Proverbs 28:23. He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.
This is the second of three posts regarding the topic “Correction”. In the Bible, this is also known as “Rebuke” or “Reproof”. Dictionary.com defines these words as: re•buke noun –verb (used with object) 1. to express sharp, stern disapproval of; reprove; reprimand. –noun 2. sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand. re•proof–noun 1. the act of reproving, censuring, or rebuking. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary says of Correction, “the act of reform or punishing. In the Old Testament, correction is equated with chastening (Prov. 3:11–12), reproof (Prov. 13:18; 15:10), and judgment (Hab. 1:12). The New Testament declares that all Scripture is profitable for correction (2 Tim. 3:16).”
The scripture above states that “He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.” Matthew Henry says, “Reprovers may displease those at first who yet afterwards, when the passion is over and the bitter physic begins to work well, will love and respect them.” He calls it, “Dealing faithfully with a friend”.
Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
One thing rebuke is NOT is hateful. Rebuke in itself suggests love. The Women’s Study Bible states, “Open rebuke suggests constructive criticism or loving correction and is the evidence of the love of a true friend. Concealed love is too cowardly to admit that rebuke and correction are necessary ingredients in the edification that is a part of genuine friendship.” The KJV Bible Commentary says, “The love that will not speak the truth under the pretense of fearing to inflict pain is, by God’s standard, hatred (Lev 19:17).”
In Acts 18:24-28, we read about a man who was on fire for God, preaching and teaching to the Jews in the synagogues. Though he taught the scriptures accurately, he had never been taught about Jesus. Two Christians took the man aside and “explained to him the way of God more accurately”. Afterward, it says that “he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.” The correction this man received prepared him for God’s work, and united him with the other believers.
Rebuke is meant to lead the person to God, to repentance, and to faithful service (Titus 1:13). We do not correct someone for the sake of hurting, condemning, or retaliating. If correction is based on scripture, then we must carefully direct our rebuke to the one who knows scripture. Matthew Henry notes, “It is required of those who have received the gospel, and who profess a subjection to it, that they live according to the gospel.” Understand this; we do not go around correcting those who have not made a profession of faith in Christ. Rebuke is directed toward those who have received the gospel and profess a believing faith in the resurrection of Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14–15 “Brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ we command you to stay away from any believer who refuses to work and does not follow the teaching we gave you. If some people do not obey what we tell you in this letter, then take note of them. Have nothing to do with them so they will feel ashamed. But do not treat them as enemies. Warn them as fellow believers.”
Titus 3:9-11 “But stay away from those who have foolish arguments and talk about useless family histories and argue and quarrel about the law. Those things are worth nothing and will not help anyone. After a first and second warning, avoid someone who causes arguments. You can know that such people are evil and sinful; their own sins prove them wrong.”
The KJV Bible Commentary comments “Heretick (Gr hairetikos) means “to choose, prefer, or take for oneself.” It has the idea of choosing to believe what one wants, in spite of what God says. The Word of God must be the final authority for what we believe. Those who accept so-called “further revelations” which are contrary to the Word of God are heretics and should be rejected.” Many people will argue that “it’s ok to believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe”, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Paul frequently chastised the churches for not sticking to the teaching he gave them. He was concerned for them. Whenever we stray from the word of God, we become like “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). Regarding 2 Thessalonians the KJV Bible Commentary notes, “the person who refuses to obey the Word of the Lord while professing to be a “Christian” should be marked out and distinguished in some way from normal believers so that he is disassociated from them. He is not to be treated as an enemy, however, but as a brother. It must be made clear to that person and to the others as well that he is a disobedient Christian, and that if he wishes to associate with believers he must be willing to submit to and obey the Word of God (cf. Mt 18:17).”
Paul wasn’t afraid to speak the Truth. His concern was always, first and foremost, Jesus Christ. And that means, when the message of Christ is being twisted, tainted, or changed, we must stand up and defend the Truth of the Bible. Paul did such a thing in Galatians 2:14- “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”” Peter was doing something that had the potential of leading others away from the truth of the gospel. “They were guilty of appearing to walk one way, but turning aside whenever it was convenient to give another impression. Their compromising conduct was contrary to the gospel. They had deviated from the standard of God’s Word. Paul severely and publicly rebukes Peter for his inconsistency and his insincerity. Paul’s unsparing, but tactful, rebuke of Peter reveals his apostolic independence of all human authority. Peter did not try to defend himself, but graciously accepted the well-deserved rebuke and later referred to “our beloved brother Paul” Peter’s habit had been to live according to Gentile ways, although he was a Jew by birth. With this as a condition, Paul asks Peter a pointed question. He was guilty of compromising conduct by which he was obliging the Gentiles to Judaize, to adopt Jewish customs and observe Jewish statutes [KJV Bible Commentary]”.
Paul rebuked Peter not because he was false teaching, but because his actions contradicted the gospel they preached. Paul was not afraid of what others thought of him because he answered to a higher authority. God wants us to live by the Truth, and sometimes that means faithfully dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ by being lovingly honest about their beliefs and behaviors.
However, having the authority to correct and rebuke others, doesn’t mean you have the need or the right to do it every time you disagree. There is a difference between having different opinions and turning away from the Truth of the Gospel. We are to continue to live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11) and deal with each other in gentleness (Galatians 6:1-2).
Let us not forget the words of Paul: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14). Amen.