Servants of Christ and their Work: Part 4 of 4 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
An honest man will not be guided by the opinion of others, but he will do what he thinks is right. It is a brave formula. It is a noble rule. Yet Paul said that he didn’t follow it: “… I don’t value my opinion of myself … but that doesn’t justify me before God” (1 Cor. 4:4, PHILLIPS). It wasn’t that Paul knew some bit of evidence against himself. On the contrary, he says he knew nothing against himself, but that still didn’t clear him before God. It is characteristic of our human nature to be harsh on others and very lenient with ourselves.
That was David’s problem. He could see the evil in someone else, but he couldn’t see it in himself. How about us? When others hold tenaciously to some opinion, we call them contentious, but when we do it, we are showing the courage of our convictions. Others cause divisions and make trouble, but we are standing for what is right. Others are backslidden when they forsake God’s house, but we have a good reason. You know we are not very apt to be severe upon ourselves. We always like to cast ourselves in a leading role, and generally we distort it.
No, we do not stand or fall before ourselves. God may reverse the decision of this second court, the court of our own conscience.
There is a third court before which we must stand; but we will discuss that one at the end of this chapter.
yet am I not hereby justified:
Paul recognized that even he was not competent to adequately examine himself, because he may be deceived, and that he does not stand in a perfect state of justification or innocence just because he was not aware of any failure in doing his duty and because his conscience was clear. He knew that God the Judge could see his imperfections where he could see none, and that his righteousness came from Jesus, not from his own personal life—even though he had a godly walk. Arthur Custance observes, “Man is totally irrational in his attitude and assessment of his own nature. He is a fallen creature with a heart that is desperately wicked above all else—“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9; KJV)—and a mind that has to be renewed from all fault and blame, which might possibly escape his knowledge and observation; for in many things all offend, and no man can understand all his errors; and there might be some mistakes which the apostle was not privy to, or conscious of; and were he even free from all, he declares, that such an unstained integrity, in the discharge of his ministerial work, was not the matter of his justification before God, nor did he depend upon it: “And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2; ASV). (A. C. Custance, Man in Adam and in Christ, p. 17).
but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
This is a third court before which we must stand (see above)—“he that judgeth me is the Lord.” The Supreme Court is the one and only Master; it is the bema or the judgment seat of Christ. Paul says that he is going to stand someday before the judgment seat of Christ. Each one of us will appear before that judgment seat. (He will say more about this in chapter 5 of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians.)
What is going to be judged there? We know that we will not be judged for our sins because a believer’s sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12; KJV). Our sins are under the blood of Jesus Christ and God remembers them no more. The believer will be judged for his stewardship. All our physical possessions—our bodies, our material resources, our giving—these are the things that will be brought up for judgment. So you can see that being a faithful steward is very important.
After all, we own nothing. We have learned before that all things are Christ’s and that we belong to Him. We are in partnership with Him. We saw at the close of chapter 3 that all things are ours (v.3.22). Paul is ours and Apollos is ours, Calvin is ours and John Wesley is ours and Martin Luther is ours and Billy Graham is ours. This world we live in is ours—we can enjoy the beauty of its scenery, the mountains, the trees, the ocean, and life itself. (I wouldn’t want to be dead today, would you?) But even death is ours! Dr. Parker says, “Death is yours. It belongs to you. Death is not to master you; you are going to master it.” Death is yours. How wonderful that is. When we belong to Christ, all things are ours—present and future. And we are stewards of all He has entrusted to us.
The Christian can approach the judgment without fear, because his judge has already decided he is worthy of eternal life, because he has the righteousness of His Son. We may have to live under the contempt of God-haters who honor us when they include us with Him—I will appeal and submit to Him, and in the mean time, while under all the censures and slanders of men, I will rest easy knowing I am loved by the God who will be my judge. The apostle did, as his Lord and Savior had done before him, who, when he was reviled and reproached by men, and being conscious of his own innocence and integrity, committed himself to Him that judges righteously.
“Before the Judgment Seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done, but by how much I could have done.” —A.W. Tozer