We continue our study of Paul’s letters this week with 1 Corinthians 4. In the beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said he had been informed there were quarrels among them about who they belonged to. They said they were either of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or of Christ. In chapter 3, Paul told them that the one who plants or the one who waters is nothing, but it is God who causes the growth.
Paul begins chapter 4 instructing them to regard him and his fellow workers as servants of Christ, trustworthy stewards delivering them the truths from God.
Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
v. 1-5 (NASB)
Paul gave warning against passing judgment, by giving special honor or being critical to others and ourselves. When we judge others or ourselves, we are making a determination based on our finite thinking, rather than relying on God’s infinite wisdom. Paul didn’t judge himself, because he knew God was more capable to judge him. If Paul had something in him that needed fixing, who would be better qualified to work on him than the One who created him.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Look at verse 5 above, where Paul said not to pass judgment before the time, but to wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. Could you imagine the God who created you giving you praise! How incredibly amazing is that! That’s why we shouldn’t judge ourselves by our own wisdom. We couldn’t fathom that we would ever be good enough to receive praises from God.
Paul continues warning them against judging by thinking more highly of themselves or of one minister and teacher over another.
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
v. 6-7 (NASB)
The Bible says that if anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves (Galatians 6:3). When we judge based on our own understanding, and compare and measure ourselves against each other, we deceive ourselves and fall into pride.
Paul closes admonishing the Corinthians to repent of their arrogance and pride, and to follow his example in humbly serving Christ.
You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
v. 8-21 (NASB)
We praise You for teaching us through the Apostle Paul’s example to let You be our judge. Your Word is what we measure ourselves and others by, not by our own measurement. If You say we are approved in Christ and will receive praise from You, we joyfully believe and accept that as truth, regardless of our feelings of unworthiness. Help us to lay down our pride and arrogance and humbly follow and faithfully serve You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
*This series will continue next week as we study 1 Corinthians 5. Have a blessed week knowing that you have been approved by God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ!