I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV
1 Corinthians 4:3-4 holds a powerful truth about how to view ourselves, and, by extension, how to view others. Paul says here that he doesn’t feel like he’s guilty, he doesn’t care what others think of him, but that’s not his standard. The only opinion that matters is God’s.
There are two things that jump out to me about these verses. First, Paul doesn’t allows his own impression of himself to be the ultimate opinion. Paul doesn’t think there’s anything that he needs to repent of or deal with at this time, but he doesn’t therefore claim he’s perfect and without fault. He simply leaves his correction and judgement in the Lord’s hands.
So often we think that our view of ourselves is what determines how God will view us. This is completely not true. God views us through the lens of the sacrifice of Jesus and He continually calls us to more sanctification through knowing Him. How He judges us has nothing to do with how we feel about where we are in that process.
This is a different thing, by the way, than conviction that leads to repentance. We often have things in us that are hindering our walk with the Lord and they can’t stay. We have to acknowledge them and work through them in order to be closer to Him. This may mean changes in habits or restoring or building up relationships. Whatever that kind of obedience is, it’s different than what Paul talks about here.
The judgement that Paul talks about here is referring to making value statements about our walk with the Lord. Value statements seem to be very popular among the human race; we like to determine what is good, better and best. However, that’s the kind of judgement that Paul is saying he doesn’t have. He doesn’t make value statements about his relationship with the Lord, instead he trust that the Lord will take care of that. He is living the best and most honest life he can (that’s the clear conscious part).
Once we understand that our judgement in front of the Lord will be by His standards and not by how we are feeling about ourselves, it’s even easier to understand the other point Paul makes here. He says, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
In order to judge ourselves, we have to have something to hold it up against. Usually, whether or not we admit it, we are using other people as the standard that we compare ourselves against. We look at our best friends walk and feel better about our prayer life. We look at the lady at church and we feel bad about our testimonies. Whatever it is, we are determining our feeling about our walk only in the light of what others are doing.
But let’s look at where Paul is at. He doesn’t judge himself and he doesn’t care what others think of him. When our standard of behavior isn’t other people, there’s no reason to worry about what they’re saying about us. When we trust that Lord will convict us of what we need to change and we know that we’re walking daily with Him, the world’s opinion of us can be whatever they want it to be. We know the truth that is setting us free: The only who can judge me is God. No one else, not even myself, can do it, only God. Anyone who looks at me and makes a value statement about my spiritual walk is walking in lies. We who know the truth can smile and say, “God is my judge, and that’s more than enough.”