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  • Writer's pictureLaura Neal

August 20th, 2023: Judgement in the Kingdom- 1 Corinthians 4:1-6, 17-21

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

In the book of I Corinthians, Paul takes a very serious tone with the believers in the Corinthian church. They were allowing false prophets, sexual immorality, gossip, and corruption to enter their assembly. The truth is that the church is made up of sinners who have been redeemed. In the first century and in the twenty-first, the message is sometimes drowned out by our messes. It is very encouraging to me that the second letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian church took a very different tone. They had heard his rebuke, and they had repented. One cornerstone of the Christian life is that we can hear the truth of God and respond to it with repentance instead of anger and disrespect.


In verse one, Paul is doing what few in church leadership are bold enough to do; he is inviting the believers in Corinth to take a close look at him and examine his life. Recognizing that there are no super-Christians, only born-again believers who are striving to be more like Christ, he readily admits that he is not above reproach, he is merely a steward, or a caretaker, of the mysteries in the word of God. The word mysteries here is an interesting study all on its own. The mysteries are the truths placed in the universe at the time of its creation, the unchangeable, undefeatable, unerring words of God that mankind has misunderstood, changed to fit their liking, or utterly ignored throughout the ages. Paul then says that the role of a minister is to see the big truth behind a world riddled with confusion.


2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

The job of a steward is to act in the authority, the will, and the spirit of the Master. Really, the entire job is to be faithful to represent the one you work for, the one you are called to serve. The steward of a household doesn’t run it to suit himself but does all things to the standard and the glory of the householder. As Paul invites the Corinthians to examine his life and ministry, he also confesses that anything that is not faithful in his life to the purpose of glorifying Christ should be ignored.


3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

They were welcome to examine, but ultimately Paul is concerned only with whether or not the Lord was pleased with him. I love that he says, “I judge not my own self.” There are times when harsh judgment from others whose opinions we value can crush us, but often the cruelest judgment we endure comes from within. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were not qualified or authorized to really judge even themselves, but Christ alone, their redeemer, was the only one who could rightly judge.

5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

The one Bible verse that everyone in our modern age knows is, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” If only they understood it as well as they quote it. If the meaning of that verse was that no one could label actions right or wrong, then the entire book of I Corinthians would be in violation of it, along with the rest of the new testament. Paul listed the sins of this church and the consequences for them. Through discernment, the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit, Christians are required to stand for righteousness and against evil. Peter made clear that we are to please God and not men. But to judge motivation, to judge whether another is saved, to judge the future outcomes, and to pronounce damnation on others, we are neither qualified nor authorized to do. When the time is right, God will separate His own from His enemies. We don’t have enough information to judge righteously. God has called us to stand for truth but also to extend grace and mercy.

6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

This is really the heart of the matter. When we judge in the wrong way, we are doing it with the wrong heart. We are not concerned with rebuilding the other person or loving them. Primarily, the lion share of the judging we do is to make us feel better about our own behavior and to increase our stature in the eyes of others. It’s motivated then by what God hates and has called an abomination, the sin of pride. When Paul wrote to the church, he spoke the truth boldly, but he did so out of a great love for them and an impassioned desire that they would turn fully to God and be all that God could make them to be.

17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

One of the first songs I remember singing with my dad in the living room of my grandparent's house is a song called Remind Me. The lyrics say,

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then,

Show me where you brought me from and where I could have been,

Just remember I’m human and humans forget,

So, remind me, remind me, dear Lord

The Church needs reminding. But for the grace of God, we would all be lost. If it weren’t for His infinite compassion, His limitless mercy, and His precious timely grace, we would be eternally lost. If we don’t keep hearing the truth of that, we forget where we came from, and we judge others with an ignorant cruelty that makes us look not only evil but foolish. Paul sent Timothy to Pastor the church in Corinth to keep them in remembrance of the Truth of God and the message of the gospel. Paul’s instructions, which were in Christ, needed to be applied when it came to Godly discipline and behavior. Paul was a church planter, an evangelist, and an apostle of God. Timothy was a pastor. Pastors stay, faithfully, they are called to instruct, to remind, to encourage, and to correct. In our modern church, we don’t accept much church discipline. Many are quickly offended and leave when the pastor needs to address issues of sin with them. Many go from church to church looking for someone to boost their self-esteem or entertain them. The church is not performance theater, the church is a body fitly framed together. It’s a place to be healed, a place to be fed, and a place to grow, but let us never forget that it is a place of repentance. The Bible tells us that God corrects His children. That’s how you know you belong to the Father, He cares enough to show you when you are wrong.

18 Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.

The boldness of Paul in Christ is conveyed in those verses. He knows that there are weak-spirited and loud-mouthed men in the church of Corinth who are trying to intimidate him and keep him from coming to them with the truth they need to hear. He isn’t afraid of them. They are all talk, taking advantage of young and undisciplined members of the congregation and leading them into error. Paul says, I’m not coming in puffed up words, like those they speak, I’m coming in the power of God.

20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.

21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Sometimes the word of God is gentle, and sometimes, the word of God is a rod of iron. It often depends on whether God’s children are walking in rebellion or seeking to worship Him humbly. Either way, the word of God doesn’t change. It is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.

It isn’t in the multitude of words that we say that God performs His will, it is in the Power of the person of the Holy Spirit that operates through a humbled believer. God can use anyone, anywhere, anytime, to accomplish His purpose, and we can boldly take a stand for the Truth in this world, in the right way, with effectiveness, if we allow Him to lead the way.

Thank you for studying with us! God bless!


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