For the last couple of weeks, our focus has been on the second aspect of profitability as mentioned by Scripture in 2 Timothy 3.16. That aspect is reproof, which followed teaching. This week we will move to the third element in that list. And that element is correction.
This look at 2 Timothy 3.16 is part of a larger series on knowing and applying the Bible to our lives. A proper “intake” of the Bible is important if we are to live effectively for God. And that is the goal of this even larger series called “Redeem the Time” which is based upon Paul’s words in Ephesians 5.16.
These four elements in 2 Timothy 3.16 truly build upon one another. We begin with teaching others what to do. But when someone makes a mistake, they need to know it. Thus, we have the idea of reproof as part of that process. But it is not just enough to point out people’s mistakes; we are to help them correct what is wrong. And that is where the idea of correction comes into play (which further leads to training in righteousness, but that topic will wait for another day).
So, let’s consider the following. What do you do when you see someone make a mistake? Or what if you find a mistake that someone else has made? Do you bring the issue to their attention? Do you go on the attack? Do you ignore it? Do you just hope it goes away?
Now, I must clarify here, that in the questions I just asked, the mistake could have been anything. It could have been a math problem. It could have been someone using a word incorrectly. It could be someone putting the wrong ingredient (or the wrong amount of an ingredient) into a recipe. A mistake could be anything – great or small.
And the reality is that if someone does not mention the mistake, it will likely go unnoticed. The consequences may be minimal, but over time, a small mistake could lead to a big issue, or a bad habit, etc.
But if we discover someone is making (or has made) a mistake, we should also be willing to help the person correct it. For instance, imagine when you were learning how to do multiplication. If your teacher said you were wrong, but did not give any support on how to fix it, s/he is not really doing their job.
Likewise, as a follower of Christ, if we see others veering off the path, a true follower will want to help others follow as well. And when it comes to following Christ, the matter is not just a mathematical problem, it is a matter of true life.
But the problem is, if we are honest, it is often a lot easier to point out what others are doing wrong rather than to help them figure out how to do it right. And even if we are willing, sometimes, we just take the matter into our own hands and fix it rather than helping the person how to understand what went wrong, and how to avoid it the next time. It may be more efficient to take that approach today, but in the long-term it is less effective because they have not learned.
Thus, instead of just offering reproof (or rebuke), we also need to show correction. In the passage I have covered over the past two weeks we have seen that in a theoretical way. Two people have something in their eye, but once one has their eye cleared of the debris, that person can see clearly to help the other person. In other words, the one person notices the problem, and has the ability to correct it. In fact, in teaching that principle from the Bible, you may have realized that you have been judging wrongly (reproof) and have a new tool to do it better (correction).
But that example is just one of many in the Bible. And the examples come in all forms. For instance, in Exodus 18, we find an example with Jethro watching Moses overburden himself and so he provides some father-in-law advice to divide the load. That is practical correction. In 2 Samuel 12, we have the story of Nathan, the prophet, confronting the king about the sins David committed against Uriah and Bathsheba. But Nathan did not have to provide the corrective measures. David realized his wrong and went to the Lord directly (Psalm 51).
In the New Testament, all of Paul’s letters address some sort of conflict, and much of his writing is how to respond. Jesus provides some rather alarming words to five of the seven churches he addressed in Revelation 2 and 3, but He then provides some counsel for what to do to in response – with the addition that those who have an ear should hear what is being said (at least to a few of the churches).
In a few weeks, when we move towards the training in righteousness, we will look at another passage involving Jesus. But for the next couple of weeks, I want to focus on corrections written by Paul that are very related. The primary passage is Romans 12.1-8, but I will appeal to other letters such as 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians as well.
Remember, for the correction to have a real change to be profitable (particularly about matters of faith), Scripture must be the source. It is Scripture that is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. We may need to have practical wisdom to help, but the best source for profitability is Scripture.
So, for this week, I just want to show that Paul provides correction in Romans 12.1-3, even as he suggests reproof. The correction is about the need for unity in the church. Two groups – the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians – were at odds over which was superior to each other. Both groups made arguments for themselves and against the others and a wedge was forming at the church in Rome.
So, Paul appeals to the church (v1) to not go through life as the world does in tearing others down (v2), but instead to be humble about their place in the church as truly a gift of God (v3). Each of these verses has a measure of reproof, even if the wording is corrective.
Then in the verses that follow, Paul gets very practical. First, he shares an example (Romans 12.4-8) and then provides explicit commands for how the people should live out their faith (Romans 12.9-Romans 15.7). Some may claim that Romans 12-15 goes beyond correction to the training in righteousness portion. I can agree with that premise in general, but I make a distinction between teaching and training that may be pertinent here. I will share that distinction in the coming weeks.
Next week, I will dive deeper into the first few verses of Romans 12. We will not be covering Romans 12-15 in depth in this blog, but I will share how the theme of unity is present throughout these four chapters over the next couple of weeks before we turn our attention to an example of training in righteousness with Jesus.
REMINDER: If you wish to watch these posts in video form, I am live most every Wednesday at 7 pm on our church’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-ruMRCdzAaaTo1hiDyzwOg.