Sunday, 18 May 2014
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5
Paul has been speaking of matters of doctrine and he is continuing on in this regard. It is similar to what Jesus said in one of the most misapplied verses in all of Scripture, Matthew 7:1, 2 –
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Jesus was not implying that we weren’t to make judgments against others on matters of morals, ethics, or adherence to the word of God. In fact, within just a few short sentences of His words, he noted to us that we are to be firm and steadfast in making right moral judgments. Paul cites a similar thought in Romans 2:1 –
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
Our judgments and our decisions are to be based on what God decides rather than on our own perverse machinations. Understanding this, Paul begins with “therefore.” This is given in anticipation of us returning to see why he will now state what he states. He just finished indicating his belief in his innocence concerning proper doctrine, but just because he felt innocent, it didn’t mean he actually was. Instead, the Lord would determine that.
Because of his uncertainty in this matter, even though he felt convinced, he now adds to that thought by saying “judge nothing before the time.” Again, this isn’t asking us to not make right judgments but to exercise care in our determination of why someone is taking a particular course of action. A good example of this is when Jesus sat and spoke with prostitutes and other “sinners.” If one were to judge by mere appearances, they would think He was like them because of His association with them. However, the appearances would be faulty.
In like manner, Paul made his presentations, Apollos made his, and Peter made his. Divisions arose among those in Corinth based on who they approved of, but in fact all three were working towards the same end. Making such limited judgments only caused harm, not edification. In the end, each will receive his reward when “the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveals the counsels of the hearts.”
These two thoughts parallel each other. “The hidden things of darkness” are those things we conceal. What we may put forth as our motivation for a deed may actually not be at all what truly motivates us. The “counsels of the heart” refers to this same concept. Our heart directs us, it guides our emotions and our desires, and it is what we cannot search out in another, only the Lord can (as the Bible shows numerous times and in both testaments.)
And so it is the Lord who will do the searching and it is the Lord who will judge us for rewards and losses. At that time “each one’s praise will come from God.” This word “praise” is from the Greek epainos and denotes the idea of a reward which is due. When the Lord does His great search of our hearts, motivations, and doctrine, He will pronounce the sentence fairly and with justice based on that.
Life application: Truly, we cannot know the motivations behind the actions of another. At times we might feel certain, but in the end we may actually be proven wrong. Therefore, let us withhold such judgments, allowing the Lord to do His work without our prior interference.
Great and awesome God! How good it is to know that You have everything under control. I don’t need to worry about the things the world finds troubling. I don’t need to feel stress or concern about the sad direction of nations, governments, or society in general. In the end, these things are temporary, but You O God are eternal. In what shall I worry? My hope is in You, the Living God! Amen.