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What does it mean to admonish?

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in community, discipleship, edification, fellowship | 9 comments

What does it mean to admonish?

In yesterday’s post, “The Unmentionable One Anothers,” I listed several “one another” instructions that we prefer not to think about, that we prefer to shift off to others, that we would rather not have as our own responsibilities toward one another.

In this post, I’d like for think about the instruction “admonish one another.” According to the dictionary, “admonish” means “1) Warn or reprimand someone firmly or 2) Advise or urge (someone) earnestly.”

We find this instruction in a couple passages of Scripture. In Colossians, Paul says that “admonishing” is one of the things that he does to help the church, and he says that it’s one of the ways all believers should respond when “the word of Christ dwells in [them]”:

Him we proclaim, warning [admonishing] everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28 ESV)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

The two verbs highlighted above (one translated “warning” and the other translated “admonishing”) are actually the same verb – the one that is often translated “admonish.”
Similarly, when Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, he said that he knew that they had all they needed to admonish one another:

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct [admonish] one another. (Romans 15:14 ESV)

Again, the highlighted verb above is the one normally translated “admonish,” and is a different verb from the one normally translated “teach” or “instruct.”

Finally, we see that Paul includes “admonishing” in the work of leaders among the church and in the work of all “brothers and sisters”:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over [lead] you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers [and sisters], admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 ESV)

There are a few others passages in which one or more people are said to admonish others.

But, what does it mean to admonish? How do we admonish someone while still loving them? How do we admonish someone without “lording it over them”? How do we admonish someone without taking the place of Jesus Christ in their life?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-26-2012

    Good question. I am currently polishing up a blog post on this very subject from a recent experience. Should be ready by early next week. I do believe it is harder in N. American culture than here due to people not used to others “sticking their noses” into another’s business type of mindset. But even here in Ecuador, it is a delicate matter. I believe we need a lot more practical help in this area.

  2. 10-26-2012

    Perhaps the point is that we ARE supposed to take the place of Jesus in one another’s lives. Not that we are to replace him, but as part of his body we are to do whatever love calls us to do.

    The hand trims the toenails, the legs convey the body from place to place, the ears hear on behalf of the whole.

    If you see your brother or sister slipping love may demand that you reach out to steady them or call out to warn them of danger. We are, after all, one body, and Christ is the Head. If we allow one another to get into trouble the whole body suffers, including the Head.

    So go ahead and admonish, implore, persuade, encourage, help. In everything we need to build one another up in love, just as Christ builds the church, so do we. His life, his breath, his Spirit is in us. Praise him! HalleluYah!

  3. 10-26-2012

    In the midst of an admonition, I will ALWAYS use the phrase “You are better than that” or “That’s not who you are.”

  4. 10-26-2012

    I think that admonishment can flow in love through the body of Christ…when there is no hierarchy. What a difference that makes. When it is not someone in titled leadership. When the admonisher is not defending his position against a challenging personality. When the Holy Spirit is free to operate and given time to do the work of conviction and exposing. When there is mutual respect. When we are willing to allow the outcome to be a matter that is between God and the brother or sister who is offending or negligent or falling into sin. Respecting that we all make the choices that determine our future space and that ultimately that responsibility is personal…then I think that admonition can come forth in love and efficacy.

  5. 10-26-2012

    If we read Matthew 18 and keep the WHOLE CHAPTER in it’s context, we see that the thing that is required to make an offense become a matter between God and the offending brother or sister, is the willingness of the one offended to forgive.
    Then Jesus gets in the midst of the agreement and goes after the lost sheep.
    Jesus tells us to let the offender to be as a heathen to you. He did NOT say for you to be as a heathen to the offender. Our heart should be to seek and save the lost (heathen).

  6. 10-26-2012

    This is a good discussion so far. I don’t want to jump into this yet, but I’ll say that everyone has had very good things to say on this topic.


  7. 10-26-2012

    In the business realm – this would be called, “giving & receiving challenging feedback”.

    I think it’s amazing how little we all know how to communicate (effectively). We talk more than we listen. Give statements rather than probing questions. Come across offensive instead of humble because we are focused on what WE need to get across. Wait too long to talk until we are emotion-lead instead of Spirit-lead.

    I think that COMMUNICATION is one of the top “logistical” (is that the right word?) problems facing the Church today. The top, really!!

    It’s a by-product of the lack of close relationships.

    The only way we learn to communicate effectively – is to have close, challenging relationships that give us that space to learn to communicate. So basically, to know how to communicate love – which sometimes takes the forms of admonishment — I’ve had to see how others do it right… and also mess up doing it wrong a lot too 🙁

    If we haven’t spent close time together… we haven’t had enough chances to love…so anytime we do try to “sharpen” – we can’t, because there’s no foundation of love. I have found that the only times I really have been able to receive admonishment from others when it’s a specific thing directly to ME – is when I trust their love for me. Which takes time.

    This is a great work of the enemy. Keep us away from each other. That keeps us from developing skills of relationship & love. Isolation is a great way to get to the sheep.

    If he isn’t able to keep us away from each other – he will nudge us to believe that relationships are as disposable as anything else – and we can just move on to the next person when anybody does something we don’t like or says something the wrong way – or even sees bad in us.

  8. 10-26-2012

    I should have posted this question at the end of my last post.
    If a brother swindled $100,000 from you in a business deal, are you willing to forgive the that debt in order to see him in heaven?
    I believe this is the true meaning of Luke 6:38.

  9. 10-26-2012

    Randi and Matt,

    Thanks for even more great comments!



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