Text: 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

We often go through life being judged by others as well as passing
judgment on others. Employees are assessed by their bosses. Students are
assessed by their teachers. Children are assessed by their parents and
relatives. As our livelihood seem to depend on the judgment of others, we
become fixated on what men would think of us, placing excessive weight
on the judgment of men. We will spare no effort to get into the good books
of men, especially if they are men of influence and renowned.

Alas, the same phenomenon takes place commonly in the church. As we
serve among one another in the church, it is inevitable that we will be
scrutinised intensely by others. We will receive both praise and criticism
from others. How should we respond to these words?

In 1 Corinthians 4:3, the Apostle Paul declared, “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.” The Greek word for “judged” is anakrinō,
which is a legal term and it describes how one is judged before a court or a
committee of inquiry. Indeed, often times in the world, we may feel that
we are being placed before the court of men to be scrutinised and

Despite this scrutiny from men, Paul declared it to be a very small thing to
be placed under such judgment. These are not words of arrogance or
bravado, but a principle by which every Christian should abide by. Paul is
not saying that we should take any valid criticism lightly. Rather, Paul is
teaching the Corinthian Christians that the judgment of men is often made
with tainted glasses. They may sometimes not mean what they say. Even if
they are sincere with their words, their assessment of a man’s faithfulness
may not be entirely accurate, as even man is a finite creature. There is only
so much they can know and assess. Their understanding of each person’s
situation and weaknesses may also not be perfect. Therefore, whenever we
receive praises, we must not let those words puff us up. We must never
labour simply to get the praise of man (Gal 1:10). At the same time, we
must not be depressed when wrongly or harshly criticised. Was not our
Master called “Beelzebub” during His earthly ministry (Matt 10:25)? The
opinions of men ultimately do not matter.

Moreover, Paul was also wary of trusting in his self-appraisal. As the sin
principle still dwells within us, we are very much liable to deceive
ourselves and to excuse our own faults. We may see the faults of others
clearly, but not ours! Knowing how we are often not objective in
evaluating ourselves, we must submit ourselves to the assessment of an
impartial judge.

Who then is this impartial judge? It is none other than God Himself, who
is infinite in knowledge, and rules with perfect justice. Moreover, as we
are His lowly servants, it is His judgment that ultimately matters. He sees
what others cannot see. Nothing is hidden from Him. Every Christian will
one day be judged by God. 2 Corinthians 5:10 declares, “For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive
the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it
be good or bad.” This is also known as the judgment seat (or Bema) of
Christ, whereby all that we have done in this world will be judged,
whether it will be wood, hay and stubble, or gold, silver and precious

The implication for us is that we must strive to be approved wherever we
go – at home, in school, at work or in the church. Yea, we must serve
carefully in a manner that is, “approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim

On the other hand, the fact that God’s judgment is ultimately the one that
matters, should also teach us not to be judgmental. This does not mean
that we should not judge anything in this life. When Paul wrote that the
Corinthian Christians should “judge nothing before the time” (1 Cor 4:5),
he was not teaching them not to judge at all. A believer must exercise
spiritual discernment and “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He
must reject that which is evil and embrace that which is good.

What Paul was concerned was of a judgmental spirit and holier-than-thou
attitude, which was present in some of the Corinthian believers (recall the
Christ party in 1 Corinthians 1:12). Such attitudes must be addressed, or it
will stumble the brethren, and destroy the unity of the church. Such a
judgmental spirit was summarised by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount –
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to
you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye,
but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou
say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold,

a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out
of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out
of thy brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5).

It is not right for a believer to engage in ungodly suspicion of the
intentions of others. Let the Lord judge the thoughts and intentions of the
hearts of men, for it is the Lord, “who both will bring to light the hidden
things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts”.
Everyone of us will be judged of the Lord. Therefore, let us make sure our
own hearts and actions are pure before the Lord. Aim to build up one
another in the faith instead. “Let us therefore follow after the things
which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify
another” (Rom 14:19).

It is interesting to note that Paul applies this passage especially to the
ministers (i.e. leaders of the church) including himself. Thus, Paul told the
Corinthian Christians, “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.” (1 Cor. 4:6) Let no man exalt
himself above one another, neither exalt any man and put him on a
pedestal. Let Christ alone be glorified.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew