But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.1 Corinthians 4:3-6
Few of us thrive on criticism, but that does not eliminate the fact that we are evaluated in nearly every interaction of the day. You and I evaluate the service we receive in a restaurant or shop. Others assess our driving skills – or lack thereof.
It is this reality that I think should be considered, in my evaluation, of the passage above. The judgment mentioned in this passage doesn’t refer to the judgment of sinful behavior or corruption. While we have to read between the lines, there appears to be an ongoing conflict within the Corinthian church as to who is the better or more important leader -Paul or Apollos, or Peter. Maybe Paul was criticized because of his strong stance on issues of Christian character. Maybe Apollos was a superior speaker. Followers of Peter could point to his eyewitness accounts of Christ.
But even if this judgment of preference was one of the superficial issues, it was stirring up division among the local church. Paul points out that there will be a real judgment when Christ returns and then our hearts will be revealed.
Sometimes we may be in Paul’s position of receiving criticism and at other times we may be tempted to judge. So, as Paul concludes the passage, he mentions that we should learn “not to go beyond what is written” meaning that when we follow the teaching of Scripture we will stay away from the tendency to elevate the teachings of one man or another.