Wonderful Thing in this Passage – Sometimes Christians you know really mess up, and sometimes what they do will hurt you or someone you love. They deserve a sharp rebuke; a piece of your mind! You shouldn’t give them the latter because, if you’re like me, you can’t spare it. You shouldn’t give them the former because Paul says not to:
“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2 NASB).
There are a few places in the New Testament where a milder form of rebuke is recommended. However, this is the only verse using the Greek word for “sharp rebuke.” It’s a compound word made by combining “to strike” and “upon.” Think of “to bring the hammer down on” someone. An older translation might use the term “to smite.”
That response to failure in a brother or sister is not allowed. We are a family, we are going to spend eternity together, and our goal is to build each other up not to tear each other down. Here are a couple of reasons smiting is prohibited:
Christ didn’t smite us. – If I were Him, I would have smitten all of us long ago, and I would have started with me. Look at the cross for cryin’ out loud. No one’s ever done that much to me. And Jesus’ response? – “Father, forgive them ” (Luke 23:34).
But it’s not just that our ancient ancestors did that. You and I have personally done plenty to fail Him, disappoint Him, and give Him a bad reputation. And yet He never smites us. That’s why He can say, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Those who fail less have a greater responsibility to help those who fail more. – “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength … to build him up” (Rom. 15:1-2). “Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:1-2). Yes, there will be great contrasts between the strong and the weak, the spiritual and the worldly, but still no mention of smiting.
Wonderful Thing in My Life – So what do we do with brothers or sisters who may well deserve to be smitten? We treat them as dear family. We approach those older than us with the deference and respect due our fathers and mothers. We approach those our age (the young ones were Timothy’s age) with the affection and understanding we would have for our own siblings.
Paul says we are to “appeal” to those who sin. This is another compound Greek word. It starts with a preposition for proximity, for nearness. It combines that with a word meaning to call to someone, to bid them come. It’s a beautiful picture of seeing someone on the wrong path and, instead of cursing them from a distance, we move alongside them, put our arm around their shoulders, and draw them to walk the right path with us. Just like we would our own father or sister.
Do you know anyone on the wrong path? What do you need to do?