Whether good or bad. That is, whether he did good or evil. Each person will receive according to his deeds, whether good or bad. It is from passages such as this that some American theologians have inferred that the only benefit the believer receives from Christ is the forgiveness of sin, and that being pardoned he is dealt with according to the principles of justice. Others, especially in Germany, have drawn from the same source the conclusion that the doctrine of Paul is that the merit of Christ cleanses only from the sins committed before conversion. If a Jew or Gentile became a Christian, his sins were blotted out, and then he was rewarded or punished, saved or lost, according to his works. The merit of Christ did not bring pardon for sin committed after conversion. This is very much the ancient doctrine that there is no forgiveness for post-baptismal sins. The benefits of Christ’s work, according to many of the ancients, are conveyed to the soul in baptism, but if once forfeited by sin can never be reapplied.
This gloomy doctrine, which belonged to the transition period that preceded the full development of the theology of the papal church, has been revived by the Roman Catholics of the present day. But according to the Scriptures, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, whether committed before or after baptism or conversion. It is a fountain to which we may come every day for cleansing. He is a priest who lives forever to make intercession for us and who always presents before God the merit of his sacrifice as a perpetual offering, typified by the morning and evening sacrifice under the law.
According to the anti-scriptural views mentioned above, when a person first comes to Christ his sins are forgiven, and he then begins afresh under the covenant of works and stands in the same relationship to God as Adam did before the fall. The condition of salvation is to him as it was to our first parent: “Do this and live.” Christ is of no use to him from now on. See Romans 6:14. But in truth, because of the one offering of Christ, by which those who believe are sanctified forever (that is, they are atoned for), God does not impute the penitent believer’s sins to him and condemn him. He is not judged by the law or treated according to its principles, for then no one could be saved. But he is treated as someone for all whose sins—past, present, and future—an infinite satisfaction has been made and who has a perpetual claim to that satisfaction as long as he is united to Christ by faith and the indwelling of his Spirit.
—Charles Hodge, 2 Corinthians, ed. Alister McGrath, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995), 2 Co 5:10.
Chiming in from his Institutes, Calvin writes:
“Paul commends the grace of God, in that he gave the price of redemption in the death of Christ; and he exhorts us to flee to his blood, that having obtained righteousness, we may appear boldly before the judgment-seat of God.”
“Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven.”