Confronting Other Christians


By Dr. Ken Matto


Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17)


One of the most dreaded actions that every Christian must take part in is the confrontation of other Christians.   It is one of the most neglected aspects of being a Christian yet it is a vital and necessary part of our lives.  It is not done in the spirit of lording it over another brother or sister but it is done for two reasons:


1. To expose the false

2. To replace the false with truth


The times we live in calls for the confrontation aspect of ministry to be done without reservation.  However, before a Christian confronts another Christian, they must be sure of facts in evidence.   For example, if someone comes to you and says “I hear your friend has been smoking pot.”  I would not even act on that because it is hearsay and you don’t know the source plus the person bringing the gossip may have something against that person.  So you have two options:


1. Bring the accuser and the accused together privately and discuss.

2. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)  You can wait because eventually their sin will be exposed and this way you can be sure.


Then you have the other aspect of confrontation and that is the confronting of false teachings.  We live in a time when false teachings have increased and have overtaken true teachings.  Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3)  In Jude 3, we read that we are to “earnestly contend for the faith” which means false teachings must be confronted and exposed no matter who has spoken it.  “That ye should earnestly contend” is one word in the Greek and carries with it the meaning of  "fight, strive, struggle."  It is also a verb which means you take action and not just sit there and shake your head.


If someone comes into the church and starts proclaiming that God still speaks to his people in dreams and that is not confronted and exposed as heresy, then others will start believing it.  Every time someone has a dream in the church, they will believe it is some type of mysterious message from God and they will proclaim it as some type of prophecy.  The time to confront false teachings is the moment they are introduced because if you wait, a false teaching will mushroom since most false teachings fall under the umbrella of telling people what they want to hear.


As with every aspect of true Christian ministry, we must turn to the Bible to gain our understanding of whatever we are seeking to learn.  Confrontation is not something only church leaders do but it is the responsibility of every Christian.


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. (Galatians 6:1)


The word “restore” in the Greek is in the Imperative Mood which makes it a command.  If a Christians knows the Bible very well and sees another Christian going down the wrong path and does nothing, they are helping that Christian on the path of destruction.  It may be their testimony will be ruined or it may be their life may be ruined by them doing something which can have dire consequences.  No matter what, if we have definite proof that a fellow believer is doing something erroneous, we are to help them by pointing out the consequences of their actions.


Let me just say at this point that some Christians refuse to be corrected because they are loaded with pride and will not accept any correction, no matter how gently you bring your concerns.  If you pull them over to the side and explain your concern about what they might be heading for and they rebuke you with an arrogant attitude, then leave them alone, you have done your job.  You cannot live their life for them.  They will have to go through the consequences that the Lord may bring upon them in forcing their obedience.


For example you might know a Christian who smokes cigarettes and you go to them with your concerns and they rebuke you by saying “where does it say in the Bible thou shalt not smoke?”   In the next few days, they go into an uncontrollable cough and start spitting up blood.  Then there is the Christian you go to who still thinks it is okay to drink and their argument is “well Jesus turned the water into wine.”  Then the person starts noticing yellowing of their skin and they go to their doctor and they find out they have cirrhosis of the liver.  The Lord will either speak to them through your words or He will speak to them through consequences of their actions in which they have no one to blame but themselves.


A basic precedent for going to someone with concerns is found extensively in the Old Testament when God sent prophets to both Judah and Israel to warn them if they did not give up their whoring after false religions and their idols, that they would suffer dire consequences which they eventually did because they murdered their own prophets thinking that nothing could happen to them since they were God’s people.  That concept was proven erroneous when the northern ten tribes were taken by Assyria in 721 B.C. and never heard from again.  Then in 70 A.D. the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were destroyed by Rome never to be heard from again.  The Jews refused to listen and God judged them for it.  Over a million were killed in Judah and the rest taken to Rome to be sold as slaves.  The temple along with all its records was burned to the ground.  Titus tried to save the temple but not because he was a believer but he wanted to turn the temple into a temple for Jupiter who was the Roman god of sky and thunder and was the chief deity for Rome.


Christians fall into the same category in that many believe that God will not take any kind of action against them but they are totally wrong because even though they are saved, the sin nature still exists in the flesh and has to be dealt with.  Now let us turn to the Scriptures and see how much a part of the Christian life confrontation is.


What is the Focus of Confrontation?

Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? (John 18:23)


Jesus gives us the greatest example of the focus of confrontation.  He was before Annas who was father-in-law to Caiaphas the High Priest.  Jesus was questioned about his teachings and doctrine and told Annas that he should speak to those who heard him since they knew what he said.  At that point one of the court officers struck Jesus and the response that Jesus gave him is the root reason for confrontation.  He said “If I have spoken evil, then bear witness to the evil...”  That is the reason we confront.  Not to attack the person or put them down but to bear witness of the activities they are partaking in or the false teachings they may have come to believe and adopt and maybe without realizing they may be sinning or hurting themselves physically or their testimony.  Their actions may also be affecting those with whom they come in contact with and need to be expunged from their life.  We then take the person aside and show them where their actions are affecting them and others.  We don’t attack them but we attack the error they are holding onto for the purpose of seeing them freed.  Another key is that you do not present your case as your opinion but show them according to the Scriptures where they are in error.  Remember what we read in Galatians 6:1 that restoration of the believer is a command and not an option.  Why?  Because the sinful actions of one can infect an entire congregation.


Biblical Confrontations

Let us now turn to the Scriptures and see some of the confrontations which have taken place and show us that confrontation is part of the Christian life.


Peter and Paul

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (Galatians 2:11)


Here we have two giants of the faith in opposition to each other at this moment.  Peter had allowed himself to be carried away by his situation.  He had no problem eating with the Gentiles but when Jews came he would separate himself from the Gentile believers and join himself with the Jews.  It was situation ethics at its best.  Barnabas was also carried away with this action.  He probably saw Peter doing it, so he did it.  Paul then confronted Peter about his actions knowing that it was causing division among the disciples and if that happened then there would be division in the body of Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)  The word “withstood” in Galatians 2:11 means to “stand against, oppose, or resist.”  So the Apostle Paul stood against Peter in his hypocrisy.


Elijah and Ahab

17 And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? 18 And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. (1 Kings 18:17-18)


Here Elijah confronts evil King Ahab in that he has troubled Israel, the northern kingdom, by means of forsaking the LORD’s commandments and following the false god Baal.  Right after this confrontation came the great challenge on Mount Carmel where it was Elijah who stood alone against the 450 false prophets of Baal.  The story ends up with the prophets of Baal being defeated and the true God was shown to be the victor.  Elijah confronted Ahab and was shown to be victorious since he did not fear to confront and then back up his indictment against Ahab owing to his trust in the LORD.


Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:7)


The Pharisees and Scribes had accused the disciples of Jesus of eating without ceremonially washing their hands according to the tradition of the elders.  Jesus quotes from Isaiah:  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isaiah 29:13)  The Jewish leaders were equating the tradition of the elders with the doctrines taught in the Scriptures.  Jesus confronted them for this because no tradition or man-made teaching is equal to the Scriptures.  The modern church is loaded with man-made teachings which are being taught as biblical doctrine such as the pre-trib rapture, modern tongues, modern signs and wonders, prosperity gospel, etc. which have to be confronted because they are teaching these man-made teachings as biblical doctrine.  This one episode of Jesus confronting the Pharisees and Scribes is repeated many times in the Bible but I wanted to include this one because it is apropos to today’s theological situation both in the church and individual Christians where man’s teachings are forced on the Bible and then taught as biblical doctrine.


You and another Christian

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15)


We have seen three examples of confrontation in the Bible which is proper for both believers and unbelievers.  Now we come to a verse which contains two commands.  The words “go” and “tell” are in the Imperative Mood in the Greek which means they are commands. There is going to come a time or times in the life of a believer that someone is going to trespass against us and how we handle it also reveals our spiritual condition. When someone commits a trespass against us, we are not to allow things to fester but we are to go to our brother privately and speak to them about their trespass.  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  (Galatians 6:1). We are to approach them with the mindset that their fault can become our fault if we do not watch it. We are to go to them and point out what they did wrong in meekness and not arrogantly. If they see the error of their way, then they will confess that they did wrongly and the relationship between the two brethren can be restored and the breach in the body of Christ will be fixed. If a disagreement is not fixed on this level, it can actually mushroom into a church split because sides will be drawn and otherwise innocent parties will be brought into the dispute and that will create a large rift in the body at that location and has the ability to spread beyond one location. That is why it is important to try and work out things on this level.


This verse is not only applicable to the personal but also to the general application.  If a Christian is involved in some type of ungodly or erroneous activity which could affect others, then the idea of approaching them privately is not for the purpose of lording it over them but the key issue is redemptive in that your goal is to return them to obedience to the word of God and avoiding any dire consequence of their actions.  In

Galatians 6:1 we are commanded to restore the believer and here in Matthew 18:15, we are commanded to go and tell the erring believer of their actions.  The word “tell” in the Greek carries with it the definition of “reprove or refute.”  So we are to confront erring Christians on possibly disastrous roads they are on informing them that their actions will negatively affect them and others who will be watching them.  Christians are to be vigilant in both the private and public arenas.  We are to keep our spiritual ears open for anything which goes against the true word of God.



As we have seen from the Bible that confrontation is a part of the Christian life.  It is not an option but a command.  If you look at all the martyrs in the middle ages which confronted the false teachings of Roman Catholicism and gave their lives for it you would have thousands of examples of confrontation.  I have personally confronted elders and pastors of churches I was expelled from for telling the truth.  Confrontation is not an easy ministry but it must be done since it is a command and not an option.  When you confront another Christian, you are also confronting on behalf of others who will be listening or following the erring Christian and it may save them some heartaches later on.  Keep in mind that their response to your efforts is their responsibility.  If they accept what you say, then you have helped another brother or sister to return to the right way.  If they reject what you say, then they will reap the consequences of their actions but never approach a confrontational situation with an angry or furious mindset or else you will have lost before you even get started and their defenses will be ready for you.  No one said it is going to be easy but it is necessary.