“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:8ff

Do you remember when your parents caught you doing wrong? I will never forget the burning feeling in the ears, the flushing of the cheeks, and the general feelings of unease when I was caught red-handed and “dead-to-rights.” There was no excuse to be offered, there was no disputing the facts, my parents’ case was factually laid out and I was cornered. I still dislike that “burning” sensation when I am confronted with my failures. Reproof is not fun to endure, but its object is good.

The KJV used the word “reprove” where the NKJV uses “expose.” The NKJV probably should have used the same word in 2 Timothy 3:16f to give a more clear meaning, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof [exposing], for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Translating the Greek word elencho as “to expose” captures the essence of the term. It means to convince with solid, compelling evidence, especially expose, proof, persuasion and that by which a thing is tested. The English definition is “to blame, to censure, to charge with a fault to the face, to convince of a fault, to make manifest, to excite with a sense of guilt.” An illustration of his definition is found in Luke 3:19 where temperamental King Herod put John the Immerser in prison, in part, for rebuking (exposing, reproving) the king of evil concerning his relationship to his brother’s wife. Now there is a brave fella!

Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence [conviction, proof] of things not seen.” God’s care among men is all about the convincing of eternal realities. John 16:8ff defines the role of the Holy Spirit in this age as “… He will convict [reprove, expose] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

How truth is embraced is a great distinguisher among men. Those who are outside the faith have a thoroughly different relationship to truth than do believers. John 3:19–21 declares, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed [reproved]. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” Of all people on this earth, Christians should value the exposing and clarifying properties of truth, and use this mighty tool, which God has given in His Word, for it is quite literally life eternal (John 3:16–18).

The relation of the Christian to the great battle between light and darkness, or truth and sin, does not just end in accepting Christ. It is an everyday challenge. Hebrews 12:3ff reads, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortations which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked [exposed] by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’” The author of Hebrews is quoting from Proverbs 3:11f. Genuine believers who are sincere about their walk with God value reproof; though it is medicine hard to stomach, it does good for the soul (Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 15:5, 17:10, 25:12, 27:5, 29:15). A mark of an unregenerate man is his rejection of reproof (Proverbs 12:1, 29:1; John 7:7).

Believers are tasked with biblically employing reproof of sin both corporately and individually. 1 Corinthians 14:24 speaks of an unsaved person coming under the exposing conviction of the Holy Spirit when he is present among worshipping, fellowshipping saints. Fellow Christians also are convicted of sin either through the preached Word (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Titus 1:13, 2:15), fellow admonitions (Colossians 3:16), or through church discipline (2 Thessalonians 3:14f, Titus 3:10). Even pastors are not immune to the warnings of rebuke (1 Timothy 5:20).

The biblical art of reproof is a delicate thing. Our Lord has much to say on the matter. In the Sermon on the Mount, He admonishes that before exposing reproof is meted out, one must first take stock of his own spiritual condition (Matthew 7:1–6). Jesus also gives instruction as to how reproof of sin must be done (Matthew 18:15–17). He also teaches concerning the attitude in admonishment in Luke 17:3, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, [you must] rebuke him; and if he repents, [you must] forgive him.” The Greek word for rebuke means “warn to prevent something, properly assign value as befitting a situation, build upon the situation to correct.”

Biblical reproof is all about maintaining God’s truth in a fallen world. Prayerfully, humbly, and obediently take up the challenge to embrace godly reproof and to pass the same grace along for the Lord’s glory! Trust and obey.