Taking a poll would likely reveal that most everyone who has ever been around church folks has seen nasty, negative, nit-picking abrasiveness that has caused relational strive and separation among the brethren. Well, that’s not what we should see in any form among the people of God as the scripture says:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
So, a treatise on the above mentioned attitudes and actions would be as necessary as writing a song about gossip, which is murder. The point is that there is a time, place and practice for a rebuke and the scripture not only reveals in narrative, but commands it in doctrine. A quick look at Titus and Timothy (both) would suffice along with a jog through Galatians. To stick on a particular wave on this subject, I propose looking first at the occasion of rebuke and correction and then the tools of correction closing with the practice of correction.
Anytime any sin or weakness is revealed affords a good opportunity for correction among the fellowship of faith. However, the attitude on every matter is to be done in humility, knowing that except by God’s grace, each would be in the same station of error and may very will be there in the future. Later on this. For now, let’s quickly examine a “few” but not “all” thoughts:
- Sinful Actions
- Sinful Affections
- Sinful Attitudes
- Wrongful Doctrine, False Teaching, Poor Preaching
- Rebellion of God’s Commands
- Evidence of Unbelief, Lack of Trust in Scripture
- Doubt, Fear and Anxiety
- Divisiveness, Cliques, Favortism
- Unforgiveness, Resentment, Bitterness
- Gossip, Slander and Giving Ear to either
- Anything that is unbecoming of the Lord’s Name or the Holiness of Christ’s Body
- Anything that puts a stumbling block
- Legalism, Self Righteousness, Moralism
- Lack of Joy
- “Your List Here”
You see, there is a never ending list of reasons for correction and training and rebuke. And never forget that correction is part of the purpose of the church, not to modify behavior, but to make much of Christ who has given His life for the holiness of His people. True love is love that says hard things and does hard things, it isn’t “utopia” la, la, la happy-town, but sometimes tearful quests of challenging relationships for the good of everyone.
As each Christian looks deeply into their own lives to remove the log from their eye, they are also helping their Christian siblings get the specks from theirs.
Well, this portion could be done in one phrase: The tools of correction and rebuke are the words of God. The Bible.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
See, there is no need for “counseling” or “programs” or the like in order to work through sinful issues among God’s people. His word is enough. Take this to the bank of Truth, that if God’s Word is not enough, then those who consider it in need are not in the faith at all for only through God’s word can one even be given the grace to believe. (Ro 10:17, John 3) Nuff Said.
The meat and potatoes of Christianity are found in the application of theology and doctrine of scripture. So, here we’ll take a quick succession of snapshots on several places in order to get a “feel” for what the bible teaches. One of the most beloved places in scripture for the purity of the church is Matthew 18 where Jesus strictly resolves conflict between “TWO PEOPLE” in the fellowship by telling them to work it out together.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)
If they don’t listen, get some help. If they still don’t listen, let the whole church help. If then they don’t listen, kick them out until they come to faith and repentance through God’s grace. We don’t have time to pull out the full theological implications here, but simply that this text is written to people who have been SINNED against by another. It doesn’t include aggravation (sin) or “feeling” slighted, but obvious sin. So in the first matter of practice, individuals should KEEP SILENT and work it out with no one else finding out in an attempt to keep things between them.
This text does NOT however have anything to do with PUBLIC sin or PUBLIC error in doctrine. Public sins, divisive teaching that is public, bearing false witness in gossip, community known actions and behaviors and the like are not counted as personal offenses and are immediately and publicly rebuked before the church. While wisdom and affection are paramount to these matters, the protection and unity of the flock is severe and must be upheld at all cost.
Scripture commands such things as revealed through the example of Peter with Ananias and Sapphira even though their sin was “hidden, God the Spirit revealed it to him. Paul did not require a meeting with the brother engaged in incest in 1 Corinthians 5 neither did he meet with Peter privately in Galatians when he rebuked him in front of everyone. Paul openly expresses rebuke toward Euodias and Syntyche in Philippi and warns Timothy about Alexander due to doctrinal errors. He tells Titus to reject any erring individual in matters of doctrine. Many other places such as 3 John and Jude do not follow Matthew 18 in regards to private rebuke.
In the end, the purpose of correction and rebuke is that this is nearly half of all true discipleship and if the church is to bring life into its heart as a people, then the word of God must be true in its full counsel among them. Church discipline then is the training of God’s people by God’s people through His word for the sake of their holy and healthy pursuit of life together for His glory. When people continually rebuke the gospel message and evade detection while leading others astray, they are to be publicly outed until they publicly repent and correct their error. After all, isn’t love for the good of others? Corinthians 12:7 through 15 teaches that it is.
For His Glory by His Grace,
A few thoughts on the point of the shepherd’s job and calling can be read here.