I’ve spent the last couple weeks considering what the Bible says about the believer’s responsibility to give and receive rebuke in their relationships with fellow Christians. We took a look at how important this ministry of confrontation, of rebuke, was to the Apostle Paul in his own ministry. He was no stranger to this, because he knew of the benefit it would be to his brothers and sisters. We also spent some time looking at three aspects of the ministry of rebuke among Christians: we saw (1) the need to responsibly and lovingly give rebuke when it will benefit our brothers and sisters; (2) the need to humbly and wisely receive rebuke ourselves; and (3) the need to even pursue correction and rebuke from our brothers and sisters, as they may see sin in our lives that we don’t clearly see.
Then I asked, “Why?” What’s the point for all of this rebuke? What’s the purpose, the end goal, the result, the motivation to admonish each other? That’s what I want to wrap up with today.
That We Might Share in His Holiness
In Hebrews 12, the author quotes Proverbs in order to show the Jewish Christians, who were apparently experiencing the chastening of God at the time, that the Lord’s discipline is a mark of His grace, because He disciplines those whom He loves. Sons get discipline.
Then, the author of Hebrews tells us the purpose for God’s discipline. He explains how it is loving: “But [God] disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:10b).
Is that not amazing? God disciplines His children for our benefit, for our good. And what is our good according to this verse? It is that we might share in God’s holiness. The discipline that comes from God, which admittedly is not always pleasant at the time (Heb 12:11), comes to refine us, to purify us, so that we might become increasingly holy—increasingly like Him—conformed more to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18). Our good is to share His holiness, and so He disciplines us to make us holy.
This must be the motive for Christians’ rebuke of each other. Just as God rebukes in order to benefit, we also must be motivated by the desire to benefit our brothers and sisters by causing them to share in God’s holiness. And how do we do that? Well, when we see sin in each other’s lives, which causes us to be cut off from God’s holiness, we should graciously point it out to each other. That is the admonishing that Paul talks about throughout his ministry. That is why the Sage and the Psalmist are so intent on receiving rebuke. They want to be rid of sin! They want to share in God’s holiness!
That We Might Be Fit to See the Lord
But it’s important to recognize that holiness is not an end in itself. We don’t want to be holy just for the sake of being holy. Holiness for the sake of holiness is Pharisaism. The writer of Hebrews tells us why we should be concerned about sharing in God’s holiness when he tells us to “pursue…the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
Let that land on you. We are commanded to pursue sanctification—to pursue holiness—precisely because if we don’t have it, we won’t see God! That is what all this striving after holiness is about: beholding the most beautiful and satisfying thing there is to see: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Discipline, rebuke, reproof, correction, admonition—as all of these things are founded upon the Word of God—they participate in our sanctification, without which we will not see God.
And so if it’s seeing Christ that’s at stake here, Paul is most certainly going to celebrate the Romans’ competence to admonish each other (cf. Rom 15:14, here), and he’s not going to hesitate to boldly admonish believers to remind them of these things.
And neither should we. If we learn that one of our brothers and sisters is involved in something that is spiritually harmful—whether that be engaging in sinful actions, harboring sinful thoughts, or even believing false things about Scripture, false doctrine—we need to let them know. And we need to do so because we know that seeing Christ rightly—and therefore worshiping Christ rightly—is what is at stake.
But as I say that, let me quickly return to Romans 15:14 to show you that there are qualifications for this kind of ministry to one another. Paul says, “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.”
“Full of goodness,” means that you are going to admonish that person for their benefit, and not because you want to vent, or because you want to look superior or super-spiritual. This means that before you go to them you have thought about it, you have prayed about it, you have reminded yourself of the objective reality of fellowship that you have with this person, that they are a child of God. And you go to them out of a desire to see them benefited by beholding Christ. And you believe what you have to say will serve that end.
And “filled with all knowledge,” means that the correction you will be giving will be Biblical, both content and form. By content I mean that before you go and tell somebody they’re doing something wrong, you better be sure it’s actually wrong according to the Scriptures. Be prepared to share passages from Scripture that shed light on the issue. After all, you’re not the authority. God’s Word is. And you wouldn’t want to give any other impression.
And by form I mean that you’re following the principles laid out for us in Matthew 18:15-17. Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private.”
- First, if your brother sins, go. Don’t talk. Don’t gossip about it with other people. Go.
- Second, if your brother sins, go and show him his fault. This hits on the previous point: show him from Scripture where he’s wrong. Don’t simply assert that he’s wrong; show him he’s wrong from the Bible, which is our sole authority.
- And finally, if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private. At this stage, this is a one-on-one encounter. It’s not a public matter. If the sin is public, go to him in private, and if he agrees that he was wrong, urge him to repent of the sin publicly. But go to him in private first. Remember, love covers sin (1Cor 13:7; 1Pet 4:8), it does not flaunt sin. You are to do everything you can to honor your brothers and sisters, not shame them.
So: when you admonish one another, be (1) full of goodness, and be (2) filled with all knowledge.
The take-away from all these posts is as follows. Don’t shy away from admonishing your brothers and sisters according to the Truth. Don’t hate them by hiding instruction from them. Don’t sabotage the health of the Church by letting sin go unchecked.
And if someone has the courage to admonish you, receive it graciously and gratefully. Don’t hate discipline and instruction and earn the reputation of a fool. Instead, seek it out. Desire it. Invite rebuke and reproof and correction, for they are oil upon the head that refreshes and sweetens (Ps 141:5). Hate sin enough—and love Christ enough—to seek out ways of having it exposed in your own life.
Don’t hate discipline. Pursue holiness. The holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Because that’s what the whole of the Christian life is about: rightly seeing and rightly worshiping the Lord Jesus.
But He disciplines us for our good,
so that we may share His holiness. …
Pursue…the sanctification without which
no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrews 12:10, 14 –