This chapter forms a chiastic structure:
1 Cor 4
1a) 1 Cor 4:1-5, Paul judged by no man, but God alone;
1b) 1 Cor 4:6a, That you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written;
1c) 1 Cor 4:6b-7, That none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against another;
1d) 1 Cor 4:8, The Corinthians full, rich, and reigning as kings;
1e) 1 Cor 4:9, God has displayed us apostles as last, men condemned to death;
central axis) 1 Cor 4:10, We are fools but you are wise … you are distinguished and we dishonored;
2e) 1 Cor 4:11-13, We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now;
2d) 1 Cor 4:14-17, Paul, the Corinthians’ father in Christ, not to shame them but to warn them;
2c) 1 Cor 4:18-19, Now some are puffed up as though I were not coming to you;
2b) 1 Cor 4:20, For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power;
2a) 1 Cor 4:21, Paul to judge the church (Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?).
“Judge nothing before the time (1 Cor 4:5),” this use of the verb “judge” here is the same as in Mat 7:1, “Judge not that you be not judged.” In Greek it is Strong’s G2919, krino, and means “to separate, select, choose;” hence, “to determine,” and so “to judge, pronounce judgment.” It is judging in the courtroom sense, to examine the evidence and pronounce judgment based on that evidence. Jesus cautioned us to not pronounce judgments on others in this sense, because we do not have all the evidence in front of us, so our judgment is likely to be skewed. We can not see the motives of the heart, for example. (Yes, we must judge – behaviors and actions only, not thoughts, hearts, motives, or people.)
God is the only One who can judge with just judgment, as He is the only One who can see all the evidence. But the time for God’s judgment is not yet. God has not passed judgment on me before the time. His Holy Spirit is yet working sanctification in me and through me, and no one, least of all me, knows what will be proved in the end.
Therefore do not judge others before the time, as a lost cause, or ineffective, or of no value. We do not know what will be proved in the end, and we do not want to be found agreeing with the accuser of the brethren in his negative judgments against others. Instead, if we are to make a pronouncement about someone, let it be in agreement with the blessing of God over them. Today, as long as it is called today, we are living in the acceptable time and the day of salvation; we are living in the day of hearing the call, the invitation, the encouragement of God, and responding to it.