1 Corinthians 11:31, 32
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.…
The apostle has been speaking of disorders at the Lord's table and of the Divine judgments which in Corinth had followed upon the profanation of the sacred feast. He now pursues the latter theme and discourses upon the afflictions which sometimes fall upon the people of God.
I. ITS INFLICTOR. We may well ask, "Where do our troubles come from?" The chastisement of his people comes from God. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). God is behind the sorrow. Reflect that:
1. He sees sufficient cause for the chastisement. This shows that there is sufficient cause, he never sends a trouble without a cause, and never without a sufficient cause. We may not see the cause, but he does.
2. He might destroy instead of chastising. There is mercy in the visitation: had there been wrath only, there had been destruction, not chastisement.
3. He may destroy. If chastisement does not bear fruit unto repentance, we shall be cut off as was Israel of old. Here is a solemn warning against resisting and resenting Divine chastisement. If we stiffen our neck and harden our heart, we shall be broken with a "rod of iron." We are in the hands of the Omnipotent; let us beware of folly and impiety.
4. Chastisement is a message from God. We should listen, We should learn what the Lord our God has to say to us. We shall find in the chastisement a command; it is for us to obey that command. We shall discover in it a promise; it is for us to embrace it.
II. ITS CAUSE. Always sin in some form or other. Sin is the only possible cause. God does not afflict us "willingly" or for his "pleasure," but for our profit. We fall into sin and he whips us out. So when a believer transgresses he cuts a rod for his own back. Is it God who chastises us? More truly, we chastise ourselves. Our sin puts the rod into God's hand. We cry out when we have hurt ourselves if we cry out when we are under the chastisement of God.
III. ITS BENEVOLENCE. It is sent in love. It is a good gift, not an evil one. God has not changed in sending it; he is still love. Here the special object of Divine chastisement is beautifully conveyed: "That we should not be condemned with the world." Many think that their afflictions will destroy them; the afflictions are sent that they may not be destroyed. We feel that we shall sink under our troubles, but they are sent that we may not sink. We cry out "Poison!" but it is "medicine," sent to keep us from being poisoned. God troubles his people now, that he may not trouble them hereafter. He smites them gently now, that he may not smite them then with the arm of destruction. They stand near the precipice and the rod falls upon them to drive them back. In heaven, perhaps, we shall bless God more for our earthly chastisements than for our earthly joys. Chastisement is sour to take, but sweet when taken. It is a nut hard and rough of shell, but goodly in kernel. It is the love of God transfigured into darkness by the black shadow of our sin.
IV. HOW WE MAY AVOID THE NECESSITY OF IT. "If we would judge [or, 'discern'] ourselves, we should not be judged." If we dealt with ourselves, there would be no need for God to deal with us. If we would avoid the chastisement, we must avoid the sin. If the cause be destroyed, we need not fear the effect. If the Corinthians had examined themselves, they would have avoided the irregularities of which they became guilty. They were careless, unwatchful, and so they fell, and when they fell they opened the door of chastisement. We may keep that door shut if we "walk with God," as Enoch did. The only way to escape the rod is to escape the necessity of it, and that is to escape the sin. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.