Question: We’re asking for counsel on the matter of biblical reproof. My first inclination is to follow the admonition in 2 Timothy:2:24-26 and 4:1-4. In light of this what do you believe is the appropriate response and action to be taken when young believers are living in error? Some of the issues include friends who are living with their boyfriends/girlfriends before marriage, were pregnant before marriage, are contemplating divorce and remarriage, dating nonbelievers, going out on the weekends and getting drunk at bars, joining yoga sessions, getting involved in psychology programs, fail to recognize false gospels (Catholicism, Mormonism, etc). Any advice on how to approach dear friends and discuss these issues from your experience would be appreciated. We have lost friends over this.
Response: You point to 2 Timothy:2:24-25, which tells us, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
This approach is consistent throughout Scripture. In Galatians:6:1-2, we read, “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. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Even the verses speaking of conditions approaching the last days do not depart from this approach: “I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy:4:1-5). “Reproving,” “rebuking,” and even “exhorting” must be done with “great patience” and “instruction.” Biblical instruction does not hastily resort to the rod. “Longsuffering” (godly patience) should be our attitude towards those being ministered to. Nevertheless, we preach.
Finally, Ecclesiastes:7:5 tells us, “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”
It is also important to remember that though we may be initially rejected, that doesn’t mean our words weren’t heard or that the Lord has ceased working in the lives of these individuals, as we pray. For example, we recently heard from a woman who related that in the mid-1970s she had witnessed to her employers (a husband and wife) and had been immediately fired. Nearly twenty years later they contacted her to tell her that since then, their family had gotten saved, and the man was now a minister of the gospel. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians:6:9). Well doing involves reproving, rebuking, and exhorting “with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy:4:1-5).