1 Corinthians 4:4
For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) For I know nothing by myself.—The general meaning of this passage is given in the previous Note. The Greek of the words rendered, “I know nothing of myself,” is clearly “I am not conscious in myself” of having been unfaithful; the word being almost invariably used in classical Greek in a bad sense. In the English version the word “by” is used in a sense now nearly obsolete. To an English reader the passage at first sight seems to assert that St. Paul of his own power possessed no knowledge. In old English, however, the word “by” meant (not necessarily the instrument by which) frequently “in connection with” or “concerning.” In this sense it is found in Deuteronomy 27:16; Ezekiel 22:7. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs a woman under examination is accused of having “spoken evil words by the queen.” It is still common to speak of our place being “by” (i.e., in close contiguity to) another, and a “bye- lane” is a passage connected with a thoroughfare. The word “by” does not seem to have had necessarily the meaning of “against” which some have attributed to it; the sense of “concerning” would suit all the passages given above better than “against.”

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.For I know nothing by myself - There is evidently here an ellipsis to be supplied, and it is well supplied by Grotius, Rosenmuller, Calvin, etc. "I am not conscious of evil, or unfaithfulness to myself; that is, in my ministerial life." It is well remarked by Calvin, that Paul does not here refer to the whole of his life, but only to his apostleship. And the sense is, "I am conscious of integrity in this office. My own mind does not condemn me of ambition or unfaithfulness. Others may accuse me, but I am not conscious of that which should condemn me, or render me unworthy of this office." This appeal Paul elsewhere makes to the integrity and faithfulness of his ministry. So his speech before the elders of Ephesus at Miletus; Acts 20:18-19, Acts 20:26-27; compare 2 Corinthians 7:2; 2 Corinthians 12:17. It was the appeal which a holy and faithful man could make to the integrity of his public life, and such as every minister of the gospel ought to be able to make.

Yet am I not hereby justified - I am not justified because I am not conscious of a failure in my duty. I know that God the judge may see imperfections where I see none. I know that I may be deceived; and therefore, I do not pronounce a judgment on myself as if it were infallible and final. It is not by the consciousness of integrity and faithfulness that I expect to be saved; and it does not follow that I claim to be free from all personal blame. I know that partiality to ourselves will often teach us to overlook many faults that others may discern in us.

He that judgeth me is the Lord - By his judgment I am to abide; and by his judgment I am to receive my eternal sentence, and not by my own view of myself. He searcheth the hearts. He may see evil where I see none. I would not, therefore, be self-confident; but would, with humility, refer the whole case to him. Perhaps there is here a gentle and tender reproof of the Corinthians, who were so confident in their own integrity; and a gentle admonition to them to be more cautious, as it was possible that the Lord would detect faults in them where they perceived none.

4. by myself—Translate, "I am conscious to myself of no (ministerial) unfaithfulness." Bengel explains the Greek compound, "to decide in judgments on one in relation to others," not simply to judge.

am I not hereby justified—Therefore conscience is not an infallible guide. Paul did not consider his so. This verse is directly against the judicial power claimed by the priests of Rome.

I know nothing by myself; nothing amiss, nothing that is evil; yet this must not be interpreted universally, as if St. Paul knew nothing that was evil and sinful by himself; himself, Romans 7:1-25, tells us the contrary; but it must be understood with respect to his discharge of his ministerial office: I do not know any thing wherein I have wilfully failed in the discharge of my ministry; yet even as to that I durst not stand upon my own righteousness and justification before God, I may have sinned ignorantly, or have forgotten some things wherein I did offend.

But he that judgeth me is the Lord; God knoweth more of me than I know of myself, and it is he that judgeth, and must judge me. Though in this text Paul doth not speak of his whole life and conversation, but only of his conversation with respect to his ministry; yet the conclusion from hence, that no man can be justified from his own works, is good; for if a man cannot be justified from his conscience not rebuking him for his errors in one part of his conversation, he cannot be justified from his conscience not rebuking him for his whole conversation. For he that keepeth the whole law, if he offendeth but in one point, must be guilty of all, because the law curseth him who continueth not in every point of the law to do it. For I know nothing by myself,.... Which must be understood with a restriction to the subject he is upon, faithfulness in the ministry; otherwise he knew much by himself of indwelling sin, and the corruption of his nature, which he sometimes found very strong and prevalent in him, and of the daily infirmities of life; but as to his ministerial service, he was pure from the blood of all men; he honestly declared what he knew to be the mind of God, and concealed nothing that might be useful to men; in this he had a clear conscience, void of offence both towards God and men,

Yet am I not hereby justified; 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:

but he that judgeth me is the Lord; either who adjudges me to eternal life, justifying me through the righteousness of his Son, in which alone I desire to be found, living and dying; or he that knows my heart, and all my ways, will be my judge at the last day; and to his judgment I appeal and submit, and sit easy in the mean while under all the censures and calumnies of men. The apostle did, as his Lord and Saviour had done before him, who, when he was reviled and reproached by men, conscious of his own innocence and integrity, committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.

For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the {c} Lord.

(c) I submit myself to the Lord's judgment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 4:4. Parenthetical statement of the ground of Paul’s not even judging himself (οὐδὲνδεδικ.), and then the antithesis (δέ: but indeed) to the above οὐδὲ ἐμαυτ. ἀνακρίνω.

γάρ] The element of proof lies neither in the first clause alone (Hofmann), nor in the second clause alone, so that the first would be merely concessive (Baumgarten, Winer, Billroth, Rückert, who supplies μέν here again, de Wette, Osiander), but in the antithetic relation of both clauses, wherein ἀλλά has the force of at, not of “sondern:” judge not my own self, because I am conscious to myself of nothing, but am not thereby justified, i.e. because my pure (official, be 1 Corinthians 4:2) self-consciousness (comp Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12) is still not the ground on which my justification rests. As regards the expression, comp Plato, Apol. p. 21 B: οὔτε μέγα οὔτε σμικρὸν ξύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ σοφὸς ἔν, Rep. p. 331 A; and Horace, Ep. i. 1. 61: “nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa;” Job 27:6.

οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικ.] is ordinarily understood wrongly: “I do not is that account look upon myself as guiltless.” For the words οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ, negativing justification by a good conscience, make it clear that δεδικ. expresses the customary conception of being justified by faith (see on Romans 1:17; so rightly, Calovius, Billroth Rückert), since, on the view just referred to, we must have had ἐν τούτῳ οὐ.[612] The οὐ is as little in its wrong place here as in 1 Corinthians 15:51. Note that the ΔΕΔΙΚΑΊΩΜΑΙ is to the apostle an undoubted certain fact;[613] hence we may not explain it, with Hofmann: Not thereby am I pronounced righteous as respects faithfulness in the fulfilment of my office, but only if (?) the Lord shall charge me with no neglect of duty. That would plainly make the δεδικαίωμαι problematic.

Κύριος] Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:5.

[612] Paul’s thought has run thus:—“Were I justified by my conscience free of reproach, then I should be entitled to pass judgment on myself, namely, just in accordance with the standard of the said conscience. But seeing that I am not justified by this conscience (but by Christ), it cannot even serve me as a standard for self-judgment, and I must refrain therefrom, and leave the judgment regarding me to Christ.” This applies also against de Wette, who holds our exposition to be contrary to context, because what follows is not ὁ δὲ δικαιῶν, but ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων. Moreover, the further imputation of moral desert is certainly not done away with by justification, but it remains in force until the judgment. Δεδικαίωμαι, however, does not refer to the being found righteous at the day of judgment (against Lipsius, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 48), but, as the perfect shows, to the righteousness obtained by faith, which to the consciousness of the apostle was at all times a present blessing.—Observe further, how alien to Paul was the conception that the conscience is the expression of real divine life in the man. Comp. Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 141.

[613] So precisely Ignatius, ad Romans 5 : ἀλλʼ οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο δεδικαίωμαι. The certitudo gratiae is expressed but as not based upon the conscience void of reproach.1 Corinthians 4:4. The negative clauses, οὐδὲν γὰρἀλλʼ οὐκ, together explain, parenthetically, Paul’s meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:3 : “For I am conscious of nothing against myself” (in my conduct as Christ’s minister to you: cf. 10, 18; 2 Corinthians 1:12-17)—nothing that calls for judicial inquiry on your part or misgiving on my own—“but not on this ground (οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ) have I been justified”. Σύνοιδα with reflexive pron[645] (h. l. in N.T.) has this connotation, of a guilty conscience, occasionally in cl[646] Gr[647] (see Lidd[648]); cf. the Horatian “Nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa” (Al[649]). “By” signifies “against” in Bible Eng. (see New Eng. Diet. s. v., 26 d; cf. Deuteronomy 27:16, Ezekiel 22:7); “I know no harm by him” is current in the Midland counties (Al[650]).—For δικαιόω ἐν, see parls. The pf. pass[651] διδικαίωμαι defines an act of God complete in the past and determining the writer’s present state. P. has been and continues justified—not on the sentence of his conscience as a man self-acquitted (“not of works of righteousness, which we had done,” Titus 3:5 ff.), but as an ill-deserving sinner counted righteous for Christ’s sake (1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 15:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Romans 3:23 ff., Romans 4:25, Romans 7:24 to Romans 8:1, etc.). This past “justification” is the ground of his whole standing before God (Romans 5:1 ff.); it forbids presuming on the witness of his own conscience now. A good conscience is worth much; but, after P.’s experience, he cannot rely on its verdict apart from Christ’s. Paul looks for his appraisement at the end (1 Corinthians 4:5), to the source from which he received his justification at the beginning. Accordingly for the present, he refers to Christ the testing of his daily course: ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με Κύριός ἐστιν, “but he that does try (examine) me is the Lord”—not you, nor my own conscience; I am searched by a purer and a loftier eye. “The Lord is alone qualified for this office” (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3 ff., and notes; Revelation 2, 3, John 5:22, etc.). The Lord’s present ἀνάκρισις prepares for his final κρίσις (1 Corinthians 4:5). The above interpretation, which maintains the Pauline use of δικαιόω, is that of Calovius, Rückert, Mr[652], Hn[653], Bt[654], and others. Cm[655], Cv[656], Est., Bg[657], Al[658], Ev[659], Ed[660], Gd[661], Sm[662], etc., insist on taking the term “in a meaning entirely diff[663] from its ordinary dogmatic sense” (Gd[664]), referring it iu spite of the tense, on account of 1 Corinthians 4:5, to the future judgment; but this brings confusion into Paul’s settled language, and abandons the rock of his personal standing before God and men (cf. Galatians 2:15 ff.). Since P. accepted justification by faith in Christ, not his innocence, but his Saviour’s merit has become his fixed ground of assurance.

[645]ron. pronoun.

[646] classical.

[647] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[648]
idd. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon.

[649]
Alford’s Greek Testament.

[650] Alford’s Greek Testament.

[651] passive voice.

[652] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[653] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[654] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[655] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[656] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[657] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[658]
Alford’s Greek Testament.

[659] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[660] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[661] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[662] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[663] difference, different, differently.

[664] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).4. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified] ‘I know nothing by myself’ (I know nought by myself, Tyndale) signifies I know nothing against myself, like the Latin “nil conscire sibi” in Hor. Ep. 61, or the nil mihi conscius sum of the Vulgate here. The expression “I know nothing by him,” as equivalent to “I know nothing against his character” is a common one in the North of England. Instances of this expression in old English writers may be found in Davies’ Bible English. St Paul, as in Acts 23:1, gives the Corinthians to understand that he is not aware of any wilful dereliction of duty on his part. See 2 Corinthians 1:12. We can hardly suppose that one who was so conscious of his many infirmities (see ch. 1 Corinthians 9:17, 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:15) supposed himself to be altogether free from faults. The next verse implies the contrary, and we read in an Epistle written long afterwards (Php 3:13), that he did not consider himself ‘already perfect,’ but as pushing on towards his only ideal of perfection, the character of his Master, Jesus Christ.

yet am I not hereby justified] “There may be many sins which we commit without being aware of them.”—Chrysostom. Consequently God, and He alone, has power to pronounce sentence upon our doings.1 Corinthians 4:4. Οὐδὲν) nothing, unfaithful: comp. faithful, 1 Corinthians 4:2. So the LXX. οὐ γὰρ σύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ ἄτοπα πράξας, Job 27:6. He, whom conscience accuses, is held as deciding in judgment on himself.—οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι) I am not justified in this, if I decide in my own case. For the judgment remains. It is the Lord who will pronounce me justified, 1 Corinthians 4:5. Paul may be regarded either as a judge, or a witness, in his own case. As a witness, he knows, that he is unconscious of any crime. As a judge, he dares not on that account decide in his own case, or pronounce himself to be justified.—ἀνακρίνων με) He who decides in my case, whose decision I do not decline, at His coming, 1 Corinthians 4:5, and who declares me justified.[32]

[32] Κύριός ἐστιν, is the Lord) Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:5. He is mentioned along with God, as in ver. 1.—V. g.Verse 4. - I know nothing by myself; rather, nothing against myself. The phrase of the Authorized Version originally meant this, but is now obsolete in this sense. "I am sorry that each fault can be proved by the queen," says Cranmer to Henry VIII. It is like the Latin Nil conscire sibi. The same phrase occurs in the LXX. of Job 27:6. St. Paul says, "The verdict of my own conscience acquits me of all intentional unfaithfulness;" but this is insufficient, because God sees with clearer eyes than ours. "Who can understand his errors?" asks the psalmist (Psalm 19:12); and the "secret faults" against which he prays are not hidden vices, but sins of which he was himself unconscious. It must be remembered that St. Paul is here only speaking with conscious integrity of his ministerial work. Nothing could have been further from the mind of one who elsewhere calls himself" the chief of sinners" than to claim an absolute immunity from every form of self reproach. They who claim immaculate holiness can as little quote the sanction of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 3:13, etc.) as of any other saint. The confessions of the holiest are ever the most humble. Yet am I not hereby justified. Because "every way of a man" is apt to be "right in his own eyes," but God pondereth the hearts, and therefore in God's sight "no man living is justified." St. Paul is here using the word in its legal rather than its theological sense. He that judgeth me is the Lord. This is a reason for serious awe and deep self searching of heart (Psalm 130:3; Job 9:2). Yet also for hope and confidence when a man can, like the modern statesman, "look from the storm without to the sunshine of an approving conscience within." For God, being "greater than our hearts" (1 John 3:21), may count "the long 'yes' of life" against the one "no," or the single faithless minute. Knowing whereof we are made, remembering that we are but dust, he looks on us

"With larger other eyes than ours,
To make allowance for us all."
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