The idea that we will be judged according to works is a remarkably contentious one. It would seem that the thought of being “judged according to works” requires that God’s grace must be denied. In other words, to say that we are judged according to works is to say that our salvation is “works-based” (instead of “grace-based”). This might explain articles like this one that come to a conclusion that final judgement will “not be a judgment to determine whether or not a person will live eternally with Christ; it will rather be an assaying of the quality of a believer’s Christian experience.” Really? What does the Bible say?

How Scripture answers "Will we be judged according to works?"

Yes, we most definitely will be judged according to our works1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22. While Paul usually speaks of our works being good or bad/evil1,4,10,11,17, Jesus3 makes it clear that the works (Paul’s “doing good”5 or “deeds in keeping with repentance”14 allowing them to “take hold of that which is truly life”17) must be according to, or approved by, God (which Paul states in terms of “knowing the fear of the Lord1 and Peter does likewise15). It has always been so with God12,16,18,20,22, and actually how He defines His own “way”21. Likewise, Jesus’ multiple statements about this are unequivocal9,19 and Paul says there are “no exceptions”8. He further warns about being “deceived”11 into thinking the opposite might be true – a deception that could come from God Himself13!

Yes
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No

1

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ in order to receive what is due from our works, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of God, we teach others.  God knows those who are His, and I hope you also know.

Paul is speaking of the temporary state the Christian finds themself in – yearning to be “further clothed” but still in this “tent” in which we “groan” to be with Him (vss 1-4).

How does it apply here?

Final judgement will be based on what someone “has done” — either good or bad/evil.

2

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Why do you judge your brother and look at him with disdain?  Because we will all stand before the God in judgment, just as God spoke through Isaiah, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess God.”  Since we all will give account to God, let’s not pass judgment on each other any longer, putting obstacles in the way of a brother in Christ.

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome and a section dealing with disagreements on matters of opinion with those “weak in faith” (vs 1).  He illustrates with things that can be eaten (vs 2) and days that might be celebrated (vs 5).  His point is, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

How does it apply here?

Everyone will come before the Lord and “give an account of himself to God.” What would we be accounting for other than our deeds?

3

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

Not everyone who appeals to me will enter the kingdom of heaven; only the one that obeys my Father’s will.  On that [judgment] day, many will claim they did good works in my name, but I will denounce them saying, “I never knew you. Go away from me, lawbreakers!”

Jesus’ conclusion of his sermon on the mount (chapters 5-7). He goes on to give the illustration of the wise man – the one that does the things he hears from Jesus – versus the foolish man – the one that hears but does nothing.
How does it apply here?

Jesus isn’t saying here that works won’t be what is judged on “that day.” Rather, that works will be judged according to the standard of God’s will.

4

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
He [God] will judge all accordingly: eternal life for those that patiently do good and seek those things above, and wrath and fury for those that selfishly disobey God’s word. Anyone that practices evil will encounter tribulation and distress, but for anyone doing good glory, honor, and peace.  God judges all impartially since God doesn’t show favoritism.

Paul’s opening to his letter to Christians in Rome (primarily Gentiles) where he is spending time describing different types of unrighteous individuals and their eventual judgment by God for their deeds of unrighteousness.

How does it apply here?

Paul says that God will judge each person “acccording to his works.” Further, he says eternal life is the reward for good works, and tribulation for evil works.

5

One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Anyone taught the word must share back any teachings/corrections to the teacher as well. Let nobody be fooled, because God certainly won’t be.  A person will receive just as he puts out.  If he does carnal deeds, he will receive back corruption, but if he does deeds according to the Spirit, he will receive eternal life from the Spirit.

Throughout the letter, Paul has been encouraging Christians in the churches of Galatia – where he had recently traveled to for his first missionary journey to convert and establish these churches – to resist false teachers and remain faithful to their calling in Christ Jesus.  As he closes, he is imploring them to work together and help each other spiritually (vs 1), pointing out they all are subject to temptation if they grow weary and should be arrogant in their spirituality (5:26).

How does it apply here?

Paul, speaking to Christians, says that if they grow weary and give up on doing good works they will not receive eternal life.

6

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
It’s worthless for someone to say they believe but then don’t obey.  Faith can’t save by itself.  We understand that someone lacking clothing or food isn’t cared for by simply telling them to “be warmed and filled.”  We must give them the things they need.  Likewise, belief without obedience is dead.

James, the brother of Jesus, is writing a very practical letter to Christians of the “dispersion” (dispersed) when encountering trials and the testing of their faith.   He goes on to point out that even demons believed, calling those “foolish” that would consider themselves saved with “faith only”.

How does it apply here?

If faith alone cannot save, then it forces the conclusion that we are judged according to works. In other words, no works or bad/evil works are what determine a faith that’s not genuine.

7

Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him in keeping with his deeds.

Alexander the coppersmith harmed me [Paul] greatly.  The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

The closing comments of Paul’s second letter to the young evangelist Timothy.
How does it apply here?

Paul applies the principle of God’s ultimate judgement being according to one’s deeds.

8

Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people, because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ. For the one who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there are no exceptions.

Whatever you are doing do with enthusiasm to please the Lord instead of people, since He will give you your inheritance for a reward. Serve Jesus Christ. For anyone doing wrong will be repaid accordingly without exception.

Paul is encouraging the Colossians to “keep seeking the things above” (vs 1)  and imploring them to “put off” (vs 8) the sins of the world. He continues to give specific “in the Lord” behavioral instructions for wives (vs 18), husbands (vs 19), children (vs 20), fathers (vs 21), and slaves (vs 22).

How does it apply here?

Anyone doing wrong will be repaid accordingly by the Lord (therefore, in final judgement). He says there are no exceptions to this rule.

9

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

I [ Jesus] tell you that on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.  By your words you will be judged, and by your words you will be condemned.

Jesus is in the midst of his public ministry.  He is teaching harder sayings and the division between those that accept him and those that don’t is becoming more stark.  In the immediate context he is illustrating this truth about the final judgment with a tree that either produces good fruit or bad.

How does it apply here?

Jesus states that “on the day” of final judgement everyone will give account for their words (e.g. actions/deeds/works) and it is by these they will be judged, and possibly condemned.

10

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

It’s no surprise that Satan’s servants masquerade as God’s servants, since Satan himself pretends to be an angel of light.  In the end, they will all be judged by their deeds.

In his second letter to the young church in Corinth, Paul must defend his apostleship against what he calls “super-apostles” – false teachers discrediting the gospel message and Paul’s authority.

How does it apply here?

False teachers will be judged according to their [evil] deeds.

11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

You already know that those that do evil deeds will not enter heaven.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that they will!  This includes anyone that is sexually immoral (any sexual behavior outside of marriage), worships anything other than God, forsakes their spouse, practices homosexuality, steals, loves money, drinks excessively, gossips, or takes advantage of others will inherit heaven.

Paul is addressing the brethren of Corinth that are relatively new to the faith.  He is writing in response to several issues and challenges that have arisen in the congregation and reminds them that they have been “washed”, “sanctified” and “justified” in Jesus Christ (vs 11) and should act accordingly.
How does it apply here?

Those that practice unrighteous acts will not inherit heaven, but might be deceived into thinking they will.

12

The Lord has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds.
God has convicted Judah and will punish them according to their works.

God, through the prophet Hosea, is mostly preaching judgement to Israel (northern ten tribes) and their imminent destruction by Assyria.  Here a broader statement is made to include Judah (southern two tribes) or all of Israel (e.g. “Jacob”).

How does it apply here?

God has always judged His people according to their “ways” or “deeds”.

13

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
As a result, God sends a strong delusion in order that they will believe what is false and so be condemned from not believing truth but instead determined to sin.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful. He encourages them to not listen to the false teaching that Christ has already come (vss 1-3). Rather, they must endure through lawlessness that is “already at work” (vs 7) and the “lawless one” that Satan empowers (vs 9) and Jesus “will kill by the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (vs 8).

How does it apply here?

God might help us in our desire and insistence in practicing evil deeds (e.g. “unrighteousness”) which will lead to our being “condemned.”

14

Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

As a result, O King Agrippa, I [Paul] acted on the vision from heaven and preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and all Judea, and then finally to the Gentiles.  I preached the gospel message: that they should turn their lives to God by performing deeds of righteousness.

Paul has been arrested (21:33) upon his return to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey.  He is giving his defense to King Agrippa and recounting his conversion story before appealing to Caesar as a Roman citizen and being taken to Rome.

How does it apply here?

Turning to God (e.g. conversion) is performing deeds consistent with their conversion.

15

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

If you call on God as your Father who impartially judges each person according to his/her works, make sure to behave with fear (e.g. obedience) throughout your sojourn on earth.  Remember you were set free from the futile ways passed down from your forefathers, bought not with perishable, material things but with the precious blood of Jesus, who like an innocent lamb was sacrificed.

Peter is writing to Christians in difficult times, reminding them to continue in their faith in Jesus. He says they should be “as obedient children” (vs 14) and be prepared for “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs 13).

How does it apply here?

God judges all impartially according to their works.

16

I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

I am the Lord God that searches and tests all men’s ways in order to reward them accordingly, whether good or bad.

In a broader condemnation of the sins of Judah, God (through Jeremiah) begins a comparison of a “cursed” man (vss 5-6) and a “blessed” man (vss 7-8). Verse 5 really begins the thought specifically regarding the heart, namely describing the cursed man as one that trusts in man. Conversely, the blessed man is one that trusts the Lord.
How does it apply here?

God evaluates and tests man’s deeds, judging him accordingly.

17

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

They [the rich] are to be rich in good deeds, being generous and ready to share their wealth.  As a result, they will build for themselves a good foundation for the future enabling them to secure eternal life.

Paul’s instructions to Timothy, a young preacher, on what to advise the rich in “this present age” (vs 17).
How does it apply here?

The rich are instructed to be rich in good works so as to not jeopardize their salvation (or, taking “hold of that which is truly life”).

18

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
God will judge every deed, even those done in secret, whether good or bad.

A book of wisdom from “the Preacher” (many believe to be Solomon). The very wise and wealthy “Preacher”, having done all things “under the sun”, shares his treatise on life and worldly pursuits – it is all vanity.

How does it apply here?

God will judge every deed, even those done in secret.

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