"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" The Three Tribunals (4:3-5) INTRODUCTION 1. Among the many problems that existed in the church at Corinth... a. There was the problem of division - 1Co 1:10-11 b. Which involved "preacher-itis" or "personality cults" - 1Co 1:12 2. In dealing with the problem, the apostle Paul... a. Rebuked the spiritual immaturity of such division - 1Co 3:1-4 b. Revealed how one should view the role of preachers
- 1Co 3:5-9; 4:1-2 c. Remarked that in his own case he was more interested in what the Lord thought - 1Co 4:3-5 3. In the text for this study (1Co 4:3-5), we are introduced to three different types of judgment... a. The court of judgment by men b. The court of judgment by one's conscience c. The court of judgment by Christ -- We might call these "The Three Tribunals" 4. In our federal court system, we have... a. The local federal court b. The federal district court of appeal c. The federal supreme court -- In which the judgment of one court is more final that the others [So it is with "The Three Tribunals" of our text. There is a difference between them, and we do well to see what the Scriptures say about each one. We begin with the lowest "tribunal"...] I. THE COURT OF JUDGMENT BY MEN A. PAUL'S VIEW OF THIS "TRIBUNAL"... 1. "... it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court" - 1Co 4:3a 2. Note carefully that he said "a very small thing", not "nothing" 3. Paul was often concerned about what people thought in some matters a. About what his weak brother thought - 1Co 8:13 b. About what the lost thought - 1Co 9:19-23; 10:31-33 4. But what people thought of him personally was " a very small thing"... a. His accomplishments b. His status as a preacher B. THE REASON FOR PAUL'S VIEW... 1. He knew how fallible the opinions of others could be a. The world loves false teachers - Lk 6:26; cf. Jer 5:30-31 b. They hate those "not of the world" - Jn 15:18-19 2. He new their criteria for judging was wrong a. They often look at the outward appearance - cf. 1Sa 16:7 b. A problem Paul had to deal with - 2Co 10:7,10 c. Yet he knew what the Lord had said - cf. Jn 7:24 [While there are times we should be considerate of what others think, the final estimation needs to look to a higher court. Some would say "Let your conscience be your guide." But let's examine...] II. THE COURT OF JUDGMENT BY ONE'S CONSCIENCE A. PAUL'S VIEW OF THIS "TRIBUNAL"... 1. "In fact, I do not even judge myself." - 1Co 4:3b 2. Paul is not totally discounting the need to examine oneself a. We are to examine ourselves at the Lord's Supper
- 1Co 11:28-31 b. We should periodically examine our own salvation - 2Co 13:5 3. He certainly stressed the importance of a good conscience - 1Ti 1:5,19; 3:9; 4:2 4. But in the matter at hand (evaluating preachers), Paul refused to depend on this "tribunal" B. THE REASON FOR PAUL'S VIEW... 1. He knew how fallible one's conscience or self-estimation can be a. He had always served God with good conscience - Ac 23:1 b. Even when he was killing Christians - cf. Ac 26:9-11 c. When misinformed, one can have a clear conscience and still be dead wrong! 2. Paul acknowledged this possibility a. "For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this;" - 1Co 4:4a b. While his conscience was clear, he knew that it did not make him right [Paul knew there remained a final and infallible judgment...] III. THE COURT OF JUDGMENT BY CHRIST A. PAUL'S VIEW OF THIS "TRIBUNAL"... 1. He knew that "He who judges me is the Lord" - 1Co 4:4b a. This refers to the judgment by Christ is evident from v.5 b. For Christ will judge men at His coming - 2Co 5:10 2. He viewed the Lord's judgment as superior, for He will: a. "bring to light the hidden things of darkness" (things a clear conscience might miss) b. "reveal the counsels of the heart" (things often hidden from the view of others) 3. Thus Paul viewed this "tribunal" as final, with no court of appeal! B. THE REASON FOR PAUL'S VIEW... 1. He knew the judgment of Christ was certain a. For God provided proof through the resurrection of Jesus - Ac 17:31 b. And so Paul often wrote of this judgment
- Ro 14:10; 2 Co 5:10; 2Ti 4:1 2. He knew the judgment of Christ was superior a. He knew the Lord was judging even then (cf. the present tense) - 1Co 4:5; cf. Re 2-3 b. He knew the Lord could know the secrets of men - Jn 2:24-25; cf. Mt 9:4 CONCLUSION 1. And so we have "The Three Tribunals"... a. The court of judgment by men b. The court of judgment by one's conscience c. The court of judgment by Christ 2. To which "tribunal" are we appealing for the hope of salvation...? a. Is our hope based on what fallible men have said? b. Is our trust based on what we feel in our hearts, or what our conscience tells us? c. Or do we place our trust and hope in the words of the Lord who will judge us? - Jn 12:48; cf. Mk 16:16; Re 2:10 I trust that we have seen there is only one "tribunal" we should look to for the final answer to such questions, and that we might truly have the attitude of Paul... "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." - 2Co 5:9 Note: The main points of this outline are based on a sermon by Alexander Maclaren with a similar title in his Expositions Of The Holy Scriptures.