Reproofs of Instruction Prov. 6: 23 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Reproofs are criticisms to the face. In their mildest form, they are like “making others take responsibility” for their own actions. In a little tougher form, they are a correction or a tactful criticism. A still tougher form is a rebuke. And in their toughest form they are an absolute bawling out. Whatever the case, you need them. They are the way of life. You and I aren’t going to learn without some appropriate person getting on us about what we are doing. They’re trying to help us do it better or to quit doing something if we are wrong.
When you were a child you learned much of what you learned by reproofs, don’t do this and do that. You learned in school by reproofs of instruction as well. Boot camp is a loathsome experience for a soldier, but it conditions him to stay and fight when every instinct tells him to run. Thus, he will be responsible for his own life and the lives of his fellow soldiers. Good preaching mixes encouragement with reproof to keep us saved sinners close to God and far away from sin and the world.
Today, society can rarely tolerate reproofs. They are so sensitive to criticism and so touchy about love. They say “Love” but they don’t mean it. They mean the feeling that is associated with love and thus iniquity abounds [Matt 24:12]. Few want to reprove iniquity.
Reproofs can be harsh, embarrassing, pointed, and even shameful. They are designed to get you back on track with God. Notice these reproofs in the Bible:
To get the Pharisees back to God – Matt 23 – Jesus’ motive was Matt 23:37. He wasn’t trying to provoke them to kill him; he was trying to provoke them to get right. He wouldn’t lie to them about their true condition Jn 8:44-45. His rebuke set some of them up to be saved under Peter’s preaching in Acts 2. See Acts 2:36-47. Yet, some didn’t repent [Acts 5:29-33].
To get a Pharisee saved – Lk 7:36-50 Simon was judging a woman who was a sinner [Lk 7:39] whom Jesus would forgive. Jesus reproved Simon in Lk 7:44-47. He reproved him in front of the woman and in front of his other guests. I won’t be surprised if we see Simon in heaven. But we probably won’t see his guests [Lk 7:49-50].
To get a disciple out of trouble with the devil – Matt 16:23 Jesus rebuked Peter because Peter was listening to the devil instead of believing the words of God. This was a harsh rebuke given to a man to whom God had just revealed a great truth [Matt 16:16-17]. Nevertheless, Peter got the message and was used mightily by the Lord in the early preaching after Christ’s ascension. And look what happened later in Acts 5:1-11. He gave a strong rebuke to Ananias for lying to God. Often, when men have been reproved, they can deliver the same reproof to others because they have learned their lesson.
To get Jews straightened out on Gentile salvation – Gal 2:11-14 Paul reproved Peter in front of them all to keep them from all becoming hypocritical in their dealings with the Gentiles. Peter got the message and was used by God in Acts 15:6-11, 20 to keep Gentiles from being put under the yoke of the law. And Peter appreciated the rebuke because he refers to Paul as “our beloved brother,” [2 Pet 3:15]. You are never too old for a good reproof.
The best place for you to receive a reproof is at home, from your parents. The context of Prov 6:23 is Prov 6:20, which refers to thy father’s commandment and the law of thy mother. These lead you when you go, keep you when you sleep, and talk with you when you are awake. Parents, don’t ever be afraid to give your children a good reproof. And children, listen to what they say when you are reproved. That way, when you hear your preacher reproving you, his will be the second “witness” to something you have already heard.
I’ve heard preachers address their congregations in this same manner when they needed a good reproof. One said to the flock, “you’re so crooked you could fall through a barrel of fish hooks and not even get stuck.” Another said, “her tongue was so long [gossip] that she could sit in the living room and lick the skillet in the kitchen.” Sam Jones said, “When I started preaching I was afraid I would hurt somebody’s feelings; now I’m afraid I won’t.” He said, “nobody but a scoundrel will sell whiskey and nobody but a fool will drink it.”
Conclusion: Now the next time the preacher points his telescopic finger at your nose and tells you that you’d better get right with God, don’t be so quick to accuse him, because he may just be doing it to help you, not offend you. Remember Ps 119:165. And remember that reproofs of instruction are the way of life. So, just get used to them.