“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV)
Preaching the gospel ought to include personal applications. After all, its purpose is to convict hearts of sin and convert souls to the Savior. That’s hard to do without getting personal. Nathan got personal when he exposed David’s adultery with, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). Peter certainly got personal when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Yet, there is a lot of “no application” preaching these days. A well-known preacher (Joel Osteen) will not use the word “sin” when he preaches. (He is not preaching the gospel of Christ.) Others refuse to make personal applications that identify sinners with their sins like Paul did when he named Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus and their error (1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Some think a good sermon is one that flies over their heads and hits their neighbor between the eyes! No, a good sermon will cut us to the heart (Acts 2:37). We must preach the applications of God’s word or our preaching does not profit the listeners (Acts 20:20). Application-less preaching fails to declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). When gospel preachers preach there will be personal applications that “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim. 4:2). Listen for the personal application of truth in your life. Oh yes, gospel preaching gets personal!
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2–4, NKJV)
A Christian friend shared the following sign with me: “Too much sugar preaching leads to truth decay.” I like that. Just as we are drawn to the sugary high of candy (that leaves us without nutrition, and eventually with cavities), we can be lured away from sound doctrine by feel-good preaching (that fails to nourish our souls with truth, as it leaves spiritual decay of error in its wake). Do you “endure” (allow, bear with) sound doctrine, or have you replaced it with the soothing scratch of your itching ears? We must not become intolerant of Bible preaching that convinces, rebukes and exhorts. Preach me the word, because its truth convinces me of Christ, of my sin, and of His way of salvation. Preach me the word, because its truth rebukes my error, and does not comfort me in sin. Preach me the word, because its truth exhorts me to bear the image of Christ, to live by faith in holiness and righteousness of truth. The word is not always easy to accept, but it is exactly what we must hear, receive, and hold fast to be fruitful and blessed in the Lord (Lk. 8:15).
20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; 21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. (2 Corinthians 12:20–21, NKJV)
Paul wished to come to the Corinthians bringing edification instead of a sharp rebuke (2 Corinthians 12:15, 19, 13:7-10). For this to occur some would need to repent of sins they had not yet corrected. The list of transgressions in verse 20 is reflective of hearts that were not yet open to God’s will. Their sins would provoke sorrow within Paul when he arrived if not corrected by repentance. Repentance produces a change in one’s practice. Christians are called on to examine our hearts (our values, motives, thoughts, etc.) and our conduct carefully to repent and bear its godly fruit. Otherwise, we contribute to our own spiritual demise and hinder others. Use today to reflect on whether you would bring the apostle sorrow or joy should he visit you. If sorrow, then repent. If joy, then continue to do good.
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (Matthew 15:10–13, NKJV)
Jesus openly rebuked the religious leaders for their hypocrisy of elevating religious traditions above the word of God (see Matthew 15:1-9). Instead of accepting the correction and repenting, the Pharisees were offended when He exposed their sinful error. Their traditions focused on spiritually inconsequential things (ceremonial washings, etc., Mark 7:3-4), persuading people to conform to their traditions to be considered “clean” or worthy before God. The Son of God does not approve binding religious traditions that originate with man. Jesus explained to the crowd that food does not defile a person, but what comes out of a person’s heart (see Matthew 15:17-20). Like Jesus, we must have the boldness to use the Scriptures to help people see their sin and the way of salvation. Otherwise, how will the lost soul he or she needs salvation (Rom. 10:13-14; 2 Tim. 4:2)?
5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5–6, NKJV)
As an assayer tests the purity of silver and gold, God’s word stands the test of purity. It has been tried in the crucible of conflict, rebellion, rejection, and alienation by men. With the word of God, His people have weathered every storm of attack from faithless foes. His word continues to stand, while its adversaries lie in the ash heap of history. Undaunted, men and women of faith trust in the word of God, and are delivered. That is why they dare not add to it or take away from it. It does its work as it stands, undefiled and incorruptible. We shall never be persuaded that God’s word is out of date – far from it. It is living and active, powerful and pure. God’s word is able to save the lost and protect the saved. It is indeed “a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Respect it, believe it, obey it. To do less will bring God’s rebuke upon those who simply pretend to trust Him.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:19–20, NKJV)
We live in an age when rebuking sin is viewed as unloving, judgmental treatment of others. Yet, with clarity and force, with lovely urgency, Jesus rebuked the Christians in Laodicea for their spiritual arrogance and apathy (Rev. 3:14-22). Sin destroys the soul! It must not be comforted; it must be rooted out of the heart. Only then will Jesus enter the heart and abide with us. You see, sin separates people from God, including Christians. We must accept the chastening of our sins that Jesus gives us in His word, and make the correction that must occur for Christ’s fellowship to truly exist. Remember, this is a passage spoken to Christians. Our hearts can become apathetic toward Christ, preventing Christ from abiding with us. We can turn away from Christ and close the door we once opened to Jesus. But the door of your heart does not have to remain closed. Fellow Christian, if you have turned away from Christ, then start listening to Him. He is calling you to repent. Open your heart to Him and do His will. He will come in, forgive you and bless you with His saving presence (Jno. 14:21, 23).
Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. (Psalm 141:5, NKJV)
We must be humble in order to accept correction. Unfortunately, kindness is not always in the heart of the one who chastens us. When parents correct a child, let it be from loving kindness, not unrighteous anger. When a fellow Christian warns or rebukes another over sin, let it come from kindness, not superiority and conceit. We need discipline and correction as we grow in Christ. We ought to willingly accept the sting of rebuke intended to correct and help us improve spiritually. Although painful when applied, good results will follow (Heb. 12:4-11). When the righteous must correct us it is for our good. Do not refuse it. Receive it, and turn away from wickedness. “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:8-9).
He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue. (Proverbs 28:23, NKJV)
Are you willing to rebuke someone when they sin? It is not an easy thing to do. For one thing, the rebuker’s motive must be sincere and pure; not self-serving. The rebuke intends to convict the sinner, bringing about repentance. Furthermore, to rebuke someone without knowing how he or she will react requires great devotion to the truth and love for the sinner (Lk. 17:3). Flattery comforts the wrongdoer in his sin, but a rebuke of sin willingly received reaps eternal benefits. The wounds of a friend are faithful – correcting us, shaping us, strengthening us (Prov. 27:6). When it is necessary, rebuke sin by speaking the truth in love. By doing so you will have God’s favor.
3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3–4, NKJV)
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus said to “take heed to yourselves” when someone sins against you? Our first impulse, when sinned against, is often to be on the alert and cautious toward the sinner. Or, we may focus on our hurt and pain the sinner caused. Yet, these reactions do not help us or the one who sinned against us. Jesus knew the difficulty of responding in godly ways when sinned against. He teaches two essential responses here. First, rebuke the sinner. This rebuke comes from a genuine concern for the sinner’s soul; an attempt to bring him to repentance. Second, do not withhold forgiveness from him when he repents. This can be even more difficult when sins are repeated against us. Yet, inasmuch as God repeatedly forgives our sins against Him when we repent, we must follow His example toward repentant sinners.
He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.” (Proverbs 10:17, NKJV)
Have you ever consulted a map and discovered you were on the wrong road? Of, finding yourself lost, did you use the map (or, in this digital world, GPS navigation) to get back on the right road? If so, you were teachable, and found your way. We are all on life’s road. And, we can lose our way very easily. When that happens, are you teachable? You may not even know you are lost. But, are you willing to accept instruction from the word of God that others show you? Or, do you refuse the Bible and the corrections it teaches? We ought to be as willing to let God’s word show us the way to heaven as we are to let a map show us how to get to our destination. The person who is willing to be taught will find life more pleasant, more fulfilled. The unteachable person will be lost (now and forever), not because the way of life cannot be found and followed, but because he or she refuses correction.