“Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.’” Jeremiah 1:9, 10, NAS95.
Speaking the Lord’s word has its share of thrills and privilege. I love to tell people about the forgiveness found in Jesus. I love talking about the resurrection body, Heaven, the tree of life, and the golden streets. I love talking about the Savior’s love for undeserving mankind and about the victory found in Jesus. It’s faith-lifting to me to talk of prayer, providence, and the power of God. And I am over-awed in speaking about the holiness and majesty of the only true and living God evidenced in a clear, starry night sky, the power of a storm, the grandeur of the mountains, and the “resurrection” of spring.
On the other hand, there are times when speaking God’s word isn’t quite as pleasant. Sometimes a preacher needs to talk about sin. Sometimes about error. Sometimes I need to tell people that they should do something that they really don’t want to do. Sometimes those conversations or sermons are kind of awkward and uncomfortable. But that’s the nature of faithful service to both God and man.
And yes, you read that correctly, “faithful service to both God and man.”
“Humph,” someone might say, “It doesn’t feel like much of a service to me, when you’re telling me I’m wrong or you’re correcting me.”
Yeah, I get that, believe it or not. But I also know that anyone in their right mind would prefer to be corrected by a human being here and now, when there’s still opportunity to do a course-correction; rather than be judged by God in the ultimate sense on the last day, without a chance to change things. What sort of favor am I (or any Christian) doing for someone lost in sin by saying nothing and letting them remain in the sin that will damn them in the end? What service am I doing by keeping my peace toward someone who has believed in Jesus, but has never obeyed Him in baptism?
Yes, the message is sometimes negative, but correction, rebuke, reproof, warning, and admonition are all part of the Lord’s Gospel and the teachings of the New Testament. Did you notice in the passage quoted above that ⅔ of the message was going to be negative; only ⅓ was about building and planting. The inspired apostle Paul speaks of a similar ratio, too…
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 2 Timothy 3:16, NAS95.
“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2, NAS95.
Why this ratio? Largely because doing sinful things is just so common and false teachings are everywhere. If you’re a math teacher and students are coming up with lots of subtraction errors, you wouldn’t dwell on the elegance of a good algebra equation; you’d mainly work on correcting the subtraction errors—even if you also wanted to talk about the beauty of algebra. Similarly, to enjoy the newness of life given at baptism (Romans 6:4), to experience abundant living given by the Lord (John 10:10), and to be certain that the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:9) corrections, rebukes, reproving, etc. will be needed—along with the positive exhortations.
So next time you hear a negative Biblical teaching or sermon or statement, please at least entertain the idea that it’s not being offered in ill-humored criticism and judgment, but instead may be offered as a faithful service to both God and yourself. After all…
“Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” Proverbs 25:12, NASB.