1 Corinthians 4:5
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.
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(5) Before the time.—This is explained by the following words to be “the day of the Lord.” When this arrives the truth will be ascertainable, for God will bring into light all the things at present hidden in the darkness, and will show forth the inner motives of each heart. Then every man (and not only one party leader, as at Corinth) shall have his due and proper praise from God—not from man.

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.Therefore - Inview of the danger of being deceived in your judgment, and the impossibility of certainly knowing the failings of the heart.

Judge nothing - Pass no decided opinion; see the note at Matthew 7:1. The apostle here takes occasion to inculcate on them an important lesson - one of the leading lessons of Christianity - not to pass a harsh opinion on the conduct of any man, since there are so many things that go to make up his character which we cannot know; and so many secret failings and motives which are all concealed from us.

Until the Lord come - The Lord Jesus at the Day of Judgment, when all secrets shall be revealed, and a true judgment shall be passed on all men.

Who both will bring to light; - See Romans 2:10.

The hidden things of darkness - The secret things of the heart which have been hidden as it were in darkness. The subsequent clause shows that this is the sense. He does not refer to the deeds of night, or those things which were performed in the secret places of idolatry, but to the secret designs of the heart; and perhaps means gently to insinuate that there were many things about the character and feelings of his enemies which would not well bear the revelations of that Day.

The counsels of the hearts - The purposes, designs, and intentions of men. All their plans shall be made known on that Day. And it is a most fearful and alarming truth, that no man can conceal his purposes beyond the Day of Judgment.

And then shall every man have praise of God - The word here rendered "praise" ἔπαινος epainos denotes in this place reward, or that which is due to him; the just sentence which ought to be pronounced on his character. It does not mean as our translation would imply, that every man will then receive the divine approbation which will not be true; but that every man shall receive what is due to his character, whether good or evil. So Bloomfield and Bretschneider explain it. Hesychius explains it by judgment (κρισις krisis). The word must be limited in its signification according to the subject or the connection. The passage teaches:

(1) That we should not be guilty of harsh judgment of others.

(2) the reason is, that we cannot know their feelings and motives.

(3) that all secret things will be brought forth in the great Day, and nothing be concealed beyond that time.

(4) that every man shall receive justice there. He shall 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 fixed by God. How important is it, therefore, that we be prepared for that Day; and how important to cherish such feelings, and form such plans, that they may be developed without involving us in shame and contempt!

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).

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come; seeing that the judgment of secret things belongs to God, judge nothing before the time, which God hath set to judge all things. The works of the flesh are manifest, and men may judge of them; but for secret things, of which it is impossible that those who do not know the hearts of men should make up a judgment, do not judge of them before the time, when God will certainly come to judge all men.

Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: if men cloak the hidden things of darkness with the cover of hypocrisy and fair pretences, they will at that day be most certainly uncovered, and the secret thoughts, counsels, and imaginations of men’s hearts shall in that day be made manifest.

And then shall every man have praise of God; and then those that have done well, every of them shall have praise of God; as, on the contrary, (which is understood, though not here expressed), those that are hypocrites, and whose hearts have been full of evil thoughts and counsels, shall by God be put to shame and exposed to contempt. 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.

{6} 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 {d} praise of God.

(6) A third reason proceeding from a conclusion, as it were, out of the former reasons. It is God's office to esteem 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.

(d) 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 to some men than was appropriate.

1 Corinthians 4:5. Therefore judge nothing before the time, namely, with respect to me; not as Billroth thinks: one sect regarding another, which is inadmissible in view of the preceding ἀνακρ. με and of the whole passage, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, which all applies to Paul. The process of thought from 1 Corinthians 4:3 onwards is, namely, this: “For my part, you may judge me if you will, I make very little of that; but (1 Corinthians 4:4) seeing that I do not even judge myself, but that he that judgeth me is Christ, I therefore counsel you (1 Corinthians 4:5) not to pass a judgment upon me prematurely.”

πρὸ καιροῦ] i.e. before it is the right time, Matthew 8:29; Sir 30:24; Sir 51:30; Lucian, Jov. Trag. 47. How long such judging would continue to be πρὸ καιροῦ, we learn only from what comes after; hence we must not by anticipation assign to καιρός the specific sense of tempus reditus Christi.

τι] i.e. κρίσιν τινά, John 7:24.

κρίνετε] describes the passing of the judgment, the consequence of the ἀνακρ., a manner accordant with the looking forward to the Messianic judgment. Luther, Raphel, and Wolf render: alium alii praeferte; but this runs counter to the context, for it must be analogous to the general ἀνακρ.

ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κ.] Epexegesis of πρὸ καιροῦ: judge not before the time (judge not, I say), until the Lord shall have come. Then only is it a καίριον κρίνειν, because then only can the judgment be pronounced rightly according to the Lord’s decision. The ἄν marks out the coming as in so far problematical (depending upon circumstances; see Hartung, Partikell. p. 291), inasmuch as it was not, indeed, doubted, and yet at the same time not dependent upon subjective determination, but an object of expectant faith in the unknown future. Comp Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; Luke 13:35; Revelation 2:25.

ὃς καί] καί is the also customary with the relative, the effect of which is to bring into prominence some element in keeping with what has gone before (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 152; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 243 [E. T. 283]). In His function as Judge, in which He is to come, He will do this also, He will light up, i.e. make manifest, what is hidden in the darkness. Respecting φωτίσει, comp Sir 24:32; 2 Timothy 1:10; Plut. Mor. p. 931 C, and the passages in Wetstein. What withdraws itself from the light as its opposite (Hofmann, who takes καὶκαί as meaning as well, as also) is included here, but not that alone. Compare rather the general statement in Luke 8:17.

καὶ φανερ. τ. βουλ. τῶν καρδ.] a special element selected from the foregoing general affirmation. The significant bearing of what Paul here affirms of Christ at His coming is the application which the readers were to make of it to himself and the other teachers; it was to be understood, namely, that their true character also would only then become manifest, i.e. be laid open as an object of knowledge, but now was not yet submitted to judgment.

καὶ τότεΘεοῦ] so that ye can only then pass judgment on your teachers with sure (divine) warrant for what ye do. The chief emphasis is upon the ἀπὸ τ. Θεοῦ, which is for that reason put at the end (Kühner, II. p. 625), and next to it upon what is placed first, ὁ ἔπαινος. This does not mean praemium (so Flatt, with older expositors, citing wrongly in support of it such passages as Romans 2:29; Romans 13:3; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 2:14; Wis 15:19; Polybius, 2. 58. 11), nor is it a vox media (as, following Casaubon, a[616] Epict. 67, Wolf, Rosenmüller, Pott, and others assume wholly without proof); but it denotes simply the praise, the commendation. The apparent incongruity with ἑκάστῳ is obviated by the article: the praise that appertains to him (Bernhardy, p. 315) shall be given to each,—so that Paul here puts entirely out of sight those who deserve no praise at all. And rightly so. For his readers were to apply this to him and Apollos; hence, as Calvin justly remarks: “haec vox ex bonae conscientiae fiducia nascitur.” See 1 Corinthians 4:4. Theophylact’s view, although adopted by many, is an arbitrary one: “unde et contrarium datur intelligi, sed mavult εὐφημεῖν,” Grotius (so also Bengel, Billroth, Rückert, Olshausen).

ἀπὸ τ. Θεοῦ] not from men, as ye now place and praise the one above the other, but on the part of God; for Christ the Judge is God’s vicegerent and representative, John 5:27 ff.; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16, al[617]

[616] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[617] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.1 Corinthians 4:5. The practical conclusion of the statement respecting Christ’s servants (see note on ὥστε, 1 Corinthians 3:21): “So then do not before the time be passing any judgment”. τι, the cognate ace. = κρίσιν τινά, as in John 7:24. πρὸ καιροῦ (the fit time, not the set time) signifies prematurely (so Æsch., Eumen., 367), as ἐν καιρῷ seasonably (Luke 12:42). Our Lord gives another reason for not judging, in Matthew 7:1 ff.; this prohibition, like that, points to His tribunal, bidding men hold back their verdicts on each other in deference to His (cf. Romans 14:10). “Until the Lord come:” ἕως ἄν indicates contingency in the time, not the event itself; for this uncertainty, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:39, Acts 1:7, etc. His coming is the ἀποκάλυψις toward which the hope of this Church was directed from the first (1 Corinthians 1:7 : see note); it will reveal with perfect evidence the matters on which the Cor[665] are officiously and ignorantly pronouncing.—ὃς καὶ φωτίσει κ.τ.λ.: “who shall also illuminate the hidden things of darkness”. φωτίζω points to the cause, as φανερόω to the result, and ἀποκαλύπτω (1 Corinthians 2:10) to the mode of Divine disclosures. Christ’s presence of itself illuminates (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6, and other parls.); His Parousia is light as well as fire (1 Corinthians 3:13)—both instruments of judgment. τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους, “the secrets hidden in the darkness” (res tenebris occultatas, Bz[666])—not necessarily evil things (see Romans 2:16, 2 Corinthians 4:6), but things impenetrable to present light.—Chief amongst these, “the Lord will make manifest (φανερώσει) the counsels of the hearts”. These God (and with Him Christ, ὁ ἀνακρίνων: 1 Corinthians 4:4) already searches out (Romans 8:27; Psalms 139, etc.); then He will make plain to men, about themselves and each other, what was dark before. The καρδία is the real self, the “hidden,” “inward man” (Ephesians 3:16 f., 1 Peter 3:4, and other parls.), known absolutely to God alone (cor hominis crypta est, Bz[667]); its “counsels” are those self-communings and purposings which determine action and belong to the essence of character.—“And then (not before) the (due) praise will come (ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται) to each from God (not from human lips).” ἀπὸ τ. Θεοῦ for it is on God’s behalf that Christ will judge; His commendation is alone of value (Romans 2:29; John 5:44). The Church is God’s field and temple (1 Corinthians 3:9 ff.); all work wrought in it awaits His approval. ἑκάστῳ recalls the lesson of 1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 3:11-13, respecting the discriminating and individual character of Divine rewards. “Praise” ambitious Gr[668] teachers coveted: let them seek it from God. “Praise” the Cor[669] partisans lavished on their admired leaders: this is God’s prerogative, let them check their impertinent eulogies. Enough was said in 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 3:17, of condemned work; P. is thinking here of his true συνεργοί (1 Corinthians 4:1 f.), who with himself labour and hope for approval at the Day of Christ; little need they reck of the criticisms of the hour.

[665] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[666] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

[667] Beza’s Nov. Testamentum: Interpretatio et Annotationes (Cantab., 1642).

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

Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.5. Therefore judge nothing before the time] The precept is here applied to the relation of teacher and taught which is laid down generally in St Matthew 7:1 and Romans 2:1. It is our duty to listen to the teaching of God’s ministers, test it humbly yet candidly and sincerely, by the aid of God’s word, to ‘hold fast that which is good’ and act upon it (1 Thessalonians 5:21), but to avoid all scrutiny and imputation of motives, since to search the heart is the prerogative of God alone. “Learn not to judge, for we do not know the secrets of the heart. We judge men by gifts, or by a correspondence with our own peculiarities, but God judges by fidelity.”—Robertson.1 Corinthians 4:5. Κρίνατε, judge) He does not say ἀνακρίνατε, decide; he more closely alludes to the judgment, which the Lord will give.—ὁ Κύριος, the Lord) Jesus whom we serve, 1 Corinthians 4:1.—καὶ) also: He will not only judge, but will bring forth to light His judgment.—φωτίσει) φωτίζειν is to throw light upon any object, for example, φωτίζειν τὴν νύκτα, to throw light upon the night, Exodus 14:20, on the margin of the ed. Wech.: or to bring a thing to light, 2 Timothy 1:10. Both of these will be done at that time.—τὰ κρυπτὰ, the hidden things) The heart of man is truly a hidden cavern [crypt].—τοῦ σκότους, of the darkness) into which no human eye penetrates.—φανερώσει, will make manifest) so that you will then at length clearly know us.—τὰς βουλὰς, the counsels) showing, who hath been faithful or not.—τῶν καρδιῶν, of the hearts) according to the state of the heart, so the conduct is just [justified, 1 Corinthians 4:4] and praiseworthy or the reverse.—τότε, then) Therefore wait.—ἔπαινος, praise) The world praises its princes, warlike leaders, ambassadors, wise men, artists: God will hereafter praise His ministers.—ἑκάστῳ) to every one, who is a praiseworthy, faithful steward; you only praise one, for example, Paul. So every one, 1 Corinthians 3:8. Concerning praise from God, see Matthew 25:21. Those too, who are not faithful, expect praise, but their praise will be reproach. Therefore the contrary is also included by implication in the word praise, which is a euphemism [the opposite of praise being not expressed, though implied]; so the euphemism in, shall try or prove, etc., c. 1 Corinthians 3:13, 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 8:10, notes. So blessing also comprehends cursing, Genesis 49:28; Genesis 49:7. There is a similar passage, 1 Samuel 26:23 (24).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. Judge (κρίνετε)

See on 1 Corinthians 2:14. The change of the verb favors the rendering examine for ἀνακρίνω. The Lord is the only competent examiner therefore do not judge until He comes to judgment. Even I myself am not competent to institute a conclusive examination, for the absence of condemnation from my conscience does not absolutely acquit me. See the critical note on 1 John 3:19-22.

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