Intro: Neh. 4:15-20 – When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
- God’s people rebuilt the wall with a trowel in one hand and a sword in another. This image is intriguing. It suggests to me the dual aspect of doing God work: With the trowel they built, and with the sword they defended. – Building alone is insufficient because what is built can and will be destroyed unless it is also defended and protected.
- Tonight’s lesson is not a popular topic. Discipline. The word itself ushers in unpleasant thoughts.
- Biblical discipline is, first and foremost, training. Discipline and disciple are from the same root word. Simply, to be a disciple of Jesus means to live a disciplined life and humbly receive discipline as needed.
Proverbs 12:1 – Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
There are two major kinds of biblical discipline: formative and restorative.
- Formative discipline is the trowel work: It is primarily positive, instructive, and encouraging. It involves preaching, teaching, prayer, and personal Bible study encouraging us to love and serve God more wholeheartedly.
- Restorative discipline has a corrective purpose. When we forget or disobey what God has taught us, he corrects us. This is the sword work as we must defend what has been built, lest Satan destroy it. It is this type of corrective discipline that I will focus on tonight.
Discipline: is not pleasant: This is the thought considered by the apostle in Heb. 12 – Heb 12:9-11 – Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. No discipline is pleasant. Yet we all recognize it is essential. (In Walmart, next to a screaming 4 year old who wants his own way.)
- Correction is a part of successful living – Whether we are speaking of correcting a child who is misbehaving or correcting the course of spacecraft that is off course, the process of correction is absolutely necessary. But correction is a difficult process. No one wants to be corrected, and we usually resist any attempt by others. Words of correction that are not received well may prove to be counterproductive. It is certainly a task that needs to be done correctly.
I. The universal Need for Correction. None of us are exempt from the need for correction. Even Jesus’ most dedicated disciples needed to be corrected at times. Paul confronted Peter to correct his hypocrisy concerning eating with the Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-13). In the final analysis, my salvation relies upon my self-discipline. Others can show me the right path, but I must take it.
A. Paul told Timothy that the word of God was given for this precise purpose. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – 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. It is invaluable because
- it provides the objective, perfect standard by which we can measure ourselves. (It tells me what is right and wrong without ambivalence) there is no partiality.
- It provides the direction and guidance needed to stay on course. It does not change with time or culture. I can know for sure. We cannot navigate by comparing ourselves with ourselves or others – as a sailor who uses another ship as a reference point) – remembering a good fishing hole by looking at the boats around me.
B. So spiritual correction is something everybody needs, nobody wants; and when it is done it is often done poorly. We need God’s help in this pursuit.
II. Being Able to Correct Others: Romans 15:14 – 14 Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. The apostle was confident that these Christians in Rome could admonish one another. The word for admonish is noutheteo – to put in mind, to caution or reprove gently. Translated as warn. It primarily refers to verbal correction, or confronting error by teaching the truth.
What does Paul tell us here?
A. The ability to admonish another is predicated on two important qualities: being filled with goodness and being filled with knowledge.
Note: Notice first that the imposed parameters are within the one doing the correcting. The first step is to look inward. We must examine ourselves FIRST.
- Matt 7:1-5 – 1″Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
- These words do not forbid us to correct another person, or make judgments concerning truth or error. John MacArthur states… The entire thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is to show the complete distinction between true religion and false religion, between spiritual truth and spiritual hypocrisy. Jesus places God’s perfect and holy standards beside the unholy and self-righteous standards of the scribes and Pharisees and declares that those who follow those unholy and self-righteous standards have no part in God’s kingdom (5:20). No more controversial or judgmental sermon has ever been preached.
- Jesus is telling us to look first to ourselves. Do not overlook our glaring faults, while attempting to expose the faults of another. This is a clear characteristic of the hypocrite. He has no credibility. This type of honest and precise introspection is a prerequisite to discipline or correction.
1. “Filled with goodness” – The word goodness is agathosune, which points to moral virtue or good character. It is the character that beneficial, as opposed to hurtful. The Christian must be filled with the desire to be good and do good. This speaks to the motivation of the one doing the correcting. We must be seeking what is beneficial to the other person. Often corrective measures are taken out of a desire to get even, or to make the person pay. It may be that we want to expose another’s faults to make ourselves look better. How does goodness act in the process of discipline? Let me suggest 3 characteristics:
a. Gentleness is how goodness treats those who need correction. Galatians 6:1-2 – 1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. The spiritual person engages in the process of restoration with a personal examination. He then expresses himself with gentleness because he intent is not to increase the burden, but help to share in it. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 – 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
- Gentleness is the self-discipline of having your emotions in check. Anger and resentment cannot be involved. The good person does not seek to embarrass them, or shame them, or ridicule them, or to talk to them in some condescending tone. Paul corrected the Corinthians with all goodness, “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children” (1 Cor. 4:14). Good admonishers are not full of themselves; they are full of all goodness.
b. Compassion is how goodness sees those who need correction. James 5:19-20 – 19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. The impact of sin should move us. Those who are on the wrong course will lose their souls. Jude 22-23 – And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
c. Impartiality is how goodness judges those who need correction. As we noticed earlier, Jesus forbids partiality in Matt. 7 – “judge not, that you be not judged” Jesus is condemning the hyper-critical spirit that finds faults in others without reference to his own faults. It is judgment without mercy or compassion. It is judgment with partiality toward myself or others. If I am to be successful at correcting others I must be willing to be impartial toward all sin – as God judges sin.
2. “Filled with all knowledge” – Paul was also confident of their ability to admonish each other because they filled with knowledge. This knowledge is not human philosophy or secular education. It is the knowledge that Paul himself had provided through the inspired message. Paul instructed young Timothy to guard what was entrusted to him through apostolic teaching, and avoid “the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” — 1 Tim 6:20 We do not need to know the current philosophical techniques of counseling or to have read Dr. Phil’s latest book. But we do need the indispensable truth of the Bible. The new man is renewed in the knowledge of Him who created him. (Col. 3:10)
a. Is this a violation of God’s revealed Will? I must be able to discern between what is truly sinful and what is simply a matter of opinion and diverse application.
- David in the story of Nabal. Nabal was impolite to David and refused to reward him for caring for his sheep. David got so mad that he strapped on his sword to cut off his head. Nabal didn’t sin against the Law he just violated social etiquette. Thankfully David responded to the correction of a godly woman before committing cold-blooded murder. Before we get all worked up we need to ask ourselves, “Is God being disgraced? Is His word being violated?”
- Biblical admonition brings a person face to face with the scriptures. Those who know how to properly admonish their brother are able to use the scriptures to change minds and hearts. Ps 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. The words of God show the way – and they alone show the way back.
Conclusion: How do you respond to correction? It is a matter of life and death. God saves people who are willing to be corrected. He is unable to save those who will not.
Are we involved in the business of admonishing one another? Are we qualified to do this vital work – filled with goodness; filled with knowledge?