2 Timothy 2:2, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction.”
According to Paul in the above passage the Word of God has three main functions in preaching the gospel, to (1) correct, (2) rebuke, and (3) encourage. I also believe that these three functions go in order- we start with correcting wrong thinking so people can truly understand the gospel, then we rebuke their sin and unbelief, and lastly, we encourage sinners to come to Jesus and be saved.
We can see this kind of three-part preaching throughout the book of Acts. For example, in Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:15-16 Peter started by correcting their misunderstandings of the current events by saying, “15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
Afterward he rebuked them because of their sin in Acts 2:23, “23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” And lastly, he encouraged them to repent and receive Christ in Acts 2:38, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Certainly, the gospel preacher doesn’t always have to follow the three-step pattern because the Holy Spirit is creative and knows the perfect way to reach people’s hearts. At the same time, as a general rule the gospel preacher should consider following this three-stage approach to correctly handle the Word of God.
Correction speaks to realigning people’s conceptions about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. with the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes correction involves apologetics (defenses and arguments in favor of the Christian faith). Then when the unbeliever has a properly basic foundation of the truth they can receive the personal rebuke (command to stop) from the Word of God in regards to their life of sin. Rebuking someone is basically exposing his or her sin. And lastly, encouraging the lost comes by commanding them to believe and confess Christ. This kind of encouragement also includes encouraging them to repent and be born again.
All three parts will take great patience on our end so we must be careful to instruct the lost in each area according to the Word of God and by the leading of the Holy Spirit and not by man’s opinions. Therefore, may we all be ready in season and out of season to correct, rebuke, and encourage!
When you preach the gospel do you include all three parts equally- correction, rebuke, and encouragement? Or do you lean to one part more than the others?
- Think about the last three times you preached the gospel to someone and consider if your message was unbalanced or basically equal in all three parts- correction, rebuke, and encouragement.
- Moving forward ask the Lord to use you to effectively preach the gospel with all three parts.
- Ask God for patience and wisdom in each situation to be effective in your preaching and instructing of the gospel.