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TEXT: Proverbs 27:5-6
SUBJECT: Proverbs #13: How to Receive Rebuke
This opening thought requires but little proof. For, if it is the Christian's duty to reprove his erring brother, then it is also the erring brother's duty to receive that reproof. Thus, every argument adduced in the last sermon applies equally to the present.
This duty, however, is not just founded upon implication, but the direct and revealed mind of the Spirit. Observe, therefore:
The sharp contrast between those who hear reproof and those who refuse it.
Honor or shame. "Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards reproof will be honored" (13:18).
Wisdom or folly. "Reproof enters more into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool" (17:10).
Knowledge or ignorance. "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid" (12:1).
Humility or pride. "A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is confident" (14:16).
Life or death. "He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he refuses reproof goes astray" (10:17).
These five contrasts bring us to an obvious question. "Is it the Christian's duty to cultivate godly honor, wisdom, knowledge, humility--and even life?" If not, then by all means ignore reproof, scoff at counsel, and rely exclusively on your own judgment. But if these graces should abound it your life, then hear--and heed--reproof.
This doctrine, extracted from the Proverbs, is confirmed throughout the Scripture, which teaches--in short--
Godly men desire and profit from rebuke. "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness. And let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil. Let not my head refuse it" (Psalm 141:5).
Whereas the wicked resent and oppose it. Describing the idolators, Amos complained, "They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks uprightly" (Amos 5:10).
Our Lord sums it up well. "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deed were evil. For every one practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:19-21).
It is, therefore, your duty to heed reproof. But from whom should you take it?
You ought to give ear to the words of your minister. For his office requires him to "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Timothy 4:2). When you fail to heed his sound advice, then you pierce his heart with many sorrows. "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).
Church members, ought, therefore, to be thankful for a minister who will "sharply rebuke" them, for not everyone will tell you the truth. As it is written, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (27:6).
You ought, futhermore, to hear the rebuke of others in authorty over you, be they parents, teachers, employers, or civil rulers. For each is appointed of God for His glory and your good. You ought, therefore, to heed these corrections, not out of fear, but faith.
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord...for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1).
"Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully" (I Peter 2:19-20).
"Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, etc." (I Peter 2:13a).
But what about the reproofs which come from others?, i.e., those people who are "inferior" to you?, i.e., less knowledge, less experience, or a lower place in life. Should you hear such rebukes orsimply dismiss them as "inappropriate"? The Scripture teaches that you ought to heed just correction, whatever its source!!!
A less intelligent Christian, as in the case of Aquilla and Priscilla's correction of Apollos, (Acts 18:24-26).
A younger person. For "Out of the mouths of babes and infants, (God) has ordained strength, because of His enemies, that He may silence the enemy and the avenger" (Psalm 8:2).
An unconverted person. For "common grace" often gives such people insight into the true character of Christians, as in the case of Abimelech and Abraham, Genesis 20:9-16.
Or--in short--anyone who speaks the truth. Balaam, afterall, would have been wise to heed the "dumb ass".
In summary, it is your duty to receive rebuke. Such a doctrine is easy, of course, in the abstract, but when it comes to the concrete, it becomes immensely difficult. Therefore, in the second place, observe...
You noticed, perhaps, that I used the singular, "hindrance". For although a hundred ideas might be cited, they can be reduced to one, namely, "pride". We don't like reproof because it imputes some kind of defect or error to us. I once heard a wife ask her husband, "You don't think I'm perfect, do you?" To which the husband duly replied, "Of course not because nobody's perfect". But then the wife flashed angry with the rejoinder, "Well, what's wrong with me?!"
You do not like reproof because you think you are smarter than others. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes" (21:2a).
You do not like reproof because you think that you are better than others. Such an conceited attitude is expressed thusly, "Who do you think you are?" It was well exemplified in the exchange between the man born blind and the Jewish rulers, John 9:1-34.
You do not like reproof because desire the "praise of man more than the praise of God".
Thus the chief and sole hindrance to receiving a rebuke graciously is pride, and therefore its cure becomes obvious. "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." For, "God scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble", (James 4:10, Proverbs 3:34).
ITS MANNER(i.e., how to receive a rebuke).
Adopt a good attitude. This is all important. For your frame of mind will largely determine the success or failure of the rebuke. What is required in such a dispostion?
Gratitude to God. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes" (Psalm 119:71). Thus, no matter how painful or humiliating the reproof may be, thank God for it. For it is a product, not of criminal malice, but of fatherly affection. As it is written, ""My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights" (3:11).
Gratitude to man. To backbite, gossip or resent a brother is easy. But to rebuke him to his face is difficult. You ought therefore, to thank your brother for loving you enough to "accuse you to your face". "Open rebuke is better than secret love" (27:5).
"Aha, you say, "I needn't appreciate his rebuke, because he does it out of spite or envy!" But that is wrong! Although you may despise any sin, you must still appreciate the rebuke.
At this point, let me read the advice of Richard Baxter. Describing the pastor's conduct, the Puritan wrote, "Take heed to yourselves, because there are many eyes upon you, and there will be many to observe your falls...And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults; and thus have greater helps than others, at least from restraining you from sin. Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage of it."
We prove, of course, nothing by Baxter. But his advice well accords with the words of Joseph, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good".
Therefore, instead of beoming resentful at the least correction, instead of bowing up your back like a cornered cat, adopt a good attitude--be thankful that someone will point out your faults. For it is written, "Where there is no counsel, the people fall, but in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety" (11:14).
Listen to the reproof. "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him" (18:13).
What does this mean practically? It means--at least--the following:
Do not interrupt
Do not change the subject.
Do not point out his equally bad faults.
Do not begin to question his motives.
Do not begin to prepare your defense.
Think about the reproof.
Most of us cannot hear reproof without passion. We become angry, resentful, defensive, etc. These passions, of course, cloud our judgment, which simply means that we should be "Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).
Consider the reproof in light of the Scripture.
Although you should listen to every rebuke, you are only required to comply with those which are agreeable to Scripture. Therefore, like the Bereans of old, "Search the Scripture daily to see if these things are so."
Pray to God that He would give you understanding.
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