What do you do when you realize someone is wrong on something and what they are doing is actually spreading the wrong and even convincing others to go in the wrong direction? It would be easy to go to one particular Scripture and use it as the standard for every situation because there are many times in the Bible when people, even those trying hard to do right, did wrong and needed to be corrected. Jesus said if we saw someone sinning we were to go to the person first just between us and them and try to correct the problem. Only when that failed were we to take one or two with us so that everything might be confirmed and only then should it go to the church if the person refuses to repent.
In Acts 18 when Apollos came to Ephesus to preach the gospel in the Synagogue and was powerfully proclaiming Jesus as the Christ to the crowd, Aquila and Priscilla were in the crowd to hear him and they realized that while he was teaching in a great way most of the things that were right, that he was not teaching the truth on baptism, knowing only the baptism of John. They took him aside talked to him, teaching him more correctly the gospel of Christ and the difference between John’s baptism and that of Jesus. After teaching him better they commended him as a preacher and sent letters to others to encourage them to receive him.
But there is a story found in Galatians 2:11-21 of Paul being in Antioch preaching the gospel when Peter came for a visit. In the beginning, it was all going great. Peter was eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians in Antioch and it was a tremendous experience. But then a group of Jewish Christians came down from Jerusalem that were friends of James and Peter pulled away from fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians and started just eating with the Jews. His actions even led Barnabas to join in the Jewish group and separate from the rest of the church. What would you have done in such a situation? Obviously, it was such a public thing and was doing tremendous harm to the church and the very possibility of real fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Paul opposed him to his face, “because he stood condemned.” He was being a hypocrite and was leading others to do the same thing. “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.”
Paul will go on to point out that he through the law had died to the law so that he might live for God. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
So, when should a person be opposed to their face and when is it right to do so before the whole church rather than in private? It seems obvious that it is always the right thing if we see wrong being done that the right person for us to talk to about the wrong is the one doing it and not go out to tell everyone else we meet or talk with about what we see that they are doing wrong. There is never a right time to go to others, whether on facebook or anything else to attack the wrong on another person when we can go directly to the person and confront the wrong.
But that is different from doing so in front of the whole crowd. Most of the time the best way to handle anything of that nature is as privately as possible so that the wrong can be corrected and life can move on. Sometimes in making such a move we learn that we are the ones who are wrong and what we heard wasn’t true. But there are times when the actions of a person are not only hurting them and a few others that might be talked to personally but is indeed leading a whole group of people astray and may lead to the dividing of the church itself. In such a time the opposition should be public, before the group, with the opportunity for the one we feel is wrong to either repent of the sin or to defend their actions to show we misjudged the matter. But it is not right to allow anyone to do things or say things that are wrong that will hurt the whole body of Christ and say nothing. Sometimes, the only answer is to confront to the face, in front of the crowd.