Sunday, March 4, 2007

Peter & Paul...

there's two peas in a pod--the apostles' pod that is. 

Let's look at the similarities.  Both their names start with the letter "P".  Both were apostles of Christ.  (Reference for Peter, Mt 10:2; for Paul, Rom 1:1).  Both had powerful ministries (see Acts for a starting point).  Both wrote well known letters now found in the New Testament of the Bible.  Both preached and taught the gospel of Christ and saw many people saved through their respective ministries.  Both encouraged the church for faithfulness.  Both criticized the church for error.

Whoa!  Both encouraged, that sounds nice, and both criticized, that sounds not so nice, the church?  That seems to be a contradictory truth.  Encouragement and criticism--do these two ideas really work in a church, the visible church nonetheless?  Certainly there are many voices clamoring for greater encouragment to be seen and felt amongst the church.  Encouragement makes people feel good while criticism, on the other hand, has a depressing effect.  No one likes being told his methods or his ideas are wrong or do not line up with the Word of God. 

But---if Peter and Paul, apostles of Christ, used both encouragement and criticism as tools of instruction, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are we of the visible church today, really more knowledgeable to only employ one aspect and wholly discount the other?

I don't think so.  I believe that the study of Peter and Paul's letters to the church regarding encouragement and criticism of error demonstrate the teaching and example of Christ and for those reasons were continued by these men set apart for His ministry.  For the visible church today to deviate from the apostolic example speaks more to man's arrogance rather than humility before the Lord and the tools He employed during His own earthly ministry.

For the sake of clarification, I'm defining the visible church as that which "consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion (1 Cor 1:2, 12:12) and of their children (1 Cor 7:14; Acts 2:39): and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 13:47; Isa 9:7), the house and family of God (Eph 2:19; 3:15), out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (Acts 2:47)."  This definition is found in Chapter 25 of the Westminster Confession. 

I've taken the terms encouragement to be defined as "to impart courage or confidence to; to give support to; foster".  Contrariwise, criticism is defined as "the act of making judgments or evaluations."  Both of these definitions are found in Webster's New Dictionary.  So if everyone's on the same page now, Monday, I'll show support for my premise that Christ employed both methods.  Tuesday, I'll detail how Peter used both; and on Wednesday, I'll show how Paul used both.  I'll be taking my references from Scripture alone because how either you or I feel about it doesn't really matter.


  1. Awesome insight! Yes, encouragement helps us grow but how can we change into something better, improve upon ourselves without criticism. Recently I took on the mantle of Children's Choir director at my church and the first thing I let everyone know is that I am completely open to constructive criticism. If there is a chance that doing things differently may be better I want to know about it. Maybe constructive is the key word here??

  2. I'm a first time reader coming by way of Everyday Mommy. I am ENCOURAGED by your post as my spiritual gifts are not always the warm, fuzzy kind. I get so tired of hearing, "Judge not lest ye be judged" taken out of context when a believer has the audacity to question, challenge, or criticize something that is un-Biblical. And the idea that doing so is somehow un-kind or un-loving is wearing on me as well. To be unloving would be to allow others to continue in folly when the Holy Spirit of God inside of you is directing you to reprove false doctrine.
    I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  3. There's no question that the apostles and Christ used both encouragement and criticism as defined there. Even in the OT prophets, some of the harshest condemnations are sprinkled with some of the tenderest expressions of God's love.

    The problem isn't there but in modern day folks who lean one way or the other without employing both. I've read some blogs or sites who only criticize the church. The other problem is when folks criticize using not that definition but this one from 'the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding." I've been on Christian message boards and forums where people rant about the church and quit going to any (in disobedience to God's command) over some relatively minor issue.

  4. Interesting that you shold post on this. It does make me wonder if it is a roundabout attempt to respond to something I recently posted.
    Having been in Christian blogging from the time when you could count the number of Christian womens blogs on one hand, I can tell you that there haven't been many voices calling for encouragement.
    My position has been that we need a balanced perspective. I'm quite aware that Paul, Peter, John and James brought correction to the church. I'm also aware that they were mature, overseers, and apostles. They were not just anyone sounding off and ranting their pet set of complaints. When they brought correction they knew what they were talking about.
    I see what you are saying in your post, but wonder who you are responding to. I have never said correction is not necessary in the life of a church. However the overbalance of criticism, and the fact that anyone can sound off or rant on the internet is a concern.
    I particulalry agree with the last paragraph of Barbara's comment. Some people are too fond of criticising - and I find it ironic that some do so when they are not even in a local church body. There is nothing biblical about not being part of a church and thinking one can criticise churches at the same time.
    Neither do the examples of the Apostles mean that any believer can shoot off criticism at will. Discernment comes with maturity.While I appreciate what you are saying - having strongly called for balance myself - I think you do not appreciate the lack of balance that has occurred in the blogosphere over the last few years. Certainly I would hope that when a person wishes to bring balance by reflecting on the realities of what is good about God's church that they would not be dismissed as if they are not aware of the scriptural provisions for both encouragement and exhortation. At the moment your post reads to me as if you really don't like any emphasis on encouragement, or giving credit where it is due. If you did I think you would have a more accurate reflection of what has occurred in the blogosphere.
    I can say that I certainly have not taken an either/or position - but do see that a serious imbalance has occurred.

  5. Catez, thank you for your comments. While your post was certainly thought-provoking, not having your obvious breadth of blogosphere knowledge, my intent in posting came from my personal examination of the local church environment in which I live, work and worship.

    As a member in solid standing with a local church body, the issues of imbalance that you raised in your post have actually been those of discussion amongst my own local congregation. After reading your post, I took a week to examine the Scripture for myself to see where I have been out of balance in either encouragement or criticism of error. My own study has been of great personal conviction and application. I believe that both encouragement and criticism of error are necessary for spiritual growth, and both have their fullest effect of growth only so far as each accords to the gospel of Christ.

    I'm not attempting to produce an exhaustive statement on the issues at hand, as I've tried to clearly state throughout my posts. It would be foolhardy to pretend that my limited perspective answers every single question and situation across the known visible church world. My desire is to grow in Christ, in maturity and discernment, and I believe the best way is to begin with Scripture instead of my own personal feelings, ergo I blogged about what I had personally studied.

  6. Elle, I wanted to thank you for posting about this very important (and widely misunderstood) topic within christianity. I believe both encouragement and criticism, if done in love, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, should eventually bring about change that will promote a healthier church environment for all. It's a matter of humbling ourselves and accepting what the other has to say without allowing a rock of offense. I pray that all believers in the Body of Christ will come into the full knowledge of this, so that a strong relational foundation can be established between fellow believers. As it stands now, the gap seems a bit wide.

    Keep Pressing On and Into Truth Elle - This Is Wonderful :-)

    < Kelly

  7. Elle,
    Thanks for that. I didn't have your email when I commented. I can see that my post prompted some thought but that you were thinking about your own situation - always a good thing to do! I was speaking to a possibility, I now realise. I apologise for pressing that directly in regard to you. I do see issues regarding maturity in terms of how correction is expressed, by whom, to whom, about what. And I can see that if some-one is in a situation where there is never any correction that would be an imbalance too. Thanks for your reply, and for clarifying things.

  8. PS. I should add that given the obvious corrollary between my series and yours, perhaps if your post clarified that you are thinking of your own local situation then it wouldn't be confusing. :)