The Gentleness and Severity of the Christian Witness

The question has often been asked about our methods of biblical evangelism when we rebuke and reprove hard sinners is, “Shouldn’t we be gentle in our dealings with the lost?  The question begged then becomes, “How can we be gentle and rebuke as the Scriptures obviously require us to do?”  The truth is knowable if we seek it. Someone is wrong in this moral dilemma of gentleness and hardness of communication with the sinner.

2 Tim 4:2-5
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Tim 2:24-26
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, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

This question arises within the same letter from Paul to Timothy.

Here is the answer in simplest terms.  In regards to rebuking and gentleness of our Christian witness, it is a both/and not an either or depending on the condition of the soil of the heart of the listener/s.

James 4:5-7
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Prov 3:33-35
The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
But He blesses the home of the just.
Surely He scorns the scornful,
But gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools

1 Pet 5:4-6
4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud,  But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

So, the Holy Spirit who dwells in us gives the law/rebukes/warnings of hell/etc to the proud sinners, but His grace is given to those who humble themselves during or after our witness of Christ to them. If you read the writeup for my Grandmother’s funeral preach video you would find out a lot of information about how long I have been witnessing to this group of people called my earthly family. One2one, small groups, tracts, emails, etc I have been witnessing to my family over sixteen years, My first witness to them was Aug 3, 1996 when I was born again I called everyone in my family and asked them if they knew of or had been saved by Jesus Christ.

Now I want to parallel my experiences of my witness to my family to the witnesses we give to strangers to see if there is any correlation between the two.  In trying to reach my family most of them were haughty and resistant from the beginning of my testimonies to them.    Only my ‘saved’ sister and my maternal grandmother were interested at all in the things I desired to say of Jesus and His great salvation offered to the world.  So, over the years as I learned that when speaking of the love of Jesus demonstrated at the cross for them, they neglected and even mocked it. To this, I would tell them they were headed to hell.  This of course, is very offensive to the carnal person still living in sin.  I learned about ten years ago that I needed to show them the law which is written upon the conscience and that it would bear witness as I did.  Well, glory hallelujah this did make some inroads with some of my family but most still hardened their hearts.  But, the law is not all we need to use as our witness.  We need to use:  1.  Creation which points to a Creator  2.  The Judgments of God which points out the horrors of dying in a sinful state.  3.  Sin which everyone is guilty of to point to the need for forgiveness.  4.  His Righteousness which means He won’t neglect what He has threatened and or promised against and for all of humanity.  5.  His love which was demonstrated on the cross in suffering and dying for all sinners and sin.  6.  His Word which is an eternal testimony of Himself to a lost and dying world.  7.  His Spirit which indwells every believer as we walk according to His directions in our communications with the lost.

If you think about it, our earthly family are just family members that are closer than the rest of our family which is the human race.  Why do we make special provision, excuses, or justifications for those that we know better or have more worldly experiences with, than the rest of our family?  I prove that point with one Scripture which I love to cite especially when people are racist in their thinking.

Acts 17:26-31
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

In summary, we should not treat our close family members differently than the rest of our human family in our testimony of Jesus.  We should be consistent across the board not being preferential in the way we witness to them.  If we are, we need to repent of this arbitrary thinking and behavior.  One danger we have is to lose sight of the fact that Jesus will condemn them no matter what we say or do, if they do not repent, seek forgiveness, and become born again of the Holy Spirit.  Let us comfort no sinner in sin, whether they be a stranger on the street, or the closest brother, cousin, mother or father we have many fond carnal memories with….

1 Pet 1:13-19
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 

 

We should consider both God’s goodness and severity as well!

Rom 11:22-23
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Friends, let us make sure we represent Him properly to a lost world which is in rebellion to Him and His Holy authority.  I had a friend of mine recently say,

A sinner asked, “Why should we fear God?” I said, “Because He is HORRIFYINGLY HOLY! He burns people! Alive! Forever!” ”

 

New Years

 

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13 Comments

Filed under Teaching

13 responses to “The Gentleness and Severity of the Christian Witness

  1. Jason Harris

    Amen brother. The law is given to the proud, and grace and mercy to the humble.

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  2. SP

    “Let us comfort no sinner in sin, whether they be a stranger on the street, or the closest brother, cousin, mother or father we have many fond carnal memories with….” Very well said, brother. I have recently had this experience in my immediate family as well.

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  3. This is a great word, thank you Brother for sharing this, may God richly bless you, all glory to God!

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  4. Amy Ribitzki

    Amen, the Lord is convicting me to push forward this year speaking to my family more. I don’t think rebuke ever comes across gentle it hurts, it breaks down the hardness of the heart.

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  5. Praise Jesus dear brother John! Wisdom is certainly from above and you speak it so very well! AMEN

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