To Judge or Not To Judge

In chapter 4 of 1 Corinthians Paul told the believers that he didn’t judge himself (4:3). In chapter 11 he told them to “examine” themselves, and that “if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (11:28, 31). Well, to judge or not to judge, which is it?

The two passages address different problems. In chapter 4 the issue concerned the faithfulness of a preacher, in chapter 11 the issue concurred the worthiness of a communion participant. The first involves evaluating a man’s work on the Lord’s building, the latter involves evaluating a man’s sitting at the Lord’s table. It’s not the same situation.

Yet both passages aim at the heart. What is the heart of the steward? What is the heart of the eater? The heart determines if the steward is trust-worthy, the heart determines if the eater is table-worthy.

Which gets back to the question, why did Paul say he didn’t judge himself but that they should judge themselves?

The answer is that his service spoke for itself and he left the final accounting up to God. Likewise, their selfishness spoke for itself and they were not taking God into account. Paul was obeying as best he knew, and he also knew that a deep, introspective dive still wouldn’t get him to the bottom. But the Corinthians were serving themselves first at the excuse of the hungry and were humiliating others in the body (11:21-22). They needed to wait for one another (11:33), and the reason Paul exhorted them to self-examination in context is because they were acting oblivious to their obvious problem.

So are you despising a brother or sister at this table? You should do some judging, it’s not a hard case to decide. But if you are confessed up, having already humbly examined yourself before the Word, then eat and drink and look forward to your communion with the Lord until He returns.