Etikettarkiv | rebuke

The Bible about SHUNNING sinners / heretics who cause division in church – excommunication

2 cor 2But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called A BROTHER be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (1 Cor. 5:11)

There are sadly pastors and entire congregations who have completely misunderstood what the Bible says about brothers and sisters who have wandered off from the truth, resulting in a treatment which will not aid the lost persons at all.

There is one Biblical case which stands out in the Bible when it comes to ”shunning” someone, and that is when Paul criticizes the Corinthian church for not reacting despite one of their members living in a deep sin.

One sin makes you a sinner, but all sins are not of the same degree. Some sins are for example an ”abomination” before God, and we can also read about a sin ”not unto death”. Surely there is a difference between murdering an innocent person in cold blood vs being in an unexpected situation where a white lie is used in order to not reveal a nice birthday surprise? In the case of the Corinthian church, the sin in question concerned a man engaged in sexual immorality together with his father’s wife, which Paul considered was so detestable that it was ”not even named among the gentiles”. 

1 Cor. 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person. (NKJV)

Paul refers to a previous letter, and he clarifies that he did not advise the Corinthians to not keep company with all sinners in the whole world because then they could no longer live in the world. What he meant was that they should not keep company with anyone called a brother (which means a Christian brother or sister) who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Those listed sins are rather serious, and Paul tells the Corinthians to not even eat with such a person (other people might get the idea that we are supporting them in their sins or that we are just the same). Jesus of course ate with sinners, but not all his company would be regarded as his ”brothers”.

We should not try to add to Paul’s words – or withdraw. For instance, he does not say we must not talk to such people or not even say hello. Surely it would be awesome if such sinners returned to the Lord, and what better means do we have to our disposal than talking to them and try to persuade them to repent?:

Ja 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;20 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.

It is hard to convert someone from his sins if we are not even allowed to have a dialogue with him. The man in 1 Cor. 5 was engaged in a serious sin (an ongoing sin not repented of), so clearly he should not have been allowed to stay in that church gathering considering that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  It is quite possible that the man in 1 Cor. 5 is again mentioned in Paul’s subsequent letter. In this letter Paul says that the punishment was sufficient for the man, and: you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” (NASB). 

2 Cor. 2:4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you.5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. (NKJV)

So on the one hand Paul makes no room for a person engaged in sexual immorality (or other severe sins which he gives examples of), but on the other hand he provides a way back also for an ardent sinner provided that the person repents and leaves all sins behind. One can easily imagine that a man might be totally swallowed up with sorrow, if friends and family suddenly cease talking to him and pretend that he is nothing more than air. After a period with such a treatment, maybe the person claims to be sorry and openly repents, but can the church really trust that he has truly repented and that it is not rather a case of someone feeling lonely and wanting to return to his family and friends? God cannot be fooled.

Paul never tells us to cease having conversations with Christians even if they live in sin (it is possible to have conversations outside of a church gathering) and particularly not if they are family members. We are also told to not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. So we should react when people sin, but think about how we phrase ourselves and how we treat them. The goal is to see them return to the truth, so a condescending and patronizing attitude might not work.

1 Tim. 5:1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,—8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

More verses about shunning and influencing a person to repent (KJV)2 Pet

Matt. 18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

If a man goes astray God would certainly like to see him back on track, so we too should seek out the lost person and try to influence him to repent for his sins and return to the fold. The prodigal son did just that – he confessed his sins, repented and returned to his Father. If a brother sins against us (or perhaps sins against a whole church gathering), then Jesus tells us to first speak to him alone. It is of course essential that the person understands in what way he has sinned so that he also understands the point we are trying to make. Just saying ”I hereby rebuke you, you evil heretic!” is not enough if the person does not understand exactly what he did wrong, plus it is questionable if it is the smartest way to express oneself.

It is of course a possibility that a church leader reacts to something that is no sin at all (but rather a case of misunderstanding or twisting someone’s speech), and then it is hard to repent for something that the accused person does not see as a sin. If the case is that it was truly a sin and if the accused person refuses to listen or repent, then two or three witnesses are needed to establish the case. If the accused person is still unwilling to listen or repent, then the whole church should be told. If the accused person is still unwilling to turn around, then he must be regarded as a heathen – but note that it is still possible to have friendly and polite conversations with heathens! We are not told to ignore heathens and treat them as they do not exist, and note that it does not say that we should treat them WORSE than heathens. Surely it is possible to treat also heathens with kindness and love?

Where in the Bible can we read that also all the children (small children and teenagers) of an excommunicated person must be excommunicated as well, and no longer have any contact with the church members? (Nowhere.) The children might have been really good friends with other youngsters in a church for many years, and does God really suggest that they are no longer allowed to play or socialize with each other any more?

We should also add the risk for that the witnesses blindly obey the church leader (especially in a cult environment) who in his turn might not be entirely obedient to the Scriptures. The opposite is also true, that the church leader might blindly believe the witnesses’ description of a case. The instructions from Paul of course only work if the whole chain is unbroken – and not if the church leader is in error and makes unfair judgments. That is also why Paul told both Timothy and Titus to not be too quick with the ”laying on of hands” (selecting a person to become a church leader), because then the whole church gathering will risk to be off course.

A charged person certainly has the right to defend himself (this is true even in a secular court room), particularly in a church gathering that is not in all circumstances based on the word of God (like in a cult). If the pastor requests that a person must repent, and does not even give him a chance to defend himself or correct misunderstandings, then something is utterly wrong.

Rom. 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE which ye have learned; and avoid them.18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

Above we can read Paul saying that the brethren should ”mark them… and avoid them” if it concerns people who cause divisions contrary to God’s words. He does not clarify to what extent they should be avoided (avoiding does not necessarily mean that we cannot even walk on the same street as the person in question), but it evidently concerns people who continuously cause division in church contrary to God’s words. If such a person repents and ceases to cause division there is always a way back, but if he refuses to cease sinning Paul’s advice should be followed.

To ”mark” them does not mean that this marking must be repeated, and that the person can be verbally attacked as soon as you meet him. It is enough to do the marking once. However, if we continue to spend time with a trouble maker, eat with him and socialize with him (as in not avoiding him), then there is a risk that other people will interpret our undisturbed friendship as though we condone his actions. That is why Paul requests to see a change in our attitude towards a clear trouble maker. Paul does not necessarily tell us to stir up a huge drama scene as soon as there are minor differences of opinions about insignificant matters. I believe Paul is talking about clear cases of sin where a person is a trouble maker and/or causes a division in church over rather essential matters while refusing to back off.

Rom. 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.—8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;—16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Above we can see how important it is to be of one body, but also how important it is to show love and respect.

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Paul gives instructions for a church leader, and if the church leader is subject to the word of God then it is a lot easier for the members to be subject to the church leader. However, we must always do as the Bereans (Acts 17:11) – to compare what we hear with Scriptures in order to know if what we hear is true. A church leader should speak evil of no man, be gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men, etc.  Since we too have been guilty of many sins, we could choose a wise way to influence people to repent. God has shown kindness and love to us, so we too should show the same to others. Not as in accepting their sin, but by consider the way we treat them and try to make them turn around.

Paul goes on to say a man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject. This advice must also be understood correctly and with caution. It takes some serious sins in order to qualify as an heretic (someone who clearly rejects the word of God and refuses to repent), so we should not cause an inflation of the word by spreading out admonitions left and right as soon as someone has some minor disagreements and asks valid questions. Neither should we fall into the other ditch and be so ”generous” that we choose not to react even if people in our congregation are proud of their sins.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Someone who refuses to accept the deity of Jesus, that he has come in the flesh, is labelled as a deceiver and even an antichrist. To accept Jesus as God is very central for the Christian faith. It is not certain that we should not allow anyone into our homes unless he/she shares our precise faith (particularly not if they are family members or relatives), but if someone wants to ”bring” an ”antichrist message” into our homes – like a former brother who would like to convert you and your family – then we should not accept him. I believe it is another matter if we invite lost people with the aim to convert them. Remember again that Jesus ate with sinners who did not view him as the Messiah.

Gal. 1:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Paul tells us to ”restore” a person who is overtaken in a fault ”in the spirit of meekness” . Once again love and respect are taught here.

2 Thess. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

We are told to ”withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us”, and the context here is about working and to not be a burden to others. ”For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies”. In such cases we are told ”them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread”. We are also told if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” but also Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”. If we are to admonish him as a brother, we think about how we phrase ourselves and we do not ridicule him, repeatedly call him an heretic (once is often enough) etc.

There are certain rules about elders:

1 Tim. 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Annonser

Jesus used some harsh and rude comments, so we can do this as well?

prov 15

Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul FROM DEATH and will cover a multitude of sins. (Ja. 5:20)

In the Bible, we can see that Jesus on rare occasions used some harsh words for people opposing him, but just about always in relation to Pharisees – religious leaders who viewed themselves as authoritative teachers who set the rules for salvation, and who generally opposed Jesus greatly up to the point of wanting to kill him. Such dangerous self-professed teachers (and hypocritical sinners) probably deserved to be rebuked by Jesus Christ who is God in flesh. Jesus said about them:

Matt. 23:13 For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (NKJV)

Dangerous indeed! No wonder why Jesus during a dinner (or two dinners) with Pharisees present, took the chance to explain why they were in deep error and even rebuked them. He made sure to explain why he was against their teachings, by giving examples. If people do not understand why they are being rebuked and given a chance to know exactly how to improve, then a rebuke would be a waste of time. If we truly love people and want them to let go of false teachings, we should also explain where exactly they are in error – just like Jesus.

There are Christians who use such rare occasions (when Jesus used called the Pharisees names) as evidence for that they too can call people derogatory names left and right, as soon as people do not agree with them. The problem is that Christians do not always choose the right occasions the way Jesus did. Just because Jesus a few times described the Pharisees with derogatory names, it is still no free ticket for us to insult people left and right even if they are mistaken about certain doctrines. If the idea is to persuade others about our position, demeaning insults will only push people away, and what will that accomplish?

Jesus did not use derogatory names when he spoke sinners such as the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:9), the woman about to get stoned (John 8:11), the woman who anointed his feet (Luke 7:37-38), etc. They were all sinners, but it is possible to make people understand the danger of their sin through conversations without calling them names. Sometimes Christians who are given the advice to avoid spreading insults, patronizing remarks and derogatory names, misunderstand the advice to mean ”Do not expose false teachings, but rather try to make people feel comfortable in their sin”. That is hardly the same thing. Again, it is possible to expose false teachings and get the message across without spreading insults (which only risk the other person to leave). If the idea is to make people stay and listen, often a more pleasant attitude is more helpful. Once in a while we might meet people who deserve a tougher treatment due to their aggressive ways, but it would be preferable if we made sure to not go down to their level.

Sometimes even sarcasm has a proper place in a conversation, but this too depends on the situation.

1 Kings 18:27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (NKJV)

Which were Jesus rude remarks?

  • About Herod: ”Go ye, and tell that fox” (Luke 13:32)
  • To Pharisees: ”O generation of vipers” (Matt. 12:34)
  • To Pharisees: ”Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44)
  • To the scribes and the Pharisees – Matthew’s version: ”—woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!—Ye fools and blind—ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness—within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity—Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers” (Matt. 23:13-33)
  •  To the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers – Luke’s version: ”Ye fools—hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not” (Luke 11:40-46).
  • To Peter (or actually Satan): ”Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23, Mark 8:33, Luke 4:8)

John the Baptiste:

  • To Pharisees and Sadducees: ”O generation of vipers” (Matt 3:7 and Luke 3:7)

Stephen:

  • To Pharisees: ”Ye stiffnecked” (Acts 7:51)

Paul

  • A general agreement about the Cretans: One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true”

If insulting names are used when spoken about large groups of people (like an entire generation or a ”people”), the remarks tend to not appear as strong. Within large groups of people there might be exceptions, but the general remark is still true. Jesus naturally expressed strong words about false prophets and sinners without naming anyone.

  • To all faithless: ”O faithless and perverse generation” (Matt. 17:17).
  • To his disciples: ”O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).

In another conversation with a Pharisee named Simon, Jesus did no say ”woe to you pharisee” but gently explained   what was wrong with Simon’s views. He corrected him in love without using name callings, but also without compromising with the truth. (Luke 36-47).

Paul on Mars Hill in Athensmars hill

On March Hill, Paul could have rebuked all those people who believed in false gods, but he used a smarter approach. He managed to get their attention without humiliating them, but still explained to them why they were off the mark and what they should do to be right with God. In this way he did not stir up anger and resentment but made people stay and listen. This approach does not mean that Paul compromised with the truth, nor was he watering down the gospel.

Paul did not start out screaming to the idolaters in front of him ”Listen up you filthy sinners! You’re all heretics going to hell, you morons! DO you REALLY believe you will get eternal life when you’re nothing but WICKED, WICKED, WICKED?! LOL LOL LOL! No, you’re going to HELL, do you hear me? You all deserve it!!”, etc. None of that would necessarily be false information, but the point is of course that there are smarter ways to provide the information. Paul started out saying:

Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

What a clever way to steer the speech straight to the gospel of God by making a comparison with those inscriptions! Paul also said ”Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious! From then on he laid out his message with the hope that as many as possible would stay and listen. If he would derogatory terms, I suspect people would get angry, stop listening and shout names back at him. That would be a total waste of time, and they would be busy fighting with each other and with Paul rather than letting him share the gospel. Who would this benefit?

GENTLENESS and MEEK CORRECTIONS IN LOVE

Examples from the Bible.

Matthew 18:15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

2 Tim 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,25IN MEEKNESS instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

2 Thess. 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.15 YET COUNT HIM NOT AS AN ENEMY, but admonish him AS A BROTHER.

Colossians 3:12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear

Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.—16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Paul’s patiently discussed with people and persuaded them to believe the true gospel

It is seldom enough to persuade people to give up their false theological views by just 10 minutes worth of conversations. Not even a conversation of one or two hours might be enough, but their resistance might not be due to a rebellion from their part but rather due to having been exposed with twisted ideas for a very long time. They likely feel that they are the ones defending the true gospel from being attacked by someone like you. Instead of losing patience and dishing out insults at this point, it is better to reason with them and provide scripture for the truth.

In other situations it might be better to shake off the dust from our feet and walk away – if the person we are talking with clearly does not want to listen, constantly interrupts, attacks you, etc. We are not supposed to throw pearls to swine if there are other people who are more open for the gospel.

Paul patiently reasoned with people, even if they did not get persuaded after 10 minutes. He could be reasoning for days, as long as he at least had some attention regarding what he was saying.

Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

Acts 17:16Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.  17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Acts 19:8And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Acts. 20:.29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Acts. 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

When should we rebuke and when should we show meekness and gentleness?

Jesus rarely used strong words 

There are only a few occasions in the Bible where we can see Jesus using some ”strong words” and where he called people ”names”, but unfortunately these rare occasions are often used by christians to justify their own usage of strong wordings and bad names whenever they feel like using them and regardless of circumstances.   What about all other cases where Jesus did not use such strong words and simply corrected people with gentleness? If we are supposed to throw insults around us when preaching and call people names, then it’s odd that the Bible doesn’t seem to encourage this kind of behavior, and Jesus himself didn’t act that way. Maybe it’s just ONE particular sermon (Matt. 23:13-33) which people use to support their own sometimes harsh behavior when evangelizing. 

Once Jesus did turn over of the money changers’ table but this is only one example (and an unusual one) where Jesus took severe actions, and he had good reasons to be upset when these people turned the temple of God into a house of merchandise (den of thieves).  Jesus had the right to cleanse his own Father’s house.  We are never told to act in a similar way. We are not told to enter a church and grab a christmas tree we might find there and throw it out while shouting that the entire church must repent. If we would like people to LISTEN to us and IMPROVE, there are likely better ways to handle such situations.  It’s a risk that our gospel causes a stir even if we are nothing but polite and respectful, so to make matters worse by being insulting or loud doesn’t make much sense. We would risk to find closed doors instead of open doors, when we try to reach people.

It’s true that Jesus called certain scribes and pharisees (and lawyers as per the gospel of Luke) for ”hypocrites” and ”fools and blind”, but he made sure to explain why he felt they were so both they and other listeners would understand the reasoning and the risks involved, and so they would LEARN something. There are lots of negative things we could call a person and we wouldn’t necessarily be unbiblical by doing so, like calling someone greedy, slanderous, lazy, argumentative, proud, dishonest, etc but we would be in error if we used these adjectives without legitimate reasons and without explaining WHY. It’s not always clever to put words on what we THINK about a person – or to blurt out ”you jerk” – because it wouldn’t result in anything beneficial for anyone. The idea is to make people LISTEN and not to make them so upset that they leave and miss out on important information that you might have for them.

We are told to treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves, and if we are to be criticized personally (not in groups) we would likely prefer to be corrected privately and by close friends and in LOVE. At other times rebuke is more appropriate, but that usually concerns repeated offences and/or pastors/teachers who have committed serious sins and must be openly rebuked. Jesus of course knew exactly when to correct people in meekness and when to rebuke, but it’s clear that many of us miss the mark. With common love and respect we can get far. See below that Jesus made sure to explain the reasoning behind naming the scribes and the pharisees ”hypocrites” (I left out some verses) so that all involved could LEARN and UNDERSTAND.

Matt. 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.—17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?.19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?20 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon–27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.—33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city

John the Baptiste was the first one who used the term ”generation of vipers” but also John explained what he meant with this description, and so did Jesus who used the same term. Dishing out insults without providing explanations is very distant for holy men.

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matt. 12:33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas

In another situation Jesus did not choose to say ”woe to you pharisees” but gently explained to a pharisee named Simon what was wrong with his attitude. He corrected him in love without using name callings, but also without compromising. Jesus also called Herod a ”fox”, and this fact is sometimes used by christians to justify all kinds of humiliating names for others. 

Luke 7:36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.37 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

Luke 13:31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

Also Paul ended up in many situations where he could rebuke people but still chose not to. He also warned against vain discussions, but at times discussions are profitable and Paul himself spent a good deal of his time doing so in order to convert people. We can read that he reasoned with people and disputed with them.

Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

Acts 17:16Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.  17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Acts 19:8And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Acts. 20:.29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Acts. 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.

On March Hill in Athens Paul could have rebuked all those people who believed in false gods, but he used a different approach. He didn’t shout ”Repent, all you wicked sinners” nor told them that they were a bunch of heretical idolaters who were on the way to HELL. He managed to get their attention without humiliating them, and he just informed them that they were too superstitious and then he proceeded to explain why they were off the mark. He was smart enough to start off his talk by linking their worship of false gods to the real God. In that way he did not stir up anger or caused hurt feelings but made people listen. Naturally Paul did not compromise with the truth, nor was he watering down the gospel. It’s equally important to explain to people that they are in a lost condition due to their sins, as well as telling them how they can get saved.

Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

The Bible says it’s the one who spreads  heretical views who is the one causing a division

If you’re in a group of  ”christian heretics” and you try to correct them and exhort them, then YOU are not the one sinning by ”causing a division” because the division has already happened. (But of course you are responsible for correcting people wisely, if you feel a correction is needed.) As soon as christians start to teach things which are contrary to the Bible, there is a risk for divisions and if the result is that the majority start to side with a certain heretical view then they might feel that a person who opposes them is the one being a trouble maker and who causes a division among them just because they themselves are in the majority and because they are not the ones correcting/rebuking anyone. But it’s always the one who promotes falsehood (against the Bible) who is the one causing a division or strife, even if he/she happens to be supported by an entire church or a large scope of churches.

It’s not always wise to keep quiet in order to be friendly and to avoid causing a division. Sometimes it’s unbiblical to NOT correct others – and even rebuke when necessary.  We are responsible for not letting dangerous teachings spread among us. If we don’t react, there is a risk for that even more people will be deceived by false teachings and this could lead to LOST SOULS and we might get blood on our hands.  It’s not loving to tell a person that all is well with his soul when it isn’t. It’s likewise unwise to rebuke people when the situation doesn’t call for it.  We just have to pray to the Lord that we get wisdom about this so we won’t hurt people or make them feel that we are condescending towards them.

GENTLENESS and MEEK CORRECTIONS IN LOVE

Matthew 18:15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Luke 6:26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

1 Tim. 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

1 Tim. 3:This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;—Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

2 Tim 2:23But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,25IN MEEKNESS instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

1 Thess 2:7 But we proved to be GENTLE among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

Colossians 3:12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear

Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.—16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil

2 Cor. 10:1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you

Ephesians 4: I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Phil. 4:Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

REBUKING and CORRECTION in The New Testament

Luke 12:51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.

Luke 17:3-5 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.

Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from AMONG YOURSELVES men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to DRAW AWAY THE DISCIPLES after themselves.–31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, MARK THEM WHICH CAUSE DIVISIONS AND OFFENCES CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE WHICH YE HAVE LEARNED; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly (selfish desires/appetites); and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

1 Tim 5:1 Rebuke not an ELDER, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren

1 Tim 5:19Against an ELDER receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (Note that this is instructions when it comes to ELDERS)

2 Tim. 4:2-3 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Colossians 1:27-29. Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Titus 1:9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13This witness is true. Wherefore REBUKE THEM SHARPLY, that they may be sound in the faith14Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Heb 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will SECRETLY bring in DESTRUCTIVE heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

2 John 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Jude 1:Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

REBUKING and CORRECTION in The Old Testament

2 Chronicles 19:10 ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.

Malachi 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

Ezekiel 13:22 Because with lies ye have strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life.

Ezekiel 3:20 Again, When a RIGHTEOUS man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast NOT GIVEN HIM WARNING, he shall DIE IN HIS SIN, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at THINE HAND. Nevertheless IF thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy SOUL.

Proverbs 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.

Proverbs 17:15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, eventhey both are abomination to the LORD

Proverbs 19:25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

Proverbs 25:12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear

Proverbs 24:25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.

Proverbs 28:23 He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.