What do we do and say about sin done by people around us? God makes it simple but our American Culture makes it foggy and complicated. If we put aside everything that our culture tells and we look only at God’s Word it becomes clear. Five words stand out; Expose, Rebuke, Correct, Discern, and Judge.
It is clear as day that God wants us to expose sin. The context of the verses below are talking about exposing sins done by others. God wants us to keep away and our name out of sinful things in this world and instead gives us a mission, to “expose it” (1). He makes it clear he does not want us looking like this sinful corrupted culture (1a). But big and very important questions come up like, how and why?
The first issue to overcome is exposing the sins that you yourself do. That is the definition of being a hypocrite. This isn’t referring to sins that you do on accident and others you can’t help simply because of your imperfections; but the ones that you can help and the ones you openly, willingly, and plan out. Jesus says to “First pull the plank out of your eye, then you can help your brother” (3). Notice how he still says you can help your brother. If you have a drinking problem, you can’t go off to a drunk and tell him he’s doing something wrong. But if you quit drinking and no longer had a drinking problem, then you could.
Instantly this culture will throw out the “judgmental” card and the odds are most Christians take the bait. The lack of understanding God’s Word makes Christians think that they are in the wrong for exposing sin by someone else. Again, looking at God’s Word and not the words of this world shows that there is a godly way to discern and make righteous judgments (4)(5). In fact, Christians are simply commanded to discern between right and wrong, and make righteous judgments daily (6)! So by taking the bait this corrupted culture tells you, you are actually disobeying God by taking what this world has to say over God and not following his commandment on this issue. Even greater is we are given permission with “all authority” to expose, and rebuke sin (6a). Another thing this culture won’t tell you is that to rebuke someone is another form of LOVE (6b)! Well what is it to “rebuke” is the next important question.
You could say that to rebuke something is to call ‘it’ out and call out ‘its’ ungodliness. To bring ungodliness to ‘its’ attention for the purpose of correction and to purify ‘it’. God says it’s better to rebuke than to stay quite (7). God also says its better if the rebuke is straight to the point and not nicely beating around the bush (8). Jesus even said “let your yes be yes and your no be no”. To rebuke is actually doing a good godly thing (9).
An easy angle on “How” to expose sin is by using some sinful tactics to fight sin. The phrase ‘fighting fire with fire’ comes to mind. That obviously is not what God wants us to do and even says that doing bad in the hopes of creating good does not create Godly good(2).
Who we rebuke is very important too! We are told not to rebuke people outside of the church (9ai)(9aii). Rebuking the Godly will help them in all kinds of spiritual ways (9ai)(9aiii). Do it in a loving Godly way, rebuking someone will make them become more righteous and more wise (9aiv). It will produce spiritual fruit (9av). To rebuke someone is very valuable and very meaningful to the body of Christ (9aiii). Ultimately it will help everyone discern between right and wrong, what is Godly and ungodly, and that is the key (9avi).
The manner in which we actually do it depends on the person and act. Paul tells us to first go to them privately. If they continue about their sin he tells us to then confront them with 2 or more witnesses. If they still continue we are told to confront them to the whole church (10). If they’re works are still ungodly after all these godly attempts to help them, they are to be treated like the wicked. And that’s the bottom line. Shockingly this still serves two beneficial purposes. First the rest of the church is protected from that corruption and second the church gets to see the corruption exposed (10a).
As the body of Christ we are not to judge the person’s soul, ever (13). We leave the future of that person’s salvation to God. We do not tell someone if they are going to hell or even heaven based on any kind of material position. The possession might be wrong and ungodly but the person’s heart and the future of their soul is only known to God (12). God’s Word exposes their heart, not us (13a). It is also imposable to judge anyone within the church. If they truly have faith, they are never going to be judged anyway and you would be the ignorant one (13b). We do not rebuke outside of the church because outside of the church there is no righteous judgment by us (13c). Again, it is wrong to judge the soul of someone. We do not judge souls, just fruits. The fruit is not going to hell or heaven. God judges souls because only he discerns were they go, we just discern works that glorify him or not (13d). Rebuking drunkenness is not telling someone they are going to hell, it is shining light on the ungodly work. Rebuking someone’s greed is not saying they are going to hell but simply exposing ungodly fruit. Rebuking someone for fighting is not saying they are going to hell but just points out ungodly actions. It can’t get anymore plain than that.
Once you have rebuked a sin, let it go. Holding it over someone’s head does not love and it is not forgiving either. We must always be loving and forgiving. To rebuke is to love and to let it go is to forgive (14).
The entire reason why God has given us the ability to discern, and the authority to rebuke is to first keep the church pure and expel corruption and second to help fellow brothers and sisters grow is wisdom. Both of these outcomes give us absolute purpose and reason to edify the church and one another (15).
The five key words all come together to show us a responsibility we have to one another in the church. To must expose sin to prevent more corruption and build wisdom by rebuking it. We know its sin by discerning what is godly and what is not and through correction we grow. All of these come together as a righteous and godly judgment. Besides God commanding us to do this, if we truly love our brothers and our sisters and we want them to grow in wisdom and grow their relationship with God, rebuking is a beneficial tool God has allowed us to use. In the end, to rebuke someone is to love them as well.
1. Do not get involved with anything sinful; instead of encouraging it expose it! (Eph 5:11)
a. DO NOT live like the lost and wicked (Ps 141:4, Rom 12:1-3)
2. YOU do NOT cause good by doing something bad first! We do not create good from doing bad. (Rom 3:8)
3. FIRST rebuke and correct yourself before rebuking and correcting another (Matt 7:5)
4. A GODLY decision IS a righteous judgment (Luke 7:43, Rom 12:1-3)
5. There ARE righteous judgments (John 7:23)
6. Christians are COMMANDED to ‘correct’ and ‘rebuke’ with ‘careful instruction’ (2 Tim 4:1-3)
a. “with ALL authority” (Titus 2:15)
b. To rebuke IS SHOWING LOVE (Rev 3:19)
7. It’s better to rebuke than not say anything (Prov 27:5)
8. It’s better to rebuke than beat around the bush and be nice (Prov 28:23)
9. To REBUKE someone is a GOOD thing (Ps 141:5-6)
a. ONLY rebuke those who know God (Wise, Discerning)! (Prov 9:7-8)
i. The wicked (mocker) with hate you, but the Godly will love you.
ii. DO NOT rebuke and instruct everyone, just those who have the knowledge of God (Prov 13:3)
iii. Rebuke and Instruction very valuable and meaningful! (Prov 7:10, 25:11-13, Ecc 7:5)
iv. Makes the righteous MORE righteous and the wise MORE wise (Prov 9:9, 10:12-14, 19:25, 28:23)
v. “Instruction” through what you say CAN produce FRUIT (Prov 13:2)
vi. Helps discern between RIGHT AND WRONG (Phil 1:9, Prov 10:12-14, Heb 5:14, Rom 12:1-3, Eph 5:10)
10. OKAY to publicly expose sin (Prov 26:26)
a. The public needs to SEE the sin to know what it looks like for themselves (Eph 5:13, Titus 1:12-14)
11. Sinful people avoid truth (Jhn 3:20)
12. We DO NOT make a judgment about someone based on ‘stuff’ but based on HOW THEY FOLLOW CHRIST (Col 2:16)
13. We DO NOT know motives of the heart, JUST ACTIONS. We CANNNOT judge the heart (1Cor4:5).
a. The WORD exposes the heart, not us (Heb 4:12)
b. Not judging because those who are in Christ have already been judged. (John 5:24)
c. Not judging the world because we DO NOT rebuke outside of the church. (1 Cor 5:12-13)
d. Not judging the future soul of that person! (1 Cor 4:5, Matt 7:1-2, John 12:48, James 4:10-12)
14. DROP the issue after exposing, rebuking, and instructing. FORGIVE and move on (Prov 17:9)The purpose is to FIGHT SIN within the church (2 Tim 2-3, Titus 1:12-14)