Christian Servants Can Be Accurately Judged Only By God (4:3-5)Now Paul talks about how he handles criticism, the often harsh judgments of those at Corinth, for example.
"I care very little if I am judged96 by you or by any human court.97 (4:3a)
Whether he is judged by church members -- or even a human court of inquiry -- Paul isn't concerned. Then he says something startling!
"Indeed, I do not even judge myself." (4:3b)
You know what he means. So often we are our own worst critics! Of course, we constantly critique ourselves so that we can improve. That's good. But Paul is talking here about a final, damning judgment. It's not that he didn't make mistakes. Of course he did. But Paul learned to leave the final judgment to God and not torture himself with guilt and a sense of shame and inadequacy. He applies grace to himself -- especially himself -- and is the healthier for it.
"4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (3:4-5)
Paul doesn't continue on with a guilty conscience. He is quick to ask forgiveness and move on. But he realizes that the human mind is capable of all kinds of rationalization of our actions -- rationalizations that we almost believe ourselves! So excusing ourselves doesn't settle the matter. God is the judge and will issue his final judgments -- and praise -- on the Day of Judgment. He alone can see our motives98, which are hidden to others, and often to ourselves.
Remember Samuel trying to discern which of Jesse's sons should be anointed king. He's wrong time after time. The Lord tells him,
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Later on, David himself prayed,
"You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart....
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:6, 10)
"May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, O LORD,
my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14, NRSV)
This gradual interior change is called sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit to build Christ's character in your heart. Pride can't see its own flaws, humility can, and grace can wash them away. Praise God.
Also, God alone can see and evaluate the fruit borne by your ministry, sometimes evident in lives only decades after your influence on that person. Prejudging the effectiveness of your ministry is futile. That is why we should "judge nothing before the appointed time" (3:5a). Leave it to God.
Notice the last part of verse 5:
"At that time each will receive his praise from God." (4:5b)
Sometimes we don't think we will deserve any praise. But you may be surprised. I'm taking a watercolor class that has a critique session every week when the teacher says some words about each of the students' paintings. Last week, John turned in a very amateurish painting, which I was sure would be severely critiqued. But the teacher didn't do so. She knew John -- his abilities, his weaknesses, and his style. And she spoke gentle words that took all that into account.
Dear friends, the Lord loves you. And on judgment day don't expect just harsh words. If you love him, you'll probably heart some words of praise and appreciation. We serve a great and gracious God!
Q2. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5) Why doesn't Paul care how others judge him? Why doesn't Paul judge himself? Why are our motives so important in God's judgment process? Do you see God as a harsh judge? An easy judge? Why?
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