Do you have friends in your life who love you so much that they will correct you? Friends who, when they see you veering off the straight and narrow path of sound doctrine, will gently (or, if necessary, strongly) reach out to tug you back to safety? Are you a friend who will return that favor to save them, even taking the chance that your speaking may “hurt their feelings”? If you sincerely read the three proverbs below you realize that, yes, you may wound, or be wounded, in a true-friend relationship. Yet, in the end, that honest, constructive criticism to one who needs it is worth more than fine gold.
6 Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.
– Proverbs 27:6New Living Translation (NLT)
12 To one who listens, valid criticism
is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.
– Proverbs 25:12New Living Translation (NLT)
23 In the end, people appreciate honest criticism
far more than flattery.
– Proverbs 28:23New Living Translation (NLT)
16 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
-2 Timothy 3:16-17New King James Version (NKJV)
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17New Living Translation (NLT)
I cherish the friends I have who come to me with a word of correction from the Lord. (A word of caution: do test that word with the Lord yourself by going to Him in prayer. Never allow another person to be a “mediator” between you and God. 1Timothy 2:5 “There is no other mediator between God and men but the Man Jesus Christ.”)
Have you, as I have, glided over the Words in 2Timothy 3:16-17 and thought that God gave His Word to teach us doctrine and nothing more? Yet, that’s only one out of the four purposes. The other three purposes all involve forms of changing us: reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. The Potter cannot mold His clay into a piece of perfect beauty unless He gets the dross out and that means putting the clay into the kiln and also getting the bumps out.
The Scripture below is replete with great wisdom in how to receive and give correction:
It is [the choicest anointing] oil on the head;
Let my head not refuse [to accept and acknowledge and learn from] it;
– Psalm 141:5Amplified Bible (AMP)
Wise Christians allow a righteous man to correct them. They see the love behind the correction and know they will be the better for it because they will grow in their spiritual maturity. They look at the correction as choice oil which cleanses and prepares for even more of an anointing. It is oil not meant to harm but to renew the heart and bless. How much my friends must love me since they will point out these blemishes and faults that keep me from being all I can be in Jesus! Oh these words may sting a bit when first heard but that is ministering oil being poured on by a hand of Love – it will not hurt long! And we will be so much cleaner and stronger and safer in the end.
There is one other vital point in these verses that I believe may need to be lingered on even more. It is that the righteous man is to deliver the message in kindness. The oil upon the head is to gently flow so the one who is in error can hear. Not dumped but gently poured. I know a young man who has grown up to be a mighty man of God – wise, tender-hearted, in love with His Lord, His Word and His people. Yet as a child he had a horrible – and I stress that word – temper. I had close contact with this child and I discovered that there was only one way to speak with him when his temper flared or at any other time when he needed correction. I spoke with a very quiet, tender voice – no matter how loud or how much he screamed. It was amazing to watch the change that came over him. To this day he remembers that peaceful, kind voice. He is not the child he was. And I was very aware through each and every experience Who it was that made my spirit and voice so peaceful. People hear when there is love behind our words.
Under the category of “wise counsel” are these guidelines from the late Rev. Don Robinson’s sermon titled “How To Receive Criticism”.
- The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father.
- They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings.
- His reminders are meant to humble us, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth.(Robinson, http://www.brandonweb.com)
The Messenger and The Watchman by David Guzik
15 Then I [Ezekiel] came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
– Ezekiel 3:15New King James Version (NKJV)
Those days of silence changed his attitude about his mission. He learned patience; he came to accept responsibility.” (Smith)
Because God cared deeply about the safety of His people He provided prophets and watchmen to minister to them. They were to be the voice of God to His people.
The responsibility of a watchman.
1. (16-19) The responsibility to warn the wicked.
“Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.”
The focus of the watchman’s work is not on the examination of the wicked, but on the faithful declaration of God’s message.
2. (20-21) The responsibility to warn the righteous.
“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”
When a righteous man turns from his righteousness: The previous verses told of Ezekiel’s responsibility to warn the wicked. Now God told him he also had a responsibility to warn the righteous who may stray from God’s path.
If you warn the righteous man: If Ezekiel were faithful to bring the message and the righteous were appropriately warned and kept from their sin, it would be good for the one who heeded the warning (he shall surely live because he took warning) and good for the prophet (you will have delivered your soul).
4. (24-27) The difficulty of the call restated.
“Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.”
But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth: God would not stay silent forever, and neither would Ezekiel. God would restore his ability to speak and Ezekiel would fulfill his role as God’s messenger.
He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse: With Ezekiel speaking as he should, delivering God’s message, the responsibility would be on those he spoke to and not upon himself.(Guzik, enduringword.com)
What happens when the Lord sends me to give a correction and the person does not want to hear it? It is never a feeling of anger. Nor is it any variation of “well, I told you, which was my part of the responsibility; if you don’t want to hear, that’s you problem.” No, it’s not either of those reactions. My feeling is always one of deep sorrow and as we continue with these lessons you’ll find out how the Lord taught me that through His Word).
JESUS’ REACTION TO SIN AND ERROR
I have a short book that I read every time that the Lord places a burden on me to pray for those He has shown me need prayer for correction. The name of it is “Contentiously Contending” by Doctor Anton Bosch. Interestingly, the book’s main purpose is to teach the reader how not to be contentious. Each time it convicts me that unless my own heart is one of humility and gentleness I cannot minister to one that I must think of as my brother. Truth cannot stand alone. Unless it is coupled with love it is not the way of the Lord. Patient, heartfelt prayer must be involved in correction. So often people speak of Jesus’ “righteous anger.” Yet consider when He looked over Jerusalem and wept:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”
– Matthew 23:37New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Grieves over Jerusalem
Yes, He acknowledged that these people – His people – had slain His prophets and messengers, but His reaction was not of anger. It was completely the opposite: it was the reaction of a mother protecting her small babies. I once heard a sermon centered on a definition of the word “Woe” as in “Woe, unto you Pharisees.” The speaker stated that “Woe “ meant “ it’s too sad to get mad about.” That to me sounds like the words and heart of a Savior Who came and died for my sins. That is to be the heart attitude we are to have when we correct error.
There is one more Scripture we need to use as a guideline:
6 Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.
– Galatians 6:1Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
This verse again directs us to deal tenderly with those who might be in error. Our goal is to restore the person keeping in mind that, one day, we might ourselves be found in the same position. It’s a very interesting example of “do unto others as you wish others to do unto you” isn’t it?
Doctor Bosch devotes a great portion of his book to the exegesis of the following verses.
“24 And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending). Instead, he must be kindly to everyone and mild-tempered [preserving the bond of peace]; he must be a skilled and suitable teacher, patient and forbearing and willing to suffer wrong.
25 He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it],
26 And that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will.”
– 2 Timothy 2:24-26Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Notice that these verses are addressed to the “servant of the Lord.” That means each and every one of us. It also tells us that we are to have the humility of the heart of a servant.
We are not to quarrel. Period. We are to be gentle to ALL, including the heretics and “those who are in opposition”.
First, we are to be gentle to all. For “gentle” some expositors use the word ‘like a baby,’ meaning that we should be harmless, without guile, and as gentle as a baby would be! The Greek word for ‘gentle’in this passage is also used by Paul to describe his attitude to the Thessalonians: ‘we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children’ (1Thessalonians 2:7). That’s right – Paul expects us to display the same kind of gentleness towards those who are in opposition as a mother does towards her baby! …
One of the most important skills in teaching is patience since many disciples are slow to learn and often make mistakes. Patience is even more necessary when dealing with those who are in error since it takes a long time to turn a ship around that is on the wrong course. Teaching babes is relatively easy as they are often a “blank slate” on which we can must first simply write the Truth. But when dealing with those who are in error, we delete the error before we can begin to write the Truth. This takes much more patience than teaching spiritual babes. If you do not have the patience to teach young Christians, then you will also not have the patience to correct those who are in error.
Let me hasten to emphasize: I am not condoning error or heresy, neither am I unaware of the enormous damage false teacher have done and are doing. But unless we go about the task of defending the Truth in a godly way, we are wasting our time since the Lord is not working with us. (Bosch, antonbosch.org)
Is it not interesting that Dr. Bosch sees correction in the positive position of defending the Truth rather than in the negative position of attacking error? Just that simple thought should keep us on the Godly side of correction.
It is interesting to me that these verses in 2 Timothy begin with the word “the servant of the Lord.” That Word always makes me pause and pray. Am I going to people with correction in a high and mighty attitude to “lord it over” them or with the attitude of the One Who washed His disciple’s feet? Am I talking down to them to badger or kneeling down to minister? The difference in my attitude will determine the receptivity of their hearts and spirits. Romans 12:18 reminds me that “insofar as it is with me, I am to be at peace with my brother.”
Bosh’s commentary continues…
Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit; like all fruits it takes time to ripen and does best if we simply rest and leave the ripening in the Gardener’s Hands (John 15).
Those who are meek have recognized their own weaknesses, are broken before Him and have come to a point of full surrender to the Lord. They do not have to prove anything but are simply instruments in the hands of the Almighty. Meekness flows first from an awareness of God’s mercy towards us and a recognition of the fact that He has saved us and kept us by His grace alone.
Secondly meekness flows from an awareness of our own faults and potential for sin and error. Those who arrogantly strive with others act as though they themselves never make mistakes and as though they have all Truth: “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… For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:1,3 KJV).
Thirdly, meekness is a result of recognizing that we cannot change other people’s minds, theology or attitudes. It is God alone who can do so (with the individual’s cooperation). When we are deluded and overconfident and think that we can win the argument, prove how wrong the other person is and get him to change his thinking – we are arrogant and far from meek.
Those who are in opposition (to the Truth) are “in the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2Timothy 2:26). They are not free agents to change their minds as they choose, but are trapped in a web of deceit, lies and error. (How they got there is another story). According to the Bible they are imprisoned and bound. To get angry with such people is a waste of time. They cannot change unless the Lord intervenes. When we understand that, our attitude towards them has to change from one of judgment to one of pity and mercy.
In dealing with those in error, we need to give a sound, logical and Biblical reason for the Truth.
Our true attitude and motive is often revealed when people choose to continue in error, even once they have been given Truth. Only those who weep and mourn for those who choose to continue in error had the right to speak in the first place. Those who hurl accusations, malign, slander and feel a sense of justification had no right to speak.” (Bosch, antonbosch.org)
Look back through your life. Search your heart to see how you have delivered a word of correction. Was it done in humility and love? If it wasn’t, have you asked forgiveness of the Lord and your brother/sister? Conversely, have you received a word of correction but did not receive it in humility and did not allow that word to search your heart? Have you gone back to that brother/sister to discuss why the Word was given and not left their presence until full understanding – and hopefully – Peace was arrived at? More importantly, have you gone to the Lord and let Him search your heart?
Click Here to respond to this lesson’s Life Application Questions
The Bible, www.biblegateway.com. The Zondervan Corporation, 1995-2017.
Robinson, Rev. Don. How To Receive Criticism at http://www.brandonweb.com. Located at: http://www.brandonweb.com/sermons/sermonpages/psalms77.htm
Guzik, David. Ezekiel 3 – The Messenger and the Watchman at eurdingword.com. Located at https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/ezekiel-chapter-3/
Bosch, Anton, Contentiously Contending 3 http://antonbosch.org/Articles/English%202007/Contentiously%20Contending%203.html
Watchmen on the Wall at photobucket.com. Watchmen on the Wall
I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.