When God saves us from our sins, it is true that he cleanses and purifies our hearts and minds. However, our Christian hearts and minds can still be deceived by the sin nature still in us that wars against our God-given nature (Romans 7:14-25). The apostles recognized this and by their words encouraged us to consider the motives and intents behind any judgments that come our way. For instance, Paul said this to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
At first glance, it appears Paul is saying he just carries out his actions without judging or considering if they are acceptable to God and that he doesn’t care what the Corinthians think of him as if he’s giving the ever popular statement that no one has the right to judge him or his actions except the Lord. The context says differently. Paul in this same chapter showed his concern about how they judged him (vv. 7-21). He even taught elsewhere that we should check ourselves to make sure we were doing the right things (Galatians 6:3-4).
In the context of 1 Corinthians 4, Paul criticized Corinth for their carnal way of thinking and doing things. This is why he considered their judgments of him “a very small thing” in the sense that he did not allow their carnal criticisms of him, fueled by their fleshly motives, diminish or change how he carried out his ministry. Paul also recognized here that he could not judge himself by his own fleshly, human standards or preferences. Well aware he needed to apply Proverbs 3:5, the apostle knew (and commanded us) to wait until the Lord helped with judgments to bring hidden things to light and to manifest the intents of peoples’ hearts, including our own. Only then can a person get the praise of God. Only then can a believer and any congregation gain the confidence to dismiss the judgments that the world unleashes on the church, to pressure us to cave to their carnal, ungodly, immoral demands.
This teaching on how Paul was dismissive of ungodly judgments was also backed up by what Peter taught in 1 Peter 3:13-17 when he said,
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
Then John added his take on it in 1 John 3 by stating,
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.
22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
Sometimes we want to condemn ourselves for our repented sinful past, but we need to judge those thoughts by God’s promises when we have accepted his truth in salvation and keep his commandments. Laying aside condemning judgments of ourselves (as Paul did), since God is greater than that, is what instills our confidence in God.