It is easy for Christians to hyper focus on one aspect of our walk and to ignore another. Suffice to say there are certain things that our personalities will more easily relate to than others, and our nature is to cling to those while disregarding the things that are a struggle for us.
You may know a Christian who is all about grace. They will give and receive grace freely but they will not want to speak about condemnation or rebuke or repentance. You may know a Christian who is all about edification, or vice versa, a Christian that is all about exhorting and provoking each other.
The truth is that ALL of these are valid and have their place! When we narrowly focus on one aspect of scripture to the exclusion of another area that we can’t make sense of, we are in danger of either misrepresenting the LORD or drifting into outright heresy.
There are a couple of principles that are important that we must keep in mind that are found here:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Our principles are:
- The Bible is the inspired word of God.
- Since the Bible is the word of God it is, by nature, true and without error.
- ALL scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.
- The Bible by itself without the aid of any other literature, degrees, seminary school, sidewalk training, etc. is sufficient to train and furnish a man of God for all good works.
So let’s dive in a little here, are you someone who only wants to edify? Or rather is it easier for you to exhort and reprove? The fact is that both are intertwined. We are to do both simultaneously. To be constantly nitpicking each other without building each other up in love is just plain wrong. As for the opposite side of that coin, to only ‘focus on the good things’ without calling each other out when we are in sin is also wrong and ultimately un loving. When we look in scripture we find that many times the two are written about in tandem:
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9-23
“23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ;
21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
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.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
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.”
There are plenty more examples found in scripture but these passages speak volumes. We are to build each other in love, AND we are to exhort each other. Not either/ or. If you are only admonishing others, you are wrong. If you refuse to provoke your brother (or sister) to righteousness, you are also wrong. It is both/ and. We can find passages specifically dealing with edification, and we can find passages specifically dealing with exhorting but since we know from our principles in 2 Timothy (that the Bible is God’s own word) we can be sure that the Bible will never contradict itself. This principle is absolutely essential to understand that if the Bible appears to have a contradiction it is in fact a misunderstanding on our part. God will NEVER contradict Himself.
I would like to issue a challenge to my brothers and sisters out there.
If you are one who tends to focus solely on what you can find in another that is positive:
I challenge you to evaluate what is the best way to build up a brother in love. Is it simply by ignoring where they are in error and focusing on what they are getting right? Anyone who is familiar with the building of ones muscles knows that it in the tension and struggle that muscles are built and extra strength achieved. To neglect to do what is hard is to leave your muscles flabby and not prepared for good work. The most loving thing you can do is challenge your brothers and sisters to higher righteousness.
If you are one who tends to nitpick what your brothers and sisters are doing wrong, I challenge you to follow the exhortation of Jesus Christ:
“3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Notice Christ does NOT tell us to ignore the speck in our brother’s eye, rather to first examine ourselves to make sure we are walking uprightly and fit before challenging the brethren. I find that when I properly examine myself I am going to be far more loving in my correction of others. We should be exceedingly loving in our exhortation of one another and constantly weighing our intentions. Is it your intent to brow beat your brother/sister, or to build him/her in love and encourage him/her in righteousness?
We should strive for balance in the way we approach one another. All of us who are bought by the blood of Christ are parts of His body and it is of the utmost importance that we build each other to be prepared, for the glory of our King. Build each other up in love, and help each other to root out what is unfruitful in our lives.
“9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
“15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
(First published 1/31/15 by Jake Cooper for Abolitionist Society of Middle TN, revised 5/2/2017)