The Corinthians and Their Apostles: Page 2 of 10 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness,
There is a time coming when the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart’s deeds of darkness that are now done in secret, and all the secret inclinations, purposes, and intentions, of the hidden man of the heart. The judge will bring these things to light. Those things that will be brought to light are not only vices, immoralities, and wickedness of all sorts committed in the dark, and which are tied to a deep feeling of shame, at least for the moral man; but there are also those hidden things of dishonesty, those secret skills and private methods which false teachers have made use of to conceal their false doctrines, and carry on their sordid plans to harm the truth, the souls of men, and the cause of Christ; these will be brought into the light in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Who both will bring to light the things which are now covered with impenetrable darkness?
The hidden things of darkness is the secret things of the heart, which is hidden in a place too dark to see. The next clause shows that this is the sense. He does not refer to the deeds that are done at night, or those proceedings which were acted out in the secret places of idolatry, but to the secret desires of the heart; and perhaps he means to gently insinuate that there were many things about the character and feelings of his enemies which would not stand up well to the revelations of that Day; the things now hidden in darkness. But the context here would indicate that the former is what the apostle intends. This includes acts which are now unknown and those principles of action which lie concealed in the recesses of the heart, where no human eye can reach them. When Jesus judges, it will be according to the motives of the heart, not only the outward action. This is another reason why human judgment is often wrong, and why Paul feels free to disregard the harsh judgment of the Corinthian Christians towards him.
and will make manifest the counsels of the heart:
The counsels of the heart were the views, intentions, ambitions, and the goals of these men who became preachers of the word. On the Day of Judgment, Jesus will reveal that these were not working for the glory of God, and the good of the souls of men, but for filthy lucre, popular applause, or some such mercenary view, or sinister purpose. It is a fearful and alarming truth, that no man can conceal his intentions beyond the Day of Judgment.
Our judgments now (like those of the Corinthians with regard to their teachers) are necessarily defective; because we can only see the outward acts, we cannot see their motives. "Faithfulness" (Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful;” 1 Cor 4:2; KJV) will have to be estimated, and the "Lord" will "justify," or reverse our judgments (“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord;” 1 Cor 4:4; KJV), according to the state of the heart.
The Lord Jesus Christ will manifest the counsels of the heart, of all hearts. Note, The Lord Jesus Christ must have the knowledge of the counsels of the heart, or else he could not make them manifest. This is a divine prerogative (“I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings;” Jer 17:10; ASV), and yet it is what our Savior takes upon himself in a very peculiar manner (“And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” Rev 2:23; KJV). Note, We should be very careful how we fault others, and how we live today when we have to appear before a Judge from whom we cannot conceal ourselves.
God is the ultimate source of all good. He is in Christ; and Christ is in God. As the final judge, Christ is the representative of the Godhead, so his decisions and awards are the decisions and awards of God. What the apostle says about his independence from human judgment, and his command not to anticipate the judgment of the Lord (“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man” 1 Cor 2:15, KJV.), is consistent with his frequent recognition of the right and duty of the church to sit in judgment on the qualifications of her own members. Here he is speaking about the heart. The church cannot judge the heart. Whether someone is sincere or insincere in his professions, whether his experience
is genuine or fake, only God can decide. The church can only judge what is external. If anyone claims to be holy, and yet is immoral, the church is bound to reject him, as Paul clearly teaches in a later chapter. Or if someone professes to be a Christian and yet rejects Christianity, or any of its essential doctrines, he cannot be received (A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” Titus 3:10, KJV.). But only the Searcher of hearts can judge the purposes of the heart. The hidden things ...
There must have been a very considerable group of church leaders, Paul's own converts, who, in Paul's absence, had become influential and self-important, and were trying to run away with the church. They had become haughty, overbearing, and boastful in their attitude toward Paul.
and then shall every man have praise of God.
This is a remarkable statement: “then shall every man have praise of God.” I believe that He is going to find something for which He can praise every saint of God. “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor,” (1 Cor 3:8; ASV). The word rendered in this clause as "praise" is “epainos,” which should be translated “reward,” or that which is due to him; the sentence which he deserves and ought to be pronounced on his character. It does not mean as our translation would imply, that every man will receive the divine approval at the Judgment which will not be true; but that every man will receive what is due him based upon his character, whether good or evil. This verse along with the preceding chapter (vv. 1-4) teaches the following:
1. That we should not be guilty of the harsh judgment of others.
a. The reason is that we cannot know their feelings and motives.
2. That all secret things will be revealed on the great Day, and nothing can be concealed beyond that time.
a. That every man will receive justice there. He will be treated as he ought to be. The destiny of no one will be decided by the opinions of people; but the doom of all will be decided by God. Therefore, how important is it that we are prepared for that Day; and how important is it for us to cherish feelings, and make plans, that do not involve us in shame and contempt!
3. A third reason arises from a conclusion reached as a result of the previous reasons. It is God's responsibility to appreciate every man according to his value, because he knows the secrets of the heart, which men for the most part are ignorant of. Therefore this judgment does not pertain to you. Only the lost (unbelievers) are present at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
a. One could not be praised above the rest, without the others being blamed: and he mentions praise rather than lack of praise, because the beginning of this dispute was this, that they gave more praise to some men than was appropriate.
4. And then everyone who appears at the “Bema Seat of Christ”—every faithful steward, will receive praise and rewards from God; rather, "his due praise and rewards," not exaggerated praise, such as the Corinthians heaped on their favorite teachers; "the praise" (according to the Greek) due for acts predicated on their motives. Then, not before: therefore wait till then—"Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain,” (James 5:7; ASV).
Shore's perceptive comment on this clause is: "God, unlike man who selects only someone for praise, will give to every worker his own share of approval." Moreover, it must not be thought that no blame will be assigned in the Judgment, because "The word rendered praise means “reward” in this place," indicating that God will reward every man according to his works "whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Some get the wrong impression from this clause and say that the apostle is teaching universal salvation; Johnson, for example remarked, "Wonder of wonders—every man shall have some praise from God!" However, with regard to Paul's probable reason for stressing praise rather than blame in this verse, is noted by Farrar: He was thinking of faithful teachers like Cephas, Apollos and himself, who were underrated by rival factions; and like all the apostles, he had a consistent tendency to allude to the bright side, rather than the dark side of judgment.
In the Book of Revelation Christ has a word of commendation for each of the seven churches of Asia Minor—with the exception of Laodicea, which was probably not really His church anyway. He had words of commendation for those churches in spite of their faults. And I think He will be equally gracious to each individual saint.