“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
The Basket Case Chronicles #33
“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. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 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” (1 Cor. 4:3-5).
Paul has just finished explaining that he labors as a steward, a person who must give an accounting of his work to the one who commissioned him. But he does not have to give an accounting of his heart to the other stewards. This is why Paul says that it is a trifle with him (a very small thing), if he is judged by the Corinthians, or by any other man for that matter (v. 3). In fact, Paul labors as one who will give an account, but he does not try to weigh the accounts himself. He does not even judge himself (v. 3).
His conscience is clear, but that does not mean he is justified. The one who judges in these matters is the Lord. A man’s conscience is a good rule of thumb to be obeyed, but it is by no means absolute. A man’s conscience can be clear and yet he is still guilty before God (v. 4)—a truth that ought to be meditated upon more than it is.
Paul says that judgments should not be rendered before the time, that time being when the Lord comes and settles all accounts. He will do this by bringing hidden things out of the darkness, and He will haul the counsels of our hearts out into the clear light of day. He will make them manifest. But Paul ends with a surprising twist. He does not end this thought by saying that we will all then be seen as guilty wretches—no, he is speaking of stewards who have been laboring as ones who must give an account. And at that day “every man” shall have “praise of God.” When God settles all accounts at the end of the world, He will not just condemn. There will no doubt be some surprising condemnations (1 Cor. 3:15). Although none of this can happen outside of Jesus Christ, Paul here points to a surprising number of vindications. How else can we take “praise of God”?