on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secret hearts of men.
Paul uses a simple little pronoun, but I think it speaks with a loud voice. He says, "according to my gospel." What I don't think he means here is that the Gospel is his, that he owns it or created it. What I do think he means is that there is the Gospel that he preaches, and the gospel that others preach.
Paul's Gospel is what he received from Jesus Christ himself. Who better to explain the Gospel to than someone who was so knowledgeable of the Old Testament? Paul was a perfect choice for this assignment, but not a perfect choice for a disciple of Jesus' ministry.
Can you see how that might have played out? Eleven of the disciples walking with Jesus through the fields with Jesus on the Sabbath, plucking the heads of grain and eating them (Matthew 12:1-8), and Paul, lagging behind admonishing the others, "You shouldn't be harvesting on the Sabbath, guys!"
But after it was finished, Jesus taking Paul and showing him how it all fit together, how the Old Testament was fulfilled in Himself. No wonder Paul was so strong in the faith! Oh the wisdom and the sovereignty of God.
So according to Paul's Gospel, God judges the secrets of men. In other words, God knows our hearts. There are those who preach a gospel different from Paul. Preachers who, either for bad motives or because they just don't get it, preach a weak, impotent gospel message. And he is saying God knows! He knows men's hearts. He knows if you are passionate about Christ or just going through the motions.
I was listening to a podcast recently where the preacher was using Romans 12:1 as his text. He was preaching about the life-change that one should pursue as a follower of Christ. Good stuff. Until he said, "We don't need to beat ourselves up, we don't need to pretend we haven't done anything good for the Lord, because most of us have. We don't need to go on a guilt trip. We all know that nobody's perfect."
So close...and perhaps so far. Just as men were perhaps getting "cut to the heart," (Acts 2:37) we soften the blow. Rather than encourage people to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling," (Phil. 2:12) we let them off the hook. Maybe because such words might not be the way to grow the church. Whatever the case, such words are not a part of Paul's Gospel nor mine.