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The Mature Church: Part 3

One of the healthiest, most mature churches in the New Testament is the church in Rome. Paul is free to teach them the meat of the Gospel and apply it without the need to rebuke them. Near the end of that letter, he tells us why:

“And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.” (Rom 15:14).  Paul doesn’t need to correct them because the Roman Christians, full of goodness and knowledge, correct one another!  Contrast this with the Corinthians, who could not muster the strength to admonish a brother living an openly scandalous life (1 Cor 5:1-2). 

A mark of maturity in the local church is an openness to accountability and correction.  This requires the higher virtues in abundance: humility and love.  Humility requires giving up on protecting a polished image and self-righteousness.  The humble man knows he is inclined to sin and seeks aid in conquering it.  He desires to be held accountable.  He wants to know his errors more than his strengths, so he can grow.  “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (Prov 9:8).  Wisdom welcomes correction rather than bristles at it.

Love seeks the good of others, and the good of the whole.  Love, therefore, craves fellowship, not out of need, but out of a desire to serve others.  At times, love must be willing to risk rejection and hostility to confront sin and error because that is best for all.  Few parents consider it loving to never correct errant children, and most parents want their children to honor their commitments.  It is good for them to be accountable.  Similarly, love should move believers to call one another to account.

Thus, it is out of love, as well as a concern for holiness, that Jesus commands us to reprove a brother who sins (Matt 18:15), and Paul tells us to “admonish the unruly” (1 Thess 5:14).  Elders are to be held accountable as well, perhaps even more vigorously, and “those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all” (1 Tim 5:20).

Now, of course, not everyone wants to be held account­able.  Sometimes the reaction to correction is to take offense, even get angry.  This is sad, but exposing pride and conceit is another benefit to the local church.  Self-righteous people can be in a church for years with their sin quietly in full bloom.  These sins carry with them seeds of discord and often other sins.  It is far better for those without an evan­gelical humility to depart in a fit of pique than remain.  Better still is for them to see their own pride, confess it, and be grateful for the opportunity to confront it in themselves.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Wayne Wilson

Originally printed in the Acton Faith Bible Church Pony Express. Vol. I, No. 03, June 2008.