What should our response be to a Christian that is exhibiting behavior not in keeping with the faith?
What do we do when we find a believer in sin?
Do we ignore them and pray that eventually they will get the message?
Or do we instruct them?
Does it really matter?
We should always turn to the Scriptures to see exactly what the Lord would have us to do. Does the Lord provide instruction in such situations?
What I’m talking about is several instances that have been discussed lately among Christians. One is a particular pastor that has been known to use a foul-mouth in his preaching and to use very graphic and explicit descriptions such that they have “under 17 warnings.” The other is a young woman that exhibits her body immodestly. Both of these I have heard others refer to as “immature Christians, that they will grow out of it sometime in the future. Who are we to judge? God will deal with them as they grow. “
There is not a fully mature Christian this side of Heaven. We are all growing and being dealt with by the Lord daily. If we are not, then maybe we are not truly a Child of the Lord. But there are levels of maturity among believers. I wouldn’t dare to say that I’m as mature of a believer as a John MacArthur or a R.C. Sproul. But I will say I am a more mature believer than my children. Because of that I do not wait around for them to mature in the faith. I instruct them, share Scripture with them, encourage and exhort them. Granted being a parent is different from the way we should treat other believers. But not that much!
Paul and John both referred to other believers as “my little children“, “my true child in the faith“, and “my beloved child.” They also instructed believers with the concern to keep their loved one from sin.
1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: ESV
Titus 1:4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: ESV
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ESV
So we have an example given us of the more mature instructing and exhorting those believers in the faith. The mature encouraging others to not sin, should we not do likewise?
How did the disciples and early church help other believers to mature?
Apollos was teaching in the synagogue but his teaching needed some maturing. Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and instructed him in the full truth.
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.
25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. ESV
What was the result of his being pulled aside and further instructed?
27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. ESV
Paul exhorted Timothy to keep those in his church from teaching a different gospel. Timothy was not to let his age hinder his defending the faith. If he found error, he was to deal with it.
1 Timothy 1:3-7
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,
4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. ESV
How are we to address another believer?
1 Timothy 5:1-2
1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers,
2 older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. ESV
We are to encourage one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. ESV
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ESV
We are to exhort.
2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. ESV
Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ESV
How should we respond to those who are encouraging and exhorting us? We should respond to our elders with humility, giving everything to the Lord in prayer and always being aware that Satan desires to devour the proud and careless.
1 Peter 5:5-8
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV
What if they continue in their sin?
1 Timothy 5:20-21
20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. ESV
Notice the phrase without partiality.
That would also include making excuses for sin due to immaturity. If a believer persists in a sin then we are to rebuke them publicly.
But never are we to ignore the blatant sin in those who claim to believe!