F. B. Hole.
(Extracted from Scripture Truth Vol. 40, 1959-61, page 161.)
The attentive reader of the Apostle Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians can hardly fail to notice the persistent note of correction that runs right through it. The state of this large assembly, composed mainly of converts from among the Gentiles, was carnal rather than spiritual, and many evils had crept in amongst them. But have we all taken to heart the fact that of all these evils the one to which the Spirit of God gave the first place was that of magnifying certain gifted servants of God to the displacing of Christ for in 1 Cor. 1:12, He is mentioned as though He were but the leader of a party in the church, and that party fourth on the list, and not the first. This dethroning of Christ was the first, and worst, and most fundamental of all the evils. When that takes place any other evil may easily develop.
Consequently in that first chapter Paul makes repeated mention of the great Head of the church, and dwells repeatedly on His Lordship. Upon the Name of the Lord we call. The fellowship to which we are called finds its Centre in Him as Lord. We wait for His coming, when will be established "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." When that day arrives the most gifted of His servants will have to stand in His presence, and have all their service reviewed and perfectly estimated by Him. His verdict will decide everything.
This fact comes plainly to light when 1 Corinthians 3 is reached. The work is God's and the varied human servants are only "workers together," or "co-workers" under Him. Their work may be varied, not only in its nature but also in its fidelity and spiritual value. Some may be building with, "gold, silver, precious stones," others, alas, with "wood, hay, stubble;" materials which will not abide when tested by fire, which is the symbol of a searching judgment; and as verse 13 says, "the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire."
Now "the day" of verse 13 clearly refers to "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ," that had been mentioned in chapter 1. So we, who have called upon His Name, and who have been called into His fellowship, and who await His coming, when the night of His absence will end and the day of His presence will dawn, must never forget that its searching light will bring everything into manifestation, whether good or bad -everything will be fully declared. We must live our lives in the remembrance of that.
If we do, we shall be delivered from being over-impressed with the judgments, that may be expressed by men of the world, or even by carnally-minded believers. This we see when chapter 4 is reached.
In verse 3 we find the Apostle saying, "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment," or as it more literally is, "of man's day." Elsewhere the Apostle writes, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand " (Rom. 13:12). So evidently man's "day" is really the "night," if we view it from God's standpoint, which is also ours, through grace.
Unconverted men of the world view things in the light of their own fallen understandings. When spiritual things are in question their "light" is only darkness, and consequently their judgments on such matters carried no weight in the Apostle's mind, nor need they carry weight in ours. But it is a sad and solemn thing that he had to express the same unconcern as to the judgment "of you;" that is, of the Corinthian saints. Thus he spoke, because at the beginning of chapter 3, he had to tell them bluntly that he could not speak to them as being "spiritual," but as being "carnal … babes in Christ."
Now a carnal Christian is one who though truly a believer and indwelt by the Spirit is not walking in the Spirit, as we are exhorted to do in Galatians 5:16. He is open therefore to fulfil the lust of the flesh. The believer who walks in the Spirit does so as having come under "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," which sets him "free from the law of sin and death," as is indicated in Romans 8:2. Here are two forces: that of the Holy Spirit, and that of the flesh — the old nature, which we have derived from Adam — and under the "law," or "control" of one or the other we live. Though converted and possessing the Spirit of God, we still have the flesh in us, and our lives may still be largely controlled by it, and "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). This is a strong and terrible thing to say, but such is its intrinsic nature, and hence, even in a believer, it leads his thoughts and judgments astray, according to the measure in which it controls him. No wonder the Apostle was not much impressed by any judgments passed on him by his converts at Corinth.
The saints are to judge manifested evil, as the closing verses of 1 Corinthians 5 show. The spiritually-minded saint is to judge what he hears put forth as truth, as stated in 1 Corinthians 14:29. But when it is a matter of passing an opinion upon servants of the Lord, as though we could assess the value of their life and work, let us remember what is stated in 1 Corinthians 4:5. Amidst all the weakness and failure which encompasses the best of God's servants here, there are "the hidden things of darkness" and further we do not know the motives that largely govern their thoughts and actions. There are "the counsels of the hearts"-the hidden motives that led to words and actions. Now both these factors, unknown to us, will be brought into the light. Of every one of them we have to say, "the day shall declare it."
This verse, with which we close our short paper, is one of the most searching contained in the Scripture. What contentions, and strifes, and divisions, and scandals, have marred the history of the professing church of God! Every one of them will be reviewed and straightened out. Everything will be seen in its true light. All that was false condemned. All that was true approved and rewarded. And then, instead of seeking praise from one another each will have any praise he merits from God - which is the only praise that really counts.
We may well praise God that such a moment of judgment, and rectification and appraisement is coming, when man's day ends, and "the day" arrives.