Are we to rebuke the world?


(Alistair Robertson) #1

On Good Friday the minister at our church preached what I thought was a good message from John 20. He used the various reactions to Jesus in the chapter as examples of reactions people have to Christianity today, and he used Jesus’ responses in the chapter as examples of how we should respond today. It was not his normal style, but overall it was a good message.

One thing he said, though, was that Jesus did not confront Pilate about his sin (v11), and in the same way we should not call out the sin of the non-Christian world. I disagreed. After all, if someone else has greater sin than you, you still have sinned!

We discussed it, and while he is willing - and does - call out specific sin among Christians, he believes calling out specific sins among a society that is not the people of God is counter-productive.

See what happened there? The Jews have been characterised as the people of God, so biblical examples of calling out their sin don’t count.

I’m wondering what scriptural reflections people have on this that might speed up my thinking.


(Jesse Tiersma) #2

I hope and pray your pastor is not consistent in practicing this. To “not call out the sin of the non-christian” is to refuse to evangelize him.

For men to be saved, they need to know their need for a Savior. To know their need for a Savior, they need to know what they need to be saved from, and that is the sin in their life.

How can you proclaim good news without first proclaiming the bad news it saves you from?


(Alistair Robertson) #3

Jesse, you’re right, of course. But there are a couple of things there:

  1. You can call out sin generally: “We’re all sinners - you, me, everybody - and we all deserve hell. But God has made a way…”.

My minister is happy with that, but not with calling out specific individual sins.

  1. He doesn’t like calling out societal sins like abortion, homosexuality, etc, because he feels that the impression people get is that the church is all about stopping sexual sin (or abortion, etc).

He is committed to the Bible, so my best chance of convincing him is to show him from the Bible that we are to call out non-christian sin.


(Jesse Tiersma) #4

Romans 1-3 is specific, societal, and calls out/ rebukes people in the world for sin. It certainly doesn’t have only moral reform as it’s answer, but to show how the gospel is the “power of God for salvation.”

In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 Paul names individuals, their sin(blasphemy), and what he had done about it(excommunication). By definition, if someone has been “handed over to Satan”, they are of the world.


(Joseph Bayly) #5

This is very common today and takes many forms. It is one of the biggest problems I’ve run into, even among reformed churches. It guts the preaching, and then the fruit in the lives of the believers and their understanding of how to interact with the world is terrible.

It is quite effective at avoiding persecution, but it comes at the expense of being ashamed of the words of Christ.

Isaiah is a good antidote filled with specific condemnations of the sins of the various peoples surrounding the Israelites, as well as calls to repentance.


(Tim Bayly) #6

This betrayal of Christian witness is everywhere in the Reformed world, today. And that’s what it is: betrayal. There are so very many Scripture passages exposing it that a book would be easy, but when the book was done, the error would remain because it’s not an error or interpretation—of hermeneutics and exegesis—but of faith.

We could point out the Old Testament prophets condemned the surrounding nations for their sin (ripping open the bellies of pregnant women, for instance) but they would excuse themselves by saying those were prophets of the Old Covenant. We could point out John the Baptist condemned Herod’s incest and lost his head for it, but they would excuse themselves saying Herod was claiming to be a Jew. We could point out the Apostle Paul publicly condemned the Areopagus for their city’s rapant idolatry as well as their ignorance but they would excuse themselves saying the Apostle Paul was an apostle, not a pastor. We could point out every epistle is written both towards sanctification and evangelism, but they would excuse themselves saying the churches addressed were Christian and therefore filled with Christians, not pagans. We could talk until we’re blue in the face, but it would get us nowhere toward agreement and we would begin to conclude the error is…

Not an error of exegesis and hermeneutics but an error of faith. Prayer is the answer. Prayer that God will awaken our shepherds love for His Own lost sheep. Prayer that the excuses will crumble in the face of zeal for the kingdom of God. All authority has been given to Him in Heaven and on earth. Therefore, we are to go to all men preaching the Gospel (which is Romans 1 in all its horror; read the text and realize the Apostle Paul calls it the “Gospel”); making disiciples of all men, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Love,


(Timothy J. Hammons) #8

Hi Again.
I posted this before, and then removed my post. Let’s just say that my fear of man has caused me to be a bit gun shy, especially when showing a bit of weakness on my part. Alistair wrote me and asked me why I removed it, and that was why. Here is what I wrote, and after reading over after a night’s sleep, I’m not as fearful as I was when I removed it.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid to stand for the truth, for the gospel, or even on things that are highly controversial. But for now, where I am in my life, I don’t have time, or the energy for a lot of unnecessary debates or attacks. Here was my original post:

Hi Tim,

Great answer. I confess, I struggle with this issue as well. I know we are to be salt and light, but struggle with the application of that. I recently started to preach on that passage, and several commentators, Calvin, and Luther, referred to the salt and light as to being pastors only. I couldn’t reconcile it, so punted the sermon all together and preached from Galatians instead.

I also recognize that the Gentiles were condemned and vomited out of the land because they violated the LORD’s statutes. The Israelites were warned if they adopted the practices of those around them, they too would be vomited out of the land (Leviticus18). But in appealing to such a passage, then one has to deal with being accused of being a theonomist, which is another discussion altogether. I’m just not clear, how we apply the LAW, in the culture. I do feel that if the church was more honoring to the Law, that we would be more of the salt and light Christ calls us to be, but not sure how to take it further than that.


(Joseph Bayly) #9

This is probably something more pastors should do at least occasionally.

As to the reason you punted, I don’t remember reading Calvin on that passage, but I did do extensive study at one point on the issue of evangelism and came to a similar conclusion—preaching the gospel is something that ordained men are to be doing. That doesn’t mean that there is no personal evangelism on the part of all the believers. It does mean that ordained men uniquely represent the church to the public, though, and uniquely do the proclaiming of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21).

If people want to call me a theonomist for preaching from the OT, then so be it. I’ve even had it applied positively for that reason. There’s simply no way of understanding that text without coming to the conclusion that our nation’s blood guilt from abortion will result in God judging us, and the only loving thing to do is to loudly warn of the wrath to come. Otherwise, they will die in their sins, but we will have their blood on our own hands, as Ezekiel warns.

We do want those things to stop for all sorts of good reasons. You cannot separate faith from repentance. So the one reason is because we want people to be saved, and they have not repented if they continue to give themselves to such sins. Another reason is because God commanded us to teach them to obey everything he commanded. Another reason is because we pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven because it glorifies Him. Another reason is because we pray for our rulers so that we can live quiet peaceful lives, which is impossible in a society where the rulers have established injustice as the law. And one final reason that I hesitate to mention because I’m so sick of seeing it overplayed—those things aren’t good for human flourishing. I’m sure there are more, but I’ll stop with that.

Does that mean that’s all we care about? No. But people cannot see their own sin if it is always general and never specific. If the church never addresses the sins of the culture, there is no proclamation of the gospel. It’s that serious.

There is a place for preaching against the sins that the culture is currently doing its best job on its own to put to death, such as racism today, but there is a big caveat. If non-Christians are fighting racism, there is an idolatry at the heart of their anti-racism that preaching to the conscience must address. If you don’t address it, you leave the church members thinking that their model to follow is Jesse Jackson and every other charlatan profiteering on public sentiment. The result is that they fall prey to wicked theologies and empty philosophies of men trapped in the darkness.

Good preaching on racism in that context is therefore almost certainly going to be interpreted by some as an attack on anti-racist work, and thus you will be labelled as racist. What is an example of the sinful idolatry in today’s non-Christian social justice anti-racist activists? Egalitarianism is one example, which requires that everybody be exactly the same. The assumptions behind it are so central that any attempt to attack those doctrines of demons automatically gets you labeled as a racist, sexist, etc. Even a black woman will get that treatment. To oppose egalitarianism makes you guilty of racism in the world’s eyes.

But to oppose racism without also opposing egalitarianism makes you guilty of being a hireling in the Lord’s eyes.


(John Trocke) #10

What do you make of 1 Corinthians 5? While we see that Paul has no hesitation in calling out the sins of the world, labeling the sexual immoral, greedy swindlers, and idolaters as such, but then he says “what have I to do with judging outsiders?” What is Paul getting at here? It seems to me he is saying that there is no problem calling out the sins of the world, but our primary concern is with ourselves. Or am I misreading?


(Joseph Bayly) #11

That’s all about judging. Connected but different. If the church refuses to repentant, we cannot call the world to repentance. They will laugh at us. “We don’t even do that sort of perverse stuff!” Think of the RCC and the sexual abuse of boys. Not even non-Christians do such things. How can you call the world to repentance in that case? You can’t.

The chapter ends with this: “But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Cor 5:13).

The very fact that God will judge the wicked is one of the central pillars of the evangelistic message. If you want to fulfill the great commission, you must judge yourself first. Then next step in the work is not judging the world, but preaching to the world such that they are convicted by the Spirit of sin, righteousness, and the judgment. (John 16:8).

Does that answer your question?


(Chris Gatihi) #12

Now, that’s a catch-phrase (“human flourishing”) that someone needs to write an article on thinking biblically about :slight_smile: . Seems to be a term that we modern evangelicals are eager to use as a bridge to show the unbelieving world that we’re really for them without needing to make any reference to God.

Thanks for your thoughts, brother.


(John Trocke) #13

The distinction between judging and rebuking is hard for me to parse as it seems that one must judge someone before one can rebuke them. If Paul meant to say that Christians need to get their house in order before taking on the outside world’s sins, why wouldn’t he put it that way? My impression of the passage is not that he is afraid to rebuke the world, but more so that he’s not too concerned about the world. I admit this is likely a bad reading because as “Apostle to the Gentiles” Paul obviously has a heart for the unsaved, but I can’t get around what I view as the most straightforward way to read this passage. Maybe there is a translation issue?


(Joseph Bayly) #14

Judging has a wide range of meaning. In this context, earlier in the chapter he connects it to refusing to “associate with immoral people” (1 Cor 5:9). A few verses later he goes on to point out that actually we will not just judge the world, but angels (1 Cor 6:2-3). Just as we are commanded “Judge not, lest ye be judged” in Matthew 7:1, the “most straightforward way to read this” must be rejected once it is determined to be at odds with the rest of the text.

The new most straightforward way to read it may not immediately become clear, but it certainly eliminates the possibility that he is speaking in a universal way of not judging.

You’re on the right track. It’s impossible to rebuke without judging at some level, and he’s obviously not afraid to judge that the world is engaged in certain sins. Nor is he afraid to rebuke them. So what do you think he means when he rebukes the church for shunning notorious sinners outside the church but hobnobbing with notorious sinners inside the church?

Here’s another hint: even his statement that he didn’t mean not to associate with “immoral people of this world” must be understood in light of the clear warning elsewhere that “bad company corrupts good morals.” So his meaning here must be understood to address something specific, not simply taken in the broadest sense the words can mean.


(Joel Norris) #15

Maybe some people think that to rebuke the world means being sacrilegious concerning the world’s religion or blasphemers of the world’s goddesses. That is not necessary. All one has to do is say that gods made with hands are not gods at all.


(Lucas Weeks) #16

That’s a pretty fine distinction, and I can’t see much of difference in it aside from tone. But then it appears that your tone is at odds with your actual message.


(John Trocke) #17

Thanks for your help with this passage. The overarching point Paul is getting at in these passages is that the Corinthians are casting aspersions on the world, while simultaneously committing sins even worse than what the world is doing, to their shame. This of course makes spreading the Gospel impossible.

I still find that 1 Cor 5:12 sticks in my craw a bit, but perhaps that can be attributed to Paul’s use of Jewish rhetoric (exaggeration) and we should give him some leeway to make his point. I agree with you that all scripture must be interpreted in light of the whole.


(Joel Norris) #18

Was this in reply to my comment? Not sure.


(Tim Bayly) #19

Which every last man on here fights against, so chill out. Make some mistakes already. Join us. Smiling. Love,

We focus on sexual sins because those are the sins the world focuses on, so we answer them while also defending Christ’s sheep from their wicked influence. If the gap in the wall is sexual, we fight there. Love,


(Tim Bayly) #20

I’ve always refused to repentant.


(Tim Bayly) #21

Yes. Paul to the Areopagus, for instance. Whatever the judgment of the world is we are to avoid, it’s not preaching to worldlings against their sins in such a way that it will result in hours of a mob screaming in the public square, “Make America great again!” Or was it “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”? Love,