Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
"For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world"—1 Corinthians 11:31, 32. "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." Here we perceive a judgment to which the saints, and only the saints, are amenable; a judgment belonging solely to this life, exercised by Christ, who is the Judge. To Him the Church is accountable; every believer is responsible to Him for his thoughts, words and works. Nothing escapes His notice. He walks "in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks"; "His eyes are as a flame of fire"; "before Him all things are naked and opened" and He can still say to each and all, "I know your works." This tribunal is always set; the books are always open; from it no believer can altogether escape. Not that the Lord is strict to mark iniquity, or righteous to punish; if He were, "O Lord, who should stand?"
The Lord Jesus has no haste to correct His children; He says, He does it not "from His heart." And, indeed, the words above contain most gracious assurance of deliverance from correction, even though they have offended. They seem to say, indeed, that the Lord is slow to chasten, though His children be so faulty. His love for them is such, that not only shall they be delivered from all penal inflictions for sin (for these He has fully borne for them), but He would also show them how to avoid His corrections. There is something, therefore, exceedingly gracious in this notice given to the church, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged," tending to confirm our confidence in our Lord, and in His amazing condescension and tenderness.
The believer knows he must trust in Jesus implicitly and confide in Him entirely. When the storm and tempest rage the most furiously, he may run into his hiding-place and find sweet repose from the world, the flesh, and the devil, for "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe." Now if ever there was a time when this confidence could be shaken, it would be when the saint had sinned; but even then he may, and must, rest his soul in Jesus. Some of the Lord's children when overtaken in a fault, immediately expect correction at His hands, and through all of it walk heavily; but the passage also meets their case. It is a law of our great High Priest, and also our Judge, that, "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged"; that is, if we note when we have offended, and go directly to the Judge condemning ourselves, and confessing it to Him, He will pardon and pass it by. Wonderful condescension! He will allow the believer to be his own judge. What a proof that the Spirit is within him; yes, Christ Himself, the Hope of Glory!
Having judged himself, and brought in the verdict of guilty, the believer will feel the paramount necessity of getting the blood sprinkled afresh upon him, and of turning out of the wrong path; and he is thus brought to the point, only more readily and speedily, to which chastening would have brought him. It is, if one might so speak, a nearer and easier way back into the right path; for the Lord only wishes us to walk with him, enjoying His presence and His smiles; and when we turn aside through frailty, the sooner we come back the better. It is not He who would keep us at a distance. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins" (1 John 1:9). But alas! many walk so carelessly, "at all adventures with God," that they offend, and are not aware of it. They are out of the way, and know it not. They are plainly, therefore, not in a capacity to judge themselves; and as sin must not be on the believer unknown and unconfessed, the good Lord will go after the careless one, and bring him into judgment. He will judge him, since he would not judge himself.
But (if such an expression might be used) He would much rather His people should judge themselves. He would have them live so that He might always be present with them; and they might have their Lord continually, if, as soon as they sinned, they detected it, and acknowledged it; then they would cease to be guilty, and walking thus in the light, as He is in the light, the fellowship should not be broken, for the blood should "cleanse from all sin." The believer, thus cleansed and restored to obedience, escapes the chastening, for the end of the chastening is amendment; and if he has arrived at the latter, what need is there for the former?
And O, how like is this to our Lord! and how kind of Him to make it so plain to us! Should we not at least learn thus much from the words—if He is so graciously desirous not to chasten, how very careful should be our walk with Him! Now this was not the case with these Corinthians; they sinned again and again, and seemed to take no account of it. They were carnal; there was among them envying and strife, and division; still they judged not themselves. The Lord, who is slow to anger, waited long, and they only went further and further astray, until at last, in the abuse of His supper, He was compelled to be the Judge.
Perhaps Peter's was a case like the former; he judged himself. His bitter tears told of his guilt and his sorrow, and not a word of upbraiding does he hear. The very angels have a special message for him: "Tell His disciples and Peter, that He is risen" etc. And our Lord was "Seen of Cephas, then of the twelve." "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared unto Simon." Note the words guilt and guilty, in the above, have nothing whatever to do with the believer's state before God; for in Christ he is as free from the imputation of sin as the risen Surety. But if the washed one offends in neglecting to wash his feet, he will bring the sense of guilt into his conscience, which may be so strong as to make him forget he has been purged from his old sins. The Lord vouchsafe us tender consciences, and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, to which we are elected.
"But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" "When we are judged of the Lord we are chastened." He does not always tell us our fault first; we are so selfish and unwilling to suffer, that we are willing then to search ourselves, and we see therefore this evil is upon us. Having sinned and failed to confess, we are laid open to His displeasure; to escape then is hopeless. O the bitterness of provoking Him to punish us, our best Friend; that One who poured out His life's blood for us; who endured the sharpest inflictions of justice to screen us; Him whose heart is love, and on the sense of whose love all our happiness depends! Yet, we forfeit all, and compel Him to restrain His lovely smile, put on instead a frown, take the rod in His hand, and chasten us for our folly. Then we cannot escape: smite He will. How long and how much, we must leave to Him. We are completely in His hands; His power over us is supreme, entire; resistance is vain, and will certainly increase the affliction. There is nothing to be done, but humbly to lie down before Him, and submit to His will. He may punish severely; often He does. He may punish long; and there is no promise that it shall not be so. The suffering child has but one resource, but one door of hope; it is love, the exquisite, surpassing love of Him who is chastening. On that he throws himself, as Quarles says, "I turn from Lord to Jesus; From Yourself to You." Yes, there is none other. He who inflicts the pain can withdraw His hand; He who has wounded, can bind up; He who has laid us in the dust by His frown, can raise up by His smile. Yes, He can forgive, He can restore; He can heal. "He will not always chide." He will "turn again," perhaps meaning He will relent, as the parent when he has punished the child; never is his heart so soft as then.
So our Jesus: "Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?" asks the Lord. "I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him." Jeremiah 31:20 This, this is a mercy, an infinite mercy, that we are in the hands of One so tender, so loving, who does not like to put us to pain, who does it unwillingly, and longs to restore us to favor.
But there is still a greater mercy in the reason assigned for correction; it is "that we should not be condemned with the world." Ah it is enough to make one tremble to think of the ungodly, who never having been chastened here, will hereafter bear the full punishment of all their offences. But it is not so with us, thanks be to God, we are judged here, not there; in this world, not in the next. And it is because we shall be acquitted hereafter that Christ our Lord must of necessity notice our offences here: "You only have I known," etc. The wicked go free, the houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them, for this reason, their reckoning is future, ours is present. Let us bless the Lord for His kind care of us, and for not allowing us to take our own way. Let us not rebel against His loving discipline, but thank Him for being so particular with us, (2 Cor. 10:18), seeing that His dealing points to our high destiny, and issues in our everlasting blessedness, to the praise of the glory of His grace.