How Do You Take Reproof?
By A. E. Reinschmidt
"I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved" (Hab. 2:1).
The purpose in reproof is the recovery of them that may be out of the way of righteousness, but unaware of the fact. We Christians fall into error, and if left to ourselves many of us would never recover. For this reason there exists the ministry of reproof – that the erring and the fallen ones may be restored. There are four steps to recovery: reproof, conviction, repentance, and conversion. That is, when we are in the wrong we must receive reproof, be quick to repent, and then "turn from [our] wicked ways" (2 Chron. 7:14). There is no hope for anyone who will not receive reproof when it is needed.
"All Scripture is given…for reproof, for correction…" (2 Tim. 3:16). The Holy Spirit, as the tender, loving comforter, is sent by the Father, in the name of His Son, to "reprove the world…" (John 16:8). Of Christ it is said, "He shall reprove with equity for the meek" (Isa. 11:4). The faithful pastor of "the flock of God" is charged to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).
One’s attitude toward reproof is a matter of life and death. Hear the Word of God about this: "He that refuseth reproof, erreth" (Prov. 10:17). "He that hateth reproof is brutish" (Prov. 12:1). "He that hateth reproof shall die" (Prov. 15:10). "He that heareth reproof, getteth understanding" (Prov. 15:32). "Reproof entereth more into a wise man, than a hundred stripes into a fool" (Prov. 17:10). "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Prov. 29:1).
Not only is it wisdom to receive reproof, but whoever would give reproof helpfully must have great wisdom. Otherwise he may destroy souls rather than save them. To reprove another in anger, or to gratify one’s ego, will do a thousand times more harm than good. One should never reprove a brother unless one is sure the Lord has laid it upon him. Do not covet this office!
The right attitude toward reproof: "I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved." The way we answer when we are reproved, either by the Lord or by a brother, determines what effect the reproof will have upon ourselves. Knowing this Habakkuk waited on God that He might give him the right answer. Would that we all were as wise as he!
Giving reproof where needed is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes it requires very great courage, because no one can tell what the reaction of the one needing reproof will be, whether he will become an enemy or a better friend. But the Bible tells us to "exhort one another daily" (Heb. 3:13), and this involves reproof in many cases. If we hold our peace when we should speak to someone about some grievous fault, that person may ruin his life, lose his ministry – or even go to perdition. "If a brother be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Few of us are humble enough to give reproof in such a manner that it will do good and not harm.
The Divine Reprover, The Holy Spirit
Every member of Adam’s race is guilty and in need of reproof, without which he or she would sink into perdition. It is the special ministry of the Holy Spirit to "reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8). It should be carefully noted that in His office of reproving us of sin, He is called "the Comforter" (John 16:7-8). This is very significant. It is so contrary to the notion we get from listening to some preachers. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who admonishes us to be gentle and meek in administering reproof to one another, will deal even more considerately with us in His ministry as the universal Reprover of the world.
The word translated "reprove" in John 16:8 is also translated "convince," and "convict." Every one of these three words in the order in which we have given them, is needed to give the meaning of the original. First, He reproves of sin. In this reproving, it is His purpose to convince us, and beget in our conscience a conviction of sin.
But there are many who will not receive even the reproof of the Comforter. These are neither convinced nor convicted of their sin. They contradict the reproving voice of the Holy Ghost through those whom He may use to reprove them. This is one sin, if not the sin against the Holy Ghost. This sin cannot be removed by forgiveness, but only by a complete reversal of attitude on the part of the disobedient person.
But we must bear in mind that "he that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." What an awful thought! "Today if ye will hear His voice harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:7-8). To disregard His reproof is to "do despite to the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29). Remember, this word was spoken of believers, more than of unbelievers. So long as the Spirit’s reproofs are not received, they will produce no conviction, no repentance, no conversion – not the least degree of salvation!
The heart of repentance is an honest, unsparing acknowledgment of our sinfulness – after the Holy Spirit has brought us under conviction of sin. The Spirit pricked the hearts of the multitude with conviction, and they cried out, "What shall we do?" They were commanded to "repent and be baptized" which they did (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
Not every one that is reproved is convicted. And not everyone that is convicted is converted. True repentance sometimes involves great "loss of face." Some, it seems, would rather lose their souls than to suffer the blow to their pride which a confession of sin entails. Many compromise on a halfway repentance and confession, and are therefore never clear, nor free in their experience and testimony.
Repentance is a gift of God – to the Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 5:31, 11:18). Some are teaching that repentance belongs with the things of the law, and has no place in the lives of those that have been saved by grace! Repentance a device of the law? "He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy" (Heb. 10:28). Repentance is a gift of God’s grace – not of the law. It is "the goodness [grace] of God that leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4). It was grace that "granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18), as well as "repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). The main reason why we who talk so much about grace, have so little of it is that we are almost total strangers to the meaning of repentance.
Some are so legalistic in their interpretation of "grace" that they claim they have no need of repentance whatsoever, and that they are not obligated to forgive those who offend them – even when their forgiveness is sought. Grace is given only to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). Repentance is a means of grace.
A main reason why there is so little real revival in our land today is that we believers are so proud that we hate repentance, and seek to make it obsolete by our deceitful interpretation of grace. We do not know that repentance is God’s requirement of all those who would taste the goodness of His grace. Beware of the "carnally-minded" man’s version of "grace"! Grace is the remedy, not a covering for sin, and repentance is the bottle out of which we must drink grace. "For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5).
Habakkuk Invited Reproof
Habakkuk was a very singular person – even for a prophet. He invited reproof. He said: "I will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved." All of us are deserving of reproof for our many shortcomings. What would you answer should the Spirit reprove you for your unbelief? (John 16:9). Most of us think we are in the university of faith, when we are only in the kindergarten. Jesus reproved men for their lack of faith more often than for all other deficiencies together. Jesus said, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). These solemn words ought to make us examine ourselves whether we be in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5), and not be so self-confident about the matter.
What would you answer Him should He reprove you for your prayerless life? Would you tell Him that you are "so busy" doing His work that you haven’t any time for Himself? Have you ever considered for thirty minutes the implications of prayerlessness? Have you ever considered how dishonest are the excuses we offer for our lack of interest in the place of prayer? We have heard people say that because of their age and the state of their health, and with all the duties devolving upon them, it would just kill them to come out to a prayer meeting. But every time there is a social affair – lasting two hours longer and later than the prayer meeting – they are always there. Why is this? It is because they like the social affairs of the church, but they don’t like the prayer meetings. Let us not lie to the Holy Ghost.
What would you answer should the Spirit reprove you for your neglect of the Word and of the Lord’s house? Has He ever reproved you for your lack of compassion toward others? If so, what was your answer? Have you ever been reproved and convicted of your unkindness, criticism and judging of others? What did you do about it?
Are you perhaps one of those Christians who is never bothered with reproof or conviction? If so, do not think it is because you do not need correction. It might be that you have so lightly regarded His reproof, that the Spirit is letting you alone for a while. Perhaps you haven’t invited His reproof. It might be well to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me…" (Psa. 139:23).
It is a good thing to pray every day, "Open Thou mine eyes," and then to act upon what He shows you. For one to be so unbelieving, or so prayerless, or so indifferent, or so busy, or so self-centered, that the Spirit’s reproofs cannot be heard, is a dreadful thing! "He that heareth reproof getteth understanding" (Prov. 15:32).