HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
So, note carefully that Paul tells us . . . as we continue looking at the text from Titus 3:10-11. Paul was trying to save the church he established in Crete
2. WHAT WE OWE TO HIM IN LOVE.
Someone who appears to be a malicious church-divider may—in fact—only be a naive and immature brother or sister in Christ who needs some tender instruction and discipleship. And so, Paul tells us that, before we deal with them as “divisive”, we owe them “the first and second admonition”—that is, the first and second ‘face-to-face’ loving confrontation about the matter.
Paul tells us, elsewhere, that we need to exercise a sanctified “benefit of the doubt” in the matter, and approach an apparent “church-divider” first as a brother or sister. He warned elsewhere that we should not keep company with anyone who lives in an openly sinful way. “Yet”, Paul said, “do not count him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). I believe that one of the things that open the door for someone to truly hear such an admonition is to make sure they know that they are truly loved first. Approaching them as someone who professes a faith in Jesus Christ, and who is—on that basis—therefore a brother or sister who is worthy of love goes a long way toward gaining a hearing.
We should also be humble and gentle in our approach. We’re not to come with our fists clenched—ready for a fight. With respect to unbelieving people, Paul warned that “24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). This is to be our approach to unbelievers. We’re never to get into shouting matches with them. We’re never to come across as harsh. And if we’re to be this way toward someone who is an unbeliever who is trapped in the clutches of the devil, we’re certain to be this way toward an erring brother or sister who is trapped in the error of factionism.
And note that we’re not to just settle for a first admonition. If they persist in their divisive activities, we’re to come to them again a second time. I suspect that Paul meant for Titus to understand this in the light of the teaching of the Lord Jesus; where He said,
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
It may even be that Paul would say that, at each stage of the process that the Lord gave us, we’re not to trust in just one confrontation. We’re to follow it up with at least one more; saying to them, “Now, dear brother or dear sister; you and I have already talked once before about this divisive behaviour. And I see that it’s still going on. So; in love—before I move on to bring someone else alongside me in this matter—I’m coming to you again and asking that it stop.”
Genuine love for the body of Christ would demand that we admonish the divisive brother or sister. But genuine love for the divisive brother and sister would demand not only a first but also a second admonition. This, I believe, would involve the idea of doing as Jesus commanded and bringing others into the matter—and, if needs be, the whole church body.
But what happens if we confront a divisive person’s behaviour a first and second time, and find that it still goes on? Paul tells us next . . .
Join me tomorrow as we continue this message and understand why bad behaviour in a church is a serious thing and must be dealt with in the spirit of love and according to the word of God.