Exhort and Rebuke

“Speak about this and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

(Titus 2:15)

When one speaks on the authority of men, one carries with him the authority of men. Yet, when one speaks with the authority of God, one carries with him not the authority of men but of God himself. This does not mean that preachers are inspired in the way that the Prophets or Apostles were inspired, but it does mean that when we stand upon the Word of God, and stand on that alone, we proclaim Truth not on the basis of the authority of men, but on divine authority. It breaks down all human “pecking orders” and strongholds and it establishes a stronghold that cannot be moved. Such is the confidence that underlies the instruction that Paul gives to Titus with these words.

“Let no one despise you,” Paul also says. The word περιφρονέω (periphroneo) means “to look down on, to despise, or to disregard.” In other words, Paul is telling Titus that the church must not ignore his instructions. They must not say, “You’re not from Crete, we don’t trust you.” Or they must not say, “You have your ideas; we have ours.” It is good counsel for any who are called to preach the Gospel. In the church, we live and act rightly only if what we are doing is done in accordance with the Word of God. We do not do what we do for pragmatic reasons and we do not do what we do because such and such is our tradition. It is only because of God’s command that we do what we do, and the preacher is given the responsibility to address and correct — to exhort and to rebuke where the church is in error. Yet, one must remember that the exhortation and rebuke stems not from preference or from a human authority; it must come directly from the Word of God. Without the scripture as its foundation, exhortation is little more than the compelling rhetoric of men.

The modern American church has fallen into two traps. The one trap is where pastors are inclined to be “nice” to their congregations and to go with the flow so as to not offend anyone. Surely people do not like to attend churches where their preferences are declared sin and they are challenged to live and think differently! So, sin is downplayed and sermons become motivational speeches rather than exhortations and rebukes.

The other trap that the American church falls into is a form of legalism where human laws and restrictions are added, pharisee-style, to the commands of God…and there is even a certain pride in doing so. And so one family or church looks down on another because they abstain from certain movies or foods or things of the like.

Antinomianism on the one hand and legalism on the other. How churches such as these fill the cities and the countrysides of America. They are popular and they intentionally draw people away from the true church of Jesus Christ — wolves even without the sheep’s clothing. So much in America passes as “Christian,” yet is rotten to its very core, relying on the authority of man, not the authority of God. Repentance is the only proper path. But will we see it?

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