When Reproof is Needed

There are times when gentle words of comfort are not enough to cause the person in a critical situation to see the reality of their position. Under such circumstances reproof, rebuke, and correction are required. Added to these is the warning of judgement if the person will not accept the word of God. When use is made of such a method it must be with love and gentleness’ “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Through this the pastor will be used by God in bringing His loving chastisement to the one opposing Him and themselves, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). [Note: extreme care has to be taken regarding chastening. The minister must not allow his personal feelings get in the way or be his motivation. He must see the other persons situation through the eyes of the Lord, otherwise his ministry will quickly become a dictatorship. He must not see himself as the moral judge of anyone, but simply someone relaying God’s word. He should not lord it over them but be an example.].

Few people enjoy being rebuked and corrected but the minister has been given the responsibility to deal with sin in the lives of those the Lord has placed in his care. The words that the Lord would give at such times will put the soul under conviction and direct him to repentance and restoration. If with “meekness” the minister instructs that who are falling from Christ he will see beyond the sin and focus on his goal, reconciling the person with God.

In every church there are those who think and feel that they cannot be used by God because of physical weakness or past sin. Some may have lapsed into nominal, lifeless Christianity. These need to be encouraged and exhorted to return to their “first love” (Revelation 2:4). The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, who was probably feeling spiritually weak and intimidated by others, that he should “stir up the gift of God” which was within him (1 Timothy 1:6). Each member of the body must be made to see that God “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). God is much hindered from working in a live that is controlled by self-pity, unbelief, and guilt.

During his ministry the pastor will have to deal with cliques, divisiveness, murmerings, complaints, and other things that destroy the unity of the fellowship. Paul pleaded with and begged the Corinthian church to lay aside such pettiness, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Again, the pastor’s action must be with compassion and not in the spirit of a personal crusade or vendetta even when he is personally undermined or criticised. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14) to feed the Church with good, sound, spiritual food from God’s storehouse. Even the Good Shepherd needed to rebuke those whom He had called to be delivered from a wrong spirit or attitude, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of” (Luke 9:55); “But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23). Though the disciples would not have been comfortable with such words, they were much needed to cause them to see the error of their ways.

Jude instructs his readers, “Of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (:22-23). Therefore words of comfort may not always be soothing words. The way the message or admonition is put across is different for different situations. The minister needs to be “instant in season, out of season” when correcting or exhorting. Some are won through soothing words, while others need the sharp but gentle reproof that shocks them into returning to the Lord. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).