Confronting someone over an issue can be intimidating and uncomfortable. However, the Bible provides guidance on how to lovingly yet firmly call out a fellow Christian over persistent sinful behaviors or false teachings.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible encourages Christians to gently confront and call out fellow believers who are trapped in sin or teaching false doctrine in order to lovingly bring them back to repentance and truth.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine several biblical principles and examples that outline the appropriate motivations, attitudes, methods, and aims for respectfully calling out a fellow Christian over issues of sin or false teaching.
Have the Right Motivations for Confrontation
Act in Love and Humility Rather Than Pride or Judgment
When we need to confront a fellow Christian regarding a fault or issue, it is vital that we examine our own motivations first. Are we acting out of genuine love and concern for that person, or out of a prideful desire to point out their flaws?
The Bible instructs us to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We must have humility rather than self-righteousness, recognizing that we too have areas needing growth. Our posture should not be one of judgment, but of coming alongside that person gently in hopes of restoration.
Jesus provides a model of gracious truth-telling. He addressed issues but led with compassion. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, we must “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Harsh confrontation often does more harm than good. But loving counsel offered constructively, bathed in prayer, may open a heart to change.
Seek the Person’s Restoration Rather Than Shaming or Embarrassing Them
Our ultimate motivation when confronting another Christian should align with God’s motivation – a desire for their restoration and growth in godliness. As Galatians 6:1 tells us, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”
Confrontation is not about putting someone down, proving a point, venting our frustration, or making ourselves look superior by highlighting their deficiencies. Those motives reveal pride rather than Christlike humility.
Rather, we long for that person to experience the freedom, joy and blessing that walking closely with Jesus brings. Our words should build up rather than tear down (Ephesians 4:29). And our manner should be marked by patience and grace, not hostility or attack.
As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Bring correction wisely and lovingly, with restoration as the goal.
Follow Jesus’ Model for Addressing Sin in the Church
First Speak to the Person Privately and Lovingly
When we see a fellow believer caught in sin, our first reaction should not be to condemn but to restore (Galatians 6:1). As Jesus taught, the process begins with going directly to the person and addressing the issue privately and lovingly (Matthew 18:15).
This allows the person to explain and gives them a chance to repent without public shame. A humble, gentle approach allows God’s love to flow through us. Speaking the truth in love, we can call our brother or sister to walk rightly with God again (Ephesians 4:15).
If Unrepentant, Return with 1 or 2 Witnesses
If private rebuke does not lead to repentance, Jesus said to return with one or two others (Matthew 18:16). Wise and godly counsel from mature believers can make sin’s destructiveness clear and encourage repentance. Their presence also protects against false accusations (Deuteronomy 19:15).
If the person refuses to listen to multiple voices of reason, it becomes evident that they are resolutely walking a sinful path. Still, the goal remains restoration, not condemnation.
As a Last Resort, Bring the Issue Before the Wider Church
When private counsel and small-group confrontation fail to turn a believer from sin, Jesus said to “tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17). This does not mean publicly shaming the person before the entire congregation.
But pastoral leadership and a small accountability group may engage in focused prayer and loving correction. The body of Christ should long to see God’s holiness reflected in its members. Removing an unrepentant sinner from fellowship serves to awaken them to the dangerous path they are on, so that they might turn again to righteousness (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Even severe disciplinary measures aim ultimately at restoration and redemption.
Confront False Teachings Firmly Yet Gently
Test Teachings Against Scripture
As Christians, we have a responsibility to carefully examine and test all teachings to ensure alignment with Scripture (Acts 17:11). When confronting doctrines that seem to contradict biblical truths, begin by going directly to God’s word to find clarity.
Approach the situation in a spirit of gentleness and humility, recognizing that absolute certainty on complex issues is rare.
Some key questions to prayerfully consider:
- Is the teaching clearly contradicted by plain scriptural text and the broader context of Scripture?
- Has this interpretation been held by mainstream evangelical scholars and church fathers?
- Does this teaching attempt to diminish the deity and atoning sacrifice of Jesus?
If determining a definitive biblical position proves exceptionally difficult, we can appeal to the historical teachings of the early church fathers which unanimously affirm Christ’s divinity and our salvation through God’s grace.
Avoid Being Quarrelsome or Arrogant
In correcting false doctrine, the manner in which we approach others is equally as important as the message itself. Scripture implores us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), avoiding quarrels about words that only ruin the hearers (2 Timothy 2:14).
|Willing to listen and understand
|Addresses ideas and doctrines
We should take care that in our zeal for the truth, we do not simultaneously fail to walk in love. Speak more to edify than to criticize. The goal should always unite around biblical truth rather than divide over disputed opinions.
Aim to Restore False Teachers to Sound Doctrine
Restoring those teaching false doctrine ought to be the ultimate objective. Correction should serve more as loving guidance rather than punishment. In humility, we can appeal to their commitment to scriptural authority as the basis for evaluating concerning teachings.
A reasonable proposition is allowing room for minor doctrinal differences among believers of shared essential biblical convictions. According to sources like The Gospel Coalition, core tenants pertain chiefly to the Triune nature of God and humanity’s redemption through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
While refusing to compromise on essential gospel truths, we can still demonstrate patience and brotherly affection toward those holding some variant secondary beliefs. Prolonged gentle correction rooted in scripture and prayer represent the best recourse for resolving doctrinal conflicts within the body of Christ.
Examples of Calling Out Sin & Falsehood in the Bible
Paul Confronts Peter’s Hypocrisy
In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul boldly confronts Peter’s hypocritical behavior. Peter had been eating with Gentile believers, but when some Jewish believers arrived from Jerusalem, he stopped associating with the Gentiles. He was afraid of what the Jewish believers might think.
This led even Barnabas to be hypocritical. Paul called Peter out publicly, accusing him of not being “straightforward about the truth of the gospel.” He highlighted Peter’s hypocrisy in forcing Gentiles to live like Jews, when Jews knew they couldn’t keep the law themselves.
Jesus Rebukes Hypocritical Religious Leaders
Throughout the gospels, Jesus repeatedly rebukes the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 23, Jesus calls them out for teaching but not practicing what they preach. He accuses them of putting heavy burdens on people without lifting a finger to help, of doing deeds to be seen by others, and of prizing appearances over inner purity of heart.
He warns people not to follow their examples. Jesus made a habit of exposing falsehoods publicly, even driving money-changers out of the temple courts (Matthew 21:12-13).
The Apostles Refute Jewish Legalists at the Jerusalem Council
In Acts 15, some believers with Pharisee backgrounds argued Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses. This issue threatened to divide the early church. So apostles and elders gathered at the Council of Jerusalem to consider the matter.
After much debate, Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James spoke against requiring Gentiles to adopt Jewish customs. James cited Scripture to back their position, and the Council sent a letter refuting the legalists’ false teaching.
They refused to shy away from calling out public sin and falsehood when core truth was at stake.
The Bible shows we must sometimes openly refute false or hypocritical teaching – yet always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We should call out sin gently, when private rebukes fail and foundational gospel truth is threatened.
Trust the Holy Spirit to Work Through Loving Confrontation
Confronting someone about their sin can be intimidating and uncomfortable. However, the Bible encourages believers to gently and lovingly call out a brother or sister who is caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). This act of love and courage requires dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation.
Here are some biblical principles for confronting sin in a gracious way:
Begin by bathing the entire process in prayer. Ask God to search your heart first to ensure you are approaching your brother or sister with purity of motive and a spirit of humility (Matthew 7:3-5). Plead with the Lord to give you His words, tone, compassion, and timing (James 1:5).
Have a Relationship
It is best to have an established relationship with the person before confronting them about sensitive issues. This provides a context of love and care in which to share difficult truths. If you do not have a relationship with the person, confront sin at the proper time with wisdom and grace.
Speak the Truth in Love
In the power of the Spirit, lovingly share your concerns directly with the person. Avoid gossip. Approach them gently and share the truth about their detrimental behavior or damaging words (Ephesians 4:15). Speak more to build them up than tear them down.
The confronted person may become angry, defensive or resentful. Do not retaliate. With self-control, continue speaking the truth in love and calling them to repentance. Trust the Spirit to convict their heart in His timing (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Forgive and Restore
If the person confesses their sin, be quick to extend forgiveness, comfort, and encouragement (2 Corinthians 2:7-8). Your goal is always restoration, not condemnation. Walk together in accountability, prayer, and support.
Confronting sin is difficult but necessary at times. Bathe the process in prayer and lean on the Spirit to equip you. With humility, patience and grace, call brothers and sisters to turn from sin and towards Christ.
Calling out sin or false teaching in the church can be intimidating, but the Bible provides clear guidance for doing so with motivations, attitudes, methods, and aims that honor Christ. While confrontation aims to restore fallen believers and lost teachers to repentance and truth, we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts rather than our own persuasive words or arguments.
Above all, Christian rebuke must be done in genuine love and humility that seeks the eternal welfare of the one being called out.