|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-6 Apostles were no more than servants of Christ, but they were not to be undervalued. They had a great trust, and for that reason, had an honourable office. Paul had a just concern for his own reputation, but he knew that he who chiefly aimed to please men, would not prove himself a faithful servant of Christ. It is a comfort that men are not to be our final judges. And it is not judging well of ourselves, or justifying ourselves, that will prove us safe and happy. Our own judgment is not to be depended upon as to our faithfulness, any more than our own works for our justification. There is a day coming, that will bring men's secret sins into open day, and discover the secrets of their hearts. Then every slandered believer will be justified, and every faithful servant approved and rewarded. The word of God is the best rule by which to judge as to men. Pride commonly is at the bottom of quarrels. Self-conceit contributes to produce undue esteem of our teachers, as well as of ourselves. We shall not be puffed up for one against another, if we remember that all are instruments, employed by God, and endowed by him with various talents.
Verse 5. - Judge nothing. St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, insists with some indignation on this duty of checking the tendency to vain depreciation, both because we have not the capacity for forming adequate judgments, and because censoriousness is a very common though thoroughly unchristian vice (Romans 14:4, 10, 13). Before the time. The time is when God shall "judge the secrets of men" (Romans 2:16), and when "the day shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:13). Until the Lord come. The advent is called in the New Testament sometimes the "epiphany," and sometimes the parousia of Christ. The word used for "until" (heos an) points to a time entirely indefinite. Both; rather, also; i.e. among other things. The hidden things of darkness. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13; comp. Ecclesiastes 12:14). God "shall illuminate the crypts of the darkness which naturally fills the self deceiving heart." The counsels of the hearts. These may bear no scrutiny, even when the actions of the life have been made to look plausible enough. And then. God only "seeth in secret" (Matthew 6:4), and therefore the praise and blame of men may in this life be equally unjust. Shall every man have praise of God; rather, each one shall then have his praise (i.e. such praise as he deserves) from God. Some of the Greek Fathers (e.g. Theophylact) here make "praise" a "word of intermediate sense," involving either praise or blame. But St. Paul says "praise" for two reasons - partly because he is thinking of faithful teachers like Cephas, Apollos, and himself, who were depreciated by rival factions; and partly because he, like other apostles, shows an invariable tendency to allude to the bright rather than to the dark side of judgment. The "praise from God" - the "Well done, good and faithful servant" - is so infinitely precious that it reduces to insignificance the comparative value of human praise or blame.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Therefore judge nothing before the time,.... This is said to prevent rash and precipitate judgment, and agrees with that well know Jewish maxim, , "be slow in judgment" (s); not hasty to pass sentence; it is best to leave things to the great day of account, than to be free in censuring one another. There is a time "fixed" for the awful judgment, though of that day and hour knows no man: judge nothing
until the Lord come; who at the fixed time will certainly come to judgment, and that suddenly, at unawares, in an hour no man knows of:
who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness; meaning not so much vices, immoralities, wickedness of all sorts committed in the dark, and which it is a shame to speak of; but those hidden things of dishonesty, those secret arts and private methods which false teachers have made use of to conceal themselves, and carry on their base designs to the injury of truth, the souls of men, and the cause of Christ:
and will make manifest the counsels of the heart; what were the views and intentions, the aims and ends of these men in taking upon them to be preachers of the word; when it will appear that these were not the glory of God, and the good of the souls of men, but filthy lucre, popular applause, or some such mercenary view, and sinister end.
And then shall every man have praise of God. Every regenerated soul; everyone that is a Jew inwardly; everyone that has the circumcision of the Spirit; and particularly every faithful minister, who is more especially designed; to whom it will be said, "well done good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord". The apostle, in these words, has respect to the false teachers who sought the praise of men, and not the honour which comes from God; and which the true ministers of the word will have another day, however despised and criticised by men now.
(s) T. Bab Sanhed, fol. 7. 2. & Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. Disproving the judicial power claimed by the Romish priesthood in the confessional.
Therefore—as the Lord is the sole Decider or Dijudicator.
judge—not the same Greek word as in 1Co 4:3, 4, where the meaning is to approve of or decide on, the merits of one's case. Here all judgments in general are forbidden, which would, on our part, presumptuously forestall God's prerogative of final judgment.
Lord—Jesus Christ, whose "ministers" we are (1Co 4:1), and who is to be the judge (Joh 5:22, 27; Ac 10:42; 17:31).
manifest … hearts—Our judgments now (as those of the Corinthians respecting their teachers) are necessarily defective; as we only see the outward act, we cannot see the motives of "hearts." "Faithfulness" (1Co 4:2) will hereby be estimated, and the "Lord" will "justify," or the reverse (1Co 4:4), according to the state of the heart.
then shall every man have praise—(1Co 3:8; 1Sa 26:23; Mt 25:21, 23, 28). Rather, "his due praise," not exaggerated praise, such as the Corinthians heaped on favorite teachers; "the praise" (so the Greek) due for acts estimated by the motives. "Then," not before: therefore wait till then (Jas 5:7).
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