Christian living requires Christians not to condemn others. Many who accuse others are guilty of the same fault or sin themselves. Jesus warned of a certain type of judging that should not be done when He said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. 7:1–3).
The Apostle Paul addressed this same issue in 1 Corinthians 4:3–5.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 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.
The word “judge” used in 1 Corinthians 4:3–5 and in Matthew 7:1–3 has several meanings—for example: “to punish,” “to condemn,” “to determine,” “to esteem.” The words “judge” in verse 3 and “judgeth” in verse 4 are not translated from the same Greek word as the word “judge” in verse 5. The words “judge” and “judgeth” in verses 3 and 4 mean “to examine” or “discern.”
Notice the rendering in Today’s English Version, which in modern English makes the meaning more clear:
Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgment on myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the one who passes judgment on me. So you should not pass judgment on anyone before the right time comes. Final judgment must wait until the Lord comes; he will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purposes of people’s minds. And then everyone will receive from God the praise he deserves.
The judging which both Christ and Paul warned against was that of deciding the ultimate fate of others. Christians have not been called to be judges in that sense. They do not have the discernment to pass final judgment on anyone. That prerogative belongs to God alone and has been given to Christ. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). It is not the responsibility of Christians to pass final judgment on those either within or without the Church (1 Cor. 5:13). But there is a type of judgment Christians must exercise. Notice 1 Corinthians 5:12. “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?”
What kind of judgment is this? Verses 9–11 give the key. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” ” . . . Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6). “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
Exercising judgment in the selection of close friends and associates is an important part of Christian living. This form of judging is proper and right. Yet, it should not be done with an attitude of self-righteousness. Christians must not allow themselves to be tainted by the world. Paul wrote: “Make no mistake about this: bad company is the ruin of good character” (1 Cor. 15:33 Moffatt Translation). Christians should not hate or condemn those who have not yet been called. Their time to understand will come. In the meantime, it is necessary for Christians to be judging themselves in their relationship with God, so that they can be assured of building holy, righteous character. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
Corinth was a thriving commercial city and seaport, full of activity. Included in this activity was a large number of prostitutes, both men and women, who were attached to the worship of Venus. To “Corinthianize” meant to fornicate because of the large amount of fornication that took place there, generally associated with temple prostitution. Christians who lived there were certainly aware of this debasing influence. Paul warned about the sin of fornication in 1 Corinthians 5 and emphasized the need to expunge it from the Church. He wrote: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). Most commentators believe this refers to his stepmother. There can be no doubt that a number of Church members had indulged in fornication and may not have realized how harmful it was. Paul commanded the Church in verse 1, to remove this man from the Church and “to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5).
As previously mentioned, Paul instructed the brethren not to fellowship with fornicators and said that such people were wicked (vv. 9, 11, 13). The world today is not a whole lot different from the moral climate of Corinth. Sexual sins are rampant, and fornication is widespread. Teenage pregnancy and abortion are costing taxpayers millions of dollars annually. Television promotes lewdness of all kinds and is a major influence for the declining morals of America. Society has reached the place where unmarried mothers, sometimes with several children, are coming to be accepted—all the result of tolerating and failing to teach about sin and its consequences. The sin of fornication, like any other sin, can and does produce serious consequences. This sin should not be taken lightly. Notice what Paul wrote about the consequences. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10).
Then notice this: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committethfornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Some commentators apply the word “body” to the Church, meaning what has occurred is an offense against the Church brethren. The meaning is that by committing fornication, the fornicator has committed sacrilege since he has been joined to the Lord. While this may certainly be an explanation, notice the text says “his own body.” Is the Church his own body? Normally in Scripture the Church is called the body of Christ and is made up of many members. What also seems to be implied in this text is that one who commits fornication sins against himself in some inward manner, so that fornication involves not only an outward violation of God’s Law, but also an inward violation that will have lasting effects. Whatever the case, what Paul taught about Christian living is that fornication is a sin that has immediate consequences and must be avoided at all costs. This is why he said in 1 Corinthians 7:2, 9, that one should be married to avoid fornication. The sexual temptations in Corinth, as in the world today, must have been enormous.
Another text that should be considered in this chapter (1 Cor. 7) is found in verse 18. Paul addresses the issue of the time of one’s calling. Whether circumcised or not, what is really important is keeping the Commandments of God. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (v. 19). Again, Paul demonstrated in this verse that he taught obedience to the Law of God. So the notion that Paul was the Apostle who freed Christians from the law is absolutely fatuous.
There is another valuable principle of Christian living in 1 Corinthians 8. Remember, the Corinthian world was one of idolatry—the worship of various gods. Since Christians understood the vanity and uselessness of this worship, they knew pagan idols amounted to absolutely nothing. They also knew that there was nothing sacred or holy about meat that had been offered to idols. They knew that all meat is indifferent, and that an idol could neither pollute nor sanctify anything, and that there was neither gain or spiritual loss in eating it. To them, there was no danger of falling into idolatry by eating such meat.
But Paul explained that some Christians did not fully understand this and continued to maintain misgivings, holding that one who ate such meat would confirm the real existence of the idol. By partaking of it he would be conforming to idol worship, and his weak conscience would be violated. Not yet able to separate the meat from the sacrificial ceremony that took place, a weak brother could fall back into idol worship if he saw knowledgeable Christians partake of this meat. This is why Paul wrote: “Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled” (1 Cor. 8:7). In brief, the meat was associated with idolatry.
Therefore, Paul advises:
But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (1 Cor. 8:8–13)
This example can be applied in a number of life situations. Consider a new convert who may believe it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages. The Bible does not support this idea, although it emphasizes moderation in drinking. One who drinks alcoholic beverages in the presence of a person who has scruples against it, could cause a new convert to stumble, to become offended, or to be emboldened to drink, thus defiling his conscience. So caution should be exercised. The same principle could be applied to playing cards if someone is prone to gamble, or to any number of bad habits that if practiced with moderation are acceptable to God. Another example is being selective in viewing television when another may believe all television is evil.
These examples that we read about in Paul’s epistles were real-life situations that took place in Paul’s time, but the principle can apply to the present. We must never think that Paul advocated lawlessness. Many of the situations he wrote about emphasize the law of love—one of the two Great Commandments.