Most people voted yes in yesterday’s poll which asked:
Did Paul believe that God would judge the elect?
Yes. Paul believed that God would judge both the righteous and the wicked. Christians were guaranteed salvation, but they might still be punished for bad deeds.
No. Paul believed that God would judge only the wicked. Christians would appear before God at the judgment and give an account of themselves, but would be waved through after receiving their reward.
I kept the poll open for about 24 hours, and 25 readers voted.
17 (68%) voted yes.
8 (32%) voted no.
I’m in the minority with the nay-sayers but with a qualification.
Of the key texts in question, I Cor 3:10-15 makes the strongest case for “yes”. As an anonymous commenter mentioned, Paul speaks of those being “saved, but only as through fire”. However, as an offline correspondent pointed out, this passage is really about church founders, not believers in general. Paul was saying that churches founded by rival apostles leave much to be desired, and are subject to judgment. The “builders” of these churches may be saved in the end, but will suffer serious punishment (“through fire”) for leading others astray. Paul apparently held pastors like himself to a higher standard than lay believers who would not be judged.
For, as I mentioned in the first post (following Philip Esler), Rom 8:33-34 implies that no charge will be brought against God’s elect. Once we appreciate what Paul meant by “righteousness”, this is easy to understand. Righteousness was a form of ascribed honor, or privileged/blessed identity. It had nothing to do with forensic/declaratory categories, nor behavioral/ethical ones. The righteous were acceptable to God, period. Their righteousness was gifted to them not because they’d done anything to deserve it, but because God had chosen them (Rom 4, 9). They would not be charged at the judgment: they would give an account of themselves, and then be waved on after receiving their reward. For better or worse, that seems to be what Paul believed.
It was competition and rivalry which brought out nuance in Paul’s theology of the judgment — much as we might expect of a Mediterranean macho man. His belief that God would (naturally) not judge the elect whom He had righteoused was tempered by growing convictions that the deity might very well make certain apostles “pay the price” for misleading people in ways that were not pleasing to Paul.