9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:9–11, NKJV).
We need spiritual discernment to successfully identify and avoid foolish disputes, contentions, and strivings (v. 9; 1 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 1:9-10). Not every disagreement is about contending for the faith. Some are only about competing and maintaining one’s pride and position. Such are “unprofitable and useless” and fail to strengthen and stabilize souls. Striving over them causes “the ruin of the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Tim. 1:3-7). The divisive person is factious, choosing to disrupt unity instead of encouraging unity in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-12). Sadly, this person rarely sees himself as “divisive” (Titus 3:10). So, we must have clear eyes to see the damage caused by the factious. They are perverted in faith and condemned by their divisive behavior (v. 11). Factiousness refuses the authority of Christ for self-defined constraints (binding where the Lord does not bind) or unscriptural allowances (loosing where the Lord binds). The factious press their distortions of truth through “selfish ambitions, dissensions, (and) heresies” (Gal. 5:20). Failure to identify and reject the factious person will infect and destroy a congregation. Therefore, if the factious refuse to repent, they must be marked and turned away from, not shielded and coddled in their sin (Rom. 16:17-18). Paul commanded Titus to reject them after a first and second warning (v. 10). We must do the same.
“Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
The merciful inclusion of the Gentiles in the blessings God had promised the Hebrew fathers evokes the joyful praise of God (Rom. 15:7-12). He is the “God of hope” for Gentiles and Jews, filling us with hope regardless of our race (Rom. 15:13). Their hope in Christ gave Paul confidence the Roman Christians would serve one another’s spiritual needs (instead of pleasing themselves, Rom. 15:1-6). Paul identified two things that gave them power (“able” is the verb form of “power” in Rom. 1:16) to admonish one another effectively. To admonish means to “put to mind,” “to caution or reprove,” to warn (Strong, G3560). First, they were able to admonish because they were “full of goodness.” Warnings and reproof are more palatable and productive when they come from a heart of goodness. Admonitions that do not spring from a place of virtue can easily take on the flavor of self-righteous judging instead of caring concern for the sinner’s soul. Secondly, they had the power to admonish because they were “filled with all knowledge.” God’s truth, not our “think so’s,” must inform and guide us when we caution and warn one another. Combining goodness and knowledge equips us to serve each other with needful warnings and exhortations as we live in the joy, peace, and hope of God (Rom. 15:13).
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. (Romans 15:14, NKJV)
An admonition is an earnest warning, a reprimand firmly given. By definition, it is intended to be persuasive, either to correct sin or to urge an action of faithfulness. Paul suggests two things needed in order to effectively admonition others. First, it requires the goodness of moral integrity. Admonitions fall on deaf ears when they come from a person whose own integrity is suspect. We must first remove the beam out of our own eye in order to see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5). Secondly, we must be filled with a knowledge of God’s truth in order to give Scriptural warnings. God’s word contains the wisdom and admonitions most needed. When admonishing someone of spiritual danger, do so out of the goodness of love and upon the basis of God’s truth.