Summary: A sermon on 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 (Based on a sermon by Mark Copeland at:


Many years ago, A preacher told of a man he had little respect for because he considered him to be miserly and covetous. One day when this person contributed only a small gift to a worthy charity, the preacher openly criticized him. After the incident, the man went to the preacher privately and told him he had been living on parsnips and water for several weeks. He explained that before coming to Christ, he had run up many bills. Now, by skimping on everything and buying nothing for himself he was paying off his creditors one by one. "Christ has made me an honest man," he said, "and so with all these debts to pay, I can give only a few offerings above my tithe. I must settle up with my worldly neighbors and show them what the grace of God can do in the heart of a man who was once dishonest." The preacher then apologized to the man and asked his forgiveness.


Many problems in the Corinthian church. Here is one of them. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”” 1 Corinthians 1:10-12, NIV. In dealing with this problem, Paul gave these Scriptures tonight.

In our federal court system, we have 3 levels. The local federal court, the federal district court of appeal, and finally the Supreme Court. The judgement of the Supreme court is final.

In this Scripture we find 3 different types of judgment. The court of judgment by men, the court of judgement by one’s conscience, and the court of judgment by Christ. Might call these “The Three Tribunals”

Thesis: Let’s talk about these three tribunals

For instances:

The lowest is the court of judgment by men

Paul’s view of this tribunal is seen in vs. 3

Now Paul said “I care very little”. He did not say that he cared nothing about this.

Paul was concerned about what people thought in some matters. A “very little” thing what they thought of Paul’s accomplishments and his status as a preacher of the gospel.

The Reason for Paul’s view.

He knew how fallible public opinion can be. The world loves false teachers. They hate those “not of the world.” “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” John 15:18, 19

He knew the Corinthians criteria for judging was wrong. People can only know the outward actions and appearance of an individual. Jesus said this, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”” John 7:24, NIV. This is the problem with our judgments, we do not know what is hidden in darkness and we do not know the motives of men’s hearts.

Now wait a minute, aren’t there some things that we are to judge. Yes, we are. The wrong kind of judging is when we try to judge (from vs. 5) what is hidden in darkness and the motives of men’s hearts. Walk in other’s shoes: we want people to judge us when they don’t have all of the facts? “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31, NIV.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9, NIV. Since we cannot know with certainty what is in our own heart, how can we possibly think that we can discern what is in the heart of another?

Vs. 5 tells us that when it comes to the motives of others, we need to wait for the Lord’s judgment. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11, 12, NIV.

H. While there are times we should consider what others think, the final estimation needs to look to a higher court. Some would say, “let your conscience by your guide.” Look at that...

The court of judgment by one’s conscience

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