Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort

Denver L. Thomas

Within a twenty-five mile radius of my home, there are perhaps a dozen congregations that I could very easily attend for worship. However, very little is shared between them. It’s as if each is the “right” one and all the others are otherwise. It gives me grief when I hear someone say, “I wouldn’t go there.” Why not? What has taken place there such that we cannot be at one with all of the Lord’s people wherever they meet? Have things been allowed to change in such a manner that compliance with the Holy Word no longer exists? I have heard it said, “If you are not happy here, go where you will be happy,” but how does that solve anything? The implication is that what matters is that we maintain a happy environment!

Why would anyone be unhappy? Might it be because some deviation not in keeping with sound doctrine exists? We are all quite familiar with 2 Timothy 4:1-2 which says “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” I am made to wonder if we truly understand the implication of reprove, rebuke, exhort as it applies to those attempting to live the life of a Christian in today’s world. All too often we hear the scripture quoted but fail to see any impact in the lives of those in attendance. Surely, it is the intent of these verses to correct wrongdoing, lest it become acceptable and spread. However, if wrongdoing is not forcefully identified, how can it be corrected? It seems the fear of offending has taken precedence over correcting known problems in the body. Paul's words are sorely needed to be heeded by the church.  Preachers and teachers need to preach and teach them, and elders need to implement them.  

When we consult Webster for some definitions, we note the following: Reprove—to express disapproval of; censure; rebuke. Rebuke—to blame or scold in a sharp way; reprimand. Exhort—to urge earnestly by advice, warning; admonish strongly. These are powerful action words that are meant to identify and correct known sinful situations and make those of concern more in keeping with the Word. When properly used, these words are not intended for punishment but rather for the benefit of the offender—to save an otherwise lost soul.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:5, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.” Sadly, we have come to view sin as coming in various sizes or proportions. It seems all too often that a “small” sin is either overlooked or minimized and therefore allowed to continue. We need to remember what 1 Corinthians 5:6 says. “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Some scriptures serve to demonstrate the need for and the force required to rid the body of sin whether it be false teaching, immorality, neglect or any of a dozen things that are contrary to sound doctrine (I Timothy 1:10). 

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:11, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” In Titus 1:3, we read, “…Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;” and, in 2:15, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” 

These scriptures authorize swift and decisive action. James 5:19-20 tells us, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” The scripture is truly corrective when used as intended. –PO Box 821, Milton, WV 25541-0821.

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