Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Paul’s words about judging church leaders

1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
3 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.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
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.
6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4:1-7)

I get the sense that Paul was asking the Corinthian saints to consider him (and other church leaders) servants of God. There’s a certain amount of respect that goes with that kind of office. But faithfulness is certainly required, otherwise stewards can be removed from their place.

But he also points out that it isn’t wise to “think of men above that which is written,” by which I think he means idolizing or idealizing.  Paul would be disturbed if infallibility were attributed to church leaders.   (This reminds me of an old joke that Catholics say the pope is infallible, but none of them believe it, while Latter-day Saints say the prophet is fallible, but none of them believe that either.)  

And some leaders look pious, but aren’t really, which is why Paul warns that God would bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.

It is interesting that Paul says “I judge not mine own self.” It hints that although he had examined his own conscience and felt like he had repented of everything he should, he recognized he might have blind spots about his own spiritual status that would prevent him from making an accurate judgment, and he left that to God.  If Paul can say that, then I suppose those of us who do the best we can are allowed to say it too. 

Finally, I really like verse 7, particularly the question “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” None of us, no matter how wise or spiritual, can honestly say that we know anything about the gospel without having been taught it through the Spirit. Everything we know, we’ve received from God, so we have nothing to boast of.