PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Stop Judging!

08/04 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 Stop Judging!; Audio available at:

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ.2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ.3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω·4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν.5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Corinthian believers are involved in quarreling, division, jealousy and strife, much of it centered in groups formed around a favorite teacher or leader. Paul is addressing the true nature of Christian leaders. He describes himself and other leaders as under-rowers, those who labor in unison alongside others on the lowest deck, propelling the ship forward, following the orders of the one Captain, Christ. He describes himself as a steward, or household manager, a custodian of the mysteries of God. He was a slave under the authority of his one Master, given a responsibility, entrusted with the good news of a crucified Messiah, and having been entrusted with this great responsibility, he must prove trustworthy. Faithfulness is a requirement for leaders. The question is, who is qualified to judge faithfulness? The Corinthians are eager to pass judgment on their leaders, choosing one over against another.

Judging is a hot issue today. It seems that none of us want to be judged by anyone else. What I do in my own private life is no one’s business but mine. In many circles, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged” are better known and more often quoted than John 3:16. Just try this: when one of your Christian friends posts something foolish on facebook, gently, humbly, in love, post a reproof. See what kinds of comments are generated. (For that reason, I would recommend getting together for lunch, dropping by their house, calling them on the phone to come along side them and address the issue, rather than commenting on facebook or by e-mail).

And yet, ironically, it seems that everyone has their own opinion about everybody else. Can you believe what so-and-so is doing? The media thrives on digging up the dirt about a public figure. Whole organizations and websites are devoted to exposing and discrediting leaders. Criticism of people in leadership is the common currency of so many of our own conversations.

It is to this issue of judging that Paul turns his attention in verses 3-5, and gives some much needed perspective on this hot topic. He addresses issue of judging others and being judged, of self-examination and issues of conscience, and whose judgment ultimately matters.

Judged by the Church

Paul says that it it a very small thing for him to be judged by the people in the church he planted. He says it is the least. The smallest. He doesn’t say it is nothing, or completely without significance, but only one tiny step up from that. What they think of him means next to nothing to him. He simply doesn’t care very much about people’s opinions of him.

Judged by Human Courts

Then he says that it is a very small thing to be judged by any human court. Paul would stand before many human rulers in his day. He would stand before Jewish authorities and Roman rulers. He would even stand trial before the emperor himself. And he considered this next to nothing. When he stood before the Christian leaders in the Jerusalem church, he refers to them as “those who seemed influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) (Gal.2:6). He spent time under arrest, in prison, and ultimately surrendered his life as a witness to Jesus. What any human authority decided about him meant next to nothing to him.

Self-Examination and Conscience

Paul says “I do not even judge myself.” Paul knew that it is futile to spend too much energy on introspective self-examination. The word he has been using in this passage for ‘judge’ means a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, an interrogation. Quite honestly, too much introspection is downright discouraging and depressing. How much better to ‘fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb.12:2)

The Failure of Conscience

The conscience can be a helpful guide, but my conscience may be inaccurately calibrated. The Bible says that our conscience can be seared (1Tim4:2) which means that it can be made numb to things it ought to be sensitive to. The conscience of some can be weak, easier to ignore than others with a more robust conscience. The conscience can be wounded by violating it (1Cor.8:7-12). Some may have a hyper-sensitive conscience, that troubles them even when God clearly says that they are in the right (1Jn.3:20)

Your conscience should continually be being shaped and adjusted and corrected by the word of God, but it is never wise to go against your conscience.

The limitations of Self-examination

Paul says ‘I am not aware of anything against myself.’ Not being aware of anything does not mean that there is nothing to be aware of. Paul spoke of his own experience as a Pharisee and said “as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil.3:6), but when Jesus met him and opened his eyes to the truth, he saw himself as foremost of sinners (1Tim1:15), and his own self-righteousness he saw as rubbish (Phil.3:7-8), offensive to the God he was trying to impress. The Psalmist, aware of the limitations of his own self-examination, cried out:

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Even if my conscience is clear and I can think of nothing against myself (and most often that is not the case) that does not justify me. I cannot declare myself righteous based on my own clear conscience. To have a healthy self-image is not the primary goal. There is something greater than my own estimation of my self-worth. Justification, the legal standing of righteousness before the Judge of all the earth, comes not through our own efforts, but only through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The Lord is My Judge

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The Lord Jesus is the Judge. The reason Paul puts little stock in what others think of him or even what he thinks of himself is that he has only one Master and only one Judge. There is only one to whom he is ultimately accountable. When you get that – when you really get that in your bones, it will set you free. When you get that in the core of your being that only what Jesus thinks of you matters, it will free you from the slavery of what others think of you. It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me; it only matters what Jesus thinks of me. When you most care about what Jesus thinks of you, you are free to be who you were created to be, free to be the real ‘you’. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). When you know who your Master is, and you know who your Judge is, you no longer have to waste time and energy worrying about what other people think of you. You can focus all your resources on pleasing that one Master.

Stop Judging!

So Paul tells the Corinthians to stop judging! Apparently they were already hard at it, forming opinions about who was more godly than whom, who was the better communicator, who was more right, who was more effective, who had less flaws, who was more worthy to be followed. Paul says ‘stop it! Stop judging!’ And he gives several good reasons why they should not become expert at judging others.

All Human Judgments are Presumptive

The main reason all human judgments are fundamentally flawed is that we are not given that responsibility. We were not appointed as final judges of one another. Paul says in Romans 14

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:10 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; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

God is the judge. God is the one to whom we will all give account.

All Human Judgments are Premature

The second reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that it’s not yet time. It’s not over yet; the time to judge has not yet come. It’s not over ’till it’s over. Some may start this race very slow and falteringly, but end strong. Others who start strong and seem promising may crash and burn somewhere along the path. Faithfulness cannot be judged mid-race. The Lord is coming, and he will judge at the proper time. That time is not yet.

All Human Judgments are Partial

Another reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that we don’t know everything and we don’t see everything. Some things are hidden. Nobody knows everything. Nobody sees everything. Even if someone could see everything, they could not always accurately determine the motives of the heart. God does see everything and he knows everything, and he can without fail determine the hidden purposes of the heart. His is the only judgment that is absolutely accurate and true.

We do not have the right to be constantly critical, critiquing and condemning godly Christian leaders.

It is Our Responsibility to Judge

Does this mean we have no biblical room for judging anyone ever? Keep in mind that the word for judging in this chapter is a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, and the context is weighing one leader against another to see who is more worthy to be followed.

In the very next chapter, Paul hits the issue of someone who claims to be a believer who is persisting in sin. He says ‘I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing’ and it is your responsibility to judge those inside the church. Someone who refuses to listen to correction and persists in sin is a corrupting influence, and they should be removed. So clearly Paul is not saying that we can never pass judgment on a brother or sister in Christ. Rather he says that it is our responsibility, and it is to be done with the goal of repentance and restoration always in view.

But does this mean we can never judge a leader in the church? In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul expresses concern that a teacher who comes preaching a different Jesus or a different gospel might be welcomed by the church. He calls these satanic deceivers disguised as apostles of Christ. So it is clear that he expects the church to be discerning about doctrine and careful to judge between true and false teachers.

Paul even called Peter out publicly when he was acting hypocritically and the truth of the gospel was at stake.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all,…

In 1 Timothy, Paul commends elders who rule well as worthy of double honor, and then he cautions against receiving an accusation against a leader too quickly.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

So even church leadership is to be held accountable by the church, but it is to be done cautiously and carefully.

What about judging ourselves? Paul says he does not scrutinize himself. But in chapter 11, he warns about selfishness and division in the celebration of the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

So we are encouraged to do some self-examination and self-judging, not to see who is better than whom, but to make sure we are really remembering Jesus and his death together with our blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul is warning those who are persisting in sin and resisting his correction. He says

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

For someone who is willfully persisting in sin, it is appropriate for them to question the reality of their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus did say ‘judge not, that you be not judged’ (Mt.7:1) in the context of hypocrites who are attempting to take a speck out of their brother’s eye when they have a log jammed into their own eye. A few verses later he tells us to

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

He also said

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Each One Will Receive His Praise From God

God is the one who brings to light things hidden in darkness and discloses the purposes of the heart. With that sobering reality in mind, it is amazing to see how this passage ends.

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

We might expect it to say ‘each one will receive his condemnation from God’, because that is what we all deserve. But it says that each one will receive his commendation, each one will receive praise from God! Jesus said that “whoever believes in him is not condemned” (Jn.3:18) and whoever believes …does not come into judgment” (Jn.5:24).

All who have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will receive not judgment or condemnation, but praise, much praise, applause, a loud and clear acclaim of commendation; we will hear our Master say to us:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This is not what I deserve, but by God’s grace, this is what he promises to me!

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

August 4, 2013 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: