(taken from Living a Holy Life, pg. 9-11)
We are sanctified by the Word of God (John 17:17). The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and applies it to our lives (II Tim. 3:16, 17). The Word of God is profitable for doctrine – it teaches us what is right. It is profitable for reproof – it shows us what is not right. At least 19 times in the New Testament you will find the Greek word translated “reproof.” It means “to bring to light, to shame by exposure, to convict.” The Holy Spirit of God reproves the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). The Spirit of God, through the witness of the Church, is reproving the world. But the Word of God reproves the believer.
We can grow in our personal holiness, in sanctification, if we will learn to accept and apply the reproving truth of the Word of God. We don’t read the Word of God only to find historical truth or even doctrinal truth. That’s important, but the Word of God also has to reprove us in a practical way.
This reproof comes to us in several ways. First, it may come to us in our own personal Bible study, through our own personal reading of the Word of God. The ministry of reproof suggests three different pictures of the Word of God. To reprove means to shed light on something, to expose something and bring it to the light. So the Word of God is a light. As we read the Word of God, we see ourselves as we really are. God’s Word is also a mirror to reveal what we are; and it is a sword (Heb. 4:12), a living sword that pierces and exposes the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
The Word of God is light. Ephesians 5 talks about this: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [reprove] them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (vv.8-12).
We are living today in what people call a new openness, a new honesty. Even Christians are talking publicly about things that ought to be kept private. I think we ought to be very careful of what we talk about in public. This is also true of books. I do a great deal of reading and book reviewing, and some books are coming out that are just a little bit too open and honest.
“But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light” (v. 13). The Word of God as a light reveals what is wrong in my life. The Word of God is profitable for doctrine (what is right) and for reproof (what is not right). ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). As I walk down the path of life and examine it by the Word of God, the
light shows me where I have gotten off the path. “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). The Word of God as a light reproves me. It says to me, “This is dirty. That thought is wrong. That way is wrong. That motive is impure.”
The Word of God is also a mirror. “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25). We aren’t blessed by looking at the Bible. We are blessed by living the Bible. We aren’t blessed by study and examination so much as by obedience and participation – doing what God wants us to do. In our own
personal Bible reading, the Bible becomes a mirror, and it convicts us. I can recall times when I’ve been preparing for a sermon, and God convicted me. Once I had to reach for the telephone and make a long-distance phone call to apologize for something I had written in a letter. I’ve also had to write letters of apology to people I couldn’t phone.
The Word of God reproves us. It’s a light that exposes and a mirror that helps us to examine our lives. It is also a scalpel, a sword. Hebrews 4:12 says it is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” It pierces, and it reveals our hearts.
© 2005 Warren W. Wiersbe
© 1989 by The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc. All rights reserved
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).