1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Stay within the Bounds of the Word
We have already seen that these Corinthians thought very highly of themselves: They were knowledgeable, spiritual, gifted, and strong. The fact of the matter was they were anything but. And not only so but they were even sitting in judgment on Paul himself, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the very man who first preached the gospel to them and taught them God’s ways and how to be a church. But they had become so arrogant that they now even looked down on Paul: He was not wise or at least not that smart (1:18-31), he was not an orator (2:1-5), he was weak (2:3), and he was not mature in the faith always serving up milk instead of meat (3:1-2).
Paul’s answer to their criticisms are several. To start, Paul is certain that as an apostle called by Jesus Christ, he is accountable to Jesus Christ, for it is he who gave him the stewardship with which he was entrusted—meaning that he does not answer to these arrogant Corinthian Christians. Paul expounds on this saying that he doesn’t even judge himself as that is the task of his Lord and Master when that time comes. Now, I do not think that Paul was saying that he never examined himself, which very thing he told these Corinthians to do (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is my opinion that he did not judge himself in any ultimate sense knowing that such is our Lord’s job at his return, saying, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time.” Nor was he telling the Corinthians not to hold themselves accountable in their church which the next chapter will make clear. But they were certainly not to condemn Paul in their arrogant way, or anyone else for that matter. Thus, Paul’s concern is to be found faithful when Christ comes. In the meantime, he will seek to patiently correct these Corinthians who want to sit on thrones as judges over apostles when they cannot even rightly judge themselves.
Paul then says something that expresses a great truth which we must hear. He tells the Corinthians that they should do as Apollos and himself, “not to go beyond what is written.” The Scriptures are our spectacles that we may see clearly, and we are not to go beyond them as if we know more than God. The Corinthians had done this, perhaps with their “wisdom” or “revelations” which they thought they had received from the Lord. This manifests profound arrogance. And if they do have any wisdom (which seems but little), they should give glory to God for the gift and humble themselves before Him. And so we are called to humble ourselves before God’s word and allow it to judge us and not we it. The Church is to obey the apostolic word, not critique it. Stay within the bounds of what is written.