Jesus and His apostles spoke about great deception in the last days. There would be false messiahs (Matt. 24:5 ), deceptive miracles (2 Thess. 2:9 ), fake prophets (1 Jn. 4:1)—all hoping to get rich on their delusions. How can a Christian family come through all of the semantic smog and lying wonders with their souls intact? What about church families? Is it possible to thrive and not just survive?
The Answer Is In The Body
There are many family responsibilities given by God to His children. By “family,” I mean one’s personal family, but it also includes one’s extended church family. These responsibilities are God’s way of keeping us strong, especially the responsibility that we all have to counsel one another.
In Romans 15:14 we read a rather amazing statement from the heart of God given to the Apostle Paul:
And I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
What does the Bible mean when it says that we are to “admonish one another”?
The word “admonish” is a translation of the verb noutheteo. There was a book on Christian counseling written by Jay E. Adams that became quite popular and has many good points in it. The title, Competent to Counsel (Zondervan, 1986), is based on the last phrase of Romans 15:14, which can be rendered “competent to counsel.” The apostle writes that the believers in Rome were “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge” and “competent to counsel one another.”
“Admonish,” “instruct,” “counsel” are all possible renderings of noutheteo. The word is used in the New Testament in warnings against behavior that is not in accord with God’s will, and has both a preventive and corrective function, as in Acts 20:31:
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn [noutheteo] every one night and day with tears (see also 1 Cor. 4:14; Col. 1:28; 1 Thess. 5:12, 14; 2 Thess. 3:15).
In days of great deception and spiritual danger it is mandatory that believers minister one to another in this way. Christians need to watch out for each other. It is not a mark of Christian love to allow someone to walk over the precipice into spiritual ruin without at least a gentle word of admonition.
Such admonition clearly needs to be done in a spirit of love. It needs to be preceded by prayer for wisdom and direction. It’s important that we “check our eyes for beams and timbers” before working on the speck in someone else’s eye (See Matt. 7:3-5).
Such instruction, or counsel, needs to be done by those who are mature.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Gal. 6:1).
The word “restore” was a word that was used in setting broken bones. Do it gently and carefully, otherwise excruciating pain will result!
Who Is Qualified?
Paul is writing to the church at Rome. He writes that the believers “are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” I doubt if he means every single person in the congregation; but he does believe that there are Christians in the church who can engage in this important ministry.
Paul is not writing to Christian counselors, pastors, or trained counseling professionals who are taking a refresher course, but to Christians, ordinary saints, believers in a local church, the church at Rome. Every local congregation has some individuals who are “competent to counsel” and who can warn, admonish, and instruct.
But what about the term “brethren”? Is the apostle only writing about the men? Are women disqualified from such a nouthetic ministry?
There is a consensus among credible commentators—and this author would be in agreement with them—that the male form of identification was not intended to exclude women from this one-another ministry. The male reference in the greeting was the way people wrote letters back then. When the apostle wrote to the “brethren” at a local church we often find instruction to the women, as well as the children (e.g. Col. 1; 3:18). In fact, in certain situations women are far better qualified, and would be more welcomed by someone in need, than the men.
Yes, standing strong in these last days can be a challenge. But, thanks be to God, He has constituted the church, and the family, to be a local assembly of caring believers that can impart wisdom, counsel, and warning.