4:1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
New chapter but never forget the original letter had no chapters. Chapters and verses were added later to simplify navigating the Scriptures. This is important to always remember when reading the Bible because our minds tell us that a new chapter is a new topic or a change in focus but this is not so. Paul is still dealing with the problem of divisions caused by hero worship in Corinth. Yesterday we saw the need for having an independent mind that doesn't elevate other people to places they shouldn't be. Jesus is our hero. We are all equals. As such I can be taught by others but then I am responsible to evaluate that teaching and make my own decisions.
Paul continues on that theme with the counsel that he and Apollos etc... should be considered servants of Christ rather than masters of men. They have a role but it is not an elevated one. Then he writes some very wise words that at first glance seem quite arrogant.
He says he considers the judgment of others about him, be it individuals or even a court to be rather meaningless. He is not speaking theoretically either. He has been judged by men and by courts more than once. However he goes on to explain what he means. He says he doesn't even put much stock in his own evaluation of himself.
Why? Because he's just a man. In his chest beats a deceptive heart. His mind is prone to distorted thinking. His eyes don't always see clearly or his ears hear with accurate discernment. He thinks himself innocent by his own evaluation but recognizes that means very little.
Think about it. If we can't trust ourselves, and we can't, how can we safely make heroes of others? Is it not possible that we are multiplying the likelihood of being deceived by elevating others and making them and their views more prominent than we should? Adam and Eve were deceived by putting their trust in the wrong place. Many have followed in their footsteps. Some have invested money with financial gurus and lost everything. Some of put their spiritual lives in the hands of others and ended up drinking kool-aid laced with cyanide. It was from Jim Jones and his hero worshipping followers that we got the expression "Don't drink the kool-aid".
Trust is huge. Be very guarded about where you invest your trust. Paul had a healthy view of himself and his fellow men. He knew we are all flawed to the point our own minds can trick us.
Trust God and you will never be lead astray. Blindly trust those who claim to speak for Him and you could quickly be in a world of hurt.
So what does Paul mean by saying "Judge nothing before the time"? Let's say your favourite pastor/teacher says everyone should live in the country well outside the cities. You agree and make the choice to move. Others, both pastors and fellow believers who are not pastors don't make the same choice. Internally you wonder why they are ignoring this wise counsel. You begin to judge them within yourself. You begin to see them as 2nd class Christians. You may even get a little prideful about how wise you were to move. You may even get to the place in your head where you think they are not really Christians at all.
Paul says don't ever go there. Don't judge anything before the time. It's entirely possible that the same God who impressed you to live in the country had a purpose and a calling in placing others in the cities. Look at John the Baptist and Jesus. Their approach to ministry and lifestyle were nearly opposite yet Jesus said no man ever born to a woman was greater than John the Baptist. Cookie cutter religion is not Biblical. We are the body of Christ. We will each have an assignment from God. Those assignments may be vastly different. Don't judge until the time. All will be revealed. Trust God. Follow Him where he leads you. Leave the rest to Him.