Jesus is Lord because of what he did at the cross. His resurrection was the onset of his exaltation as Lord over the visible and the invisible kingdoms. Paul’s description of the exaltation of Jesus reminds us that no human finds himself outside of it. I suppose Paul is asking his readers to think, ‘Is my opinion that important when compared to what Jesus did? Does my practice obscure for others what Jesus did for them?’
Fourth, we should as believers remember that we shall give an account to God together. Each of us will stand before Jesus and hear his assessment of what we said and did whenever that happened. It is important to grasp that this judgement of believers is not about whether or not they will lose their salvation. Nevertheless, it is a serious prospect because we can lose out on potential rewards from Jesus.