God Alone Judges Me - 1 Corinthians 4:4

God Alone Will Judge Me

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.”

Believing in the Greatness of God

Believe the Greatness of God - Deut. 3:24

“At that time I pleaded with the LORD and said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do? – Deuteronomy 3:23-24 NLT

In the third chapter of Deuteronomy, we find Moses addressing the Israelites toward the end of their wandering years and the end of Moses’ life. Moses is starting to ask the Lord to go into the Promised Land (and is denied the request). How he opens the request is this, “’O Sovereign LORD, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant.”

My mouth dropped open when I read this! Moses thinks what he saw was only the beginning of God’s greatness? Let’s review some of what Moses and the Israelites saw as a group.

  • Plagues, ten of them. These weren’t minor annoyances, they were murderous plagues that decimated cities, and crops, but never touched the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived. (Exodus 7-12)
  • A mighty pharaoh defeated and their freedom granted. The word of a pharaoh was law and the power of God had set the children of Israel free to leave the land they had been enslaved in for hundreds of years. (Exodus 12:30-32)
  • A sea parted. The waters of the Red Sea were parted at the staff of Moses. Not just so they could sop through mud and ick, but so they could walk through on DRY LAND. God’s miracles are thorough! (Exodus 13:21-22)
  • An army defeated. Egypt was a powerful nation at this time, partly due to the technology of horses and chariots. The Israelites didn’t have any of those things, but the Lord fought their battle and killed the entire army. (Exodus 13:27-18)
  • Food provided from heaven. Manna came down from heaven to feed the entire nation for the time they wandered through the wilderness. They didn’t have to do anything for it other than go out when it came (in the early morning) and gather it up. This also included quail and water showing up when they were needed as well. (Exodus 16:15, Exodus 16:13, Exodus 17:6)
  • Clothes that never wore out. Forty years of hard dessert living, but nothing wore out. (Deuteronomy 8:4)
  • The presence of the Lord in a pillar of fire or cloud. The Lord led the Israelites in a pillar of fire at night or cloud during the day. He led them and showed His guidance through their time in the dessert. It also protected the Israelites from the Egyptian army before they crossed the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:21, Exodus 40:38, Exodus 13:19-20)

Now, Moses had a few other events that he saw by himself or with just a few others.

  • Seeing a bush that burned but didn’t burn up (Exodus 3:2)
  • Speaking with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20)
  • Speaking with God in the tabernacle (Exodus 33:9)
  • The back of God (Exodus 33:21-23)
  • God’s writing on stone (Exodus 31:18)

There were even more things than this, if you read the stories of Moses in the first five books. And yet, here he is saying, “you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me.”

Moses knew God and he knew how big and powerful and amazing God was. He didn’t think that what he’d seen during his life was the max that God could do. No, Moses knew God to be greater than all the things that he’d seen.

What do you believe about God and His greatness and power? What have you seen Him do in your life and the lives of others? Do you believe Him for more? Do you know God so well that you can not only see Him working your life, but that you can believe in Him for so much more?

Belief in Tough Moments

We want our beliefs to be what we say, or what we think, or what we do on a good Sunday morning when we’re all dressed up and in a fantastic mood.

What we believe is what comes out of us when our status quo has been challenged.

This text references John 11:1-45, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Setting the Stage

  • Jesus knew Lazarus was sick, but he didn’t go to see him. Jesus also knew he was dead before they got there. This wasn’t an impulse decision; Jesus was planning on raising him from the dead the whole time. (John 11:4,14)
  • The disciples, as usual, were a little confused. At first, they though Jesus meant Lazarus was actually sleeping, so Jesus had to explain that he meant he was dead. In addition, the Jewish leaders were very anxious to see Jesus killed. Bethany was close to Jerusalem and the disciples feared this would do them in. They were devoted to Jesus and decided it was better to stick with him and die. (John 11:8, 16)
  • Mary is heartbroken over her brother’s death. She didn’t even get up to meet him when he came to Bethany. Many people have come to commiserate with Mary and Martha and Mary chooses to stay with them. She didn’t leave to see Jesus until he specifically asked for her. This in contrast with her earlier behavior of a lavish love for the Lord that she wiped perfume of his feed with his hair. (John 11:2,20,29)
  • Martha went out to meet Jesus as soon as he came in. She epitomizes a follower of Christ who loves him and believes his teachings. (John 11:20-27)
  • The other mourners who have come to visit have come along to see as well. (John 11:31)

The Beliefs of the People

  • The disciples’ first reaction was one of self-protection. They were worried for Jesus, of course, but probably also themselves.
  • Martha was in a place of acceptance. She didn’t fight what had happened and she held deeply to what she understood about Jesus’ teachings.
  • Mary was upset with him and trying to find understanding. Her first reaction to Jesus was a belief in his power, but not in his sovereignty.

The Scene

Now we get to the tomb. I imagine this scene looks something like this: there’s a large group of people gathered at the tomb. Jesus stands closest to the tomb, with the exeption of those who will move the rock away from the entrance. Martha is next to him, but is anxious of what we’re about to see. Many scholars agree that this family had money, and Martha wouldn’t have normally had to deal with death close up. Mary would be close, trying to stay near to Jesus, who she loved, but not too near, as she was confused and hurt by his lack of healing for her brothers. Around them are scattered the disciples. They are concerned and worried, anxiously scanning the crowd to see if any face looks like it will be the one to turn them over to the officials.

In this scene filled with many characters, Jesus says, “Take away the stone!” Martha, the practical one, checks the intention of Jesus. She can’t understand the point of breaking into a tomb now. Jesus tells her that it’s for the glory of God. He then prays and says loudly, “Lazarus, come out!”

Imagine if this scene had frozen right in this moment. We know how this story ends and we know that Lazarus comes out of the tomb, but the people surrounding Jesus that day had no idea what would happen next. Perhaps the disciples wondered if this was another sign of craziness, like his willingness to walk into a city where he was at risk of getting arrested. Perhaps Martha thought he was mocking her and her belief that she had to wait until the day of the resurrection to see her brother again. Mary, wrapped in the sorrow of her mourning, would she have been able to bring up the smallest amount of hope in her heart? The crowds surrounding them, how many of them mocked and laughed at what seemed an absurd command?

Unfreezing the moment, we can now look at what came next. Lazarus had his hands and feet bound, so he probably had to shuffle or hop out of the tomb he was in. There was probably a delay between Jesus’s command and the appearance of the formerly dead man at the tomb entrance. What happened in the intervening time? I wonder if the shock of seeing him there was so great that no one dared move, prompting Jesus’ next comment to unbind him.

What Can We Learn

As we see each person’s approach to loss and hardship and miracles, we can gather some input into what we might potentially be doing to limit our belief in Jesus.

  • Minimizing risk (the disciples)
    • If the disciples had let their fear overtake them and not come with Jesus, they would have missed out entirely on a powerful miracle that Jesus worked. By minimizing your risk and staying in your comfort zone, what are you missing out on?
  • Not looking for answers in our current situation (Martha)
    • Martha completely accepted the situation she was in. In some ways, this was due to the faith that she did have. Sometimes, we have to look beyond a situation in life to see the potential glory and seek for the beautiful.
  • Letting our lack of answers affect our view of God (Mary)
    • Mary let her lack of understanding impact her relationship with/view of God. It was a difficult situation and no one could blame her for being upset. Instead of running to Jesus, however, she chose to stay with the people who were telling her what she wanted to hear. Do you let negative results and unanswered prayers taint your view of God?
  • Not going to the Lord, requiring him to come to us (Mary)
    • Mary sat at home until she was asked for. We are so blessed to be loved by an awesome Father who loves us and comes after us when we are stuck in our own hurts. What kind of relationship could we develop with the Lord if we run willingly to him instead of hiding out until he finds us?


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 11:1–44). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.