Dealing With Unbelievers

The following is a Bible study based on Proverbs 9:7-9.

“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” 

(II Pet 3:1-3

Peter reminds us to acknowledge that scoffers will come in the last days. If you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have certainly come across unbelievers who walk after their own lust to suit their own biases. Many of these scoffers may be sincere in their beliefs, but they lack the diligence to self-examine their motives for believing things opposite of what the Creator has said. It is not the job of a Christian to debate and argue with unbelievers.  

If you search your Bible carefully, you will find that King Solomon shared essential wisdom we can all apply to our interactions with those who scoff at the truth. Carefully read the following verses.  

“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: 
and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. 
8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: 
rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. 
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: 
teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” 

(Prov. 9:7-9)  

It is said in Jude 3 that we must earnestly contend for the faith delivered to us, but we must be careful not to misapply this verse. The context of Jude’s message is combating those who have crept into the church of God claiming to be Christian while teaching things opposite to the law of God. (Read verse 4 of Jude for more understanding.) The principles found in Solomon’s words pertain to those who are outside of the church. Our interaction within the church is to be different from our interaction outside of the church.  

Note that the word scorner in Prov. 9:7 has a similar meaning to the word scoffers in II Pet. 3: 3. The Hebrew word translated into scorner means to make mouths at I.e., to scoff, to interpret, or to intercede. More often than not, this word was translated as scorner as opposed to the four times it was used as a positive description. Consequently, we can see that Solomon and Peter are discussing the same topic.  

The word reproveth and reprove come from two different and distinct Hebrew words; however, they both mean to correct. It is not the job of a Christian to correct those who do not believe. Peter says that scoffers are “willingly ignorant,” then he goes on to describe specific teachings they reject. Consider this: Why should you try to correct someone who is willingly ignorant of things there is a mountain of secular evidence for?  

Solomon says this will get you shame and a blot. The word blot is the same Hebrew word use to describe an animal with a blemish. The word translated into shame has a stronger meaning. It means disgrace with the implication of one’s genitals being exposed. This Hebrew word has been used to the describe the disgrace of Israel serving false gods. Solomon is saying that the unbeliever will see you as one who worships a false god. Even though that would be a false perception of reality, it brings no glory to God the Father to debate with them over the truth. What brings glory to our Father is doing good works in His name (Matt. 5:16). Remember the wisdom of God is seen as foolishness to the unbelieving world (I Cor. 1:18-31), If God does not draw a person near unto Himself, then he/she will never acknowledge the truth. God draws in the humble not the proud! 

Also keep in mind that Matt 24:14 says that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations. The word witness means a testimony. It is not the job of the saints to convince anyone of the truth. It is our job to testify of the truth and let the world choose whether to believe our testimony or not. If people believe your testimony, then they will willfully change. Read the second chapter of the book of Acts. Peter did not try to persuade them of anything. He merely testified of the things he saw and heard of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:32 says, “they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter preached that Jesus is the King to come that God has made Lord as prophesied by all the prophets. They were convicted by this testimony not an attempt to correct them.  

This is why Solomon says not to reprove a scorner. Someone who does not believe that God is going to establish a literal kingdom on this earth will never be convinced that he/she must change in behavior and develop godly character. In fact, the unbeliever will resent you for attempting to correct him in any way. Rom. 8:7 says, “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Enmity means hostile. It is impossible to correct someone who is hostile to the law of God; the very law that will govern the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your presentation of the law of God will cause them to hate you because they already hate the law.  

Conversely, someone who has accepted the gospel of the kingdom is wise. Because he is wise, he will love you for correcting him. He knows that those who willfully violate the law of God will not enter the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9-11). He knows that you are trying to save him from the error of his ways and will love you for it.  

It is important at this point in this study to point out that everyone who appears to be a believer is not a believer. Unfortunately, there are many who use the title Christian to satisfy their own vanity. You can identify these individuals by applying the principles in Prov. 9:7-9. If someone who claims to be a Christian rejects correction, then he has revealed who he really is!!! A man or a woman who is wise in the ways of God will accept correction when he or she is in error. Read II Samuel 12 and see how David reacted to the correction of Nathan the prophet. David acknowledged his sin against the Lord because he truly believed the things God revealed to him. No true believer will reject correction, knowing that the stubborn sinner will not inherit God’s kingdom as revealed in dozens of prophecies throughout the Bible. Rejecting correction is the equivalent of spiritual suicide!!!  

Let me repeat that the unconverted will hate you for attempting to correct them. This does not mean you should ignore their sin to avoid being hated. We must learn to handle unbelievers like the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus did not go out of His way to chastise the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees. If you read through the gospel accounts, you will see that these unbelievers followed Jesus trying to stir up trouble. When they tried to convince others that His way of living was in error, Jesus corrected them. Read Matt. 15:1-9. Even though the scribes and Pharisees came to Him first, they were offended by His correction (read verse 12). The disciples told Jesus that He offended the scribes and Pharisees but look at Jesus’ response to them.  

“But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matt. 15:13-14

So, what can we learn from Jesus’ example? It is acceptable to correct unbelievers when they are trying to lead others into error. It is not our job to correct them under other circumstances. If you are living the way God wants us to live, then unbelievers will challenge your way of being publicly. It is at that point where correcting them becomes necessary for the sake of those who are being converted my God. Jesus corrected the scribes and Pharisees so that His disciples were not swayed by their clever attempt to turn the disciples away from the truth. Jesus corrected them out of the law of God, proving that they teach their disciples to exercise loopholes to avoid keeping what God has commanded. The scribes and Pharisees were blind to the truth of God and leading others into the way of destruction. Jesus told His disciples to “let them alone” meaning have nothing to do with them. Likewise, we should limit our association with unbelievers.  

Remember, it is God the Father who draws in whom He chooses (John 6:44). Our job is to preach and let God do the drawing. Correcting unbelievers yields no fruit except when trying to keep believers from falling into their deceptive tactics. There is no benefit to going around building enemies because you want to be right in the sight of men. Those who hate God’s ways will naturally come to hate you just from the way you live. You do not have to do anything extra to encourage this hate. Stick to correcting those who are wise enough to receive it. This is fruitful and comes with a tremendous blessing.  

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19) 

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