To Instruct or Confront...
If you have watched the news, listened to a podcast or checked social media, you have likely been inundated with the term: misinformation. It seems to be the most popular way to try and discredit someone you do not agree with; however, labeling something as misinformation does not do much in the way of actually resolving an issue. ‘Misinformation’ is not just a current issue, people have been spreading misinformation since the beginning of time. But how should we handle wrong information in the church? I am not talking about political issues, but spiritual and theological issues. Here is how Paul encouraged Timothy:
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-4
Paul begins the letter by reminding Timothy of why he was to stay in Ephesus. Timothy was to stay on in Ephesus to instruct or charge the believers in Ephesus in correct doctrine. He was to keep them from teaching a different doctrine or from getting caught up in myths and genealogies. How exactly was Timothy supposed to fulfill this call? Depending on which version you are reading, he was supposed to do this by instructing, commanding, or charging the believers at Ephesus.
In one version, the verse reads that Timothy is to charge or command people that they should not teach a different doctrine. The HCSB states that Timothy is to instruct people to not teach a different doctrine. So, which is it? As we seek to learn from Paul’s instruction to Timothy, are we to charge, confront, or instruct others within the church? If you are like me, you lean towards the translation that tells us we need to instruct others. However, there are others of you who are pulled toward charging, commanding, or confronting other people. Which way should this word be translated? Should we be more confrontational? Should we be more conversational?
As with many things in life, there is a balance. People need instruction in order to grow. Those who are searching and growing need to be instructed. There are people who are just genuinely confused or misinformed about the true nature of the gospel and are merely in need of more instruction/teaching. For example, look at Apollos in Acts 18:24-28. Apollos was teaching the things about Jesus accurately, but he only knew part of Jesus’ life. Priscilla and Aquila heard him speaking and took him aside and explained the way of God to Him more fully. They did not need to confront him as he was not defiant or opposed to learning. He merely needed more instruction. Once he received the instruction, he began to teach the way of the gospel accurately.
However, there are those who have already been instructed and already know better. They are deliberately going contrary to sound teaching, either, because they are ignoring sound teaching, or they are defying it. If someone continues to go contrary to sound teaching, he or she needs to be confronted. Instruction will no longer be sufficient. There is a need to confront those who are leading people astray and distracting them from the true nature of the gospel.
Timothy’s goal was to keep people from teaching false or contrary doctrine. In order to effectively accomplish his calling, he needed to be able to confront people and he needed to be able to instruct them. To be an effective communicator, to truly impact others, you need to be able to confront and instruct. If you only confront, you will offend and hurt those who merely need instruction and encouragement. If you only instruct, you will not stop or impact those who don’t respond to mere instruction. You will not serve them if you are not willing to actively confront when it is needed.
Just as Timothy needed to be reminded of this, so do we. We need to instruct and charge fellow believers. Along with this, we also need to be ready to receive instruction and confrontation. The goal of this instruction is love-- the love of Christ. To love others we need to be willing to instruct patiently or confront directly. We need to be willing to hear instruction and receive confrontation. Most of us need to work on one or the other...and sometimes both.