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1 Corinthians: The Church the World Needs | Judge Me!
November 7, 2021
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
1This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3But 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. 4For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore 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.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Paul is attempting to reign in the striving, self-promotion, and backbiting that plagued the Corinthian church and hindered its ability to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we have seen throughout Paul’s letter, Paul is addressing believers, fellow Christians, and not those outside of the church. He is calling them to embrace the power of the cross of Jesus and let the implications of Jesus’ death shape who they are as individuals and how they relate to one another. They are called to be a unified witness of the power of the gospel, yet sadly they are caught up in factions and divisions that further divide the church.
Paul, here, begins to speak of God’s judgment as a judgment we need. For Paul, God’s judgment offers us the hope and courage necessary to be the community of God’s people, because it means Christians need not be the primary and ultimate judge of one another as was evident in Paul’s time and ours.
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
God of righteousness, hear our prayer. We come before you with zeal in our hearts seeking justice for the wronged, hope for the downhearted, and healing for the afflicted. We strain to see your face and to behold the glory of your salvation. Transform us in your image that your grace and mercy may visit us this day. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 146
1Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!.
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
5Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.
6Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!
1. Looking at the Bible: What does the text say?
- Read each text twice. Each time listen carefully and notice what grabs your attention.
- In your reading and hearing of this passage, does it remind you of any other part of Scripture?
- How does Paul’s talk of judgement in v.1-5 serve as a culmination of all that he has talked about up to this point?
- What does it mean to be stewards? What are the ‘mysteries’ Paul refers to in v.1?
2. Looking at Jesus: Paul has spent much of his time and energy in the first three chapters of Corinthians grounding his identity and encouraging the Corinthians to ground their identity in Christ. Here, because Paul’s identity is in Christ. He can rest not in the judgment that others levy against him, but in the hope that the Lord will one day come and judge him and the world.
- Why is Jesus the judge that Paul needs and wants?
- Why should Jesus be the judge that we need and want?
- Why do we tend to avoid the promise that Jesus is our judge?
- How might his death on the cross shape our understanding of God’s judgment?
3. Looking at our Hearts: One of the primary reasons we don’t like the idea of a God who judges is because we think we are fit to judge others. We think we know better than God how to put the world back to the way it should be, including our own lives. Certainly the Corinthains felt they had been given the right to judge others. But Paul knows the human heart and knows that only God is equipped to judge our world because only he has the power to defeat evil and make all things new.
- Being a servant of Christ (v.1) is an expression of deep humility. How does Paul model humility for us?
- If we are not in the position to ultimately judge others, what place and responsibility do we have to make judgments on others and our world?
- How might the condition of our own hearts, modeled by the Corinthians, give us caution as we make judgments about others and the world?
4. Looking at our World: What are we to hope for?
- How does the Bible hold God's promise of future judgment and our hope together?
- Oftentimes we place our hope in our ability to judge and fix. the problems of the world. How does the gosepl compell us to place our future hope in Christ and his judgment?
Go forth, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not according to our works, but to God's purpose and grace.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1: Paul’s focus on judgment in this passage will likely be a major point of discussion in your group. God’s judgment is oftentimes misunderstood and avoided by Christians and non Christians alike. But N.T. Wright’s discussion on this passage in his commentary may provide some helpful perspective:
“There is going to be a final judgment. There has to be if God is a good and just God. It isn’t simply that there are wicked people out there who need punishment. It is that the world needs to be put to rights. You can’t read the newspapers and watch the television day by day and imagine that all is well in the world (as I typed this sentence, the main evening news came on the television, and it proved the point—more violence, murder, bitterness and injustice). There are some religious systems that try to make out that the world isn’t so bad after all, or, alternatively, that what we perceive as evil is just an illusion. But in Judaism and Christianity at least, this much is clear: the world is God’s good and lovely world, and evil is a real, powerful and horrible intruder into it. Sooner or later, God must and will put it to rights. Believing in God’s final judgment is actually part of believing that God is the good and wise creator, and that his kingdom will one day come on earth as in heaven. And when that judgment comes it will be seen to be just. It will bring to light everything now hidden, including the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts (v.5; see also Romans 2:12–16, 29).”
Question 2: Once again in the face of deep opposition in the Corinthian church Paul moves and lives with such confidence that’s not in himself but in Christ. Paul’s confidence, here, comes from the fact that the Lord is his judge. God’s grace, justice and sacrificial love seen most beautifully at the cross of Christ allow Paul to rest in the hope and promise of God’s judgment.
Question 3: Paul’s point here is that it is not up to the Corinthians and their factions and divisions to determine whether Paul is worthy to be called an apostle. They are not to judge him. The Lord will judge him, ultimately. Paul wants the Corinthians to see that as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, we are called to live with deep humility because we don’t own the treasure we’ve been given, we can only do with it what we are told.
Question 4: Paul’s hope in v.5 is that the Lord will bring to light all that is now hidden in darkness. Paul can face hardship, slander, deep division, prison, and the threat of death (all the forces of darkness) because ultimately he knows they will be defeated by the light of Christ. Therefore, present sufferings and struggles are recast in light of this future hope. This doesn’t mean that the ways we struggle and face darkness in our lives are easy now, but it does mean we can cling with assurance to the hope of the day when the Lord will return to bring heaven to earth and make all things new.