. Who are you to judge? (Part 6)


Judging our pride


We are busy with a series under the title WHO RU2 JUDGE and have concluded that this is a critical series for Logos as the issue of unbiblical judgment is one of the most destructive forces in the life of the church. It not only sets up members against members, but it sets up members against pastors and pastors against members. It becomes the foundation of a whole lot of chaos when an attitude of judging one another permeates the body. Judgment has another bedfellow and that is ‘legalism’. The sad reality is that many believers are prone to taking their own prejudice, preconceived ideas, traditions, and views of Scripture that might be even be wrong and they turn it into laws for others to keep. At Logos we want to be serious about eradicating this evil that causes so much damage in interpersonal relationships. This whole issue of unbiblical judgment and legalism also causes new believers to feel extremely discouraged because they do not feel that they make the grade or that they can ever make the grade. They look at other believers who function in the realm of white box – black box rules and just do not believe that they are ever able to cut it.


We have over the weeks looked at the issue of judging and legalism from various angles. We have seen that unbiblical judgment is wrong, we have seen that judgment must be left up to the Lord as He is the only one capable of judging because He sees the things we do not, He knows what we do not know, and He knows the motives of a man’s heart. In my last sermon we saw that we need to judge legalism. I was going to get back to it from another angle, but we might do that at a later stage.


In this sermon I want to continue where we left off with Paul and use this sermon to put our pride on trial.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7 (ESV) 6 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 favour of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”


Paul continues his argument about judging and then gives a quite simple reason why you should not go beyond what is written. The reason is twofold. Firstly, it causes pride as it makes us puffed up. You see, if you make the rules, others will battle to come up to the standards you set, and it makes you look good. Secondly it causes division. Where we go beyond the clear standards of Scriptures and set up our own standards, there is going to be division.


The sin of pride is so intricately connected to judging, slander, and legalism. Whenever a person goes beyond what is written it leads to arrogance which leads to a proud or haughty spirit, because I have become the standard instead of the Word of God.


Now, we all know that pride is one of the biggest sins according to Scripture. It was Satan, that old dragon, that old snake’s downfall from heaven. Three times Jesus says that whoever exalts himself will be humbled. James and Peter say that God opposes the proud. Not only is pride a by-product of judging, legalism, and slander, but it is the source of it all. Therefore, we need to put it on trial today.


And we need to be careful; it is so close to the chest of all of us, even when we think we are not proud, we can fall into this sin so easily. We need to be so careful, are we better disciples than Peter was? Was he not the one who said, ‘I do not know this man?’ So, pride is a product of judging, legalism and slander but it is also the source of judging, legalism and slander. So how do we deal with it?


In a previous sermon entitled ‘Judging our Judgments’ I gave you five questions which I borrowed from Dave Swavely, by which you can judge your preconceived ideas about a person before you are led further down the path of judgment.


In this study I want to give you three simple questions extracted from the text that you can ask yourself to counteract judging and to eliminate pride.


They are right here in the text before us, so we do not have to dig too deep.


  1. For who sees anything different in you?
  2. What do you have that you did not receive?
  3. If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”


Let us look at these questions. I will modify the English a bit to make it more meaningful.


Question 1. Who do you think you are?

Paul says in verse 7: For who sees anything different in you?


Let me give you a few translations here to help us understand how to interpret this question.

  1. KJV “For who maketh thee to differ from another?”
  2. NAB “Who confers distinction upon you?”
  3. NAS “For who regards you as superior?”
  4. NIV “For who makes you different from anyone else?”


Now there is something in the Greek which makes this text interesting. The word that is used for ‘maketh’, ‘confers’, ‘regards’ and ‘makes’ is the word  diakrino {dee-ak-ree'-no}. Now if you have a very good memory you will remember that in my first study, I mentioned that the word ‘to judge’ comes from ‘krino’. Here in verse 7 the prefix ‘dia’ is added which means ‘to judge between’. So, in a simple sense Paul is asking the question, who has made the judgment that you are superior to or different than others? The answer in this context is simple. You are not only judging others and finding them guilty as charged, but at least you are judging yourself as well. The only problem is your conclusion, which is that you see yourself as better than others.



Is this not what we have seen with the story of the adulterous woman in John 8? These men dragged her before the Lord not because they were so concerned with her sin, but they tried to trap Jesus. They set themselves up as judges and regarded themselves as better than her. They failed in various ways. Firstly, Christ was a Rabbi, and not a Roman officer of the law, why bring her to Christ. Secondly the law demanded that both the man and the woman be tried for their adultery, so where was the man? If they caught her in adultery as they claimed, she could not have been alone. Jesus summarized the situation very well, by saying ‘let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ No man remained because they were all sinners. Jesus could just as well have said, ‘who do you think you are that you can drag this woman before me’? Or ‘who has made you superior?’ Now the fact that none of us can cast the first stone is not a licence for any of us to sin. Christ clearly says to the woman: “go and sin no more.”



I believe today that the Holy Spirit through the Scripture and specifically the words of Paul here are asking each of us, ‘who has made you the judge’ or ‘who has judged you as being superior’, and sadly the answer always will be only ourselves. You might be listening today thinking that you are spiritually and otherwise superior to others. The reason is that we are living in a delusion of our own grandeur. Just ask others to highlight the weaknesses they see in you and we will have a different story about you than the one you are writing. Learn to look at yourself through the eyes of others, even though they are not always right. We all know that pride hides a man’s faults to himself and always magnifies it to others.



Paul says in Romans 12:3 (ESV) 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,…”


Well, you might say to me today. In fact I am superior to others, and it is not an issue of pride, I just can’t help it. Paul’s second question should help us in this regard.


Question 2. What do you have that you did not receive?

The first question that Paul asks deals with an imaginary superiority, the second question now deals with the actual. You might be listening today and with the idea that you can actually very easily can draw up a list of things that makes you superior to others.


Well, let us be honest. You might have a list, but where did you get it from. If you dig down deep for understanding you must acknowledge that you did not produce it, you did not earn it and you do not have the power to keep it.  Scripture is clear that James 1:17 (ESV) 17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Not just some gifts, but every good gift.

Think about it.

There are things that you could never work for, and it is many of these things that produced in you the ability to have that which you worked for. Your place of birth, intelligence, talents, gifts, good health, and privileges that you inherited because of your family background, you did not work for. So, if you contributed nothing to receive these gifts, how can you look down on others who do not have these privileges?  What makes you superior? Bless God for these things you do have and do not despise those who do not have it. Oh, how we need to teach our children to change their attitude towards those at school because of birth defects, or bad family backgrounds, or low levels of natural intelligence. Kids so easily snigger at others and slander about them as if they are the reason for what they have. Paul says: “What do you have that you did not receive?”


What about the things that you did work for? What about the degree you received because of you hard studies, does that not make you better than the unemployed on the street? What about the money you made due to great business acumen, does that not make you better than others? Remember that we are totally dependent on the grace of God and the breath that God gives us to sustain what we have. I can lose it all tomorrow. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the man who acquired much, and Christ says that God can take his life just like that, what then does all his belongings benefit him? Rather be grateful and say to yourself, that all my belongings belong to the Lord and I am simply a steward thereof. Paul says: “What do you have that you did not receive?”


What about my salvation and my personal holiness? I cannot help it, but I am just a much better Christian than others, and I most definitely live a holier life than most do. We all know about this holier than thou attitude. Again, where did you get your salvation from? Jesus says in John 6:65 (ESV) 65“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” By the way, God can grant it to whoever He pleases.


Listen to Acts 11:18 (ESV) 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” And then of course the well-known verses in Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So being a Christian definitely separates you from those who are not, and being mature in your faith also separates you from those who are immature, but it does not make you superior to them. Always remember that you too were unsaved, and that you too were immature at a time. Do not pretend that your present status was always yours. Paul looks at you in your present status and he has one thing to say to you: “What do you have that you did not receive?”


I love what CH Spurgeon says. He says that if you received anything from anywhere but God, get rid of it. I wish I had time to unpack the nuts and bolts of this truth, but for now, think about it and apply Paul’s words to every area of your life.


There is a secret in the question that Paul asks that becomes very helpful in the application of the question. When we realise that every perfect gift is from above, and we live in the light of that truth, we will be a humble and a grateful person. Humble and grateful people are much less likely to fall into judgmentalism, legalism or slander. Let me give you just a few extracts from a book written by John Fischer in his book entitled 12 Steps for a Recovering Pharisee.


  1. “No need to judge other people when you are thankful for who you are.”
  2. “You don’t care if you are at the important seat at the table when you are overcome with gratitude at simply being invited to the dinner.”
  3. “You don’t put weights on other people shoulders, when you are thankful that God has lightened your load.”
  4. “No need to measure yourself by and compare yourself to others when you are thankful for what God has done in your life.”
  5. “You don’t have to try for the highest place when you are thankful for the lowest.”
  6. “You don’t have to make a show of spirituality when you are thankful for having received the Spirit.”
  7. “You don’t have to clothe yourself in holy robes, when you are thankful for being clothed with the righteousness of Christ.”
  8. “You don’t have to be full of yourself when you are thankful that God has filled you up with Himself.”


What do you have that you did not receive? Be thankful for it and do not see yourself as superior to others. You might say, okay, I know that I did receive all I have, but “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way; I can’t wait to look in a mirror ‘Cause I get better looking every day.”


Do we remember this country song by Mac Davis?  Well Paul has one more thing to ask us that will help us to interpret this attitude reflected in the song.


Question 3.  If you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Even if you feel like Mac Davis in his song, watch out. He continues in his second verse: “To know me is to love me, I must be one hell of a man; Oh Lord it is hard to be humble, but I am doing the best I can.”


There is a growth in the gravity of the questions Paul is asking. Okay you imagine you are better, who do you think you are? Alright then, you say that you are better, it is not just your imagination, then I ask you; what do you have that you did not receive?


I believe question number three is the most dangerous place to be in personal pride in comparison to others. This is where our pride has reached our mouths. Remember that when it comes to judgment and legalism, the most dangerous place is when it reaches our mouths in the form of slander and evaluation of others. In the case of Paul’s questions, the sin of pride reaches our mouths in the form of boasting.


Oh, how we love to speak about ourselves. We brag to others as if we have achieved all these good things we have. We are so inclined to praise ourselves as if we fear that we are going to miss out on praise if we did not do it ourselves. We forget about Scripture that says: Proverbs 27:2 (ESV) 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Proverbs 30:32 (ESV) 32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.”


Boasting can be done in such subtle ways. You can even boast in giving God the glory by the way you do that. ‘Thanks be to God that I am this good or that good or have achieved this or that in this world or spiritually’ is just another way of drawing attention to yourself. It is like gossiping in prayer. When we draw God’s name into it, we think it is not sin. We must never forget the prayers of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the temple. Whose prayer was accepted?


Now there is a time and a place when we need to share what God has done in and through us so that He might be glorified, but anything outside the right time and the right place is boasting. We have all seen it. It has nothing to do with the agenda or the conversation and somebody regularly pops up and talks about themselves. Truly humble people always experience a holy hesitation before they speak about themselves, and when they do they do it in a context of encouraging others or building them up or evangelising them.


Let me end this sermon with the words of Jesus. Matthew 6:1-5 (ESV) “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Don’t sound the trumpet, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, don’t boast about it, because you don’t want to lose your reward.


May our goal and prayer be nothing else than that of Paul in Galatians 6:14 (ESV) 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”


Go for Gold, go for an eternal award and go for a pat on the back by God instead of man and you are on solid ground. Stick to the Word, humbly apply it to your life with gratitude and you will not only be in a right relationship with your fellow man, but with your Lord.



Solid Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 16 - 19 February 2021