“Quit it!” doesn’t cut it

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Paul writes that “all Scripture is … profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The package of “reproof plus correction” is critical to our understanding of how the pastor contends for God’s people. To offer reproof means to confront error, declaring in no uncertain terms that some particular idea, attitude, or action is wrong. But reproof is insufficient in itself. Reproof identifies the problem but doesn’t clarify the solution. The “Don’t do that” must be followed by, “Instead, do this, and here’s why.”

Indeed, when Paul addressed the Corinthians in the face of their rampant failures to practice self-control, he didn’t stop at “Quit it!” or even merely “Now try this” and so promote mere morality. He began with reproof but then moved on to Christ-centered correction, calling them back to a holy and self-controlled life and pleading with them to recall the grace of Christ. Paul emphatically reminded the Corinthians that they were a people purchased by Christ, that God was at work among them, and that they were to live in light of that truth. He reproved them for their error, but then he also corrected it for the sake of Christ. Faithful pastoring and preaching must do likewise.

—adapted from Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World (pp. 59-60)

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