Summary: 1) How one should Judge (1 Corinthians 4:1), 2) What is Required to Judge (1 Corinthians 4:2), and 3) Who should Pass Judgment (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
For those in the public light, they often describe their existence as living in a fish bowl. They often mention how they are constantly judged by tabloid journalism about their weight, look, who they are dating, and just about every aspect of their lives. As people reflected on the spiraling train wreck of Miley Cyrus' life, in her song "We Can’t Stop", she responded to her critics with the line in the song: "Remember only God can judge us" (http://www.lyricscog.com/miley-cyrus-we-cant-stop-lyrics)
1 Corinthians 4:1–5 focuses on the topic of judgment with the example of those in public eye, regarding the true nature and marks of God’s ministers. It sets forth the basic guidelines and standards by which ministers are to minister and be evaluated. It deals with what the congregation’s attitude toward the minister should be and what the minister’s attitude toward himself should be. In short, it puts the minister of God in God’s perspective. Paul makes it dear that popularity, personality, degrees, and numbers play no role in the Lord’s perspective—and that they should play no role in ours.
The concept of judging someone is both a popular mantra and in a different way, a biblical truth. Understanding the topic of judgment from considering our own actions, the actions of others and what God is going to do should not only help us properly order our own lives but at what point we should intervene in the lives of others. It balances our perceptions with how God sees things. Far from being the universal taboo of today, God has some important words to say about judging.
Using the example of a servant of God, the Apostle Paul shows us 1) How one should Judge (1 Corinthians 4:1), 2) What is Required to Judge (1 Corinthians 4:2), and 3) Who should Pass Judgment (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
1) How one should Judge (1 Corinthians 4:1)
1 Corinthians 4:1 [4:1]This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (ESV)
The "us" to whom we are to regard here refers back to 3:22, indicating Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and, by extension, all other “fellow–workers” (cf. v. 9). Paul uses the plural in this verse to refer to the apostles and their helpers. He reminds his readers of the preceding discussion, in which Paul told the Corinthians not to boast in men, whether they were Paul, Apollos, or Cephas. He instructed them instead to look to Christ, in whom they possess all things. Further, Christ’s servants are fellow workers who are not in competition with one another (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 128). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).
The "one" to whom is doing the regarding is a nonspecific reference that first of all applies to Christians. But in a wider sense it may also refer to unbelievers—not only to how the world should regard God’s ministers, but also to how the church should portray God’s ministers before the world. An unbeliever cannot understand the things of God, because they are spiritually discerned or appraised (2:14). We have no right to use worldly criteria—such as popularity, personality, degrees, and numbers—to make the gospel seem more appealing. We should not try to make the world see God’s humble messengers as anything but what He has ordained them to be: servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Servants (hupçretçs) means literally ‘underrower’, i.e. one who rowed in the lower part of a large ship. From this it came to signify service in general, though generally service of a lowly kind (‘subordinates’), and subject to direction, under the authority of another (Morris, L. (1985). 1 Corinthians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 7, p. 75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Christian ministers are first and above all else servants of Christ. In everything they are subordinate and subject to Him. They are called to serve men in Christ’s name; but they cannot serve people rightly unless they serve their Lord rightly. And they cannot serve Him rightly unless they see themselves rightly: as His under-slaves, His menial servants. God’s ministers are not called to be creative but obedient, not innovative but faithful.
Ministers of the gospel are also stewards of the mysteries of God. The Greek (oikonomos) for steward literally means “house manager,” a person placed in complete control of a household. The steward supervised the property, the fields and vineyards, the finances, the food, and the other servants on behalf of his master. The primary requirement for a steward is faithfulness. Stewardship demands dedication that excludes all self-interest and includes sacrificial loyalty (Luke 12:42) (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 129). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).