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Ignorant Judges


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Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. —1 Corinthians 4:5

Matthew 7:1 is a constant favorite passage of the world in general, and even of many professing Christians who can’t be bothered to learn the true intention of Jesus in saying “Judge not.” On the other hand, many of us are often tempted to judge things on which scripture (and common sense) commands restraint. Among these things are the hidden thoughts and motives of others. Humility requires us to admit that we often don’t know all we think we know, and should refrain from forming ignorant opinions and, even moreso, refrain from expressing them.

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Therefore judge nothing before the time. From this conclusion it is manifest, that Paul did not mean to reprove every kind of judgment without exception, but only what is hasty and rash, without examination of the case. For the Corinthians did not mark with unjaundiced eye the character of each individual, but, blinded by ambition, groundlessly extolled one and depreciated another, and took upon themselves to mark out the dignity of each individual beyond what is lawful for men. Let us know, then, how much is allowed us, what is now within the sphere of our knowledge, and what is deferred until the day of Christ, and let us not attempt to go beyond these limits. For there are some things that are now seen openly, while there are others that lie buried in obscurity until the day of Christ.

Who will bring to light. If this is affirmed truly and properly respecting the day of Christ, it follows that matters are never so well regulated in this world but that many things are involved in darkness, and that there is never so much light, but that many things remain in obscurity. I speak of the life of men, and their actions. He explains in the second clause, what is the cause of the obscurity and confusion, so that all things are not now manifest. It is because there are wonderful recesses and deepest lurking-places in the hearts of men. Hence, until the thoughts of the hearts are brought to light, there will always be darkness.

And then shall every one have praise. It is as though he had said, “You now, O Corinthians, as if you had the adjudging of the prizes, crown some, and send away others with disgrace, but this right and office belong exclusively to Christ. You do that before the time—before it has become manifest who is worthy to be crowned, but the Lord has appointed a day on which he will make it manifest.” This statement takes its rise from the assurance of a good conscience, which brings us also this advantage, that committing our praises into the hands of God, we disregard the empty breath of human applause.

Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XX, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Baker Books, 2009), 1:156–157.



Posted 2019·07·25 by David Kjos
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Posted in: 1 Corinthians · Calvin’s Commentaries: 1 Corinthians · John Calvin

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