The Expository Files


Whose Judgment Matters?

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but
He who judges me is the Lord. 5 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 Cor. 4:1-5).

Some in Corinth had formed certain opinions or judgments about Paul. Paul's point in this passage is that man's judgment of him is one thing (a small thing), and the Lord's judgment is another, a judgment that really matters.

Paul was a steward. A steward is one who has been entrusted with the property of another (the master of the house) to be used according to the master's will. One fact about stewardship is that a steward is required to be faithful (trustworthy, dependable) in meeting his responsibilities as the master has ordered. Another fact about stewardship is that a steward is judged by his master and not by other stewards. The master determines whether the steward has been faithful or not. Other stewards may think their fellow steward is serving faithfully, or they may think he is failing in his service, but their judgment means nothing. What really matters is what the master thinks. Paul had been entrusted with the mysteries of God, the sum total of God's revelation. His responsibility as a steward was to proclaim the mysteries of God to a lost and dying world. Was Paul faithful as a steward of the mysteries of God? Others within the church may have thought Paul was not a faithful steward, but that didn't matter to him. Their judgment of him was a small thing. What did matter to him was the Lord's estimation of him and his stewardship.

This is not to say that Paul would have refused legitimate reproof and rebuke from other stewards. Paul understood that Christians are to help Christians be faithful in their service (Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). Paul helped Peter (Gal. 2:11-19). But a steward does not blindly accept the judgment of fellow stewards. What matters to him is his Lord's judgment.

Paul also said, “In fact, I do not even judge myself.” Paul was not saying he did not practice self-examination, but that even his judgment of himself was not the final say concerning the acceptability of his stewardship. He may have thought his work was wonderful, but what his Lord said was what really mattered. What was the Lord's estimation of his work?

There is a story about a woman who was a professional violinist. She played before a large audience of people and received a standing ovation. After the performance, a friend found her in her dressing room, weeping. “Why are you crying?” her friend asked. “You played beautifully! The people loved your performance!”

“They all loved it except for one man,” she said. “He didn't stand or even applaud.” Trying to cheer her up, the friend said, “He's just one man. What's one man against all the hundreds who thought you were wonderful?”

“You don't understand,” she said, “that one man is my teacher.” In her mind, if she did not please her teacher, she was a failure.

This is true of stewards of the Lord Jesus Christ. All Christians are stewards in that they have been entrusted with gifts and resources from God to be used in His service (Matt. 25:14-30). If we fail to please our Lord, then we are complete failures. We may please our brethren in the church, we may be pleased with ourselves, but what really matters is whether the Lord is pleased with us. If the church of which you are a part took a vote next Sunday on whether or not you are pleasing to the Lord and going to heaven, the vote they took that day would mean nothing, absolutely nothing, in the Day of Judgment. All that will matter on that Day is your Lord's evaluation of you.

As stewards of Jesus Christ, we can know if we are pleasing to our Master by reading His word (John 8:32; 1 Tim. 2:4; Eph. 5:17; 1 John 2:3-5). We can know if we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). We must compare ourselves with the standard that our Master has set for us, and not the standard that man has set. When we follow His standard, we can hear those words from our Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

By Lynn Huggins
  From Expository Files 18.10; October 2011