Reproof a Christian Duty
Updated: Mar 7
“If a man professes to love God, he ought to have consistency enough to reprove those that oppose God. If Christians were only consistent in this duty, many would be converted by it, a right public sentiment would be formed, and sin would be rebuked and forced to retire before the majesty of Christian rebuke. If Christians were not such cowards, and absolutely disobedient to this plain command of God, one thing would certainly come of it--either they would be murdered in the streets as martyrs, because men could not bear the intolerable presence of truth, or they would be speedily converted to God.”
Charles Finney (From a Sermon Entitled “Reproof a Christian Duty”)
In our day it is common for professing Christians to refuse to reprove someone else for his or her sin because they are afraid they will be labeled as “judgmental.” Another reason is many professing Christians are still serving sin and so all they can say to this is “well we all sin every day.” Do Christians sin every day? Granted, all of us are capable of sinning every day, but does the Bible teach us that Christians cannot keep from sinning? Some churches and preachers teach this, but not the Word of God. Paul told the Corinthians: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” So who is willing to call God a liar and say there are sins they cannot give up? People sin because they choose to sin, not because they cannot help it. In fact, many people think they have sinned when they have merely been tempted, but because temptation can feel like sin, many think they have sinned against God when they have not. I will elaborate on this in another post.
My point right now is that the Bible says that those who abide in Christ “sin not.” They may sin occasionally, but it is not their habit. We do not have a lot of sin-rebuking in many churches today because we do not have many professing Christians who are against sin in their own lives. They think sin is normal, so they think it is wrong to reprove others for their sin. In all of this, they have allowed the world to determine for them what it means when the Lord Jesus stated that we are to judge not, lest we be judged. Remember that the Lord will tell many people in a coming day, people who are involved in religious activity, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The workers of lawlessness will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Lord was against hypocritical judgment, but did he teach his followers to not speak against sin in the lives of other people? When the men brought the woman caught in adultery to the Lord Jesus, the Lord did not excuse her sin when he challenged whichever one of them was without sin to cast the first stone at her. He was revealing their hypocrisy to them, then he told the woman to go and sin no more. For those who are paying attention, would the Lord Jesus tell the woman to go do something that was impossible for her to do?
Sin is a destructive force in communities, families, and individual lives. Good never comes out of sin. For those who believe the Word of God on this matter and seek to live holy lives, are you speaking to others you know about sin in their lives? Do you seek to correct them with compassion and concern? Before we moved to Alaska, I wrote a letter to a man that we were acquainted with that was living in sin. I told him, as a friend, that he needed to turn from this sin and follow Jesus. I did not have a self-righteous tone or mentality, in fact, I told him that I had previously sinned similarly in my life. I was gracious and I shared my concern with him, hoping for his sake that he would see the light. Not only did he reject my advice, he turned on me and sent me a message that contained some unnecessary comments and a complete lack of understanding of my intentions. I responded that I was surprised that he responded the way that he did, but if he ever wanted to talk, I would be willing. That was the last that I heard from him. It was obvious that he responded in anger at the time. But perhaps the word that I shared with him will be the catalyst for him turning to the Lord one day. It was not an enjoyable experience, but what if no one ever told him that he needed to turn from his sin to follow the Lord Jesus? Did it end our friendship? Apparently so. At least in the short-term. He was generally a prideful man, so perhaps he will harden his heart and refuse to repent. I do not know how it will turn out, but I felt so strongly that I needed to reach out to him that I could not let fear, or the possible loss of the friendship, deter me.
Years prior to that I went to the house of man who was living in the same sin. I approached him in the same way I did the other man. I acknowledged that I had sinned similarly in my life, but now I wanted to live in obedience to God and I wanted to see him do the same. He looked at me and told me that he had known several pastors in his life, and none of them had ever come to him and told him what I had told him, though they knew what he was doing. He humbled himself and he thanked me for coming, and he remedied the situation soon thereafter.
Sometimes you reach people and sometimes you do not. It is never easy to confront someone about his/her sin, but how can we say we love God and others as ourselves if we are not willing to tell them the truth? I am referring to matters that are plainly stated in God’s Word, not the personal standards that people set up for themselves and then think everyone should follow them. I am wondering who will be like Paul, who said: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” John the Baptist was killed for preaching against sin, not telling people that Jesus loves you just the way you are. It is true, you do not have to clean up “before” you can come to the Lord, but repentance is submission to the Lord’s rule over your life and a willingness to obey him. Conversion cleans people up. We may be faced with severe temptation down the road and in our weakness we may give in, but this will be rare in the life of the Christian, not the norm. Our struggle is with temptation, not sin, and there is a difference.
“…he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”