We have come to realize, not without pain, that people do not care about one another, like they used to. To a certain extend, technology has changed the way we interact with each other. Technology is great and to our advantage, but it has turned relationships into something disposable. If you don’t like or agree with what someone says or does, you just terminate your association with him, most of the time without saying anything to him. If he is a friend on a social network, a click of a button, and he is out of your life. You can read more about internet etiquette when you click on the hyperlink!
This is filtering through to our non-cyberspace relationships as well. As a result of this, trust and loyalty are going out the window. We have seen how quickly a difference in scriptural interpretation, even on non-foundational issues, can terminate a relationship between friends. A relationship that was supposedly built on love and trust. Was there really any love and trust to begin with?
Is this the way we should be conducting ourselves in relationships with brothers and sisters in the faith when they are in error or sin? Do we not have a responsibility towards our fellow believers in Y’shua? A responsibility to show them the way when they wander off.
We have come to understand, through personal experience and this study, that not following this procedure of correction, as laid out in Scripture, is equal to not showing love. Not correcting fellow believers does them a disservice. They will happily continue in sin, which will ultimately cause their spiritual death and the loss of their souls to Satan. Is this what you would like for your friends?
Let us now study and see how YHVH wants us to correct each other in love?
When a brother is in error
What are we to do when we see a fellow believer in error? We should first define what is meant with “in error.”
13 â€˜Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which YHVH has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty;
To commit error is to go astray,to mislead to be misled, to sin, disobey, deceive or be deceived or to stumble
8706 ×©Ö¸××’Ö¸×” (Å¡ÄÂ·á¸¡Ä(h)): v.; â‰¡ Str 7686; TWOT 2325â€”1. LN 15.1â€“15.17 (qal)
- go astray, wander, stray, i.e., make linear movement in no particular goal or direction, implied to not be in a proper place (Eze 34:6+); 2. LN 15.165â€“15.186 (hif)
- mislead, lead astray, let stray, i.e., guide someone in linear movement, with a focus that the leading is in a intentionally wrong direction (Dt 27:18; Pr 28:10+), note: this can refer to misleading or deceiving another in an improper belief or thought; 3. LN 88.289â€“88.318 (qal)
- sin, err, formally, wander, stray, i.e., do sin or wrong against a standard and so incur just guilt, with a special focus (in some contexts) that the wrong had no conscious malice prior to the event, as a figurative extension of a sheep who happens to wander off from the flock as it grazes (Lev 4:13; Nu 15:22; 1Sa 26:21; Job 6:24; 19:4; Ps 119:21,118; Eze 45:20+); 4. LN 31.8â€“31.13 (qal)
- be led astray, be deceived, i.e., hold a mistaken belief (Pr 5:23; 20:1+); (hif)
- deceive, mislead, formally, lead astray (Job 12:16+); 5. LN 36.12â€“36.30 (qal)
- disobey, stray, i.e., not keep in spirit or detail a command from an authority, as a figurative extension of being or causing another to go off a proper path (Pr 19:27+); (hif) disobey, formally, stray (Ps 119:10+); 6. LN 16 (qal)
- stagger, totter, stumble, reel, i.e., make the non-linear motion random wandering motion of a drunk trying to walk (Isa 28:7+); 7. LN 25.102â€“25.115 (qal) 1
Now that we understand what “being in error” means, what are we to do about it when we think we see a fellow believer in error? We should first determine through YHVH’s Word if it is indeed error. What do we do next? Are we to ignore it, disassociate with him or slander him by warning others about him? Possibly all the above? Or is there another, a better way?
James, the brother of Y’shua, teaches us that we are to turn him back. This said, should we endeavor to correct every little thing we hear someone say or write? We should be wise in this and not go around criticizing, especially if it is error in non-salvation issues that would just cause contention and strife. Those are better left, but you could pray that truth be revealed to you both.
19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
31.10 Ï€Î»Î¬Î½Î·b, Î·Ï‚ f: (derivative of Ï€Î»Î¬Î½Î·a â€˜to deceive,â€™ 31.8) the content of that which misleads or deceivesâ€”â€˜misleading belief, deceptive belief, error, mistaken view.â€™ á¼µÎ½Î± Î¼á½´ Ï„á¿‡ Ï„á¿¶Î½ á¼€Î¸ÎÏƒÎ¼Ï‰Î½ Ï€Î»Î¬Î½á¿ƒ ÏƒÏ…Î½Î±Ï€Î±Ï‡Î¸ÎÎ½Ï„ÎµÏ‚ â€˜so that you will not be led astray by the error of lawless peopleâ€™ 2 Pe 3:17.2
Correction is done in love when you want to help a person. It is not done in love if you correct for the purpose of showing someone his error, not necessarily to help him, but to point out that you are right and he is wrong. You will often know by your own tone, do you feel the need to be sarcastic or demeaning? Do you want to call this person names? Then you would not be correcting in love.
There is a fine line between correction andÂ judgment.
James also taught that we are not to judge.Â Â The judgment James is referring to is condemnation.
11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
We are not only taught to turn someone back who strays; we are also taught how to do it by Y’shua.
First do some introspection
However, before we consider rebuking a fellow believer, we should do some introspection. We should do this for two reasons:
- Firstly, we would want to do it to examine the intensions of our own heart. Why do I feel I should correct this person? Is it just to show him he is wrong or do I sincerely want to help him? Is it judgment or correction?
- Secondly, it is strange how we could easily identify a sin in another person when we are guilty of it ourselves. Being guilty of the same sin, would make us hypocrites! We are therefor to carefully consider our own lives, before we correct others.
4 â€œOr how can you say to your brother, â€˜Let me take the speck out of your eye,â€™ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 â€œYou hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brotherâ€™s eye.
Only after doing some introspection and finding ourselves guiltless of the same transgression, can we proceed. The next step would be to ask forgiveness on behalf of this brother or sister who committed a sin not leading to death. YHVH will restore him or her for our sake.
1 John 5:16
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and Elohim will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and YHVH will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
If a fellow believer is restored, it may prevent him from further error, thus covering a multitude of sin.
1 Peter 4:8
8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Before we determine how the process works; we need to take note of something very important:
1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
2 Timothy 2:24â€“25
24 The Master’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps Elohim may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
In the book of Leviticus, we are taught that we are surely to reprove our neighbor in order not to incur sin because of him. We are also taught not to hate him in our heart, nor take vengeance or bear a grudge against him
17 â€˜You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 â€˜You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am YHVH.
We have seen from the previous scripture quote, that we are not to hate our brother or hold a grudge.
We are now ready to confront the person who committed the sin.
How to correct a fellow believer
Y’shua gave us instructions on how to correct a brother when he sins.
15 â€œIf your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 â€œBut if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 â€œIf he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Y’shua teaches us four steps in dealing with this. It is by no means easy to do, and I cannot claim perfection, but it is the correct manner of dealing with a brother who sins.
Show him his fault in private
Firstly, we are to go and show him his fault in private. What do we do if our brother is in another country or far away? Written communication could be an option. It has some advantages as being a rather unemotional means of communication. It in addition gives you the opportunity to think before you respond, thus being less impulsive. When dealing with a very intimidating personality, you may not get the opportunity to say your say in person, in which case written communication may also be to your advantage.
It can, however, be misunderstood, so be sure to communicate clearly. It is best to do it in person, if at all possible.
If he does not listen, take two or more witnesses
Secondly, if he does not listen, you must take two or more witnesses with you. It is important to understand what a witness is.
A witness can be a person or evidence
6332 ×¢Öµ×“ (Ê¿Ä“á¸): n.masc. [see also 6332.5]; â‰¡ Str 5707; TWOT 1576bâ€”1. LN 29.6â€“29.12 witness, testimony, i.e., an object which is a symbol of a past event, and so acts as a memorial (Ge 31:44), see also domain LN 33.262â€“33.273; 2. LN 56.4â€“56.11 witness, testimony, i.e., the giving of evidence in a formal legal setting (Ex 20:16); note: for MT text in Zep 3:8, see 6331; Isa 33:8 see 6551; 3. LN 56.4â€“56.11 evidence, i.e., an object which is legal proof of an accusation (Ex 22:12); 4. LN 33.262â€“33.273 witness, i.e., a person which gives verbal testimony and provides information about a situation (Ex 23:1); note: for MT text in Isa 33:8, see 65511
Presenting two or more witnesses is in line with Torah as it is taught in Deuteronomy
15 â€œA single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
There is a stern warning and procedure to follow in case of false witnesses
16 â€œIf a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before YHVH, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 â€œThe judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
1 â€œYou shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
A false wittness will not go unpunished!
If he still doesn’t listen, tell it to the assembly
The next step is to make it known in the assembly. That does not imply and should not constitute a slander campaign, but a notification of the facts and the results of the discussions.
If he refuses to listen, disaccociate with him
If this does not produce results, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. He is to be treated as a heathen or a pagan.
Two other passages relate to this. Paul said twice that he had delivered people to Satan, one for gross immorality and another two for blasphemy. Here are the two examples. We do not have enough information to determine if this procedure was followed with these people, but we do see that this is done to help them.
1 Corinthians 5:1â€“5
1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his fatherâ€™s wife. 2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. 3 For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Master Y’shua, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Master Y’shua, 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Master Y’shua.
1 Timothy 1:19â€“20
19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
These people mentioned here seem to have been excommunicated from the assembly (John 9:22). They were deprived of fellowship in order to encourage them to turn from their sinful ways. They were given over to face the consequences for their sins without the security and support from the assembly.
Last but not least would be to forgive this brother or sister if they have sinned against you.
3 â€œBe on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 â€œAnd if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, â€˜I repent,â€™ forgive him.â€
Some wisdom from Proverbs
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
5 Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
23 He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue.
30 Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.
The Hebrew word “stripes”:
2467 ×—Ö·×‘Ö¼×•Ö¼×¨Ö¸×” (á¸¥ÇŽbâˆ™bÃ»âˆ™rÄ(h)): n.fem.; â‰¡ Str 2250; TWOT 598gâ€”1. LN 20.12â€“20.30 wound, bruise, welt, i.e., the object of a damaging blow to the body causing a wound (Ex 21:25; Ps 38:6[EB 5]; Pr 20:30; Isa 1:6; 53:5+); 2. LN 20.12â€“20.30 injury, i.e., the act. of physically hurting another (Ge 4:23+)1
The hebrew word “strokes”
4804 ×žÖ·×›Ö¸Ö¼×” (mÇŽkâˆ™kÄ(h)): n.fem.; â‰¡ Str 4347; TWOT 1364dâ€”1. LN 20.12â€“20.30 wound, blow, injury, i.e., a physical impairment or damage to a part of the body (1Ki 22:35); 2. LN 19.1â€“19.13 blow, strike, i.e., the hitting or striking of an object with physical impact (Dt 25:3); 3. LN 23.142â€“23.184 plague, i.e., devastating pandemic disease in a population (Nu 11:33); 4. LN 22.21â€“22.28 affliction, calamity, disaster, i.e., that which causes trouble or hardship (Dt 28:59); 5. LN 20.61â€“20.88 kill, slaughter, i.e., to violently terminate the life of another (Jdg 15:8); 6. LN 20.61â€“20.88 casualty, a loss, i.e., a person who has been killed in a battle (2Ch 28:5); 7. LN 55.2â€“55.6 attack, i.e., an aggressive, initiating, movement of troops against an enemy (1Sa 14:14)1
5 Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
In summary, may I say how privileged we are to have a loving Father, who through His word, teaches us all things.
Here is a short list for easy reference of what we are to do when someone transgresses against us, or if we see a fellow believer in error or sin.
- Determine according to the Word if it is indeed error or sin.
- Do introspection to examine the intensions of your heart and to see if you are not guilty of the same sin
- Ask forgiveness on behalf of him for the sin he committed, only if it was not a sin unto death.
- Remember to reprove in gentleness and love
- Show him his fault in private
- If he doesn’t listen, take two or three witnesses with you.
- If he still doesnâ€™t listen, make it known to the assembly.
- If he still doesn’t listen, disassociate with him.
- Forgive your brother if he sinned against you.
The tables can also be turned, none of us are sinless. Remember when you are reproved by someone, be wise and accept it!
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (366). New York: United Bible Societies.
- Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : A companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed.) (Jas 5:19). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.